Lençóis Maranhenses National Park: A Backpacker’s Guide to Brazil
The white sand stretches past eyesight, a blanket of hot snow. Over every ridge lies a different lagoon, leaving you unsure whether or not you’re seeing a mirage. A Fata Morgana plays on the tops of the dunes like a dancing fairy.
Lençóis Maranhenses is an isolated national park in the northeast of Brazil, stretching into the ocean. The proximity to the jungles supplies a tremendous amount of rain in the area between January and April, creating a unique phenomenon of endless desert dunes with bright turquoise lagoons woven between them. The water stays for 4-5 months, until most of the lagoons dry up around late September.
There are a few ways to visit the park, depending on where you plan on staying.
- From São Luis: We heard about day trips leaving from São Luis. The ride to the park should take around 4 hours, which probably means waking up before the sun, a short visit to the park, and a long way back. We wouldn’t recommend doing it this way.
- From Barreirinhas: Barreirinhas is a small town that lies just outside the national park. There are plenty of pousadas/hostels and travel agencies scattered all across the town. It’s about a 5-hour bus ride from São Luis.
- From Atins: Atins is a village on the eastern edge of Lençóis. It’s possible to stay there and do a day trip from there. Keep in mind that a boat is the only way to get to the village.
We decided to stay in Barreirinhas, and had a nice stay at a quite pousada just outside the town. The travel agencies in Barreirinhas (there are plenty around the main plaza) offer many day trips as well as multi-day trekking tours. We opted for a day trip to Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Bonita. Each cost R$60-70, and you can do both on the same day. The former leaves around 9:00am and returns at about 1:00pm. The latter leaves at 2:30pm, and returns around 7:00pm. Both day trips include walking between the dunes and stopping for swimming breaks at many of the lagoons. The trip to Lagoa Bonita included sunset watching over the dunes- a highly recommended experience.
For the more adventurous, there’s another option to get a guide and trek the dunes for 2-3 days. We wish you luck 😉
Lençóis Maranhenses was on our “must visit” list for a long time, so naturally we had high expectations. It easily topped them all. We got to see an entirely unique landscape, one that made us ask if we were even still on Earth.
Worth it? Definitely! Isn’t that obvious by now?
What to bring: camera, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, snacks, flip flops, water, swimsuit.
– Iris & Roi