Lençóis & Chapada Diamantina
Introduction to Lençóis & Chapada Diamantina
If the interior of Brazil’s northeast is dry and dusty, the Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina sparkles in that dust like the diamonds that have been pried from the earth, and have given the area its name. Chapada is the name given to the flat-topped mountains in this area of the state of Bahia. The chapadas and the valleys in between are covered in lush green forests, with waterfalls dropping from the top and rivers of the coldest, purest water rushing their way to the bottom of the valleys. Brazil’s highest waterfall is here. It is so high, at 1,312 ft (400m), that the water doesn’t reach the ground! It turns into a spray of mist before, hence the name Cachoeira de Fumaça or Waterfall of Smoke. There is also Marimbus, a swamp area rich in wildlife, earning it the nickname ‘Mini-Pantanal’.
Nature doesn’t get much better than Chapada da Diamantina, and you may even get some beautiful hidden sights to yourself. It still isn’t flooded with tourists like the area was flooded with diamond prospectors in the 19th Century, so the only distractions from the mountain scenery are natural: orchids and bromeliads; butterflies the size of your hand; monkeys; alligators; deer; and possibly even jaguars can be seen amongst the trees.
If you stay in the quaint old mining town of Lençóis, you have all this on your doorstep and, who knows, you may be able to dig up a diamond there too!
What not to miss in Lençóis & Chapada Diamantina
Morro do Pai Inácio
Morro do Pai Inácio gives an unforgettable view of the flat-topped hills and tree-covered valleys in between that certainly makes the effort of the climb to its summit worthwhile.
The Town of Lençóis
The town of Lençóis acts as the gateway to the Chapada Diamantina National Park and is a joy to stroll through with its cobblestone streets, colorful colonial buildings, local cafes and lively restaurants.
The Enchanted Well
The Enchanted Well is 200ft. (61m) deep however the water is so clear that even small stones at the bottom can be seen through the turquoise water. It’s worth noting that this is only possible when the sun is high in the sky during the middle of the day.
The Blue Cave
The Blue Cave has the sun shining on the water at the bottom of the cliff for only an hour a day. The water between around 2.30pm and 3.30pm is staggeringly blue.
What you need to know
When to go
November to March is the wettest season in Chapada da Diamantina, but this may be the best time to visit! The foliage is more lush, Marimbus is fuller, and the rivers carry more water, making the waterfalls that bit more spectacular. You might not mind occasional rain when the scenery is this good. The drier months will still provide stunning views and sights though, and the cooler nights of the area make a welcome change from the humidity of the Bahia coast. Daytime temperatures reach 86˚F (30˚C) but nights will usually be below 68˚F (20˚C).
How to get there
There is a small airport 15.5 miles (25km) from Lençóis. Ocean Air has flights that come from Salvador and return there on Saturdays. Lençóis lies 248.5 miles (400km) or 6 hours west of Salvador, where domestic flights from every major city in Brazil arrive. To get to lencois from Salvador takes around 6 hours by public bus and 5 hours by car or private transfer.
Where to stay
There are a couple of good (read 3 superior star) hotels in Lençóis, a few mid-range ones, and many budget options for accommodation both in the town, and in other smaller ones such as Capão. All hotels and hostals are small scale, charming and built in the same tradition as the town.
There are many little restaurants and cafes in Lençóis, serving a surprisingly large choice of reasonably priced Brazilian and international dishes of high quality. Enjoying a meal or an evening caipirinha, on the tiny cobbled streets is one of the charms of Lençóis.
Taxis will take you anywhere you want to go in the area, which may be a better option than the rarely spotted local buses. Many of the sites are located on private land outside the park, situated along bumpy tracks, so taking tours with local guides and drivers will save you a lot of time and trouble.