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It is hard to describe what we felt when we got to Lencois Maranhenses State Park. Nicknamed as the Brazilian Sahara, it is actually much more than that. Where else you would be able to find endless oceans of tall white dunes, among thousands of cristal water lakes. Can you imagine a place like this? Of course not, you gotta see to beliave.

 

Lencois Maranhenses State Park have always been there, but not too many people knew it, and the main reason is that they are located in a part of the country that was until recently, almost forgotten. Today everything is different, and more and more tourists who visit northeast Brazil and Maranhao state include on their visit this wild and awsome landscape.


 

The starting point to a visit to the park is the city of Sao Luiz, capital of Maranhao state. From Sao Luiz you will take a fast air conditioned Van to the city of Barreirinhas, located three hours drive from Sao Luiz. Barrerinhas has confortable motels and inns, and is the starting point to all the daily tours exploring the park. Actually, you can't visit the park on your own, and will need to join those tours, which are held by experienced local guides.

 

The touristic tour to Lencois National Park is offered by many tourist agencies in Brazil. It can take from two days to a week, depending on how long you would like to stay and how deep you would like to experience it all. The one day tour starts early in the morning. The first part is a short ride on 4wd vehicles that take you from the city of Barreirinhas to the outer limits of the Park. Along this drive we need to cross Preguica River, which is done onboard very thrilling wooden boats (see photo below). Then, as the trees are left behind we arrive at the sand dunes.

From there on, we are guided among the dunes and the lakes. Every 15 minutes or so we get to a new lake where those who wish can swim. There are half day and full day tours at the Park, but always remember to take sun glasses, fresh water, a hat, a lot of sunblock lotion, and of course, your bathing suit.

 


Don't even think in driving your own car at the Park. First, it is not allowed, second it takes a very experienced driver to be able to do it successfully. You will cruise through sand, mangroves, lakes, and streams. Remember to keep your hands and face inside the vehicle along the road from Barrerinhas to the Park entrance, because after crossing the river, the trail gets very narrow, and trees sometimes slash the vehicles severely

 

The rain season happens on the first half of the year, so the best time to visit Lencois Maranhenses State Park is from june to november, when the the volume of water in the lakes gets to its peak. Each depression between dunes becomes a lake of crystal clear water. You won't need shoes to walk on the park, because the sand it not hot and you can go barefoot. Try not to stay way from your guide. No one ever got lost here, buy you wouldn't like to be the first, right? At Barreirinhas airport you also have the option to take a panoramic flight and see the park from above.


 

This photo was taken at Mandacaru lighthouse, near the ocean shoreline. From its top you can watch a beautiful view of the park and the dunes bordering the sea of Maranhao state. As soon as we got there many children came to us, asking where we were from, willing to take pictures with us. Most of the people living in this area make their living thanks to fishing, and just now are starting to get used to the increasing number of tourists in the area.

 

 

Another nice day tour departing from Barrerinhas is along Preguicas river. You will travel on a confortable boat that will take you to the Atlantic Ocean beaches, where the small village of Atins is located. Preguicas river contains a large amount of sand from its beds and this is discharged into the Atlantic Ocean. It divides the Park into two halves, the large park (Grandes Lencois) and the small park (Pequenos Lencois). On both margins of the river you will see an amazing diversity of tropical palms, like Babassus and the Buritis.

 

One more shot from from the Small Park (Pequenos Lencois). Combined, small and large parks holds a total area of 383,000 acres, and of course, you won't be able to see all of it unless you stay there for at least a week. If you are looking for a lodge we would suggest Pousada do Buriti, which is a nice place to stay.

 

Climbing some dunes along our journey. Some of them have ropes, to help the tourist go up, and it did help us....

 

Our visit to Lencois took two days only, buy those interested in visiting allo of the area can arrange with local tourist guides for a longer visit. A complete visit will take a week, including camping at the bech, jeep rides and a lot of walking

 

Boats like this one take tourist along Preguiça river, from Barreinhas to the coastal area of Lencois, near the Atlantic Ocean.

 

A view from Preguiça river, taken during our boat trip.

 

This photo was just a joke, made by a local. Actually, there are no animals in this area nor anything close to that image. But peoplo on our group found this image interesting enough.

 


The Blue Lake (lago azul), where visitor can dive and swim for a while, along the journey.

 

Among the most popular beaches in the coast are Ponta do Mangue Moitas, Vassouras, Morro do Boi and Barra do Tatu, all of them looking like ecological paradise dreams that came true, and, of course, a large numbers of lakes, with many shapes.

 

Map of Lencois area. It is located at the state of Maranhao, northeast Brasil. From Sao Luis (the state capital) to Barreirinhas City (shown below) is something like a three hours drive. Lencois area is divided into Grandes Lencois (Big Lencois) and Pequenos Lencois (Small Lencois), divided ty Preguiças River.

 

One final shot from Lencois Maranhenses State Park, taken from a window of a B737, just after we departed from Sao Luis. If you are planning a trip to northeast Brazil we would suggest you to also include a visit to this place. It is definitely one of Brazil's most important ecological locations, a place where dunes and lakes marry astonishingly well and form a landscape of unique beauty.

 

This page song is 'Espanhola', by Flavio Venturini. To stop the music press Esc.  

 



Aerial View from Lencois