Lençóis Maranhenses is a national park in the Maranhão state of Brazil.
Mostly about birdlife, shifting dunes and fresh water lakes, the latter in their best between May and September.
Motor vehicles are not allowed in the park, however, many agencies will offer 4X4 tours. Please think twice before booking one of these tours.
The shifting dunes with the lakes in between are most spectacular at low sun, when a range of shadows come into play. Just after sunrise is probably thev very best because of lower temperatures.
Flora and fauna
Dry sands don't cater for much. Some tiny fish in the lakes, the occasional bird and some bushes along the rim of the dunes. Quite a few cattle and goats grazing along the lakes.
Best time to visit is May - September, after the rains, and before the lakes dry out. The almost constant breeze may fool you into thinking the sun is not getting at you. Think again!
- from São Luís (easiest), take a bus to Barreirinhas (which has the best structure)
- from Fortaleza, either go to Paulino Neves or to Barreirinhas
- from Jericoacoara, two main options:
- get a 4x4 directly to Barreirinhas which takes around 7 hours, costs R$1200 for up to 4 people. There are also several places that offer a tour of 3 days for the Lençois for R$1500 (only transport). Bargain the price, especially during low season!
- take the bus from Camocim to Paulino Neves, and then a 4x4 onwards to Barreirinhas. You might have to stay overnight in Camocim.
Fees and permits
There are no fees or permits. You are free to enter.
No motor transport inside the park, but plenty around the perimeter. No real roads though, so you need a good 4x4. Horses and donkeys are alternatives.
There are two major trekking routes. Both go roughly east-to-west, which is by far the most convenient direction due to dunes shaping (i.e. steep and fluffy on the lee/west side) and also sand blowing in your back rather than your face:
- Atins - Santo Amaro. Possible stops at Canto do Atins, Baixa Grande and Queimada dos Britos. As a straight line, this is almost exactly downwind.
- Barreirinhas - Santo Amaro. Take a daytrip from Barreirinhas to either Lagoa Bonita or Lagoa Azul. Jump off and start walking. Possible stops at Baixa Grande and Queimada dos Britos.
Visitors must bring their own food and water for treks within the park. There are no opportunities to purchase food and drinks other than at lodging offered by locals who live in the two major oasis within the park.
Most people sleep in Barreirinhas and do daytrips. However, the dunes are far more accessible if you stay in Atins, or even better in Canto de Atins. Mandacaru and Caburé are less convenient alternatives. Paulino Neves offers proximity to similar sights (Pequenos Lençóis), although not inside the actual national park. There is also the little explored town of Santo Amaro on the park´s western rim. Guided treks are available. There are a number of trekking options with Lencois Maranhenses and guides are highly recommended. Lodging is available from locals who live in two oasis' within the park. Sleeping in hammocks and meals of rice, beans and chicken are the norm.
No restrictions so far, but there is some talking, due to garbage left behind. Do your part!
Making short distance day trips inside the park do not deliver the cultural experience or the solitude Lencois Maranhenses can provide. Surprisingly, the dunes are well-packed from seasonal rains and much easier to walk on than typical beach sand.