Lençóis Maranhenses (Barreirinhas, Maranhão, Brazil)

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My first post in English in “Backpack and Me”!

I would like to share about my trip to Lençóis Maranhenses – Brazil. It was one of the best trips I have ever done (I don’t know if it was because I really wanted to go there, or because I was tired of my daily life, or because I had a wonderful time there, or simply because of all, but it was). I went on August 2016. Here is how I visited Lençóis Maranhenses:

  • I got 1 week off work (I didn’t use my weekend as well because I was going to watch some Olympic football matches)
  • I was living in Brasilia so I went from Brasilia Airport
  • Lençóis Maranhenses is quite far, so I calculated 2 days of transport and 3 whole days to enjoy sightseeing
  • I just booked the airplane and hostels, I didn’t plan the small trips, you can book when you arrive
  • I planned 1 night and 1 day to visit São Luis, capital city of Maranhão

Agenda

First day!

So basically, I used my first day to move from Brasilia to Barreirinhas (main city of Lençóis Maranhenses). The main airport of Lençóis Maranhenses is São Luis Airport (SLZ – Marechal Hugo da Cunha Machado) and it is 260 km far from Barreirinhas. From São Luis Airport I went to the bus terminal (Terminal Rodoviário de São Luis), 5 minutes by taxi. And the I took a bus (Cisne Branco) to Barreirinhas. It takes about 4.5 hours and costs about R$50,00 (August/2016).

Informations:

  • The main airport is São Luis Airport. It takes about 4 hours by car to get to Barreirinhas
  • Santo Amaro do Maranhão is another main city close to Lençóis Maranhenses National Park
  • The bus from São Luis Bus Terminal to Barreirinhas is Cisne Branco, you can buy the tickets in the terminal or online (Cisne Branco)
  • From São Luis the bus departure at 6:00, 8:45, 14:00 and 19:30
  • From Barreirinhas (→São Luis) it departures at 6:00, 9:00, 14:00 and 18:45)
  • You can also go by taxi (4 hours, about R$ 350) or van (4 hours, about R$60). I didn’t know how to go by van, but I recommend it, it costs almost the same price as the bus and it takes you directly to the hostel/hotel. So it can be easier if you ask the hostel/hotel about van services
  • You can book the tours at Barreirinhas, there are many agencies (only authorized tourist guides and cars can go inside the park)
  • There are tours starting in the morning and in the afternoon (full day tour and half day tour)
  • But you can also book before going. I recommend to book only for the first day and ask directly for recommendations. Depending on the day or season, the best attractions can change.

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Second day!

When I arrived in the hostel on the first day, I was lucky enough to know some people who were visiting Lençóis Maranhenses as well. They had planned to go on a boat tour through Rio Preguiça, and they told me I could go with them if there were any seats left in the car. In the morning I asked the tour guide and I paid to him. And there was a girl who wanted to go to Atins and stay the night there. I had already paid my hostel, but I decided to go. And it was awesome.

The boat passes through Vassouras, where you can enjoy a bit of the dunes and rivers, Mandacaru, where there is a lighthouse and local craftwork, and Caburé, where you can have lunch. Lunch is a bit expensive, so it is a good idea to choose a big meal and share it with someone. We drank Jesus Guarana there, it is a pink guarana, made in Maranhão. I didn’t like it so much, but it is nice to try new things…

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There a lot of monkeys there too. They are very cute, but be careful! They can steal your belongings, so try to hold you camera and money, etc. very tight. After lunch most people go back to Barreirinhas, but we decided to go to Atins, there is another boat to take people there, you just have to book it.

Atins “streets” are all sand, so it is hard to walk and unforgettable. It is a small village and local people rent rooms or beds for the tourists. Me and my new friend went out to know more the surroundings. So we met other backpackers and we someone said there was a place in the beach where the planktons shine at night. We decided to go see the shining planktons. At night, I was so amazed to see the sky that I will never forget. It was so beautiful, the sky was full, really full of stars and them seemed very close to me. We walked a lot and didn’t find the planktons, but after asking some people, we found it! It really shined! Not a lot, but it was pretty amazing. After that we found a party at the beach and stayed a bit.

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Third day!

The next morning we went back to Barreirinhas. Another new friend came with us and stayed at our hostel. Yes, thats why I love to travel by my self and stay at hostels, you find a lot of interesting people who like to know new places. So I went to the travel agency and booked some tours. At the afternoon I decided to go to Lagoa Bonita Tour. The agency said Lagoa Azul Tour was the most famous, but at that time, there wasn’t many lagoons, because it didn’t rain much and the there was a lack of water.

At the beginning, you have to climb the dunes, and then you can see how huge is Lençóis Maranhenses Park. It is amazing. I was really glad I had chosen to go there.

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Then the tour guide show you the main lagoons and tell you about the place. This year, 2016, didin’t rain so much, so there were few lagoons and there weren’t much water. Also, the tour name is Lagoa Bonita Tour, but Lagoa Bonita almost don’t exist anymore. The guide also told me that many people used to use a sled to enjoy the lagoons, but it damaged the place a lot, so they prohibited it. The guide agencies have a responsibility to protect the park, so that it not damaged. I recommend going on those tours in the afternoon, so you can enjoy the sunset, which is really beautiful.

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Of couse, you need to get in the lagoons, the water is quite warm. I went on a year which hadn’t had much rain, so the lagoons were only about 30-50 centimeters deep. But if you are lucky, the lagoons can be much deeper. Also, I heard you can also see fish swimming! Even though in the dry season there is no water in the lagoons. Usually the best season to visit Lençóis Maranhenses is between June and August.

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Fourth day!

As I heard Lagoa Azul Tour wasn’t so good at that time to visit, I chose a water wing tour. To be honest, I didn’t like it so much. It is very relaxing to float at the river, but it is very slow and it wasn’t so nice to see kids helping the tourists at the river tour. It seems that they are paid to do that. It may be helpful to them and their families, but it is quite sad to see that kind of child labour.

The cars used on these tours are like these:

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We stopped to relax and have some tapioca. It was a very peaceful place.

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In the afternoon I decided to go back to São Luis. As I was going back the next day, I wanted to get to know the city before leaving Maranhão state. I booked a van at the same travel agency I booked the tours. The van passes in all hostels and hotels to pick up the passengers, so it is very convenient. And here, another amazing encounter. After some time in the van, the person in my left side was talking to her friend about the music that was playing in the van. I told her I really liked it too, then we started talking. Her friend was from Japan and then I started talking in Japanese with her. After adding her in Facebook I knew that we had some friend in common, it was unexpected. Some months later we met in Japan again.

Fifth and last day!

In the morning, I met a girl from France who had lived a while in Brasil. She was alone too, so we decided to go sightseeing São Luis together. We visited the historic centre and drank açai at the market. In many parts of Brazil and the world people eat açai as a desert, with granola, banana etc. But in the Northeast part of Brazil it is common to have it plain with fish and shrimps. I tried it plain at first, but it is not so tasty, so I decided to put some sugar in it.

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The historical centre has a Portuguese, Spanish, Hollander and French  influence and there are many buildings covered with beautiful tiles. It is also a World Heritage. However, the city at the moment seems so be abandoned and it has become very dangerous to walk around. Unfortunately it is the actual situation of many Brazilian cities at the moment. Though I really think it is worth visiting.

At the afternoon I took the plane back to Brasilia and it was very sad. I had a wonderful week at Lençóis Maranhenses and São Luis and met many wonderful people as well. Now I recommend visiting it to many people.

Tips:

  • Ask for information about the tours
  • If you go to Atins, don’t forget to bring insect repellent
  • Don’t forget your camera
  • Take a lot of pictures
  • Bring bathing suit and sunscreen
  • If you have enough time, go to Jericoacoara. I regret not planning to go there
  • If you have enough time, visit São Luis as well
  • There are trekking courses as well, I want to do it someday

 

Have fun!!!

If you have questions, advice, etc., please let me know 🙂

You can also email me: backpackandme1@gmail.com

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