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Even though Brazil is a fairly popular destination for travelers worldwide, there is a good chance you have never heard of the Lençois Maranhenses National Park. So, as a Brazilian, I decided to write a little about this fantastic spot!

I really love this natural attraction and never miss the chance to recommend it. It has a bit of everything and seems to be well-loved by all the travelers I know.

I even mentioned it in my post about my favorite lesser-known destinations in Brazil, and still now in 2024, it remains one of my favorite spots in Brazil!

What’s the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park

The Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is a vast dune region in northeastern Brazil, covering an area of 1,500 km2 — about a quarter of the size of Prince Edward Island!

Lençois Maranhenses National Park (photo credit: Seiji Seiji)

It’s a very unique and beautiful place, with its scenery of white sand dunes and the clear water lakes that form in between them.

In fact, despite what the view may suggest, the Lençóis Maranhenses is not categorized as a desert, and that’s because it receives too much rainfall. That rainfall is responsible for these natural pools that don’t drain due to the presence of impermeable rock beneath the visible sand.

That’s all to say that the view here is the result of many natural factors working together to shape this impressive spot.

Fun fact: The name Lençóis Maranhenses roughly translates to “Maranhão’s Blankets,” given its sand shape, which resembles a blanket in the wind.

Lençois Maranhenses National Park (photo credit: David Emrich)

How to get to Lençóis Maranhenses

The Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is located in the state of Maranhão in the northeast of Brazil. Arriving there can be a bit of a hassle, but it is very much worth it, I promise!

Location of the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park (image credit: Google Maps)

The biggest airport in the region is the São Luis Airport (SLZ), located in the capital city of Maranhão, São Luís.

You can actually combine this trip with a visit to the historic center of Maranhão’s capital city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

São Luis Historical Center (photo credit: Universidade de Brasília)

But buying a ticket to São Luís from Canada is usually more expensive. The self-transfer tip will often save you money, as is the case for most Brazilian destinations.

Here at Flytrippers, we constantly spot flight deals to São Paulo, as low as the $500s roundtrip from a few Canadian cities. Flights from São Paulo to São Luís aren’t as cheap as many domestic flights in Brazil, but they can be found for $130 one-way.

You’ll need to take another transport from São Luís to one of the park’s 3 main base villages: Barreirinhas, Santo Amaro, or Atins. Barreirinhas is by far the easiest one to reach by public transport — a 4-hour bus ride from São Luís to Barreirinhas will cost you about $17.

Of course, for the 3 villages, you will find plenty of options when it comes to private transfers. Naturally, those will be more expensive, but depending on the size of your party, it might be worth it. You can also get a rental car for $60 per day in São Luís.

Location of the 3 main base villages around the park (image credit: Google Maps)

Best time of year to visit the Lençóis Maranhenses

The weather is another aspect to consider when planning this trip, like any trip.

National park during the rainy season (photo credit: Marcus Dall Col)

The best time to visit is usually during and after the rainy season, from April to August when the lakes are fuller.

Almost all lakes disappear during the dry season, from October to December, and the scenery, even though still beautiful, mostly turns into a desert landscape.

National park during dry season (photo credit: Valeria Rossi)

Things to do in the Lençois Maranhenses National Park

Here are my 3 favorite things to do in the park.

Lakes

One of the most unique experiences at the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is swimming in the freshwater lakes that dot the park. The beauty and serenity of these lakes are truly unmatched.

Freshwater lakes in the Lençois Maranhenses National Park (photo credit: gabriel xu)

You can visit a number of lakes in one day by taking a 4×4 local tour.

4×4 ride (photo credit: Kai Baron)

Among the many options though, I’d particularly recommend the Emendadas Lake circuit, located near Santo Amaro.

The circuit starts with a 4×4 ride, but you will need to walk for about 4 hours after that — the pathway is full of gorgeous stops for pictures and swimming though, so you’ll barely notice!

Emendadas Lake circuit (photo credit: Léo Castro)

Sunset at the dunes

The park is beautiful whenever, but the sunset has a special magic to it! Many tours offer “with or without” sunset options, so I strongly recommend you go for the “with” whenever possible.

Sunset at the Lençois Maranhenses National Park (photo credit: Joao Alves)

Highlights are the Azul Lake and Bonita Lake in Barreirinhas, Betânia Lake in Santo Amaro, and the Tropical Lake in Atins.

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Kitesurf at the local beaches

This one is mainly for those who choose to visit via Atins, the only one of the 3 main base villages located directly by the sea.

Kitesurf at Atins Beach (photo credit: Martins Cardoso)

Atins Beach is known as a meeting place for kitesurf athletes in Brazil. So, taking a kitesurf class here can be truly unforgettable!

Caburé Beach is also very popular for its unique scenery: a sand stripe between the ocean and the Preguiças River.

Caburé Beach (photo credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Where to stay in the Lençois Maranhenses National Park

As mentioned above, the best places to stay are in one of the main base villages: Barreirinhas, Santo Amaro, or Atins. But you should visit all of them — transport between the villages is by private transfer as there is unfortunately no public transport in this more remote area.

Also, if you want to enjoy the park to its fullest, I recommend planning a 5-day trip at the least.

Here are a few examples of accommodation:

Z-18 Hostel (image credit: Hostelworld)

Where to eat in the Lençois Maranhenses National Park

The local cuisine in this region consists mostly of seafood, but don’t worry — if that’s not your thing, there are many other restaurant options.

Here are some examples of well-rated places to eat:

FAQ — Frequently asked questions about the Lençois Maranhenses National Park

Here are a few other commonly requested answers.

Can you swim in the Lençóis Maranhenses?

Yes, you can and you SHOULD!

The freshwater lakes are perfectly safe and not too deep. The temperature tends to be very mild (not too cold or too hot). You can also enjoy the many beach options in the region.

Freshwater lakes in the Lençois Maranhenses National Park (photo credit: gabriel xu)

What should I pack for Lençóis Maranhenses?

The northeast of Brazil is known for its intense heat. So pack your most functional light clothes, head coverings, and sunglasses.

Sunscreen is obviously a must, but also many of the tours involve walking long distances, so do bring good shoes!

How much does it cost to visit Lençóis Maranhenses?

It can vary, a lot. But do take into consideration that this is not one of the cheapest trips in Brazil.

Check out the prices described in this post for a good reference.

Can you go to Lençóis Maranhenses without a guide?

Technically, you can, but you probably shouldn’t.

The weather and general geographic conditions make it for a very particular destination, so, unless you’re very experienced and have been to the park several times, I’d say that’s a recipe for disaster.

But rest assured, there are plenty of options when it comes to local tours.

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Summary

Lençois Maranhenses National Park is a beautiful and unique destination in the northeast region of Brazil. This travel guide will help you with the main logistics of your visit to this incredible place.

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Featured image: Lençóis Maranhenses National Park (photo credit: Léo Castro)

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Indira R Oliveira

Indira is a remote administrative coordinator at Flytrippers. She is a Brazilian journalist with a passion for traveling - with a lot of experience especially when it comes to traveling on a really low budget. She's been to 30+ countries and is aiming to expand that list soon!

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