The surreal beauty of Lençóis Maranhenses National Park in Brazil

By Stef Zisovska
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Panorama of the Lençóis Maranhenses lagoons - Author: Vitor 1234 - CC BY-SA 3.0

Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is located in Maranhão state in Brazil. These perfectly shaped white-sand dunes are full of surprises during the rainy season when the number of visitors rises. Hundreds of lagoons form between the sand dunes and give the whole place a surreal look. The blindingly white desert is one of the most beautiful destinations to visit on the planet. There are two rivers flowing through Lençóis Maranhenses, pushing away the sand all the way to the Brazilian Atlantic coast. The strong ocean winds blow back part of the sand and form the famous dunes that characterize the region.

Because of the fact that Lençóis Maranhense lies just outside the Amazon basin, the so-called desert has rainy seasons that the whole area experiences. The regular rainfall creates a series of lagoons between the dunes. There are more than 1000 lagoons forming each year which last for just a few months. July is the best month to visit Lençóis Maranhenses National Park and share a great experience with your friends in this Brazilian paradise. The fresh water in the lagoons doesn’t drain through the sand thanks to a layer of impermeable rock which lies underneath. Cool, right?

The Lençóis Maranhenses – Author: Patriiick – CC BY-SA 3.0

From July until September the lagoons are at their peak, so plenty of visitors come during these months. In the same period, the lagoons have another visitor too: the wolf fish. Wolf fish are a weird species that live in the lagoons while they’re full of fresh water. When the water evaporates, the wolf fish stay dormant in the mud and the damp areas, waiting for the next rainfall. When the lagoons form again, the wolf fish reemerges and takes up residence in its summer home.

The biggest lagoons are 300 feet long and 10 feet deep, which is a perfect size for a group of people to chill out on a hot day.

Landscape of the park seen from the dunes – Author: Iain and Sarah – CC BY 2.0

Walking around this landscape feels like a dream. When you see this place, you’ll realize what real natural beauty is. Lençóis Maranhense National Park is relatively unknown because of its location which is not so popular and people have rarely heard of it. There is a sparsely populated village nearby called Atins where you can find simple accommodation and food. The other option is Barreirinhas, a town from where you can take a scenic flight over the desert and admire the beauty that nature has kept hidden away. Luckily, in the ambitious traveler’s dictionary, there is no such word as “impossible”.

Dunes and lagoons – Author: Heris Luiz Cordeiro Rocha – CC BY-SA 3.0

The pools are also reachable by foot, a walk that permits you to explore the dunes hopping from one pool to another. You can swim in the lagoons, have fun or even organize a picnic. The landscapes give an impression of some other magical world, of something we might see in a sci-fi movie. Rio de Janeiro and Iguazu Falls are places you must visit while in Brazil, but you’ll never find anything like Lençóis Maranhense National Park anywhere else in the world, so don’t miss it and spread the word.

To visit the park it’s best to fly into São Luís, the capital of Maranhão. From there, take a bus to Barreirinhas where you can hire a guide to take you on a jeep tour to the lagoons. While in the park, be sure to go with company and follow the guide because it’s easy to get lost. 

Panorama of the park – Author: Artur Warchavchik – CC BY-SA 3.0

Our planet is a mysterious and gorgeous place, and Lençóis Maranhense National Park proves it. If you had no plans for the rest of the summer, start planning a trip to Brazil and visit this spectacular lagoon desert. Now’s the peak of the pool season, so try to get there on time. Good luck!

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