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It had always been advertised as the jewel in the crown of north-eastern Brazil and the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park did not disappoint. The adventure began the minute we boarded the open safari-style jeep in the small town of Barreirinhas. We whizzed through the streets of Barreirinhas towards the national park which is located about two kilometres away, across the Preguicas River.

We arrived on the banks of the river and got out of the jeep - it was driven on to a small boat to make the crossing. On the other side, I almost instantly regretted the generous portion of delicious Brazilian food I had for lunch as the rest of the journey was quite bumpy! With one hand on my hat and the other on the seat in front we made our way along an ever sandier unpaved track.

The bouncy journey soon became a distant memory as, like all of those who travel the distance, we were greeted at the end of it by one of the world’s most striking natural wonders; blankets of white sand draped as far as the eye can see.

Lencois Maranhenses

The sheer size of this desert can only be appreciated from the air: covering an area of 1500km², it soon turns humans and even the jeeps into microscopic specs. The light wind filled in our footprints so it felt as if we were the first people to explore the dunes. I felt tiny in the sprawling expanse of sandy bed sheets that cloaked the horizon.

Crystalline water filled the folds in the dunes - it was the perfect place for a dip to cool off from the hot dunes and to really appreciate the breathtaking beauty of the place. There were small fish in the lagoons even though they’re constantly changing and sometimes even drying up, their shapes and sizes entirely dictated by the weather.

Every visitor will have a different experience depending on the time of year and even the time of day. Bear in mind that the best time of year to go to the national park is from July to September as the heat is less intense the lagoons are likely to be fuller as it is straight after the rainy season. Whenever you visit the park, bringing bottled water, sun cream and your swimming costume is essential!

In summary, I cannot recommend the afternoon excursion highly enough. Sitting on top of a dune, watching the sun melting down over another is an image that will stay with me forever. My last tip would be: if you choose to go on the afternoon excursion, you will leave Barreirinhas between two or three pm so refrain from eating too much mouth-watering Brazilian food at lunch!

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Lina Fuller
    Lina Fuller - Travel Consultant

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

  • Hannah Donaldson
    Hannah Donaldson - Travel Consultant

    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is an invaluable part of our Group Tours team.

  • JimAshworth
    Jim Ashworth - Travel Consultant

    Jim first caught the Latin American travel bug in 2001 when he decided at the last minute to join a friend travelling around Central America – he hasn't looked back since.

  • Ben Line
    Ben Line - Travel Consultant

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Manager of the Tailor-made Department.

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

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