For almost 5 years, I dreamed of visiting Chapada Diamantina in Bahia. Several times, I planned a trip, I said I will go for sure and when everything was almost right, something made me cancel the trip. I had decided that I would end up going on a special occasion. That special moment was New Year’s 2017. Everything was settled to spend New Year’s in Lençóis and when we left Natal-RN, the car broke down early during the trip. I couldn’t believe it. In the end, we ended up going the next day, accompanied by my parents. We arrived in Lençóis on the planned day and each year of waiting was compensated during the days of travelling Chapada Diamantina. What an amazing place! And how much energy this place provides to start the new year! As it was our first time in Chapada Diamantina and we were with my parents, we did a 5-day itinerary, with light to medium level trails.
Chapada Diamantina is a National Park, created in 1985, and administered by Chico Mendes Institute of Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio). The area of the Park covers 1,521.41 km² and the geographic region, 41,751 km², including 24 municipalities in the central region of Bahia.
Where to stay
We chose to stay in the town of Lençóis, which is the most popular city for those who visit Chapada Diamantina and the closest one to the National Park area.
Lençóis is also a city with a very beautiful and preserved historical center, founded in the 19th century, after the discovery of diamond deposits in the region.
We stayed at Hi Hostel Chapada Suites for five nights, including New Year’s Eve. In Lençóis are two Hi Hostels. We stayed at the Suítes, which has options of double rooms with a private bathroom and also shared rooms.
The rooms have private bathrooms, air conditioning, a fan, a shower, TV and closets. The breakfast includes fruits, bread, cheese, juices and coffee. The hostel also has a kitchen that can be used by guests. A big plus for this HI is the excellent location, almost across the street Baderna. Also, one of the owners, Fernanda, is a friendly woman who helped us a lot to organize our itinerary in the Chapada.
The daily price we paid for a double room during New Year’s period: R$ 170.
As I said, Chapada Diamantina is a huge National Park that is located within a larger area. So, the first thing to know before organizing the itinerary is that you will not be able to see everything during one visit. Therefore, you have to choose your priorities. As I said, this was our first visit to the Chapada and we were accompanied by my parents, so I prioritized the places closest to Lençóis and with easy to medium level trails. We left out of our itinerary, among other places waterfalls such as Fumacinha, Sossego, the trails through the Vale do Pati, which we want to see during future visits.
Important to remember that we went by car, which made our trip much easier and for sure way cheaper. For those who aren’t by car, it is necessary to book guided tours and they are not cheap. Following our itinerary:
Day 1 – Mucugezinho River (Rio), Devil’s Well (Poço do Diabo), Pai Inácio Hill (Morro do Pai Inácio) and Pratinha
We arrived in the Chapada in the late afternoon, almost at night, so we just strolled through Rua da Baderna and Rua das Pedras, and started the program the next day, which I consider to be “Day 1”.
We left on the first day, just after breakfast, which was at 7:30 am, and we started at Mucugezinho River (Rio) and Devil’s Well (Poço do Diabo, which is a waterfall), which are 20 minutes by car from Lençóis, and have easy level trails, which last on average 20 minutes. On this trail, they don’t charge entry, but a parking fee of $ 5 (which isn’t mandatory).
Afterwards, we continued by car for another 7 minutes until we reached Pai Inácio Hill (Morro do Pai Inácio). The trail takes, on average, 15 to 20 minutes. It is all uphill, but also easy level. A fee of $ 6 per person is charged.
The Morro is with an altitude of 1,120 meters one of the highest in the Chapada, and provides spectacular views of the National Park. Many people visit Morro do Pai Inácio at the end of the day to enjoy the sunset on this beautiful spot.
From the entrance of Morro do Pai Inácio to Fazenda Pratinha are 34 minutes by car, including a stretch of dirt road. The entrance to the farm costs R $ 30 per person and includes for you to see Gruta Pratinha and Gruta Azul, and to swim in Pratinha river.
To swim in Gruta Pratinha you must pay another R$ 40 fluctuation rate, which includes a vest, fins, mask and snorkel and a guided tour of 30 minutes.
Fazenda Pratinha has a structure with parking, restaurants, massage services. As access is quite easy and there is no need to make any trail, it is quite popular and some tourists are around.
We ended our first day with these three visits, but for those of you who still have time and energy, you could include the visit to Lapa Doce Cave (Gruta Lapa Doce) or Torrinha cave (Caverna Torrinha), which are close to Pratinha Farm.
Day 2 – Mosquito, Serrano and Cachoeirinha Waterfall (Cachoeira do Mosquito, Serrano e Cachoeirinha)
As this was the day of New Year’s Eve, we tried to make a schedule to return early to Lençóis.
We started at Mosquito Waterfall (Cachoeira do Mosquito), which is on Fazenda Santo Antônio, 1 hour by car from Lençóis and an easy 15- to 20-minute walk. The cost is R$ 15 per person.
Guided tours from Lençóis usually include Cachoeira do Mosquito + Poço Azul in one day. We wanted to do this as well, but we wanted to come back early to Lençóis, so we decided to go to Cachoeira do Serrano and Cachoeirinha, which are more or less in the city.
To get there, we parked next to Hotel Portal de Lençóis and walked from there. At the Hotel are many “guides” who will say that the tour needs to be guided. But it isn’t true. You also don’t have to pay any fees.
Serrano is a municipal park of Lençóis and includes the natural swimming pools or potholes (Caldeirões) that form in the river, Salon of Colored Sands (Salão de Areias Coloridas), Cachoeirinha, Spring Waterfall (Cachoeira Primavera), Halley Well (Poço Halley) and a lookout.
As it was Saturday and New Year’s Eve, everything was very crowded, so we stayed in-between the cauldrons and Cachoeirinha and didn’t get to visit the other places.
Day 3 – Remanso, Marimbus and Roncador
For the first day of the year and post-New Year’s Eve, we started easy. We went to the Quilombola community of Remanso, which is about 40 minutes by car from Lençóis, to take the boat trip on Marimbus. There is no signage on the way, so the local tip is to take the entrance at the “Bioenergia” sign, and always turn right.
From there follow the 16 km on a dirt road from the main street to Remanso.
The boat costs R$ 170 and can transport up to 8 people. We just were 3 people. We still paid a fee to Remanso Fishermen’s Association, R$ 5 per person.
Known as the Northeastern Pantanal, Marimbus is a wetland filled with aquatic plants, many birds and other animals such as jaguars, deer and alligators.
You are on a rowing boat (the ride was easy for me, because my father and Fred paddled the whole route! Haha But usually, only the guide rows) for 7km, which takes around 1h30. When we arrived at a sandbank, we walked for 2 km, about 15 minutes to Rocandor River (Rio), where we bathed in waterfalls and swimming pools.
We had lunch at a restaurant near Rocandor, which serves tasty home-cooked food in the wood-fired oven. The boat ride takes another 1h30. And, in the end, we made a stop at Remanso to meet the Quilombola community.
We did the tour with Amauri, known as Tatu, who was a great guide, and told us a lot of stories and explanations about Marimbus, the Quilombola community and the region.
Day 4 – Byzantine Cemetery (Cemitério Bizantino) and Waterfall of Buracão (Cachoeira do Buracão)
This was the day we had to go further away and therefore, had to leave early. We left at around 7 am, towards the municipality of Ibicoara. It is 225 km away from Lençóis, more than 3 hours driving.
Along the way, we stopped at Byzantine Cemetery (Cemitério Bizantino, 2 hours from Lençóis), which is next to the road, near the municipality of Mucugê.
The graveyard is situated at the base of a large rocky wall and draws attention because of its white gravestones. It was built in the 19th century, after an outbreak of cholera and pox in the region. So, that it is out of the city, it was built along the road. The gate is open and you can visit it quickly.
Another 1h driving and we arrived in Ibicoara. We went straight to ACVIB – IBICOARA VISITORS ‘CONDUCTORS ASSOCIATION, where we hired the guide, which is mandatory to visit Buracão Waterfall (Cachoeira do Buracão). It costs R$ 100 for a group of up to 3 people and then R$ 30 per extra person. An extra fee of R$ 6 per person is charged.
From the ACVIB’s office to the entrance of the waterfall, it takes another 1h by car, as it is 28 km dirt road. The trail is about 3 km long, more or less 1h of easy level hiking.
During the walk, we crossed the Una River (rio), through the Spread (Espalhado), through the orchid waterfall (Cachoeira Orquídea), we stopped to see Buracão Waterfall (Cachoeira do Buracão) from the top of a 100-meter-high cliff and passed Recanto Verde Waterfall (Cachoeira Recanto Verde), until we reached the point where we had to leave our belongings, put on the lifejacket and swim 150 meters, against the current. From this point onwards, I consider this a mid-level tour, because many people give up on the part where they have to swim. They even call the place where you have to start to swim, Wells of the Loose (Poços dos Frouxos). But it is the only way to get to Buracão Waterfall.
Buracão Waterfall is 85 meters high and is spectacular! The fact that we swam there, makes everything even more special. The stretch in which you swim is a 90-meter-high canyon. Very impressive! The depth reaches almost 40 meters.
We did the tour with the guide Selmo Souza, who was super attentive, and helped my mom to swim up to the waterfall.
Buracão Waterfall was the most beautiful we visited in Chapada Diamantina and this was one of the best tours. It was worth the almost 8-hour round trip.
But the best way to visit Buracão Waterfall is to stay in Ibicoara, which makes everything less tiring. Near the municipality are other beautiful and famous waterfalls of the Chapada, such as Fumacinha.
ACVIB / Selmo Souza Guide
On this day, I intended to visit the town of Igatu, which is before Mucugê (Lençóis-Mucugê direction), but it was completely impossible. Igatu is known as the Brazilian Machu Picchu and, undoubtedly, I want to visit it during a next trip to the Chapada.
Day 5 – Lençóis and Blue Well (Poço Azul)
You could tell that with this marathon of activities, we had little time to get to know Lençóis. So, on the last day I woke up very early to get to know better the city and take some photos.
The historic center of Lençóis is small but very beautiful. As I said, the streets of Pedras and Baderna are the busiest, full of bars and restaurants. There is also a small square do Coreto (prazinha do Coreto), where the city council and the Town Hall, the bridge, the Market of Lençóis, the churches of Our Lady of the Rosary (Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário, where we participated in the New Year’s Mass) and Our Lord of the Steps (Igreja do Nosso Senhor dos Passos) are located.
At around 8 am, we checked out of the hostel and left for Poço Azul, which is 1 hour and 30 minutes by car from Lençóis, in the municipality of Nova Redenção.
The Blue Well (Poço Azul) was discovered in 1920, but only in 1995, it became a tourist attraction. The entrance fee is R$ 30 per person (elderly paid half) and includes mask, snorkel gear, life jackets and guide.
The walk from the entrance to the cave is very short and easy, and has only one ladder. The number of people descending to the cave is limited to 12 at a time. So, there can be a long waiting time, according to the number of visitors. Bath time also varies from 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the number of visitors.
The turquoise blue color of the well impresses you and you only have an idea of the depth, which varies from 4 to 21 meters. When you enter the water, it is completely transparent and you can see deep down. Therefore, many people get scared, even though wearing a lifejacket.
The feeling I had was like floating in the sky. This place is really magical.
At some times of the year, solar refraction occurs (February to October), when a ray of light strikes the cave for a few hours of the day. The best time to visit is between 12:30 and 14:00 pm.
Some people and agencies, combine the visit of Poço Azul with the Well Encantado (Poço Encantado), which is almost 80 km away. But we were told that the visibility at Poço Encantado wasn’t very good this time of the year (early January) and our time was also limited.
From Poço Azul, we head straight to Valença, where we took the boat to Morro de São Paulo.
For a first visit, I think we were able to enjoy Chapada a lot and I was delighted with each place. I left it with the certainty that I want to return!
I will still write other posts detailing each day for you! Wait for it! =*
The prices mentioned in the post refer to December 2016 and January 2017.
There are lots of photos and tips on our social media too:
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* This article was originally written in Portuguese by Karla Larissa. Translation by Juliane Boll.