Lençóis Chapada Diamantina, the best starting point to discover the region .
Best place to discover the region in many ways
Lençóis Chapada Diamantina is by far the best place to start exploring the Chapada Diamantina, and not just because of its location and touristic infrastructure ( tour agencies and accommodation ). It is already a long way to come from Salvador to Lençóis. It is the town that lies the closest to the highway. From Lençóis you have many tours that depart. Be wise to choose your tour in the Chapada Diamantina, almost all tours need physical effort, and depending on what tours you choose, your experience will be totally different. If you are sportive, you should definitely include a trek to the Vale do Pati. The main entrance point nowadays is Guiné, which is easier to reach from Lençóis than Vale do Capão. The Pai Inácio, the most famous and accessible viewpoint of the Chapada Diamantina is only 25 minutes driving from Lençóis ( which is really close in Brazil ). Vale do Capão is really an incredible valley, but when you are looking to discover many different places in the Chapada Diamantina, you are quite stuck in Vale do Capão because of the long dirt road of 25km which is the only way in and out.
Read our in-depth article about Lençóis, Chapada Diamantina in Bahia
Many articles and posts have been written about the Chapada Diamantina by people who were visiting the area for a few days. This is an in-depth article about the little tourist town of Lençóis Chapada Diamantina in Bahia.
Table of contents
- Why is it the best place to start discovering the region?
- Is it safe in Lençóis?
- Tourist infrastructure
- Restaurants and nightlife
- Historical city tour
- Low budget exploring
- The serrano river and the Parque do Muritiba
- Ribeirão do Meio
- Cachoeira do Sossego
- Ribeirão de Baixo
- Barro Branco and gruta do Lapão
- Rock climbing
- Longer trails to magical waterfalls
- Frequently asked questions
Is it safe in Lençóis?
It is still very safe in Lençóis
It is still very safe in Lençóis. You can walk as a tourist out on the streets of Lençóis till midnight without feeling unsafe. In this little town everyone knows everyone. At the bus station you can feel a bit overwhelmed by some people offering you all kind of services and places to stay, tours. In Lençóis the local people are very used to seeing tourists from all over the world. In Bahia people are very friendly most of the time and always want to help you out if you speak a few words of Portuguese, it helps a lot. If not you can use body language or with mobile internet you can always use google translate. If your accommodation is in one of the little streets outside the center, it can look a bit like a “favela” but nothing to be afraid of, it is just a cheaper style of houses. There is really nothing to be afraid of in the nice little cozy town of Lençóis, Chapada Diamantina in Bahia. People mix the name up with the national park called Lençóis Maranheses and a bigger town in the state of São Paulo called Lençóis Paulista.
But Lençóis is still authentic
Lençóis is definitely the town in the region with the biggest infrastructure, but it is still authentique in many ways. During the day you will see many more locals on the streets of the center, than tourists.
The national park is visited by many tourists each month, but real mass tourism did not arrive here. Most accommodation is really small and cozy, no hotels with hundreds of rooms in Lencóis Chapada Diamantina. In some airbnbs in the center you feel really part of the community of this little vibrant ( and sometimes noisy ) little town.
If the Chapada Diamantina would be situated in the US or Europe, there would be huge hotels, trains, helicopter flights, many easy man-made trails and you would have to book a visit many months in advance.
Restaurants and nightlife
Dining out in Lençóis is an activity in itself.
The many cosy restaurants with their charming terraces on the safe cobbled streets of Lençóis offer great local and international food.
Street artists play live music on every corner, often paid by the restaurants to attract customers.
Since 2010 Lençóis has had lots of booming restaurants, and many stay but some go as well. An up to date list would be needed every year.
As most tourists have to wake up early for a tour or trekking, nightlife is not really the big thing in Lençóis Chapada Diamantina. But there are some very nice bars and even a discotheque.
On hot summer nights you should go to the Serrano swimming holes at night. You can swim there under the stars or moonlight. Moto taxis will bring you back to your accommodation for a fair price ( 4 reals in 2019).
Historical city tour
A city tour through the streets full of diamond history is a great way to discover some very interesting details of Lençóis in Bahia. During the diamond era, they opened a French consulate to make documents for the many diamonds that went to the European market. Read here more about the diamond history.
Be sure you reserve a passionate guide to tell you about the mysterious diamond history.
What can be nice to do is to take a coffee in the class hotels of Lençóis like Hotel de Lençóis and Canto das Águas.
Low budget exploring
If you are not travelling to check off the highlights of each place, a great way to explore is just doing day hikes from Lençóis. The Chapada Diamantina national park is always surprisingly beautiful and you can be almost sure you will see no other tourists in these places.
The most popular and famous waterfalls and rivers close to Lençóis are great options to chill out for a day or two. These 2 places become super crowded on the Brazilian holiday weekends. During these days you can go there in the morning, but after 9:00am you should go to alternative water paradises. One of the rules, the further away and the more difficult to get, the less people. But not always.
Trails close to Lençóis
The serrano river and the Parque do Muritiba
The Serrano is a part of a large and incredibly beautiful river bed of the “Rio Lençóis”, the river of Lençóis. It is literally 15 minutes from the town center. The Serrano is a huge river bed in beautiful conglomerado stones. The Serrano has more than 40 natural whirlpools and many little waterfalls. The most popular are often filled with some tourists, but going a bit down the riverbed you can easily find your own infinity pool with town view. Especially the last hours of the day give a great view to the town.
Upstream the Serrano pools you can explore many more waterfalls. Many diamond trails lead to wild and precious little waterfalls and magical pools. When you explore these trails for the first time, you will get a bit lost and maybe not see all of it. You can easily explore and get lost in the magical river beds and waterfalls for a full day.
You will be impressed by the enormous rock blocks in the river bed. You can even climb most of these “conglomerado” giants. If you are not a trained hiker, you definitely need a guide to show you the many places.
Ribeirão do Meio
The Ribeirão ( say Ree-bay-raw) , the first big river to the south of Lençóis is another great option. An easy trail leads you through the forests for 40 minutes. At the end of the path, the trail goes over massive rocks and you can get a bit lost. But look at the floor and look back a few times. Going back is slightly easier to get lost.
The Ribeirão do Meio rock slide is one of the most fun places to spend the afternoon. The rock slide is around 40m long and quite steep. You have to cross the great natural pool swimming. On the left side of the waterfall or rock slide (tobbogã natural in Portuguese) you crawl up the rock face. Be careful to step only on the dry parts, the wet and black parts of the rock are super slippery. After a bumpy ( and normally not painful) and fast slide you hit the water. Best is to watch someone sliding down first and then copy. A very friendly guy called Leôncio is almost everyday at the Ribeirão do meio, you can drink a beer or soda and eat some snacks.
Be sure you do a quick stop on the way back at the little house in the middle of the forest. Usquinha, a local legend and former diamond prospector lives there, and has hammocks for you and great drinks.
Cachoeira do Sossego
This trail along the river Ribeirão leads to an incredible waterfall. The trail itself is intensive and technical for the last hour. You will have to do rock hopping before arriving at this majestic waterfall. The waterfall is about 70m high, the lower part of the waterfall is 18m high. The swimming pool with always fresh water is very deep at most places. A refreshing dip in the great swimming pool at the end of a stunning canyon is a gift after all the hard work before arriving at the Cachoeira Sossego. You can combine a day hike with a visit to the Ribeirão do Meio.
Barro Branco and Gruta do Lapão
Barro Branco is a vast area north of Lençóis Chapada Diamantina. The place has a bunch of natural attractions like the Mandassaia river, gruta Lapão ( famous for abseiling ) and the trail from the Pai Inácio to Lençóis. Around 1h hiking north up the hills from Lençóis you arrive at Barro Branco, it is a plateau where nowadays people build houses to live an alternative life surrounded by nature. You can get to Barro Branco by car or moto taxi, expect a bad dirt road to get there.
Ribeirão de Baixo
One of the local favourite places is the Ribeirão de Baixo, a large natural swimming pool with a little canyon. Be careful by jumping off the rocks, watch the locals first, there are some hidden stones. You can get here by walking 15 minutes to the neighbourhood “Lavrado”. From you just follow the one and only dirt road to the south for another 30 minutes. You should actually catch a popular “moto taxi” and you will be in 8 min at your destination. If the river level is low and you like some adventure, you can get to the Ribeirão do Meio hopping on huge rocks.
Rock climbing in Lençóis Chapada Diamantina
The little town of Lençóis attracts rock climbers from all over Brazil and South America. Many “Paulistas” live and work there because of the many rock trails they can do there. You need to hike only 20 minutes to start climbing. What is even greater is that you can chill in the many great natural pools after an intensive climb. Only a few easy climbing trails can be found, most of them are intermediate to advanced. But a beginner can easily have fun for a full day. The rocks you will climb are conglomerado rock blocks.
Longer trails to magical waterfalls
Explore the wilderness, big adventures are waiting
When you are an experienced hiker you should definitely go into the wilderness further away. A lot of big and small adventures are awaiting. You really are going to need a guide because trails disappear when they go over rock faces, even the guides need concentration to stay on track.
Just a few to name: Cachoeira do Fundão and Cachoeira da Mixila, Cachoeira do Palmital, Cachoeira do Capivarí, Cachoeira do Capivara, Cachoeira do Samuel, Cachoeira da Fumaça de baixo.
A lot of places are only possible in a 2 or 3 day trek with overnight in tents or caves. For many “normal” tourists this is a bit too basic and wild.
However, you can visit some magical places on a very full one day hike. You need to start very early in the day. Best is to organize this very well with a guide who knows perfectly all the distances and risks. The sun in the tropics sets at 18:00, so the guide will know very well when you need to start going back and how far you can go exploring. Another thing is the river level, many rivers swell very fast after strong rains and it can surprise and wash you away or leave the trails close to the river beds impossible. Experienced guides will know all the difficulties when the weather is not the best. There are some excellent guides in Lençóis Chapada Diamantina who love to guide this more difficult trails. They will cook for you on the trek as well, some are real masters chiefs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Learn about the Chapada!
When to come to the national park?
All year around!
From november till April heavy rains can occur which makes the waterfalls even more spectacular. Even then there will be almost always some sunshine during the day.
From August to October , the dry season makes the waterfalls sometimes less spectacular.
In the Brazilian holidays ( from Christmas till Carnival ) it can be crowded and a bit noisy on the most popular spots. This high season makes the accommodation more expensive.
From march to november the majority of the tourists are international travelers.
How to get there?
From Salvador to Lençóis
There are 3 daily buses from Salvador to Lençois. At 7:00, 13:00 and 23:00. The bus company is called Real Expresso / Rapido federal and the 420 km trip takes about 6 to 7 hours. The bus ticket costs around R$ 90 (2019). Tickets can be purchased at the online on busbud.com or other online bustickets companies. You need to change your online ticket into a real ticket at the desk in the bus station. More information can be found at www.realexpresso.com.br
Back to Salvador from Lençóis :
There are 3 or 4 daily buses from Lençois to Salvador at 07:30, 13:15, 23:30 and sometimes an extra at 23:50.
There is a regular flight operated by Trip/Azul Airline to and from Salvador 2 to 3 times a week .
For more information :
Airport Lençois: 75 3625 8100 /8825. Airport Salvador: 71 3204-1010.
It takes about 6 to 7 hours to drive the 420 km between Salvador and Lençois depending on road condition and traffic.
There is an alternative route via BA 052 or “Estrada do Feijão”. Shortly after Feira de Santana (12km) turn right to Ipirá. From there take a left turn and drive until Itaberaba. Doing so you can avoid the heavy traffic on the BR116.
What to bring?
- comfortable walking shoes or real boots
- sandals or flip-flops
- swimming clothes
- long trousers ( at night )
- sweater ( at night )
- rain coat !
- light and comfortable clothes
- hat or cap !
- photo camera
- mosquito repellent spray
- sunscreen high factor
- sun glasses
- water bottle
- basic medication
- optionally: sleeping bag, mat, tent, biodegradable soap
Which services you have in Lençóis?
Bank ( banco do Brasil ) with ATM
Market day: Monday and Friday morning
Shop with hiking gear ( expensive )
Shops with telephone cards and credit, hats, sun scream, sunglasses, jewels, souvenirs, postcards, books about the national park, …