Chapada Diamantina is a region in the center of Bahia State in Brazil. Its name literally translate as the Diamond Plateau.
Indeed this area is composed mainly of clay and sandstones as well as… diamonds! Therefore this area attracted many diamond diggers and developed accordingly. However, as the second part of the name indicates, this region also offers many plateaus, perfect ground for cattle. The plateaus are mostly at an altitude comprised between 500 and 1000m and are delimited by impressive cliffs.
Part of the region of Chapada Diamantina was declared as a National Park in 1985. Therefore you need to distinguish both: the Chapada Diamantina region and the Chapada Diamantina National Park; slightly confusing. The National Park was created to preserve the fauna and flora by forbidding cattle and farmers. Indeed, the latest were using ground burning as a cultivation method.
Lençóis is one of the main city of the Chapada Diamantina, located on its northeast side. Today mainly known as one of the main departure base to explore the Chapada Diamantina, Lençóis used to be known as the Diamond Capital.
Founded in the 19th century, it developed fast thanks to the diamond business; it even had a French consulate! The 20th century was not so brilliant though, the developing diamond markets leading to a drop in prices globally. This also explains why Lençóis kept its colonial charm until today. The end of the 20th century marks the end of the diamond business and the beginning of a new commerce: tourism!
Today Lençóis is a pleasant little city with paved roads and colorful houses.
How to get to Lençóis
Surprisingly enough Lençóis is served by the small Horácio de Mattos Airport! Twice a week the company Azul Linhas will fly in and out to several cities in Brazil (transiting by Salvador). The prices are a bit higher but not outstanding either, so if you are not a budget you might want to check!
Otherwise the easiest way to get to Lençóis is by bus from Salvador. You have 2 buses per day: one leaving early morning arriving in the afternoon, one leaving late at night arriving the following early morning. Depending on the season and the day, you might also be offered a third option during the day.
Where to stay in Lençóis
There are many hostels, pousadas and hotels in the small town of Lençóis.
The one where we stayed was nice, although we found it a bit over-priced. It was well located though and we liked the decor of the place. It is called Albergue Chapada Hostel, part of the HI (Hostel International). There are dorms and private rooms and the breakfast is included. They charge 30$R per person for early check-in or late check-out, in case you come or leave by night bus. If you come back from a trek just before leaving with the nigh bus, as we did, you can also come take a shower for 10 $R.
Hiking around Lençóis
The surroundings of Lençóis are beautiful, and one loop in particular is recommended to be done in half a day. You can choose to book the excursion with a guide for about 100 $R (25 US$) or just go on your own! As we recommended several times, the application MapsMe is very useful for this and the trail is indeed well defined on it. You will be told many times that you should not go without a guide because you can get lost but, unless you have about zero sense of orientation, you will find your way very easily! No need for a guide!
Cachoeira do Serrano
The trail does a loop, which you can do either way. We will describe it going from the southern trail and coming back on the northern one.
The start of the trail is called Caminho para o Serrano, it is located towards the west of the city. Once you are on it just follow it until you arrive at the river. The spot is called Cachoeira do Serrano. There will probably be people already swimming and sunbathing there! Between group of tourists and locals it is a very popular spot especially towards the end of the afternoon. There you will find several natural pools where to refresh yourself in the… red water! Because one thing you need to know: the water in Chapada Diamantina is red-ish! Which also means that when it is a bit deep it gets very dark: be careful to not jump if you cannot see the bottom, it might be less deep than you think!
When you are ready to go on, go back to the trail. Note: the loop comes back to this spot so you can also swim (again) on the way back!
The next point of interest will be Cachoeirinha, a small waterfall. There was not so much water when we were there (not the best season). You then cross the river to follow the trail and will arrive at a junction. Take the left trail and head up to the viewpoint “Mirante“: a beautiful view over the valley and Lençóis.
Back to the river
You can choose to go around or go back to the junction to take the right trail. Then you’ll just need to keep right to head back down to the river. Again, not much water when we were there but a beautiful riverbed with stones featuring a range of colors from grey to pink. You can also note the different colors of the sand around.
From there you can follow the river down or go to the trail on its left side. It will bring you back to the Cachoeira do Serrano. Most probably the colors will have changed the landscape since you first passed. This place is really beautiful!
We tried to find a trail on the left side of the river again but ended having to jump over some rifts. So just keep following the river back to town, it seems to be the easiest 🙂