Most people (myself included) think of sun-kissed beaches, or the wilds of the Amazon Rainforest, at the mention of Brazil and its hidden gems. It may then may come as a surprise to know that if you head inland in Brazil there are some incredible hidden gems to be found. Chapada Diamantina, in the Chapada National Park, a 25-minute drive outside of the town of Lencois in Bahia (not to be mistaken for Lencois Maharenses in the top North West corner of Brazil) is one such hidden gem. Lencois is a six-hour bus journey from Salvador. You can fly (40 minutes) but as TAM are the only airline to operate out of Lencois (we had a horrendous experience as they hadn’t processed our flight booking from the UK), I’d obviously recommend travelling by bus. Plus, the bus drops you off in the centre of the town.
Lencois is the main stopping point for tourists as it’s a great place to use as a base to explore the area and the Chapada National Park. There are some walks and treks you can do by yourself, we had a free morning and walked up to the Serrano swimming hole, a popular spot with local families wanting to cool off from the sun.
But to really discover what Chapada Diamantina, a former diamond mining region (so it literally used to be full of hidden gems) has to offer it’s best to book on an organised tour. Our trip was very kindly organised courtesy of Simon Williams at Bespoke Brazil, a relatively new tour operator based in the UK who works with tour operators in Brazil, who arranged our trek through Venturas & Adventuras in Lencois.
As our bus pulled in to the bus station at Lencois we were greeted by one of their guides and escorted to our accommodation, Alcino’s pousada (click here for my blog post on Alcino’s and the best breakfast in Brazil). And each morning we were picked up from Alcino’s so we didn’t have to do a thing, lucky as we needed to conserve our energy for the hiking that was to come.
On our first afternoon in Lencois we were collected by car at around 4.30pm and driven 25km (it took around 20 mins) to the Pai Inácio Mountain to watch the sunset. The climb up left me worried about the climb back down in the dark. But I reasoned that lots of people considerably older (though probably much fitter) than me had gone up, so the descent couldn’t be that tricky to master. And I could always get Sharps to carry me if worst came to worst.
Without sounding too much of a cliché the views were breathtaking, the sun setting against the backdrop of the mountain range makes you appreciate your insignificance. Capturing the glow of the sun’s orangey hues over the tablelands made the walk down more than worthwhile. Our sunset expedition gave us a taster of the hidden gems we were about to explore in Chapada Diamantina.