COMPLETE Guide to Exploring Chapada Diamantina National Park, Brazil
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This blog is your ultimate guide to visiting Chapada Diamantina National Park in Brazil. It includes the best things to do, general info about the park, the best time to visit, and where to stay so you can easily plan your own trip there!
Before beginning my trip around Brazil, I had no idea I would venture inland to explore a vast national park filled with 1,000-foot sheer cliffs, the country’s second-tallest waterfall, and underground caves filled with crystal clear water. I was so fixated on Brazil’s coastal cities and islands that I almost missed what is now one of the best things I did in Brazil.
However, after finding out about Chapada Diamantina National Park, both Bailey and I just had to visit. We didn’t know much about the park before we arrived, and to be honest, information on exactly how to best explore Chapada Diamantina can be hard to come by.
It’s not that Chapada Diamantina National Park isn’t a popular place to visit in Brazil, because it is. However, it is most popular among Brazilian tourists, not international visitors. But that’s another reason visiting Chapada Diamantina is so special!
On our trip to the park, we met so many Brazilians! We even met the nicest couple who are now good friends of ours, and we even enjoyed a Brazilian BBQ at their home near São Paulo – talk about a unique opportunity to get amongst Brazilian culture!
In this blog, we’re going to clear up everything you need to know about Chapada Diamantina National Park before you go. We’ve included all of the important information for tourists including where to stay, the best tours, and list some of the top attractions you should consider visiting while there!
About Chapada Diamantina National Park
Chapada Diamantina National Park is located west of Salvador in the state of Bahia. The park itself is huge and actually covers 38,000 square kilometers! The name “Chapada Diamantina” translates to”Diamond Plateau” because of the large number of diamond deposits in the region. Despite this, diamond mining is now banned in the national park.
The town of Lençóis is known as the gateway to Chapada Diamantina National Park and lots of tours to the park leave from this small town. From Salvador, Lençóis is 429 kilometers away and the journey by bus takes around 7 hours.
The scenery in Chapada Diamantina includes mountains, valleys, monoliths, caves, rivers, waterfalls, and some of the most breathtaking views in Brazil.
Most tours to the park from Lençóis are day trips that begin and end in Lençóis. However, there are many other tours such as hikes, that run for two to three days.
From the town of Lençóis though, any visitor can pick and choose from a variety of tours and even do a few free hikes that leave right from town.
Getting to Lençóis (Chapada Diamantina)
Getting to Lençóis by bus is easy from Salvador. Buses leave from Terminal Rodoviário de Salvador to Lençóis with the company Rápido Federal / Real Expresso. The journey is 420 kilometers and takes around 7 hours. The price of the ticket costs R$88 and you can buy the tickets online in advance on Busbud.
Important info: For international visitors who want to book the bus in advance online, you may be asked to provide a CPF number. This is only on Brazilian documents. If you’re asked this, then book on the Quero Passagem website instead. This website only asks for the CPF number if you don’t un-click the insurance option. However, try Busbud first as it is in English!
There are three different times when buses leave from Salvador every day. They are 7:00 am, 1:00 pm, and 11:00 pm. From Lençóis back to Salvador the buses leave at 8:30 am, 1:15 pm, and 11:30 pm.
We jumped on the 1 pm bus. The bus arrived just after 8 pm (the buses are supposedly always late.) There was one stop on the bus journey for around 20 minutes. Here you can get off for a toilet break and food. After exiting the bus everyone was approached by tour guides and salesmen trying to book us on the next available tour for when we arrived in Lençóis.
We had already been told that it’s not a good idea to book through them as many aren’t official guides. It is best to book tours to Chapada Diamantina National Park once you’ve arrived in Lençóis.
Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo: You can get to Chapada Diamantina from both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, however, the bus journeys are both over 35 hours long! For that reason, it’s best to fly to Salvador first.
Lençóis has an airport 20 kilometers from the town. You can get flights here from Salvador with Azul Airlines. Flights only leave to and from Lençóis on Thursdays and Sundays. The flight takes just over an hour and they leave from Salvador International Airport.
All flights from other cities will stop in Salvador first. So, you can book a connecting flight if you’re coming from Rio or São Paulo.
10 BEST Things to do in Chapada Diamantina National Park
1. Day Trip to Poco Azul and Poco Encantado
Poco Azul and Poco Encantado are both underground wells filled with crystal clear water that literally shines blue! Tours from Lençóis almost always visit both attractions in one day because of their close location to each other.
Poco Encantado was the first place we visited on our tour. At Poco Encantado we hiked into the cave to enjoy the views of the water and learn about how it was formed. Although swimming is not allowed at Poco Encantado, it’s still a cool place to visit.
After that, we had a short drive to Poco Azul. For me, this was the highlight of the tour as I actually got to swim and snorkel in the cave’s water! After a quick shower, I grabbed a snorkel and was jumping into the crystal clear (but cold!) water in the cave!
Although 27 meters deep, Poco Azul appears shallow because the water is just that clear!
The tour we did to both caves took most of the day as you must drive 2.5 hours each way from Lençóis. Our tour also included lunch between activities.
2. Combo Tour to Morro Do Pai Inacio, Poco do Diabo, Gruta da Lapa Doce, Gruta da Pratinha and Gruta Azul
Next up is arguably the best tour in Chapada Diamantina. For those with little time, this is a great tour that not only visits my favorite place in the park (Morro Do Pai Inacio), but also visits an underground pool, massive cave, and a beautiful waterfall.
This tour is great because it visits many different attractions in the park in only one day – so you can see lots with little time! Here’s a little more about each stop and a photo to show you what to expect.
You can book the tour I did in advance!
Morro Do Pai Inacio
Morro Do Pai Inacio is a viewpoint in Chapada Diamantina National Park and one of the most breathtaking places to visit. You cannot come to the Chapada Diamantina and not visit Morro Do Pai Inacio!
On the tour, your guide will drive you up a large hill until you get out and hike up for around 30 minutes. The hike isn’t that hard and anyone with reasonable fitness could do it with ease! From the top, you can enjoy panoramic views of the park.
The tour mentioned above visits Morro Do Pai Inacio at the end of the day so you can watch the sunset at the top.
Poco do Diabo
Poco do Diabo (aka Devils Pool) is the first place you visit on this huge day tour. At the pools, you’ll take a short hike along the Rio São José (São José River) before hiking down to a stunning natural pool and waterfall. Here you can swim and even climb the waterfall!
Gruta da Lapa Doce
Gruta da Lapa Doce (aka Lapa Doce Cave) is a massive cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites (the calcium deposits that form towers in caves.) On your tour, you’ll have to hike down to the cave via a long staircase before taking a tour through the cave and out the other side.
You’ll be given a flashlight as the cave is pitch black. It takes around 30 minutes to walk the entire cave with your guide. Along the way, you’ll learn about the cave and how it was discovered!
Gruta Azul is only a quick stop on the tour. Here you’ll walk into a cave to view the stunning turquoise water below. This stop is really cool especially if you haven’t seen Poco Azul or Poco Encantado. Unfortunately, you cannot swim here.
Gruta da Pratinha
Gruta da Pratinha was my least favorite stop on this day trip, but overall, not bad. This pool is more of a theme park and is privately owned. At the pools, you can choose to do a snorkeling tour in a cave, zip-lining, or just swim in the water.
We chose to just swim and enjoy a beer at one of the restaurants along the water. We also saw lots of monkeys here so keep and eye out for them!
If you want to do the exact same day trip as us (that visits all of the places mentioned above) you can book the tour in advance online.
3. Swim at Ribeirão do Meio
Ribeirão do Meio is a small waterfall and swimming hole located only a 2 kilometer walk from Lençóis. This means you can visit this waterfall on your own without a tour.
The hike to the falls is very easy, and along the way there is a small shop selling sugar cane juice and snacks. When you arrive at the falls you can swim and take advantage of the natural pools.
If you want a little more excitement you can climb up the large rock face and slide down it (you’ll see what I mean when you get there!) I did this a few times with no injuries to show.
Overall, this is a great place to visit especially if you’re on a budget. I’d allow around 3 hours to walk to the falls, swim, and walk back!
Where: The easiest way to find the start fo the trail is to ask a local. Alternatively, you can download the app Maps.Me. This map shows the start of the trail and where the swimming spot is located.
4. Visit Cachoeira da Fumaça
Cachoeira da Fumaça is a 340-meter waterfall that was once thought to be Brazil’s tallest. Unfortunately, it’s the second tallest, but it’s still an amazing place to visit in Chapada Diamantina National Park.
The waterfall is best visited on a full-day tour from Lençóis and involves a 14-kilometer round trip hike up to the top of the waterfall. The hike isn’t a walk in the park and does involve quite the climb.
Once you reach the top you’re welcomed with breathtaking views of the valley, and if you’re lucky a waterfall! You can also crawl out onto a rock to take the photo you see above. It’s very scary and also a 340-meter drop so be careful!
Unfortunately for us, we visited during a drought so barely any water was running over the edge of the waterfall. However, the views from the top were still stunning.
You can book the tour we did online in advance. The tour includes snacks, an English speaking guide, and a ride to the start of the trail in an air-conditioned van.
5. Mirante do Pati
Vale do Pati (aka Pati Valley) is one of the most breathtaking places to view in Chapada Diamantina National Park. Although the Vale do Pati is commonly hiked on a 3 to 4-day trek, you can also visit the stunning viewpoint called the Mirante do Pati (pictured above) in just one day.
I personally wasn’t up for the 3-day hike so I decided to do this full-day tour instead. Our tour left at 8 am and we drove to the start of the trail. After a quick stretch, we began our ascent to the viewpoint. Each way it was around 6 kilometers, but on the way there, we had to climb up to the viewpoint which was tiring.
Once we made it though, we had the best seat in the house! The views are spectacular and must be seen to be believed!
Now I haven’t done the full 3-day trek, but to me, just visiting this viewpoint is one of the best things to do in Chapada Diamantina National Park!
6. Cachoeira do Sossego
This waterfall is another great tour or self-guided trip. Cachoeira do Sossego is around 5 kilometers from Lençóis and is accessed via the same trail as Ribeirão do Meio, however, it is much further.
To reach the waterfall it takes just over two hours. Once you arrive, you’ll be able to enjoy a beautiful 15-meter waterfall and a deep swimming hole. When we were there, people were jumping off the cliffs but we would only recommend this if you can see the bottom.
If you do go on your own without a guide, it’s best to take a map just in case. If you don’t feel comfortable doing so, then you can book a cheap guided tour in town.
7. Cachoeira da Primavera
Cachoeira da Primavera is an easily accessible waterfall only a 45-minute walk from Lençóis. Unfortunately, I never made it there but I’ve heard it’s great for those on a budget looking for something to do around Lençóis.
You can find this waterfall on the app Maps.me as well as the trail to get there. Along the way, there is also another small waterfall called Cachoeira do Serrano. Since this place is so close to Lencois, it can get really busy so it’s best to visit first thing in the morning to beat the crowds!
8. Cachoeira dos Mosquitos
If you’re not much of a hiker, then this next waterfall is perfect! Accessed by a vehicle almost the entire way, Cachoeira dos Mosquitos is a must-visit! From the car parking lot, it only takes 15 minutes to reach the waterfall (although the climb back up is tiring!) As you walk down to the falls there is a stunning viewpoint that overlooks the waterfall.
If you don’t have your own car you can book a tour out to the falls from Lençóis. Even with your own transport, it costs R$15 to visit. Payment is made on the access road to the falls.
Although the falls are not very good for swimming, it’s basically the perfect place to have a shower in nature!
Cachoeira dos Mosquitos is often called one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Chapada Diamantina National Park. I personally don’t agree as I think that others (listed below) are more beautiful.
Hot tip: Visit at lunchtime when the sun is high. This way, the falls will get lots of sunlight. We visited in the afternoon and it did get a little cold!
9. Explore Lençóis
There will be times when you’re not on a tour out in Chapada Diamantina National Park and just hanging out in the town of Lençóis. So, is there anything to do in Lençóis? Surprisingly, Lençóis offers some really cool places to shop, drink and eat!
For food, head to Lampiao Culinaria Nordestina for top-notch Brazilian cuisine. Or for a cheap eat, head to Restaurante O Bode. A large plate here is only R$20 ($4 USD) and it’s all priced by the kilo.
For shopping, you can’t miss the Cultural Market (aka Mercado Cultural). Here you can find an assortment of arts and crafts with everything from soaps to stone works. The market is really neat and a great place to get a unique souvenir!
Although there isn’t that much to do in Lençóis, there’s definitely plenty of places to eat and socialize and night. Overall it has a fun atmosphere and is a nice town to enjoy in the evenings after you’re done touring Chapada Diamantina National Park!
10. Cachoeira do Buracão and Cachoeira da Fumacinha
I saved the best, and most beautiful, waterfalls for last! Both Cachoeira do Buracão and Cachoeira da Fumacinha are stunning attractions that are well off the beaten path simply because they’re really far from Lençóis.
In fact, you need to visit both falls on a 2-day 1-night tour and these aren’t cheap. Our trip out both falls cost us $185 USD, but wow, it was amazing!
Buracão falls was the first waterfall we visited and it was so stunningly beautiful. From the top, we got amazing views and then we headed down to explore. Once at the bottom, we suited up with a life jacket and swam through a canyon to the falls – it was a fun adventure!
We visited Fumacinha Falls on the second day of our tour. This waterfall was a little harder to get to and involved a decent hike, but it was so worth it! Fumacinha Falls must be visited on a guided tour as the waterfall is very hard to find and has no marked trail or signs. We literally pulled over on the road and just started hiking!
Our tour started at 8 am on the first day and ended at 9:30 pm the next day. We stayed overnight in a town called Ibicoara. There are other attractions visited on the tour but none compare to these two waterfalls – especially Buracão Falls (that was my favorite.) Our tour was with Diamantina Mountains and we really enjoyed it!
Best Time to Visit Chapada Diamantina
You can visit Chapada Diamantina National Park all your round, but there are two distinct seasons.
Rainy Season: November to April is the rainy season. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it makes the waterfalls even more spectacular. You will, however, need to be prepared for showers, so be sure to bring the right clothing (rain jacket!)
Dry Season: August to October is the region’s dry season. During this time Chapada Diamantina is dry and all the waterfalls around will have less water flowing.
The busiest time of year: The busiest time of year to visit Chapada Diamantina National Park is between New Years and Carnival (January to March.) This time of year is when Brazilians around the country take their holidays. I visited during this time and aside from the crowds, it was a great experience and we met lots of locals!
Where to Stay in Chapada Diamantina (Lençóis)
For exploring Chapada Diamantina National Park, the town of Lençóis is the best place to stay. From Lençóis you can do lots of hikes, join a variety of tours, and overall just have the best access to attractions.
Below are the best places to stay in Lençóis:
For those on a budget, Viela Hostel is the best choice in town. The location is perfect, reviews are amazing, and it’s cheap! They have dorm beds mainly, but also a triple room.
You can check availability on Booking.com
Pousada Solar Azul
Pousada Solar Azul is a beautiful boutique hotel located only a few hundred meters from the main square of Lençóis, but still far enough out for some peace and quiet. The room rate includes a really good breakfast and the hotel grounds are stunning. The hotel sits in the low to medium price range.
You can check availability on Booking.com
Hotel Canto das Águas
Hotel Canto das Águas is the most luxurious hotel in Lençóis. I actually visited this hotel as some of my friends were staying there and it was beautiful. The pool is huge, the rooms are spacious, and it has an onsite bar! Rooms here start at $180 USD but it’s totally worth it!
You can check availability on Booking.com
Before you go…
Chapada Diamantina National Park will forever be one of our favorite places we visited in Latin America. The landscape in the park is just that breathtaking and for us, it was definitely one of our Brazil highlights!
Thanks so much for reading our blog about Chapada Diamantina. We really hope it’s helped you plan your upcoming trip to the region. Please, if you have any questions, leave us a comment below so we can get back to you!
Also, if you enjoyed reading this blog and found it helpful then you may want to check out our other Brazil blogs here or these related articles below!
July 30, 2020