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Off the beaten track Brazil: Dunes and lagoons of Lencois Maranhenses

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A holiday which will have you constantly reaching for your camera, this journey explores the surreal, sandy landscapes of Brazil's far northeast and visits two Unesco-listed colonial gems.

Fly into the dynamic port Recife, with its history of slaving, now renewed as a capital of the arts, supremely of music and dance. Start your holiday in the nearby centuries-old town Olinda, with divine Portuguese architecture lining cobbled streets. 

Travel on to the remote far north of Brazil and the huge Parnaíba delta. Its islets and lagoons are fabulous bird watching destinations. Beyond, are the surreal dunes and crystalline pools of Lençois Maranhenses National Park.  A traditional way of life survives in the region's sleepy, riverine fishing communities and small coastal towns. Even the popular beach hangout of Jericoacoara remains low-key. This is an adventurous trip taking you exploring by jeep, boat and 4WD.

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive Recife and transfer to hotel in Olinda

Day 2

Walking tour of Olinda.

Day 3

Transfer back to Recife airport and fly to São Luis.

Day 4

By road to Atins in Lençois Maranhenses.

Day 5

Explore Lencois Maranhenses National Park.

Day 6

By road to Parnaíba on a river delta.

Day 7

By road to Jericoacoara, a laid back village on the Atlantic coast.

Day 8-9

At leisure among the dunes.

Day 10

Transfer to Fortaleza airport for connection to international flight home.


Visit Us

What our experts say

We have put this holiday together for the more adventurous traveller or for those returning to Brazil for a second or third time. This holiday focuses on the north-eastern highlights of Brazil and is perfect for those looking for some hidden gems. The photography opportunities are also fantastic on this trip – play with perspective on the enormous sand dunes and try and capture the mirage-like effect of the aquamarine lagoons.

Sophie Barber

Sophie Barber

Travel Consultants

Places visited on this holiday

Off the beaten track Brazil: Dunes and lagoons of Lencois Maranhenses

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Recife, Olinda and Fernando de Noronha
Fernando do Noronha

Recife has a vivid character all of its own; hosting a mix of modern high rise building and colonial architecture reflecting the riches of the plantation boom which brought many African and Amazonian indian immigrants to the city. Recently there has been an artistic revival with traditional music and dance featuring in a modern, slightly gritty incarnation. Just up the road is Olinda, where cobbled streets and Portuguese baroque architecture have enchanted visitors for many years.

The tiny state of Alagoas, with its small-scale modern capital Maceió, is wedged between more illustrious neighbours but its homeliness and unpretentious charm attracts sun-worshippers to a string of silky, flour-white beaches lapped by impossibly turquoise seas.

Accessible by air from Recife is the only populated island in a protected Atlantic Ocean archipelago, volcanic Fernando de Noronha. The remote island attracts nature-loving visitors, especially divers and surfers. Craggy cliffs jacketed in scrubby vegetation close in on gorgeous bays of sugary sand, and the waters here are sapphire-clear. Much of the island is a protected marine park: sharks, dolphins, turtles and stingrays thrive there.

When's the best time to visit Recife, Olinda, Fernando de Noronha?

It’s hot with plenty of sunshine all rear round, but most rain falls between Mar-Jul, so the Brazilian summer is relatively dry. 

Note that the time difference with the UK is GMT -2 hours in Fernando de Noronha and -3 hours on the mainland (Recife). There is daylight saving Oct- end Feb (approx) when clocks are put forward one hour.

What's the official language of Recife, Olinda, Fernando de Noronha?

Brazilian Portuguese, a more languid and musical version of Portugal’s mother tongue.

How do I get local currency in Recife, Olinda, Fernando de Noronha?

The easiest way to get local currency (reais) is to use a debit card in one of the many ATMs. You can also change US dollars in monet exchange offices - pounds sterling or euros are often not accepted as there is no rate available. 

What places combine well with Recife, Olinda, Fernnado de Noronha?

The towns and beaches of Brazil’s northeast: Natal, Pipa, Salvador da Bahia: Brazil’s most exotic city (1.5 hours by air from Natal, 1 hour 20mins from Recife); Lençóis in the Chapada Diamantina, via Salvador and a 6 hour drive.

How do I get to Recife, Olinda, Fernando de Noronha?
You can fly to Recife via a change of plane in Portugal on the Portuguese airline TAP.  Fernando de Noronha is 1 hour 40 minutes by air  from Recife. Flights between Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo take around 3 hours; to or from from Salvador it is 1hr 20mins.
Back to list of places visited
North coast: Natal, Fortaleza and Sao Luis
Lencoise Maranhenses

The far north is a fascinating region hardly touched by tourism. The city of São Luís (a World Heritage Site) is an unexpected treat, its colonial and art nouveau buildings decorated with delicate European ceramic tiles. Just beyond is the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, its surreal, shifting landscape a wrinkled sheet of rippling sand dunes, pitted with jade and aquamarine freshwater lagoons. The river Preguiças flows into the mangrove-rich Parnaíba delta, where the bird-filled islets support traditional fishing communities. The wild sandy coastline has a few laid-back little resorts, notably Jericoacoara.

Fortaleza is an unashamedly holiday-focussed party city, famed for its exuberant nightlife - its broad, skyscraper-fringed beaches reminiscent of Copacabana.  It is also the entry point for visitors to gorgeous barefoot beaches within easy reach, such as Canoa Quebrada. 

Round the corner of Brazil’s shoulder the northeast, once wealthy with vast sugar plantations, has a cultural identity all of its own, complemented by wonderful beaches. Close to the pleasant port Natal is award-winning Pipa; the gorgeous sands there visited by turtles, and the bay by dolphins.

When is the best time to visit north coast of Brazil?

São Luís, Natal and Fortaleza, along with the northern beaches, can be visited all year round; June to January are the driest months. The Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is at its best Jul-Sep, when the fish-filled pools lie like a scattering of jewels on a cushion of soft white sand.

What's the official language of north coast of Brazil?

Brazilian Portuguese, a more languid and musical version of Portugal’s mother tongue.

How do I get local currency on north coast of Brazil?

Brazilian Real. Notes can be withdrawn from the ATMs in central São Luís and the other large towns. Limits may be lower than your UK bank allows. ATMs close at 10pm.

What's the time difference between north coast of Brazil and UK/

UTC -3 hours. Daylight saving Oct-end Feb was discontinued in 2019.

What places combine well with north coast of Brazil?

The volcanic island of Fernando de Noronha (flights from Natal); the colonial port of Olinda, close to Recife.

How do I get to north coast of Brazil?

São Luís is reached by a 3.5 hour flight from Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo from where it is 30mins less flying time to Fortaleza and Natal. Natal, São Luís and Fortaleza are all around 2.5 hours by air from Brasilia.

What are the cultural and sporting events in the north coast of Brazil?

Carnival (Feb-Mar, variable).

Bumba-meu-Boi: São Luis, 24 Jun. Throughout June and especially several days running up to 24th, there are parades, dances and street music, reflecting a mix of African, Portuguese and indigenous culture.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

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Off the beaten track Brazil: Dunes and lagoons of Lencois Maranhenses

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Off the beaten track Brazil: Dunes and lagoons of Lencois Maranhenses

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Off the beaten track Brazil: Dunes and lagoons of Lencois Maranhenses

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Price excludes international flights at the beginning and end of the trip


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Explore the dates and prices of this unique holiday to Latin America.

Due to flexible pricing and minimum room night requirements during peak times (such as New Year, Carnival and Easter) we may not always present all the dates we have available.

If your ideal travel date is not shown, call us on 020 8747 8315, or click on the 'Make an Online Enquiry' button to the right.

Prices exclude international flights at the beginning and end of the trip.

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