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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 Barreirinhas in Lençois Maranhenses.

Day 5

By road and river to hamlet Caburé on to Atins for the night.

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.

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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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Beaches of the northeast
Praia de Pipa
The northeast of Brazil, once wealthy with vast sugar plantations, has a cultural identity all of its own to complement its wonderful beaches.

Near Natal is Pipa, whose gorgeous top-ten beach is visited by turtles and the bay by porpoises. Close to Recife is Olinda, a preserved cobbled town of traditional baroque Portuguese churches and houses, a centre of culture and the arts with an effervescent display at Carnival. Sweeping beaches at Porto de Galinhas and Maragogi can be reached from here while the marine wonderland of Fernando de Noronha is a diving and snorkelling magnet with Unesco status.

Further south, Bahia's seemingly infinite tropical coast has something to suit everyone: typically Brazilian beach towns such as Praia do Forte and Morro de São Paulo have attractive palm-lined beaches within easy reach of Salvador. Upmarket Trancoso has fine boutique hotels and a gorgeous village square. Meanwhile, Boipeba island, the Marau peninsula and the remote village of Caraiva remain off the beaten track and perfect for those seeking unspoilt Brazil.
When's the best time to visit the beaches of northeast Brazil?

It’s hot with plenty of sunshine all rear round, but most rain falls between Mar and Jul, so the Brazilian summer is relatively dry. Beaches can be busy in the local holiday months of late Dec to Feb.

What's the official language of the beaches of northeast Brazil?

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

What's the time difference between the beaches of NE Brazil and UK?

GMT -3 hours. There is daylight saving from Oct to the end of Feb (approx) when clocks are put forward one hour.  

What places combine well with beaches of NE Brazil?

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

How do I get to beaches of NE Brazil?

Flight time to Recife 12 hours, to Natal via Lisbon is 13 hours 40mins.

What are the festivals, cultural and sporting events at beaches of NE Brazil?
Carnival: 5 days in Feb/Mar, variable: 28 Feb – 4 Mar 2014. Olinda’s carnival is world famous and one of the most exotic and colourful.
Football World Cup: 12 Jun - 13 Jul 2014. Cities all over Brazil are hosting games, Natal and Recife among them.
How do I get local currency at beaches of NE Brazil?

Brazilian Real. Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs of Banco do Brasil, Bradesco and HSBC in Recife and Natal using a UK credit or debit card. Limits may be lower than your UK bank allows. ATMs close at 10pm.

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Undiscovered north coast
Brazil
The far north of Brazil is a fascinating region, yet 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, such as Jericoacoara.
When is the best time to visit north coast of Brazil?

São Luís can be visited all year round. 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. Most rain falls Jan-Jun.

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. 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/

GMT -3 hours. There is daylight saving Oct-end Feb (approx) when clocks are put forward one hour.  

What places combine well with north coast of Brazil?

The volcanic island of Fernando de Noronha (flights from Recife and Natal; the colonial port of Olinda, close to Recife; beach time at Pipa, one of the region - and country’s - loveliest bays.

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 and is 2.5 hours by air from Brasilia and 3 hours 10mins from Recife.

Key events

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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Our specialists have been expertly crafting award-winning tailor-made holidays to Latin America for over 37 years.
We would be delighted to create a truly personalised trip which perfectly matches your wishes and requirements.

97% of our clients rated their experience with us as Excellent or Good.

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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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