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

Day 1

Arrive Recife and transfer to hotel in Olinda

You flight takes you from Europe to the northeast of Brazil, and Recife, the capital of Pernambuco state.  This large, pulsating city, whose status as a crumbling, neglected colonial slaving port is being transformed as it benefits from a face-lift and burgeoning arts scene, sits on three small islands connected with each other and the mainland by over two dozen bridges.

Transfer to your hotel in the much more tranquil town Olinda, like Recife founded by the Dutch but now a glorious example of Portuguese architectural flair.  A maze of steeply cobbled streets, pastel coloured houses, baroque fountains and elegant squares blankets the hills. But it’s not always a sleepy place: Olinda is renowned for its wild and raucous Carnival.

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Day 2

Walking tour of Olinda.

Take to the streets to discover more intimately the beautiful nooks and crannies of this beautiful UNESCO listed town on foot.  Your guide will introduce you to some of the country's quaintest baroque churches, as well as to state-approved graffiti murals which adorn Olinda's walls. Many of the towns buildings have a fascinating history, such as the San Bento Monastery which was the site of the country’s first law school and the first place to abolish slavery. Climb up to the Igreja da Se church topping a hill from which are sweeping views over the town and palm-defined coastline.

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Day 3

Transfer back to Recife airport and fly to São Luis.
Sao Luis

São Luis is the capital of Maranhão, a port on Brazil’s north coast at the junction of two rivers and the sea . It has a multifaceted history: founded by the French but constructed by the Portuguese as an entry point for African and Amazonian slaves, nowadays it is a bit of a scruffy backwater but with pockets of undeniably photogenic charm, its crumbling façades redeemed by the presence of dazzling bright blue Portuguese tiles, or azulejos. 

There's time for a brief walking tour of the city's historic core. You’ll appreciate its African heritage, reflected in the music and spiritual rituals – there’s a large Afro-Brazilian element to the population and it can almost seem to be an African city. Many of the colonial façades have been restored, showing off with bright pastel coloured walls. To reinforce this cultural mélange, you can also visit the French-built fort, San Antonio, and the Portuguese cathedral.

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Sao Luis

Day 4

By road to Barreirinhas in Lençois Maranhenses.
Lencois Maranhences
Drive to Barreirinhas (3 hrs) and explore the Lençois Maranhenses National Park by jeep – you’ll discover an endless expanse of intact sand dunes and clear water lagoons which support a rich variety of wildlife. At first sight you could be forgiven for thinking this was a desert, until the sight of the pools and ribbons of aquamarine water reminds you that the rains accumulate in the folds of the rippling dunes creating a mirage-like effect. The softness of the uniformly pale, cream-to-white sands, devoid of vegetation bar a few tufts of grass, is almost surreal.  Water is usually present in the pools between May and September and the views are most spectacular at low sun, when a range of shadows come into play. Just after sunrise is the best time to view this magical phenomenon.

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Lencois Maranhences

Day 5

By road and river to hamlet Caburé on to Atins for the night.
Lencoise Maranhenses
Travel by speed boat along the swampy Preguiças river, calling at Vassouras where there is an opportunity to go walking in the dunes. Continue via remote, traditional fishing villages to Caburé: arrive in time for lunch and a lazy afternoon spent relaxing by the beach or river. Caburé consists of just a handful of pousadas and a few fishermen’s huts squatting on a bar of sand between the Atlantic Ocean and the river. Once there, you can forget any notion of luxury; this is bohemia at its simplest. The atmosphere of the place is unique. Have lunch here, then continue to Atins, a rustic fisherman's village overlooked by a lighthouse. 

There is no shop, no electricity overnight, and the silence is punctuated by the hissing of the sand whipped up by the breeze. Overnight here.

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Lencoise Maranhenses

Day 6

By road to Parnaíba on a river delta.
Lencois Maranhenses

It’s an adventurous 4WD drive across dunes, beaches, swamps and rivers to the Parnaíba delta which you’ll explore by boat. A traditional way of life survives in the communities established among the delta’s islets, mangroves and lagoons, a haven for thousands of birds. In the afternoon you will be taken on a scenic tour by boat within the delta, ending at Canarias Island where you spend the night at a simple lodge in idyllic surroundings.

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Lencois Maranhenses

Day 7

By road to Jericoacoara, a laid back village on the Atlantic coast.
Take a boat back to Parnaíba and then continue by 4WD along the coast, passing virgin-pure wild beaches, cliffs, sand dunes and isolated backwater communities. Arrival in Camocim for lunch before continuing along the beach, passing the village of Tatajuba with its gorgeous lagoon-side setting.

Arrive at the remote settlement of Jericoacoara - dominated by a huge sand dune - which has been voted one of the best beaches in the world. The main streets of 'Jeri' are merely broad channels of deep sand flanked by numerous guesthouses, small shops, funky cafés and restaurants. Its origins lie in a laid-back fishing village, nowadays though it is also a hip and popular venue for windsurfing, kitesurfing and exploring by dune buggy. At night there’s a youthful ambience, with lively bars and folksy night clubs.

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Day 8-9

At leisure among the dunes.

At leisure in Jericoacoara. If you don’t want to experience one of the sea or dune-borne activities, you can just laze on the beach in front of the Atlantic Ocean, and sip an ice-cool caipirinha at sunset.

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Day 10

Transfer to Fortaleza airport for connection to international flight home.

It's four hours' drive to the city of Fortaleza where you will be taken to the airport for your flight home or elsewhere if extending your travels in Brazil.


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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

10 days from £2,130pp

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


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