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It had always been advertised as the jewel in the crown of north-eastern Brazil and the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park did not disappoint. The adventure began the minute we boarded the open safari-style jeep in the small town of Barreirinhas. We whizzed through the streets of Barreirinhas towards the national park which is located about two kilometres away, across the Preguicas River.

We arrived on the banks of the river and got out of the jeep - it was driven on to a small boat to make the crossing. On the other side, I almost instantly regretted the generous portion of delicious Brazilian food I had for lunch as the rest of the journey was quite bumpy! With one hand on my hat and the other on the seat in front we made our way along an ever sandier unpaved track.

The bouncy journey soon became a distant memory as, like all of those who travel the distance, we were greeted at the end of it by one of the world’s most striking natural wonders; blankets of white sand draped as far as the eye can see.

Lencois Maranhenses

The sheer size of this desert can only be appreciated from the air: covering an area of 1500km², it soon turns humans and even the jeeps into microscopic specs. The light wind filled in our footprints so it felt as if we were the first people to explore the dunes. I felt tiny in the sprawling expanse of sandy bed sheets that cloaked the horizon.

Crystalline water filled the folds in the dunes - it was the perfect place for a dip to cool off from the hot dunes and to really appreciate the breathtaking beauty of the place. There were small fish in the lagoons even though they’re constantly changing and sometimes even drying up, their shapes and sizes entirely dictated by the weather.

Every visitor will have a different experience depending on the time of year and even the time of day. Bear in mind that the best time of year to go to the national park is from July to September as the heat is less intense the lagoons are likely to be fuller as it is straight after the rainy season. Whenever you visit the park, bringing bottled water, sun cream and your swimming costume is essential!

In summary, I cannot recommend the afternoon excursion highly enough. Sitting on top of a dune, watching the sun melting down over another is an image that will stay with me forever. My last tip would be: if you choose to go on the afternoon excursion, you will leave Barreirinhas between two or three pm so refrain from eating too much mouth-watering Brazilian food at lunch!

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Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Chris Rendell Dunn
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Expert

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours sales team.

  • Mary Anne Nelson
    Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Expert

    Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tour sales team.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Expert

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia and beyond to Antarctica.

  • Lina Fuller
    Lina Fuller - Travel Expert

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba (Argentina) to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.

Meet the team