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One of Brazil’s most spectacular natural attractions, the Parque Nacional dos Lençois Maranhenses consists of a vast desert of gleaming white sand dunes – some of which reach heights of 165 feet – that bear a resemblance to billowing lençois (Portuguese for “sheets”). Each year, when the rains come (December-May), the dunes’ valleys fill with water, forming thousands of bewitchingly blue lagoons whose placid surfaces reflect the sky and clouds. The Rhode Island-sized park lies 155 miles east of Maranhão’s colonial capital of São Luis. No cars are allowed in the park, but Jeeps and boats can take you to within close proximity of areas that ...

One of Brazil’s most spectacular natural attractions, the Parque Nacional dos Lençois Maranhenses consists of a vast desert of gleaming white sand dunes – some of which reach heights of 165 feet – that bear a resemblance to billowing lençois (Portuguese for “sheets”). Each year, when the rains come (December-May), the dunes’ valleys fill with water, forming thousands of bewitchingly blue lagoons whose placid surfaces reflect the sky and clouds. The Rhode Island-sized park lies 155 miles east of Maranhão’s colonial capital of São Luis. No cars are allowed in the park, but Jeeps and boats can take you to within close proximity of areas that can be explored on foot (with guides). The town of Barreirinhas is the main access point to the park, but rustic villages such as Atins and Santo Amaro are more atmospheric, less touristy alternatives.

Michael Sommers
About the Expert

Michael Sommers is the author of Moon Brazil and Moon Rio, as well as the blog Thrill of Brazil. He has been living in Salvador, Brazil since 1999.

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Michael Sommers for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Northeastern Brazil in Maranhão state, on border of Preguiças River
  • Language: Portuguese
  • Currency: Brazilian Real
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    June-October — after the rainy season, but before the thousands of freshwater lakes among the sand dunes evaporate.