Sand Dunes and Lagoons in Brazil

Explore the Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses and swim in turquoise lagoons. 4 days, 3 nights.

Explore this otherworldly landscape, a 1550 square kilometre expanse of towering, white sand dunes stretching along the country’s northern coast. Stay with local families in a desert oasis and sleep in hammocks.

Your hassle-free adventure includes:

  • Experienced, English speaking guides
  • 1 night in a pousada, 2 nights camping in hammocks
  • Local transportation in boats and 4x4 jeeps
  • 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners
  • Drinking water

Perfect for:

Travellers who want to experience a completely unique landscape far from the well-trodden path and who aren’t fazed by the heat.

Need To Know

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The weather in the national park is hot all year round, so be prepared for temperatures often from 25°C to 30°C. There is little shelter from the hot Brazilian sun in the park when you’re trekking on the sand dunes, although the lagoons offer a refreshing swim.

The rainy season runs from January to June, so if you’re travelling in this period, pack a waterproof coat. From late February until the end of October the lagoons will have risen up through the sand dunes, although the best time to visit is May to September to guarantee this. From November to February the park is dry with no lagoons.

Your trip starts at 13:00, so you’ll need to arrive into São Luís very early in the morning in order to make the four to five hour transfer to Barreirinhas in time. Best to arrive the day before and stay the night in either Barreirinhas or São Luís. São Luís is an interesting colonial town and well worth spending a night or two before or after your trip in.

You’ll arrive back on day four of the trip at 13:00 into Santo Amaro and around 15:30 into Barreirinhas if you wish to take the included transfer all the way. Again, you’ll find it’s best to allow yourself an extra night in either Santo Amaro, Barreirinhas or São Luís before booking a departing flight and allow plenty of time for travel. You can arrange transport directly from Santo Amaro to São Luís if you don’t wish to return to Barreirinhas.

You’ll be eating traditional Brazilian hearty meals, cooked by local families. Typically rice and beans with meat, chicken and vegetables, or sometimes a coconut stew. Drinking water is provided for the trip.

Please let us know in advance of any dietary requirements so we can cater to these.

All camping equipment is provided including hammocks.

You’ll need to pack:

  • A small backpack of 20 or 30 litres (maximum)
  • Two sets of light clothing
  • Sunscreen
  • Swimming costume
  • Wide brimmed hat or baseball cap
  • Sunglasses
  • Towel
  • Comfortable walking shoes or boots
  • Sleeping bag
  • Waterproof jacket if travelling from January to June (rainy season)

Your main luggage can be left at our office and transferred to meet you at the end of the trek.

Absolutely! The trip runs with a minimum group of two people and a maximum of eight, so you’ll be hiking with other like-minded travellers. Lot’s of people book our trips as a solo traveller - it’s a great way to meet people.

You should have a good general level of fitness as it can be quite hard going walking in the full sun with little shelter. However, you’ll have plenty of breaks to relax and swim in the lagoons.

The only extra costs are:

  • Travel to and from the start and end point of the tour, Barreirinhas
  • Drinks
  • Optional Lunch at Vassouras, R$40 per person on Day One
  • Dinner in Atins on Day One


View map

Situated on the North coast of Brazil at the edge of the Amazon basin, the Parque Nacional dos Lençois Maranhenses is a vast desert landscape of tall sand dunes and seasonal blue lagoons fed by rainfall. The name ‘Lençóis Maranhenses’ comes from the Portuguese word for ‘bedsheets’ due to the miles and miles of white dunes. There are only a few families still living and farming the area around the handful of permanent oasis along with a handful of tiny fishing villages scattered around the outskirts – some of which have only had electricity for the last four years.

Start point?

You’ll meet in the village of Barreirinhas at 13:00 on day one of the trip.

Finish point?

You will arrive in the village of Santo Amaro at 13:00 on day four of the trip, where you can choose to stay (optional – additional cost for accommodation and onward travel), or continue on by jeep to Barreirinhas where your trip will end.

Getting there and away?

The closest airport is in São Luís, a four to five hour drive away. Local transportation runs to Barreirinhas, or optional private or group transfers can be arranged through the tour operator for this trip. São Luís is an interesting colonial town and well worth spending a night or two before or after your trip in.

Travelling from the UK, British Airways operates direct flights to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo or LATAM flies direct to São Paulo. There is a wide choice of airlines offering indirect flights via Europe or the USA.

What to Expect

Day One: Boat Ride and Villages

Meet your guide and group in the riverside village of Barreirinhas.

Board your voadeira, a small motor boat and travel along the shallow River Preguiças. stopping at the tiny community of Vassouras with its colony of monkeys living on the nearby mangrove.

Stop for lunch at Dona Graça’s house (optional – not included) for tasty grilled seabass.

Continue on to the small fishermen’s village of Mandacarú and take in the panoramic view of the towering sand dunes.

Get back in the boat for the day’s final leg, stopping at the tiny community of Atins with its sandy streets and houses built into the dunes, your destination for the night.

Check into your pousada, or local guesthouse and head out to explore the village. Enjoy dinner in one of the handful of local restaurants (not included). This evening your guide will brief you on the trekking ahead.

Day Two: Dunes and an Oasis

Start early and after breakfast head out in a 4x4. Drive for around one hour through the dunes to the starting point of your trek – Bonzinho.

Head out into the dunes on foot, stopping for refreshing swims in turquoise lagoons.

Continue for around three and a half hours to the oasis of Baixa Grande, home to a local family who’ll welcome you for the night.

Take a break for a home-cooked lunch and then climb one of the highest dunes for a perfect sunset view.

Head back for another freshly prepared Brazilian meal and then relax in your hammock for the night.

Day Three: Dunes and Lagoons

Wake up in your hammock and eat breakfast around the oasis.

Continue trekking through the high sand dunes with plenty of lagoon swimming stops and breaks along the way.

After three hours of trekking, you’ll reach your stop for the night just in time for lunch at the home of another local family. Enjoy a tasty meal and then it’s back into the dunes for some more time in this unique landscape.

Relax at your campsite this evening and star-gaze from your hammock.

Day Four: A Final Day of Trekking

Rise early for breakfast and then set off once again into the white sand dunes for the biggest day of trekking so far.

Walk for six to seven hours to the village of Betânia for some of the most spectacular scenery and the parks largest lagoon, perfect for a well-deserved swim.

Have lunch and a cold drink at a restaurant on the banks of the River Alegre.

After lunch, journey back out of the park in a 4x4. You can choose to be dropped off in the village of Santo Amaro, or continue on to Barreirinhas, where your adventure ends.


For your first night in the village of Atins, you’ll stay in a pousada, or local guesthouse – either Pousada Irmão or Vila do Pescador. Both are clean but simple and feature brightly coloured en-suite twin or double rooms with a fan.

For the next two nights you’ll be staying with one of the few farming families to still call the desert home. You’ll camp by the oasis, sleep in hammocks and enjoy their hospitality and home-cooked food.