Horse Ride Sand Dunes in Brazil

Explore Brazil’s white quartz sand dunes and lagoons of Lençóis Maranhenses National Park on horseback. 3 days.

Ride through a unique landscape of sand dunes and take a dip in the turquoise lagoons that appear as if by magic following the rainy season. Meet local families, watch monkeys play in trees, ride a riverboat downstream and then sleep in hammocks and stargaze by night.

Your hassle-free adventure includes:

  • 2 nights accommodation
  • 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners
  • Fully trained, English speaking guide
  • All horse riding equipment

Perfect for: Travellers looking for a horseback adventure across an otherworldly landscape and who don’t mind the rustic life.

Need To Know

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The only extra costs are:

  • Travel to and from the start and end point of the tour, Barreirinhas
  • Drinks (otional - water is provided)
  • Lunch on day one and dinner on day three

There’s no need to have previous horse riding experience, as long as you’re willing to learn. The trip is suitable for beginner or intermediate riders too.

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

Absolutely! The trip runs with a minimum group of two people and a maximum of nine, so you’ll be riding 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’ll need to pack:

  • 1 litre of water for the first day
  • 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 trainers
  • Waterproof jacket if travelling from January to June (rainy season)
  • Any snacks or fruit you would like

All horse riding equipment is provided, along with a guide and a keeper to care for the horses.

Camping equipment including hammocks are provided for the second night.

You’ll sample the famous shrimp from Atins and eat traditional Brazilian hearty meals, typically rice and beans with meat, chicken and vegetables, or sometimes a coconut stew. Drinking water is provided for the trip.

We are able to cater to vegetarians - please let us know in advance.

The closest airport is in São Luís. You can fly direct from São Paulo, Brasilia or Recife, and indirect with a short stopover from anywhere else in Brazil. São Luís is an interesting colonial town and well worth spending a night or two before or after your trip in.

Your trip starts in Barreirinhas at 14:00, 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.

You’ll arrive back into Barreirinhas at 18:00 so you’ll need to stay an extra night here, and allow plenty of time to travel back to São Luís (a four to five hour bus journey) before booking onward travel.

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.


View map

Located on the North coast of Brazil, on 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 created by rainfall. The name ‘Lençóis Maranhenses’, comes from the Portuguese word for ‘bedsheets’ due to the miles and miles of shimmering white sand. There are only a few families living and farming the area now close to the handful of permanent oases, with 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 14:00.


You’ll return to the village of Barreirinhas at 18:00.

Getting there and away?

The closest airport is in São Luís. You can fly direct from São Paulo, Brasilia or Recife, and indirect with a short stopover from anywhere else in Brazil. São Luís is an interesting colonial town and well worth spending a night or two before or after your trip in.

Local buses run from São Luís to Barreirinhas and take four to five hours, however you may need to stop overnight in either São Luís or Barreirinhas before the trip starts, depending on the bus schedule. You can also arrange door-to-door minibus transfers through guesthouses in São Luís or Barreirinhas.

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 Avianca fly from Bogota, Colombia to several Brazilian airports.

What to Expect

Day 1: Boat Ride and Monkeys

Meet your fellow travellers in Barreirinhas, before boarding a boat towards the small desert town of Atins, where your guide will be waiting to greet you.

Travel by boat on the shallow River Preguiças, stopping at the tiny village of Vassouras with its colony of monkeys living in the nearby mangrove.

Take in the view of the golden sandy peninsular that separates the river from the sea and spot the eye-catching scarlet ibis.

Return to Atins in time for sunset where a 4x4 jeep will be waiting to drive you to your pousada for the night.

Relax with a cold drink and enjoy a traditional Brazilian meal, then settle down for a good nights sleep before your first day on horseback.

Day 2: Ride into the Dunes

Get up for a filling breakfast and to meet your horse.

Set off early to make the most of the cooler morning, stopping for a river swim to cool off.

As the white sand dunes and turquoise lagoons come into view, stop for lunch, a chance for both you and your horse to rest.

After lunch head into the dunes and visit Lagoa Azul, one of the most spectacular lagoons in the entire National Park.

Arrive at the small village of Ponta do Mangue in time for dinner, cooked by a local family.

Walk out into the sand dunes in the evening to see an incredible night sky with no light pollution, then sleep in a hammock under the stars.

Day 3: More Dune Exploration

Wake up with the sun and take your horse to the river for a swim.

After breakfast it’s back onto your horse. Continue through the sand dunes to Lagoa Capivara and its desert beach perfect for a refreshing swim.

Stop for lunch and a traditional meal of shrimp cooked to a recipe passed down through local families for generations. Relax in a hammock and let the midday heat subside.

Arriving back into Atins, say goodbye to your horse and then take the boat back down the river to Barreirinhas, where your horse riding adventure will end.


In Atins you’ll stay in a local pousada, or guesthouse. Simple but clean and characterful, you’ll be in twin or trip rooms with en-suite bathrooms.

For the second night, you’ll stay with a local family in the desert, sleeping in hammocks, enjoying their hospitality and eating home-cooked Brazilian food.

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