Trek Across Sand Dunes in Brazil

Hike up golden sand dunes, swim in turquoise lagoons and sleep in a hammock under the stars in the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park. 3 days.

Explore this 1,550 square kilometre National Park filled with sand dunes that stretch as far as the eye can see. Swim in rainwater lagoons, travel the shallow waters of a winding river and stay with a local family, sleeping in hammocks and stargazing.

Your hassle-free adventure includes:

  • 2 nights accommodation
  • Experienced, English speaking guide
  • Local transportation in 4x4 and by boat
  • 2 breakfasts, 1 lunch and 1 dinner
  • Drinking water

Perfect for: Adventurous travellers who want to explore an otherworldly landscape and who can handle the heat.

Need To Know

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

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.

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’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 collected on the final day of the trip.

All camping equipment is provided including hammocks.

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.

Your trip starts at 13:00, so you would 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 Barreirinhas. 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 three of the trip at 12:00 into Barreirinhas. Again, you’ll find it’s best to allow yourself an extra night in either Barreirinhas or São Luís before booking a departing flight and allow plenty of time for 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.

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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’ll return to the village of Barreirinhas for 12:00 on day three of the trip.

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, including Iberia via Madrid and TAP via Portugal to all the main Brazilian airports.

What to Expect

Day 1: Monkeys and Riverboat Rides

Meet your guide and fellow travellers in the small village of Barreirinhas in the afternoon.

Set off into the National Park and board a motorboat specially adapted to the shallow River Preguiças.

Stop at the small community of Vassouras, home to a colony of monkeys in the nearby mangrove.

After lunch (optional – not included), continue on by boat to the fishing village of Mandacarú and your first view of the towering sand dunes, as well as the tiny villages that dot the mouth of the river.

Arrive into Atins, where a 4x4 will be waiting to transport you to your pousada, or local guesthouse, for the night.

After a briefing on the upcoming trekking, explore the village and eat dinner in one of the locally run restaurants – shrimp is a speciality here.

Day 2: Hike Dunes and Swim in Lagoons

After breakfast and an early start to avoid the heat, travel for around one hour in a 4x4 to the start of today’s trek, Bonzinho.

Hike through the towering dunes, stopping to swim in turquoise lagoons.

Arrive into the small oasis of Baixa Grande, where a local family will host you you for a home-cooked lunch.

After plenty of time to soak up the scenery and relax, head out to watch the sunset from one of the highest dunes in the area.

Return to the oasis for dinner with the family, before settling into your hammock for the night and gazing at a night sky untouched by light pollution.

Total time walking – 4 to 5 hours

Day 3: Panoramic Views

Rise with the sun and enjoy breakfast before saying goodbye to your hosts.

Hike to the top of the dunes to see some of the largest lagoons in the area, finishing at Lagoa Bonita, with its 360° views of the National Park.

Leave Lençóis Maranhenses, and return by 4x4 to Barreirinhas where your dune adventure ends.

Total time walking – 6 to 7 hours


For your first night in the village of Atins, you’ll stay in a pousada, or local guesthouse. Pousada Irmão is clean but simple and features brightly coloured en-suite twin or double rooms with a fan.

For the next second night 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.