?? The Lençóis Maranhenses National Park in the Brazilian Northeastern state of Maranhão is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Pristine white sand dunes are interspersed with blue water lagoons. From Curitiba, it takes an average of 4h30 to get to São Luís flying via São Paulo or Rio. From São Luís, the capital of Maranhão, there is another 3 to 4-hour drive until you reach Santo Amaro or Barreirinhas. From Barreirinhas you need a boat to take you to Atins through the Preguiça River. A long adventure but worth every minute of it.
Most people go straight to Barreirinhas and visit the dunes near the city. Santo Amaro is a new addition to the route because the paved road into the park was not ready until just a few years back. Atins is the furthest of all and home to a few nice pousadas and plenty of Italians and French addicted to the constant wind in the area to blow their kites for kitesurfing.
My friend Alan, who lives in Paris and comes to Brazil once a year is the one who organized the whole itinerary with the help of Harmonie Brasil. We were 5 in total and had tour guides and pousadas booked well in advance. In São Luís we stayed in the Old Town in a pousada that I would not really recommend. In Santo Amaro we stayed at a nice pousada called Rancho das Dunas and in Atins we stayed at the Design Hotel La Ferme de Georges (a bit overrated but nice nevertheless).
The dunes are just breathtaking and one can walk for hours in the fine white sand that does not burn our feet. The temperatures are always mild because it is windy. Only at night did it get a bit stuffy in the rooms (in Atins there was no AC). Even though August and September is the high season and on weekends the park can receive a lot of day visitors from São Luís, you can easily drive a few more minutes inwards and find a dune and a lagoon just for yourself. The temperature of the water is just perfect.
What is impressive is the size of the park and the mixture of desert and water, not only from the lagoons but from the rivers that surround it. The local guides are well trained and help keep the place clean. If you don’t have much time, I would suggest two nights in Santo Amaro. You can fly into São Luís early and drive straight to Santo Amaro in around 2h30. Atins, however, has the charm of the long Preguiças river ride but increases the time and budget of the trip.
Many people continue onto the Rota das Emoções (Route of the Emotions) until Fortaleza, in the state of Ceará, passing through Parnaíba, Barra Grande and Jericoacoara. If I had more time I would definitely have done it. But I am very happy just to have seen and felt the energy of this majestic place.