Lencois Maranhenses in Feb and/or Chapada Diamantina alternative
Replies: 12 - Last Post: Nov 20, 2012 9:19 PM Last Post By: joyeeta
Nov 13, 2012 9:01 PM
Lencois Maranhenses in Feb and/or Chapada Diamantina alternativeHave vacation in Feb. As much as I try to diversify my travel, am drawn back to Brazil and given the season was considering carnival in Rio (combined w/ ~nearby visits to Ouro Preto/Tiradentes and Petropolis/Teresopolis). However, would like my next trip to the country to also include Lencois Maranhenses (was planning on flying into Sao Luis), which I recently discovered may not be in peak form in Feb. Do the lagoons change significantly based on season? If so, when is best time to go? What I've read elsewhere provides a v long range of months, but I imagine there's a (?brief) period that maximizes lagoon size while minimizing risk of getting stuck in rain? If Feb is suboptimal, may find somewhere else for Feb and save Brazil trip for a time better suited to see LM.
Also, loved Chapada Diamantina, and was wondering if there are any similar places for easy access to a variety of natural sights. (Have already been to Iguassu, Paraty, Ilha Grande on prior trips as well.) As a solo traveller, found it v easy to base myself out of Lencois and organize treks from there. The Amazon and Pantanal are of interest, but perhaps better to do those when not solo given that it's more difficult to organize trips there. Had considered Florianopolis on each of my prior trips, but decided against each time as well as I wasn't sure it had much to offer beyond nice beaches which could be similarly seen in geographically more convenient locales. Regardless of whether I go in Feb or not, will find answers to my q's useful for future reference for my next Brazil trip. Thanks!
Nov 14, 2012 2:42 AM
1Lençóis Maranhenses could be well enjoyed in July - November. But I'm not sure about it in Feb.
If you like Chapada Diamantina, Try Chapada dos Veadeiros, similar place in Goiás, central Brazil.
Nov 14, 2012 4:24 AM
2Yes, the lakes do change. Although there are a few deep enough to stay year round, most fill during the rainy season, and when the rains stop, begin the process of drying up. IMO the ideal time to go would be at the end of June so as to combine a trip to the Parque with the colorful and unique festivities in Sao Luis for the Bumba Meu Boi (Sao Joao) and some sightseeing in the area (Raposa, Alcantara, Reviver).
Nov 14, 2012 7:58 PM
3Well, since Lencois Maranhenses is a higher priority for me than carnival (esp as i've been to Rio/still wonder if carnival would even be my scene), will prob postpone my trip.
jb - Chapada dos Veadeiros (including gateway towns) seem right up my alley so thanks for that tip!
amobr - Are there other times when the Sao Luis area has interesting festivals and/or do you have a second choice for next best time to go to Lencois Maranhenses and Sao Luis? (June would probably be tough to swing with work.) If not, then I guess any time during that July to Nov window? BTW, you gave me a lot of good advice on my last trip too, so thanks again for that!
Nov 15, 2012 4:57 AM
4It's a long way to travel just for a couple of days in the Parque, because there's really limited stuff to do after you've driven through and had a swim, unless you do river activities in Barrerinhas, decide to walk across the "desert" to the sea with a guide, or otherwise explore down the coastline into the delta. It rains heavily from about January to May, filling the lakes, and then they begin the process of drying up.
Santo Amaro is a small fishing village right on the Parque that gives easy access and is less touristy/commercial than Barreirinhas.
Sao Joao is the 24th of June and the Bumba Meu Boi goes on around that date, into the first few days of July.
Sao Luis itself features the historic Reviver district to walk around (and hear reggae music), a boat trip to the picturesque slave built village of Alcantara, and the Raposa neighborhood of stilted fishermen's houses and lace making shops.
Bumba Meu Boi in Sao Luis:
Nov 15, 2012 12:21 PM
5Pirenopolis is most interesting for the Festa do Divino Espírito Santo which takes place 45 days after Easter (which puts it in mid-May of 2013 if my math is correct).
The Festa is also celebrated in Alcantara, a short boat ride from Sao Luis, which in fact, has a museum in the village about this festival.
Nov 15, 2012 8:49 PM
6I know it's v far, but I'm the type of (irrational?) traveller who would go to the middle of nowhere to see something I became fixated with (like I am with Lencois Maranhenses). The approach can be pretty anticlimactic at times, but I think LM won't disappoint. I'll have to do more research to find something else in the area to make it worth my while since I don't think I'd be able to catch the May or June festivities this year. Maybe continue on to Jericoacoara?
Didn't think of seeing dos Veadeiros as extension of Minas Gerais (thought I'd have to fly into/out of Brasilia) but that makes geographic sense. Will put Cidade de Goias and Pirenopolis on my list.
If I postpone Brazil trip from Feb/carnival, next opp wouldn't be until summer/fall '13, which would work out for the lagoons. The Bumba Meu Boi looks great. Even though it's far away, it reminds me of something I saw in the Dominican Republic.
Seems like with the above spots, and transport between them, I'd have more than enough to keep me occupied on my next Brazil trip. Thanks for all your advice!
Nov 16, 2012 11:52 AM
7"I know it's v far, but I'm the type of (irrational?) traveller who would go to the middle of nowhere to see something I became fixated with (like I am with Lencois Maranhenses). The approach can be pretty anticlimactic at times, but I think LM won't disappoint."
Flying in from the south, the plane went right over the Parque, and the view (and photos) were amazing, really like wrinkled bedsheets.
You take "excursions" to see the Parque. They are usually half day (a few hours max) by 4x4, but you can arrange something longer (more expensive). I met a small group of young Brazilians who were planning to walk through the dunes from Santo Amaro at night (too hot in the daytime) to the sea with a guide, stay overnight at a primitive village of locals on the sea, and walk back.
Barreirinhas is about an hour from the actual Parque (so excursions are more expensive than from Santo Amaro, I was told), and 4 hours by bus from Sao Luis. It's more well known so it gets more tourists, and it also has river activities/sports, and more choice and perhaps quality of accomodations.
Santo Amaro is right on the edge of the Parque, a small fishing village on a river, about an hour on sand by 4x4 from the asphalt road after 3 hours by bus from Sao Luis, and it still takes about 15 minutes from the village to get out to the closest deep lake to swim. I went to Santo Amaro, since the parents of a friend live there and other friends recommended it as less touristy/developed and excursions as somewhat cheaper (closer to the park), but they were just getting their tourist infrastructure up and running (this was a couple of years ago now). They also were having village celebrations for Sao Joao at the time, which added to the interest--some very authentic folk music and dance. Getting out of the village was also an adventure, in the dark of night (3am) with some guys in a truck going to the market in Sao Luis to bring back supplies, and the truck got stuck in the sand and mud, leaving us to sleep in the truck and on the sand road, until the regular transports to the early bus came along to pull us out. Then they had to wash the truck in a river........ and only afterwards did we head out in the heat for Sao Luis.
So anyway......you get picked up for your excursion, you drive through the dunes and take some photos (after a few, all the white dunes with blue water photos look a lot alike, esp. once you get home and watch friends' eyes glaze over after the first dozen :-), you swim (and bear in mind there is nothing there but sand and water and you may be on the excursion by yourself, no shade, no drinking water except what you bring, no "barraca" like on the beach) and the operator who is waiting may be eager just to 'get on with it'. Maybe you won't feel it anticlimactic.
btw Have you watched the film "House of Sand", with Fernanda Montenegro and her daughter, which was filmed in the Parque?
Nov 16, 2012 6:22 PM
8Thanks for the wealth of info amobr. Will save it for future reference!
The nighttime walking across to the ocean sounds fun too, I wonder if they walked back at dawn or if there was anywhere to pass the day (seems doubtful) before walking back the next night? Your firsthand account of your adventures def reaffirms my plans to go.
I did watch "House of Sand" soon after I developed my obsession with Lencois Maranhenses which, coincidentally began during the course of my Chapada Diamantina travel planning last year (because of the other Lencois). It was a great movie! If you can believe it, LM was more recently used as the base for filming a video for a Bollywood hit (remade in many different Indian languages, but Pagal Anukan was one of the titles). It's pretty random (features a couple prancing around the dunes in ethnic garb, strumming a guitar by the lagoons, etc), and I can't imagine the travel logistics of that one, but it had great scenery nonetheless.
Nov 17, 2012 2:27 PM
Nov 18, 2012 7:02 PM
10Good question - I have no idea!
I keep researching Brazil instead of my potential alternate so am back to sticking to Brazil in Feb, esp as my heart was already set on it and I know I'd have to do more than one trip just to cover the things I want to see most anyway. Am thinking 3-4 days in Minas Gerais, one week in Rio for carnival w/ day trip to Petropolis (potentially skipping out early and cutting my losses on pre-paid accomodation in Rio if I'm Carnavalled out, though may not be poss depending on how far in advance I'd have to book plane tix to Pantanal), and then a week in Pantanal including transport in/out (still need to see if Cuiaba has any good options for solo traveller, or if I should stick to Campo Grande for that reason). Of my list below, does anything make more sense (vs Minas Gerais or Pantanal ) given geography/easy of transport from Rio and/or time of year? For anything over 4h away (6h max) would fly, unless there was a luxury sleeper bus/train option. So obv need to fly to Pantanal, but not so sure about Minas Gerais area to Rio.
Things I'd like to see in order of pref:
Chapada dos Veadeiros
Fernando do Noronha
The idea is I'd see a third on this trip, a third on another trip, and the last third I'd forgo or do on yet another trip. (Know this should be a separate thread but figured it'd be worth a shot trying here.) Thanks!
Nov 19, 2012 7:57 AM
11For specific Pantanal info, I'd contact poster "ericos".
Do keep in mind that Brazilians travel at Carnaval time and it wouldn't be easy to make last minute plans for accomodations and flights. Rio isn't the only place that sells packages.
Some of your listed destinations make sense to group.
Fortaleza and on to Jericoacoara
and up the coast by bus or 4x4 (there are very complete instructions for how to do this--search for "ingridjeri")
to Lencois Maranhenses and to Sao Luis
then Belem, Manaus, Amazon
(or start in Natal to see beaches and go to Fernando de Noronha)
Minas Gerais historic Colonial towns (Ouro Preto is a 7 hour bus trip form Rio, IIRC, and it will be full of folks for Carnaval, as will some of the others)
and/or Fernando de Noronha from Recife
Carnaval in Salvador
up the coast to Recife
Fernando de Noronha
Up the coast further (depending on time) to beaches
Carnaval in Rio
Santa Catarina or Minas Gerais historic Colonial towns
Nov 20, 2012 9:19 PM
12Amobr, thanks for reminding me that not only pre- and post-carnaval transport, but also accomodation may be busy. Think I will do some version of second grouping this time around, though first grouping is high on my agenda.
Am looking into flying into Belo Horizonte and out of Cuiaba vs Campo Grande (will contact ericos), in which case, main overland travel would be BH to Rio via Ouro Preto/Mariana and Sao Joao del Rei/Tiradentes. How many days do you think should be spent for those four towns? Is it necessary/possible to pre-book buses from BH to OP, OP to SJdR, and then from SJdR to Rio? (Most concerned about that last leg given timing in relation to Carnaval.) If so, how? Also, would the SJdR to Rio bus go via Petropolis? Debating whether to do Petropolis/Teresopolis on the way or whether to do it as a 1-2 day trip after I'm already based in Rio depending on how many days I spend in Minas Gerais. Though I guess if I hopped off in Petropolis, I'd be at risk of not getting transport from Petropolis to Rio if I didn't prebook that as well?
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