You'll notice a few historic buildings during a quick stroll around town.
Numerous local agencies offer a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, rappelling, climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and horseback riding, in Chapada Diamantina national park. There are also great hikes leaving from town that the adventurous can undertake without a guide.
One such hike is a 3km walk out of town, following the Rio Lençóis upstream. You first pass a series of rapids known as Cachoeira Serrano; off to the right is the Salão de Coloridas Areias (Room of Colored Sands), where artisans gather material for bottled-sand paintings. You then pass Poço Halley (Swimming Hole), before seeing Cachoeirinha (Little Waterfall) on a tributary to your left. Continuing upriver, Cachoeira da Primavera (Spring Waterfall) is on another tributary on your left. (When the water is low, you can start this hike by climbing up the rocky slope on the right side of the stream. When the water is higher, you’ll have to cut through the woods – the ‘trail,’ if you can call it that, should start at the traffic turnaround and run parallel to the river.)
Another relaxing 4km hike is to Ribeirão do Meio, a series of swimming holes with a natural waterslide. It's not a long journey from town, but the path is hardly marked, so it can be a little tricky to access. To begin, follow Rua São Benedito (known as Rua dos Negros) from Pousada & Camping Lumiar. Continue past the pousada's entrance and keep walking out of town. When you see the sign for Pousada Solar Moraes, you know you're in the right place. Continue onto the red stone and dirt path that leads uphill. Five to ten minutes later, the trail levels off and you'll see a sign for Ribeirão do Meio. Keep going along the dirt road until you see the archway entrance for Pousada Luar do Sertão. The trail to Ribeirão do Meio really starts here, to the left of the pousada entrance, on a stone staircase that leads down through the woods. Keep following the trail until you reach a ridge overlooking Rio Ribeirão. There's no 'right way' to scramble down to a series of swimming holes and the natural waterslide, but there are easier ways and harder ways – just use common sense. Avoid injury by climbing the dry rocks (not the slide’s wet ones) before launching off.
For more swimming, catch the morning bus to Seabra and hop off at Mucugêzinho (25km). About 2km downstream is Poço do Diabo (Devil’s Well), a beautiful swimming hole on the Rio Mucugêzinho with a 25m waterfall.
Festivals & Events
The week-long Festa de Senhor dos Passos, the festival honoring the patron saint of miners, begins on January 23. Celebrated the week of June 23, the lively Festa de São João is a huge street party with traditional forró dancing, bonfires outside every house, and delicious street food. One of the biggest cultural events of the year is the Festival de Lençóis in September or October – in the past, big-name acts like Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa have performed.
Lençóis’ best pousadas (guesthouses) are famous for their fantastic breakfast spreads. Note that many of the accommodations located on the same side of the river as the bus station – i.e. not in the so-called 'center' of Lencois – are only accessible by a fairly steep uphill hike, and most streets aren't labeled. Many pousadas will offer to have someone meet you at the bus station on your arrival: after dark, when it's confusing to navigate, it's wise to take them up on it.
Lençóis has a number of bakeries and basic mini-markets catering to hikers. At night, the town’s atmosphere is wonderfully charming as many restaurants on Praća Horácio de Matos and Rua das Pedras put candlelit tables out on the cobblestone walkways.
Lençóis has several small boutiques and shops where you can pick up locally produced artwork, crafts and artisanal liqueurs.
The Chapada Diamantina, and the areas surrounding it, are a natural wonderland; unspoiled, in part, because they lack the tourist infrastructure of many national parks. Given the lack of marked trails and public transportation, the easiest way to explore is by going on a tour or a longer trek through a local agency.
Note that most of the major attractions in the park have individual entrance fees of R$15 to R$20 – these days, the fees are often included in the quoted tour price (and include packed lunches), but ask before committing to anything.
One popular tour (R$170, plus optional R$20 for snorkeling) visits Rio Mucugêzinho and its swimming hole Poço do Diabo, Gruta da Lapa Doce (an 850m-long cave, formed by a subterranean river, with an impressive assortment of stalagmites and stalactites), Gruta da Pratinha (a cave and river with clear, light-blue waters), and Morro do Pai Inácio (an 1120m peak affording an awesome view over a plateau-filled valley).
Tours to Poço Encantado (the Lençóis poster child: a cave filled with stunningly beautiful blue water) and Poço Azul (another rainwater-filled cave you can swim in) are also offered (R$170). Before planning this one, ask the agency about the expected quality of the light; after rains, the water remains murky.
Other popular outings include the trip to Fumaça Waterfall (R$140) and the trip to the Marimbus wetlands (R$170, plus optional R$35 for kayaking).
If you’re not interested in going on a formal tour, consider going into the park with a guide: they’re affordable (plan on R$150 to R$180 per day for groups of up to six people), they're incredibly knowledgeable about local flora and fauna, and they can find the best swimming holes – all priceless in a park with few signs or official trails. For multi-day treks, guides also arrange basic lodging and meals in local homes for the bargain price of around R$70 per person, per day.
There are numerous tour agencies available in town.
In the past few years, almost all of the Lençóis' streets have been officially renamed. The locals, of course, continue to use the original names, causing confusion for tourists. Note that while some businesses have embraced using their new addresses, many have not: you might have trouble when you're asking for directions. Luckily, Lençóis is small and easy to navigate, but if you're arriving at night, you should look at the map so you know where you're going when you arrive at the bus station. It's also common for staff from pousadas (guesthouses) and hostels to meet the buses arriving from Salvador: ask ahead if you'd like some help getting from the station to your destination.