Maranhão is the Northeast's furthest-flung state and one of its most vibrant. It is home to immense cultural riches in addition to majestic swathes of wilderness that look straight from the pages of a glossy nature magazine.
Maranhão is firmly on the travel map, thanks to the atmosphere-laden half-decayed, half-restored colonial city of São Luís (and its dynamic Afro-Brazilian festivities), its tranquil but gorgeous neighbor Alcântara, and the staggering beauty of the Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses. Yet it remains wonderfully free of large-scale package tourism.
The coastal route from Jericoacoara (Ceará) to the Lençóis Maranhenses is one of the Northeast's great adventures and links endless empty beaches, tiny villages, lagoons and dunes.
Southern and eastern Maranhão are characterized by vast expanses of babaçu (palms) and typical sertão (backlands) landscapes, but the state's western and northwestern regions merge into humid Amazon rainforests.