Sand dreams at Lençóis Maranhenses

The temperature is constant and around 28 degrees, like bed sheets superposing each other, the landscape is white and untouched … I look around and I realise how privileged I am to visit this place.

Lençóis Maranhenses is a National Park in the very north of Brazil in a state called Maranhão… A vast area of white sand dunes carved by rain water which form thousands of crystal clear lagoons which access is only done by 4×4.

The landscape is unique. For 6 months, it rains over the dunes which allow the formation of the natural swimming pools. The best season to visit is from May to September, as the water is still abundant and clean.

The nearest city is Barreirinhas and it takes about 30 min from there to the park. Barreirinhas is situated approximately 250km from São Luis (Capital of the State of Maranhão). Infrastructure is not Brazil’s biggest strength… so to get to Barreirinhas is quite tricky as the road is full of potholes.

We hired a professional driver to fetch us from the airport. This was the best decision I could have taken. The road conditions are bad and dangerous. A shame for a country which could be benefiting hugely from its natural resources.

Once in Barreirinhas, there are accommodation for all budgets… we decided to stay at the best resort in town … Porto Preguiças and we absolutely loved it. The resort is comfortable, big and with enough to do. 3 swimming pools, a nice restaurant offering the best of the Brazilian cuisine, and a varied kids playground. The rooms are also large and with the facilities for a comfortable stay.

The resort is situated at the margin of the Preguiça River, which crosses the area until Atins where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean. The river has this name as in the past it used to be common to see sloths all around the trees. Now with tourism and noise, the animals have moved a little bit more in land.

At the resort it is possible to book day trips to visit the several lagoons and also to go to the deserted beaches of Atins. Our journey was planned several months ahead of our arrival but for last minute decisions there is a travel agency within the resort, just across the corridor from the reception.

On our first day we took a trip to the Lagoa Azul (the Blue Lagoon), with stops in other 3 other lagoons along the way. As I mentioned before, the access to the park can only be done by 4×4 Jeeps. No roads around and the jeep must cross the river in order to enter the park.

Inside the park there is no sellers, therefore one must take loads of water and sun protection. Pretty much every tourist enters the park through the same entry point but once inside the park is immense and the crowd disperses.

That is when one realises how beautiful and untouched the park is. The Brazilian authorities control the access to the park and there not more than 300 jeeps allowed to go in. So, suddenly, one founds itself observing the horizon without a trace of human being.

All visitors must have a guide because the place is magical but also mischievous. One can easily get lost within the dunes and also experience is required to drive safely through the sand. The jeep is not allowed everywhere, so a very large part of the journey, moving from lagoon to lagoon is done on foot….

At the end of the day, the tourist reunite a the park entry for sunset… Although it was high season it was not super busy… the natural ceremony was observed with silence and respect. I confess, the experience is now written down amongst one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.

The return to the hotel was an adventure. As everyone needs to cross back the river, I found myself running to the Jeep, amongst kids and everybody else in attempt to arrive first at the queue to the ferry. The jeeps rally back through the sanded roads… laughter is heard in the air… not safe but fun…

Back to Barreirinhas, it was time for dinner. While waiting for the ferry, we were all starved and we all ate tapioca made at the margin of the river… not healthy but delicious.

Barrerinhas is a town with about 60,000 inhabitants. There is a minimum level of infrastructure with various restaurants and bars. Although we were in Brazil my kids craved for Sushi… the restaurant served local and Japanese cuisine.. so we made a melting pot meal of caipirinhas and sashimi… Only in Brazil! 🙂

Early birds out of bed to a boat trip to Atins… Atins is a town colonised by the Dutch in the 16th century. It is 2019 and there are no roads, no internet, no phone connection. The access is by boat or by a 3 hour 4×4 trip from Barreirinhas. We chose the 2 hour boat trip through the Preguiças river.


The journey was of such an amazing beauty… The native vegetation of Brazil, the animal variety makes the place indescribable.

Once in Atins we drove to a deserted beach which make me feel like visiting the moon. Wherever I looked my eyes could only see blue sky, white sand and water. Hundreds of kilometres of unspoiled beauty in paradise. Not even tourists as access is so difficult that few adventure so far.

The town has a couple of bed and breakfasts as it is now being discovered by kite surfers. One restaurant and no internet or phone connection.. perfect for digital detox.

Atins is also part of the national park and we had the chance to visit several untouched lagoons, of which I felt the urge of pressing the pause button in time and therein stay forever.


The days in this paradise will never escape my memory. I am happy to share all details of how to get there, where to go and what to see. All you need is to write to me… I hope you had a good flavour and I hope I inspire you to where to go on your next holidays.

xx Valentina