Chapada Diamantina National Park and Surrounds
When traveling to new countries we like to try and escape to the wilderness. We feel it is one of the best ways to get a glimpse of what the country was like before it was ‘discovered’ shall we say. Now what better way to do that than to head for the national parks. Wilderness that is considered a gem and seen necessary to protect even in the most corrupt of countries. Brazil has many national parks. Each one more diverse than the last. However due to the size of Brazil, bad road conditions and poor public transport hinder many of the parks’ accessibility unless you have a lot of time on your hands. Now that we didn’t.
We decided to pick out a select few to visit. One of which was Chapada Diamantina in Bahia state. The name translates to Diamond Plateau as years ago many miners would wander the canyons in search of diamonds. Thankfully it is now protected as a national park. One that offers panoramic views of green table lands, countless waterfalls and many hidden cave systems.
Getting to Chapada Diamantina National Park
Lencois, located in bahia state, offers the best access to the national park. An old diamond mining town with cobblestone streets and colourful colonial buildings similar to those of Pelourinho. They have a good infrastructure for tourists with many tour agencies, hostels and restaurants. Buses run three times daily to and from Salvador de Bahia to Lencois with the 6 hour journey costing $73 BR.
Mucugê, another old mining town offers the best way to access the south of the park. Still just as quaint as Lencois but perhaps with a little less hustle and bustle. A very unique cemetery also sits on the outskirts of town which is worth a visit.
Both towns are very safe and clean, helped by the local community who seem very proud of their little towns.
What to do in Chapada Diamantina National Park
Chapada Diamantina can be frustrating at times. As some sights you are not allowed to see without a guide while others are necessary to hire a guide to get you there. This is because there are no marked trails or maps, which I see as a ploy to make you hire a guide. Others have also suggested there are purposely placed decoy signs to ensure that you get lost if you go on your own. Corruption lies deep within Brazil so something small like this would not surprise me. I suppose this brings money to the local community and opens a lot of jobs so it can only be a good thing right? However the reason for us to visit the outdoors is to get a true sense of feeling in the wild. Kind of stepping back in time. You don’t get that feeling when you’re following another’s orders like you are on a school field trip so we try to avoid guided trips as much as possible.
Anyway, there are a number of sights to see within Chapada Diamantina. We chose to visit Sossego waterfall, Poço Azul, Poço Encantado, Cachoeira Do Buracão and Ribeirao do Meio (a natural water slide).
Sossego waterfall and the Ribeirao do Meio water slide can both be seen on the same day hike leaving from Lencois. Groups can easily afford a guide which will ensure you take correct route. I do think this hike is possible on your own with a little bit of patience. The waterfall is good for photography and a nice swimming hole with a few testing heights for jumping in.
The water slide is where all the fun is at. A 20 metre natural slide that plummets you into a pool where tiny fish wait to clean your feet of any dead skin cells. You hit some good speed, see the video above.
The rest of the attractions we visited were all a drive away so we decided to spend the night at Mucugê. There are a few pousadas in Mucugê to choose from, most located in a single street just off the town centre. We got a fair price for four of us including transport, all entrance fees and guides. Prices change depending on how many of you there are but do hold out for a better price. They will eventually drop by about 25%.
Two of the most famous parts of Chapada Diamantina are Poço Azul and Poço Encantado. They are both beautiful cave formations that are flooded with clear sapphire water. You can swim in the former but photography is the main reason to visit. The trick is to arrive around midday when the sun is shining. A single beam of light enters the cave, penetrating the blue water creating an amazing optical illusion. Both sights are private and require separate entrance fees.
The route to Buracão was a bit more adventurous. Guards patrol the trail head and only allow you to enter with an official guide. A very rewarding one hour hike leads you past gorges and waterfalls before the trail seems to come to an end at a 10 metre drop into the river. If you are brave enough then take the plunge, otherwise climb your way down to a safer height.
You then swim through a narrow gorge with towering walls 100 metres high either side of you. A roar funnels through as you approach the gorge exit then suddenly the walls open up to an incredible amphitheater of black water, swirling rock formations drawing your eyes to an almighty cascading waterfall.
We spent about an hour here swimming, exploring, taking pictures and just admiring this hidden gem. More valuable than any other diamond found in Chapada Diamantina. This place was magical and although we went with a guide we still got a true sense of adventure and discovery…Exactly what we were looking for.
If you enjoyed reading about this National Park, and you’re thinking about continuing on to Northern Brazil. Check out our post on hiking in Lencois Maranhenses National Park. You can also subscribe at the top of this page to get weekly post updates!