With a stay in Maranhao, you will experience some amazing moments both in the town and the surrounding nature.
Visiting the old colonial city of Sao Luis, the largest of its kind in Brazil and a trip to the Lençois desert to swim in the transparent freshwater lagoons surrounded by the dunes of Lençois Maranhenses, these are unique sites in the world that you will discover!
Combining nature and culture, these are truly wonderful destinations in the Northeast region Discover a beautiful part of this region that is off the beaten track, far from the cohorts of tourists where you can discover an authentic Brazil. A beautiful stop on the edge of the Amazon rainforest where you will enjoy discovering the regional architectural heritage and the unlikely spectacle of a desert that changes with every rainy season.
In this package
The town of Sao Luis with the largest
colonial district in South America
The extraordinary desert of water and sand
of the lencois Maranhenses
The Sao Luis & Lencois package includes:
- A private transfer from the Sao Luis airport to your hotel
- A night in a hotel in Sao Luis and 2 nights in a hotel in Barreirinhas
- A guided visit on foot of the historical quarter (2 to 3hrs.)
- A private transfer from Sao Luis to Barreirinhas
- A day’s visit to the Lencois Maranhenses with driver and guide (obligatory) as a private service.4
- A private transfer from Barreirinhas to the Sao Luis airport
Sao Luis, a beautifully preserved colonial city
Founded by the French in the 17th century, but quickly occupied by the Dutch, then 3 years later by the Portuguese, Sao Luis do Maranhao is one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Latin America.
By visiting its historic center, which has been under restoration for almost 30 years, is a little like going back in time.
The historic district, called Reviver today because it has long been abandoned, offers a charming visit of old buildings. You will enjoy walking these small cobblestone streets, between the colorful houses with tile roofs, palaces with baroque facades and discreet patios with wrought iron gates.
This ancient part of the city is also distinguished by use of lots of “azulejos” (white and blue ceramic squares) imported in the eighteenth century to protect buildings from the heat and humidity. It is also a sign of the already ancient mixing of Moorish and Lusitanian cultures. Here you will find all the Portuguese architectural influence but adapted to the heat and tropical humidity.
Listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO it is the biggest concentration of Portuguese colonial architecture in the world. Through the streets, your guide will help you discover the region’s prosperity of yesteryear. The city was home to a large part of the country’s intellectual and artistic elite, attracted by the prosperous local bourgeoisie. If the city was once one of the main intellectual centers of the country, today it is famous for reggae music. Its nicknames of “Athens” and Brazilian “Jamaica” reflect this double cultural influence.
In the heart of a desert of dunes and lagoons, the Lencois Maranhenses
Located 300km east of Sao Luis, the natural park of Lençois (“the sheets” in Portuguese), created in 1981, offers the spectacle of one of the most surprising and magnificent natural curiosities in Brazil, a desert totally different to any other on earth.
To discover this unique site, you will firstly have to reach the small town of Barreirinhas installed in a large bend in the Preguiças river which flows peacefully through luxuriant landscape of forest and impenetrable tropical mangroves. Setting off from this small typical village, you will join the park aboard a 4X4 vehicle chartered especially for you, accompanied by a driver and a local guide. You will cross the river aboard a ferry and then travel 45 mins in a landscape that becomes more and more arid like the African bush before arriving at the first dunes. From here, you will continue on foot with your guide because vehicles are not allowed in the park.
At the top of the first dune, you will see vast expanse of brilliant white dunes whose shapes resemble the folds in a fabric, it stretches as far as the eye can see. But what distinguishes this desert from all the others is the natural pools of rainwater that form between the dunes warmed by the sun. Between May and October, you will have the pleasure of enjoying these waters that you can bathe and relax in and appreciate the silence of this incredible place.
This strange landscape is created by the clay in the soil, which effectively retains rainwater on the surface. Every year the same cycle is repeated. The heavy tropical rains between March and May fill the lagoons that disappear around October, overcome by drought, to reappear the following year.
Walking barefoot in this desert to the silence only troubled by the wind and where the softness of fine sand mixes with the caress of warm water will give you the impression of exploring a totally foreign planet.
The « bumba-meu-boi », an emblematic show from Maranhao
A folklore dance as famous as the carnival, the « bumba-meu-boi » is inseparable from the region of Maranhao.
It is now part of the Register of Cultural Heritage of Brazil, the IPHAN. This colorful parade features a giant replica in wood and cloth of an ox and a slave who cut his tongue to feed his pregnant wife. The ox dies, provoking the wrath of the owner who imprisons the slave. After the intervention of the healers, the ox comes back to life and everything is resolved!
During the processions where the different groups present their performances, you will attend a show that mixes dance, comedy and tragedy to tell this story of the death, then the rebirth of the domestic animal.
This scenario is a veritable parody of slave society and social and ethnic inequalities particularly strong in this region with many Afro-Brazilians. It is also an allegory of the ambiguous reality of master / slave relations in former colonial farms.
Trekking in the Lençois, an original experience
Walking in the Lencois desert is a surprising experience for the regular trekker.
The constantly wind-swept sand that comes from the ocean is never too hot and remains relatively hard especially along the lagoons. The great originality and pleasure of a trek in the Lencois is that you can bathe at will in the kirielles of lagoons of fresh transparent water. It is worth mentioning that the temperature does not exceed 30 to 35 ° and that the constant wind will also keep the heat at bay during your walk. Price on request, contact us.
Most trekking trips start from Lagoa Bonita or Atins in one direction or the other. We can do trekking for two or three days, according to your desires. We can also adapt the trekking to your desire to walk shorter or longer distances. The days are about 4 to 8 hours. If you go on a trek for three days, you start from the lagoa bonita to reach the oasis of Baixa Grande with its local homes, the walk takes about 7 hours. The next day you will reach the other oasis called Queimada dos Britos, this walk takes about 4 hours. Finally on the last day you will follow the Rio Negro to the ocean before descending towards Atins along the beach. You can then agree with your guide on where you want to finish your trek. A car can collect you and take you to the end of the trek or you can finish on foot. During your journey, you will hardly meet anyone, only a few fishermen who build a hut on the beach and come fishing for a fortnight. We can also buy fish from them and grill it on the spot.
Accommodation is with the locals and you will be taught how to sit across your hammock to be flat and have a good night’s sleep. You will share the local’s food or eat the picnic that the guide brings. The landscapes are unique and beautiful and the experience unforgettable. We take care of your luggage during the trekking stage, and you will take only what’s needed for your trek.
Detailed program for a stay in Sao Luis & les Lencois
Day 1 : São Luis/ in
Once you flight lands at the Sao Luis do Maranhao International Airport and you have collected your luggage, a private driver will take you to the hotel you have chosen.
During the trip, you will discover the city along the way. This is a first glimpse of one of the oldest colonial cities in Brazil which has the same relaxed and colorful atmosphere that is also found in the Bahia region.
Check-in and night at the hotel.
Day 2 : Sao Luis/ Barreirinhas
You can have breakfast at the hotel buffet.
After breakfast, French speaking guide will meet you at reception if you are staying in the historic center, or a driver will pick you up and take you to meet your guide on site if you are staying elsewhere. You will go on a tour to discover the historic district of Sao Luis.
For a few hours, you will walk the cobbled streets of this old colonial city to explore its hidden corners and discover part of the region’s history. You will also visit some cultural centers including a reconstituted period house. A real odyssey in the glitzy past of the capital of Maranhao.
You will walk back to the hotel or meet your driver who will take you back to your hotel.
In the afternoon, a driver will collect you up for your private transfer to Barreirinhas.
It’s about a 4 hr drive during which you will discover the local ecosystem with its vast expanses and Burriti and Carnauba palms. These are fundamental for the traditional local economy: their trunks provide timber for houses, palms become stubble which is used for the roofs of houses, and the wax is sold to the food and cosmetic industry and fruits are transformed into delicious sorbets and jam.
Arrival in Barreirinhas, check-in and night at your chosen hotel.
Day 3 : Barreirinhas – Lençois
Breakfast at your hotel and then you set off on an excursion in the National Lençois du Maranhao Park.
Departure is around 8 a.m. in a private 4X4 vehicle with a local guide to reach the Preguiças river. Here, a ferry will take you and your vehicle across the river.
You will then drive through the dunes along the maze of tracks that wind through the vegetation for about ¾ of an hour watching the countryside get more and more desert like. Once arrived you continue on foot.
With your local guide, you will climb the immaculate white dunes that contrast totally with the turquoise blue lagoons. There are two options, go to the main lagoons for a bathe where there will be other visitors, or explore a little further to find your own « private » lagoon and relax in peace. You can walk bare foot and refresh yourself when you want and true little paradise on earth !
Around 12:00, you will go back to the vehicle to drive to the small farm at the park entrance for lunch with the locals and with local dishes (it’s the only place to eat here. If not, you need to bring a picnic).
After lunch, and a little rest in the hammocks to avoid the midday heat, you will return to the other side of the Lencois Maranhenses around 3p.m. Here you will see the splendid sunset over the dunes and then set off back to the hotel along the tracks for 45mins.
Night at the hotel.
Day 4 : Barreirinhas – Rio Formiga/ São Luis
After a Brazilian breakfast and checking out of the hotel, there’s an option to go down the river on a buoy (a Brazilian style of gentle rafting). If not, you have your transfer to Sao Luis.
You will drive to the river Formiga, which is a quiet stream and with a local guide, you descend a portion of this river using large truck size inner tube buoys. During the trip you can see the wild river banks, rocked by the gentle current. A harmonious moment with nature!
At the end of the trip, a local restaurant offers local specialties for lunch; the “Galinha Caipira” (farm chicken) is a real delight!
After lunch, a driver will take you to Sao Luis airport or a hotel if your flight is the next day.
Arrival at the airport and end of our services.
Accommodation in Sao Luis and Barreirinhas
Hotel Pestana São Luis (superior)
Pestana Sao Luis is located on Calhau Beach, about a quarter of an hour from the historic centre of Reviver. In addition to good recreational facilities including beautiful pools, there is a full range of rooms. Quality services and a beautiful decor add to the their charm, not to mention the balconies from where you can enjoy the evening breeze.
A perfect hotel for families with children looking for fun facilities but also for those who wish to stay longer and not in the historical center.
Hotel Grand São Luis (standard)
The Grand Sao Luis Hotel is the only establishment of its kind in the historic center. If you want to spend your stay in this area in comfortable conditions, it is, in our experience, the best option.
Spacious and well-equipped rooms, a swimming pool and restaurant, and a beautiful location close to the main monuments in the area make this hotel an ideal place for short stays.
Pousada Encantes do Nordeste (standard)
The pousada Encantes do Nordeste is a small charming place with a few plain lodges with pleasant decors and a beautiful tropical garden.
An unpretentious but very friendly establishment with a swimming pool and breakfast area in the garden. It is ideal for smaller budgets and for those who do not like big hotels.
Porto Preguiças Resort (Superior)
If you have children, or want an establishment offering many sports and leisure activities or you are looking for extra comfort, Porto Preguiças is the hotel for you.
It has traditional brick bungalows but with all the modern comforts and pleasantly decorated. They welcome you in a large park that runs along a curve in the river where you can go swimming and canoeing.