Chapada Diamantina National Park is one of the world’s most stunning natural sites. Millions of years of natural erosion created the area and made it rich in diamonds. Hence its name: Diamantina. Today, the National Park is the center of the region that bears the same name (Chapada Diamantina). Although it’s quite easy to get to Chapada Diamantina from Salvador de Bahia, mass tourism has not ruined the place. In fact, we toured the area on our own. That’s what we call luxury!
How to get to Chapada Diamantina
There are two ways of reaching Chapada Diamantina. You can fly from Salvador to Lençois airport. Brazilian low cost Azul operates the route. The airport is located some 25 kilometers away from the city of Lençois. However, most travelers arrive by bus. Buses from Salvador operate three times a day and take 6 hours. These buses are fairly new and quite comfortable. They leave from Salvador’s Terminal Rodoviário and drop you off by the bridge in central Lençois.
Where to stay in Chapada Diamantina
Considering that the entire area is huge, we strongly recommend staying within the park. There are two great options: Lençois and Vale do Capão. Both are located in different sides of the park, have comfortable infrastructure and offer different tours around the area. Lençois is closer to Salvador and nothing like a typical Brazilian city. Quite the opposite: Lençois is barely a town, and surprisingly beautiful! Conversely, Vale do Capão is a tiny village. While a dense jungle surrounds Lençois, Vale do Capão’s vegetation is shorter allowing for great views.
What is Lençois like
Lençois is a small town of approximately 4000 citizens. It flourished in the 19th Century when diamonds were discovered in the area. At its peak, Lençois was Bahia’s third largest city. Grand colonial houses line the old town’s cobbled streets. There is also a nice church, Igreja do Senhor dos Passos, and a couple of interesting squares. Additionally, the River Lençois crosses the town creating lovely green areas. Even more, natural pools perfect for an afternoon dip can be found just outside of town. In the evening, Lençois becomes lively, especially along the picturesque Rua das Pedras.
What is Vale do Capão like
It’s harder to get to Vale do Capão, since it is further away from Salvador. This tiny isolated village has a small square and a church. Most houses have their own private gardens and are painted with pretty cool murals. People socialize around the square. There are only a handful of restaurants and travel agencies. Just a short walk from the village you’ll be able to enjoy beautiful mountain views and a couple of waterfalls. We walked to Riachinho waterfalls. The place was almost empty, with only a couple of people hanging about the natural pools. I was so thrilled that inadvertently slipped and almost fell all the way to the bottom. So please: relax but be cautious!
Why choose? Stay in both places!
As mentioned above Lençois is closer to Salvador than Vale do Capão. It’s a 6 hours drive versus a 7.5 bus + minivan. Therefore, first stay in Lençois and then move Capão. Without a doubt Lençois has nicer architecture and more restaurants and bars. Likewise, the number of excursions offered around the area is higher. Conversely, Vale do Capão’s hippy vibe and calm make it a great place to turn off and flow.
Our time in Vale do Capão was fantastic: we walked searching for views, had great pizza and dipped in natural waterfalls. Fortunately, Lençois was quite different but equally amazing. There we found beautiful architecture and colonial streets surrounded by lush forests. Consequently, the best option is to stay in both places. However, if you are a bit short on time Lençois may be better.
In spite of its small size, Lençois is packed with nice little hotels and guesthouses.
If your ‘thing’ is proper hotels there are four great options:
If you want to pamper yourself stay at Canto das Aguas, Lençois’ fanciest hotel.
Vale do Capão accommodation
Hotels in Vale do Capão are smaller, but most have a garden and even views. Since we wanted to stay in the village, we chose the lovely Pousada Pé no Mato, by the church. Set amongst gardens, the pousada proved the perfect place to chill and connect with nature. For the best views from your personal hammock, ask for a top floor room.
Another nice guesthouse in the village is Pousada Zazen. North of the village Pomar dos Campos is a great choice. South of the village you’ll find the nicest accommodation. Pousada Rosa dos Ventos is the best choice with the nicest views. On the other hand Pousada do Capão Chapada Diamantina offers a sauna and hot springs!
What to see in Chapada Diamantina National Park
The best way to discover this wonderful park is with a car and a driver. Our driver drove carefully and was very pleasant to talk to. He knew the area by hand and took us everywhere. The main highlight of Chapada Diamantina National Park is Morro do Pai Inácio, a spectacular high plateau that towers over endless green valleys. Located just north of Road 242 it offers killer views of the area. Rocks, different species of plants, and a very cute rodent, the Mocó, populate the top of the hill. Once up, we sat in silence and admired our gorgeous planet!
Chapada Diamantina offers much more than just gigantic hills and the chapadas – plateaus. The park is famous due to its numerous cachoeiras – waterfalls, and grotas – caves. With 380m of free fall Cachoeira da Fumaça is one of Brazil’s tallest waterfalls. Other interesting waterfalls are the Cachoeira do Sossego and Cachoeira do Buracão. Additionally, loads of beautiful caves dot the park. Poço Azul, Lapa Doce and Poço Encantado are among the nicest ones.
Be cautious and prepare to be dazzled
Chapada Diamantina National Park is an extensive area of some 152 000 Hectares. Most of the central part between Lençois and Vale do Capão is dense jungle and it’s easy to get lost. Therefore if you are planning a longer hike you have to hire a guide. We kid you not: people do get lost! All important sites including Morro do Pai Inácio, waterfalls and caves are far from both Lençois and Vale do Capão so to visit them you have to hire a car with a driver or take an organized tour.
If you are planning on visiting Colombia too check this post about the fast boat between Brazil and Colombia.
Where to stay in Chapada Diamantina?