Lencois and Chapada Diamantina Reviews
Oct 12, 2006
Bahia is known for its miles of fantastic coastline, but about 250 miles inland, Chapada Diamantina (Diamond Plateau) offers beautiful scenery and amazing experiences. It is a national park in the sertao, the semi-arid inland region of Bahia and other states in the Northeast. Tons of Brazilians travel to Chapada Diamantina, but it's more of an off the beaten track location for foreigners. It's tropical, but drier than the coast and warm year round. When diamonds were discovered in the Chapada, Lencois grew and it was one of the largest cities in Bahia. Now it is a preserved colonial town and a hub and starting point for those want to explore the Chapada. There is so much to see and do in Chapada Diamantina and you should probably set aside at least two full days. If you have time while you're in Bahia, I highly recommend going there. Bring good shoes and be prepared to hike!
You can purchase bus tickets at a Bahiatursa office. Bahiatursa has locations all over the city in Pelourinho, at the malls, etc. They have agents who speak English and other languages. You can get a one-way ticket, but you might as well get round-trip tickets before you go. It seems that both ways, buses leave at 7am and 11pm. If you can, I recommend going there during the day because seeing the countryside really adds to the experience.
The buses leave from the bus station called the Rodoviaria. The Rodoviaria is near a mall called Shopping Iquatemi and far from most hotels, so factor that into your time. The bus station has signs directing to you to the correct terminal which we couldn't make sense of so we just asked. The buses are very comfortable and during the day you will stop for lunch. At night, the seats reclined all the way back and it was comfortable enough that I slept almost the whole way. They turn up the air conditioning in the bus sometimes so make sure to dress warmly for the ride.
WHERE TO STAY
Cheap places to stay fill up quickly, so if it's a holiday, you might want to try to book ahead of time. I'm still not entirely sure where we stayed- it was like someone's house that was overflow for another hotel around the corner. It was fine because we were rarely in our room. If you're willing to pay more, there are a few nicer hotels. There are also campsites in the town of Lencois and some people will do multiple day camping treks in the Chapada.
WHAT TO DO
There are so many things to do that you will have trouble deciding- numerous mountains, waterfalls, caves, and more. It's impossible to see everything in one visit. If you want to hike, definitely arrange for a local guide. Treks to waterfalls all seem to be long and can be dangerous if you're not familiar with the landscape. You can arrange for a guide through a tour company or through a local. For guided van tours, you can compare prices at the numerous tour companies around the center of town in Lencois. Watch out for extra charges- for the cave pool tour, some companies charged extra for snorkeling while others included it in the price.
For some excellent photos of some of the attractions, check out this gallery:
There is fantastic food at the two locations of Cozinha Aberta and I've written a review about that restaurant. I still dream about the Thai coconut curry chicken I had there. There seems to be a lot of Thai and Italian restaurants around town. Lencois is kind of a hippie town. It definitely shows when the sun goes down and you can smell it in the air. At night, artisans set up in a small square. The things sold there tend to be more naturey and Native American influenced than what you'll find in Salvador. There are sometimes capoeira and drumming performances. There are several tiny rustic reggae bars full of old rastas. Most people sit and have a drink at the bars- most of them have a ton of seating. The nightlife is relaxed, I think most people are tired from hiking all day!
There are a lot of pay phones so if you need to make an international call, get an international phone card ahead of time. I didn't see any international call centers. The cafe by the stream had a few computers with internet access. There is a bank with ATMS. There are stores that sell camping gear and hiking shoes and grocery stores where you can buy food for your treks.
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