Lençois-Maranhenses is a snowy desert in the tropics of Brazil

A unique desert with water in Brazil (34 photos+1 video)

Brazil, with its tropical climate, has no real deserts, but there is an amazing desert where many freshwater lakes emerge during the rainy season, coming from the Amazon basin. When the rainy season ends, the lakes dry up almost completely. It remains a mystery how many fish, crabs, and other creatures immediately appear in the lakes during the rainy season. There is a hypothesis that eggs are brought into the area by birds coming from the sea. There is an opinion that the eggs remain in the sand and when the rains come, the aquatic inhabitants are born from these eggs. The area is inhabited by nomads who fish during the rainy season, which lasts from March to June, and leave the desert during the dry season to take jobs in nearby villages. Local legend has it that there was once a village of Indians in what is now the desert, too, that was once completely covered with sand. The desert is called Len?? is Maranhenses, which means “Maranhão underwear” in Portuguese. Maranhão is a Brazilian state, where there is a desert, and the locals called the desert linen because the light sands resemble linen stretched out on top to dry. To preserve the unique desert, it was given the status of a national park in 1981. Private cars are forbidden to enter the area of about 1,000 square kilometers. Oil production is also prohibited in the area.

Lencois Maranhenses National Park (Lencois Maranhenses National Park) – is located off the Atlantic coast in the northeast of Brazil, about 100 kilometers northeast of the city of San Jose de Ribamar and 125 kilometers from San Luis, in the state of Maranhão. Because of its uniqueness, the Lencoise-Maranhães Desert has not been neglected by filmmakers. The Brazilian film “House of Sand” (2005) was filmed here, as well as several episodes of the Brazilian TV series “Clone” (2001). Lencoise-Maranhãñez also filmed a dance, which can be seen in the Indian film “Robot” (2010). For thousands of years the finest sand has been carried by river currents along the channels to the estuaries of the deltas, to the confluence with the ocean, from where by internal ocean currents and breezes of varying strength it spreads in the opposite direction to the mainland – building up into legions of sand dunes to conquer “terra incognita”… The winds are almost unstoppable even in the dry season, playing with the dunes like chess on a huge board of more than 50 km from the shoreline inland, and along the coast itself from the mouth of the Rio Pregui? As about 45 km. thus “singing sands” occupy an area of almost 50×50 square kilometers. The white figures on this board are the dunes themselves of different shapes and sizes, sometimes with caps in the form of vegetation, and the black figures are lagoons with rainwater that fill the spaces between them.

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The season of thunder fronts comes from comparatively nearby Amazonia and creates its own climate in this region. Tons of water pouring from the sky fills the spaces between the dunes forming huge lagoons, or giant puddles, which then slowly dry up during the dry season. The optimal time to visit these places, unlike the Pantanal, is the rainy season with

May to September, when the sun, which as we know in the equator area shines almost equally, has not yet had time to drain these lakes. During this period, they can still swim and even fish, and in the dry season, when the lagoons dry out under the scorching sun at t 45C, or are erased by newly arrived dunes, this area more like the Sahara desert, justifying its tacit name “Brazilian Sahara”. Whoever will go to these places will not miss the town of Sao Luis, capital of the state of Maranhão.

The city is located on a triangular peninsula of the same name, with suburbs, in a bay called San Marcus on the west side and the bay of San Jose on the east. With a population of about 800,000 pesoas (people).

Founded in 1612 by the French, the city was subsequently taken over by the Dutch and eventually came under the jurisdiction of the Portuguese crown, which is evident in its central architectural styles, from the French baroque to the Portuguese-colonial style tiling. For many Russians will be surprised – there is not a single plastic bottle, not a single beer or vodka bottle, not a single wrapper for anything. In many ways, Lençois Maranjens Park is like a desert, but it receives more than 300 times as much rainfall as the Sahara. During the rainy season, water collects between the dunes and lakes with clear blue-green water appear.

Although Lencoise Maranjenses looks like a desert, it is not lifeless sands. During the rainy season, birds come here and shrimp and fish appear in the lakes, which the inhabitants of the nearby villages take advantage of.

There’s vegetation here, too. When there’s enough moisture, mangroves up to 12 meters high literally come to life here. These bushes are a haven for giant crabs, golden hares, caimans and deer. The dry season lasts from December to March. During this time, the air gets as warm as +36 degrees Celsius, so some ponds become shallow and others dry up. Many lakes also disappear. At this time, locals are mainly engaged in cattle breeding and waiting for the rainy season. The most important mystery of the Lensois Maranjenses is where all its animals go and where they come from again.

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There are many versions about this, but scientists have not yet come to a consensus. The most popular hypothesis says that local fish and crab roe can easily survive for several months without necessary humidity.

The ecological paradise of the Lençois Nature Reserve in Maranhão. Lençois.

Maranhão is a traditional Brazilian state, located on the upper edge of the country relative to Rio and São Paulo in the lower part of Brazil.

The Lençois Reserve is located in the northeastern part of Maranhão state, occupying almost the entire western part of the Maranhão coast, from the bay to the mouth of the Pregisas River.

Location of the state of Maranhão within Brazil

Lensoix is a rare geological phenomenon that has been shaped over thousands of years by the action of nature.

The reserve was named the “Maranhão sheets” (Lençois Maranhenses), and many call it the “Brazilian Sahara”, was established June 2, 1981 on an area of 155 thousand hectares. In terms of area it is close to the city of Sao Paulo. In terms of area the dunes themselves occupy 270 km.

It is a magical desert of white sands and blue lakes with fish, the only one in Brazil with a rare eco and biosystem of flora and fauna. Tourists from all over the world are drawn here to walk its dunes.

The map shows where the reserve is located in relation to the capital city of São Luiz Lenções. Brazilian reserve and desert.

The dunes are up to 40 meters high (the height of a 3-story house!) Moved by the wind blowing from the sea, each year the movement of the dunes is 20 meters, also the wind changes their shape and height. You get the impression that huge sheets are stretched out in front of your eyes.

Lakes with warm crystal water are ideal for swimming, and in the evening you can stretch out in a hammock in the guest hut.

Many of you have seen the Brazilian TV series Clone (2002), a few episodes with the main character, Murilo Benicio, were filmed here…


Barreirinhas is the largest local town and the closest to the Lensoix Nature Reserve. There are hotels, restaurants, souvenirs, travel agencies and guides. The neighboring villages of Atins and Kabure, located at the mouth of the Pregis River, have guest houses and restaurants for those who want to linger in the reserve. Restaurants offer fish and shrimp dishes and fruit. Fish soups and chowder dominate the local menu.

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If you want to stay overnight, consider the following hotels: Hotel Barreirinhas, Pousada Valdarez, Lins, and El Casarao.

Near Barreirinhas are the villages of Vassowras, Atins, Mandacaru and Cabure, where you can see dancing herons and gray loons, modest huts made of straw by locals.

Fish and shrimp are the mainstay of the local trade. The locals live by fishing, vegetable gardening, handicrafts, and cattle breeding.

The population of the reserve consists of sedentary fishermen and seasonal “nomadic” fishermen. Seasonal fishermen stay here only during the summer period (December to April), when there is a lot of fish in the lakes.

During the rainy months, when the river floods, they take shelter in huts covered with straw and live by fishing. Lakes are rich in fish and shrimp most of the year, migrating to rivers during the dry season when many lakes evaporate. With the onset of the dry season, the fish leave, and the nomadic fishermen also leave in search of other means of survival (farming, etc.).

kabure settlements kabure – bareirinhas

How to get to the reserve

Lencoix belongs to the towns of Bareirinhas, Primeira Cruz and Santo Amaro.

From San Luis (the capital of Maranhão) take the BR-135 road (94 km), the BR-222 (98 km) and the rest 147 km along the dirt road MA-026. Total distance is 337 km from San Luis to Bareirinhas. For the whole trip about 9 hours.

Tourist agencies in San Luis offer tour packages by bus and by plane.

By bus it also takes 9 hours. Regular flights leave early in the morning from the bus station in San Luis to Bareirinhas.

By air, the flight from San Luis to Bareirinhas takes 40 minutes, departing from Cunha Machado airport.

From Bareirinhas you go by boat or by ship along the Pregisas River to the entrance of the reserve. The trip takes about 4 hours. If you rent a boat, it takes 2 hours. The distance from Bareirinhas to the desert entrance is 2 km.

Alternatively, you can drive to the desert in a rented off-road vehicle . A guide accompanies the group, and if you want to wander alone you need to stay within sight of the guide, otherwise it’s easy to get lost.

There is no infrastructure or hotels inside the reserve. The entrance is free for campers and wandering tourists without a guide, you can stay overnight in the desert, in which case you should think about your outfit.

San Luis. The capital of Maranhão


The local climate is tropical, semi-humid, the average annual temperature is +26. At the peak of the heat up to +36, the lower threshold of +16. Two seasons prevail: rain and drought (about 5 months).

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During the dry season, from July to December, it is hot and most of the lakes evaporate. The dry season is followed by the rainy season and the evaporated lakes fill up with water again.

During the rainy season, from December to June, the local population goes fishing in the sea. Rainfall during this period ranges from 1,500 to 1,750 mm.

The rains fill the lakes in the middle of the dunes and the desert turns into a large natural oasis. The wind speed is up to 70 km/h and together with the rains it forms lagoons with crystal water.

The lakes are colorful, some are green, others are bright blue, all of them have clear and clear water – just a dream in paradise. The lakes can be up to 2 km long, most of them are not deep, but some are up to 4 m deep.

A good time to travel here is the rainy season from December to June, when the lakes fill with water.

Lencoix – Brazilian oasis, desert, nature reserve

Vegetation and fauna

The vegetation is shaped by the influence of winds and sea currents. Along the edges of the park are extensive mangroves and, in places, groves of burichi. Near the sea, sandy grasses grow: rosemary, pepper, burdock, a variety of orchids and milkweed.

There is no vegetation on most of the reserve. Mangroves grow only in areas of low-lying soils directly washed by the sea, along streams and branches of rivers.

The Pregisas and Parnaiba rivers carry the sand to the sea, and the sea brings it back to the shore, forming the topography of the area, in addition to the effects of the winds.

Sea and migratory birds nest in the coastal part of the reserve: waders, northern terns, blue-winged teal, herons, paturi, gulls and teteu (Cayenne petrel). Alligator, bush deer, and paca are found in the mangroves.

The terrain is flat, and the coast is washed by warm Atlantic currents. Huge sea turtles and crabs live along the coast, also found on deserted beaches within the park.

Lençois. Settlements. Birds: teal and pipistrelle

What to see in the reserve?

Walking in the dunes. You should not go without a guide, you can easily get lost. Take water and a snack, it will come in handy on long walks.

Take shorts, T-shirts, sandals, raincoats, hats, swimsuits on the road. Warm clothing comes in handy only at night. Mosquito repellent, sunglasses, and sunscreen are a must.

Lakes . Bathing in the lakes is a refreshing dessert, the water in them warms up and gives a feeling of freshness and relieves fatigue. A visit to the large lakes Azul and Bonita is worth including in the itinerary and can be reached by off-road vehicle with a guide. Lake Lagoa Bonita is 30 km from Lake Azul.

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Beaches: Beaches are everywhere, find your own to relax, unwind, meditate. There are also deserted beaches, 70 km long. Recommended are Ponta do Mangue, Moitas, Vassouras, Morro do Boi, Barra do Tato, reached by boat from Bareirinhas.

Mandacaru is a fishing village, the highlight of which is the 54 meters high old lighthouse, which overlooks the reserve.

Caburé is a pleasant place to relax, swim in the sea and wash off the salt in fresh water. There are guest houses (shalé) and good food at a local restaurant.

Bathing in the lagoons guest chalets guest house Paturi

Boat trip . A boat trip along the Pregisas River, which runs along the reserve to its mouth, where it flows into the Atlantic. The river is framed by dense vegetation, with dunes and lagoons visible in places. On the shore you can see small settlements. The river is descended by liner or boat.

The delta of the Parnaiba River is a marvel of rare beauty with more than 80 islands, the only place flowing into the open sea in America that is worth seeing.

The Parnaiba River is the fourth largest basin in Brazil, second only to the Amazon, Parana, and San Francisco basins. The delta originates where the river descends 709 meters from the Chapada das Mangabeiras toward the sea.

The channel of the Parnayiba River bifurcates to form the Igarazú and Santa Rosa arms. From here, dozens of channels emerge, surrounding the islands to the mouth, where it joins the Atlantic and forms five branches known as: Igarazu, Canarias, Caju, Melanciera and Tutoja on the western edge.

Off-road vehicle ride . Moving inside the desert in off-road vehicles rented in Bareirinhas. If you are lucky you can see or participate in a rally (4×4 jeep competition).

azure panoramas of the Reserve of Deserts from the top of the group with a guide Breakfast at the hotel. Parnaiba River.

In conclusion

Azure sky, hot sun, white dunes and lagoons all around…

And when night comes, the sky seems to fall to the ground, the stars seem so close that it seems as if you are about to touch it with your hand. Here the feeling of divine contact with nature and the creator of all things, our Creator, is felt! Spiritual rethinking after visiting this place seems inevitable.

As you walk along the dunes, remember that the landscape will not be the same, it is changing all the time, the wind is carrying grains of sand quickly. The moment here and now will never be the same again…

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