Sights and Recreation
Lençóis is close to many of the Chapada Diamantina’s most popular draws. One great walk is to follow the Rio Lençóis. After 15 minutes you’ll find yourself at the Poço Serrano, a series of freshwater pools where you can dip your toes or entire body and enjoy a panoramic view of the town.
Another 15 minutes brings you to the Salão de Areias Coloridas, an area with caves carpeted in multicolored sands sought after by local artists who layer them in bottles and sell them to tourists. Hire a local youth as a guide (your hotel can reserve one for you) to take you to these attractions and to the nearby Cachoeirinha and Cachoeira da Primavera, two small waterfalls where you can swim.
Heading out of town to the southwest (follow the signs), a marked 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) trail leads to the Escorregadeira, a natural rock waterslide that sends you careening down into swimming pools (wear shorts to avoid scraping the skin off your bottom). If you keep going (with a guide since access is tricky), the trail gets more difficult and involves serious rock climbing. After 8 kilometers (5 miles), however, you’ll reach the impressive Cachoeira do Sossego waterfall, with rock ledges from which you can dive into a deep pool.
Another challenging 5-kilometer (3-mile) trek (guide recommended) north from Lençóis brings you to the fantastic Gruta do Lapão, considered to be the largest sandstone cave in South America.
A car or being part of an organized excursion is necessary to discover some of the more far-flung and dramatic natural highlights of the Chapada. The Poço do Diabo (Devil’s Well), 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from Lençóis, consists of a series of swimming pools crowned by a majestic 25-meter (82-foot) waterfall. Only 30 kilometers (19 miles) away is Morro do Pai Inácio, a 300-meter-high (984-foot-high) mesa formation that’s one of the most striking geological formations you’ll lay eyes upon.
From its cacti-covered summit, you are treated to amazing 360-degree views of the countryside. According to local legend, Inácio was a fugitive slave who scaled the great rock in search of refuge. When cornered by his pursuers, he jumped from the top. Miraculously, he was saved from a fatal fall by the umbrella he opened in midflight.
Near the town of Iraquara, 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Lençóis, are a number of fascinating caverns, including Gruta da Torrinha (Estrada da Bandeira, km 64, one–two-hour guided tours R$20 pp), Gruta Azul (Estrada da Bandeira, km 75, R$10 pp), Lapa Doce (Estrada da Bandeira, km 68, 45-min. guided tour R$14 pp), and Gruta da Pratinha (Estrada da Bandeira, km 75, R$10 pp), all clustered fairly close together. Torrinha and Lapa Doce boast a stunning collection of stalactites and stalagmites. The Gruta Azul (Blue Cavern) more than lives up to its name: When lit up directly by the sun, its waters turn to an unearthly azure. At adjacent Gruta da Pratinha, you can rent gear and flashlights and go snorkeling in an underwater lagoon for R$15.
One of the indisputable highlights of this region is the impressive Cachoeira da Fumaça, a waterfall so high that most of its water evaporates to mist before hitting the ground (hence its name of Smoke Waterfall). Looking down upon the Cachoeira da Fumaça from above involves a long 6-kilometer (3.5-mile) hike. Getting right beneath it is even more arduous, involving a three-day trek (with a guide, supplies, and camping gear) through the breathtakingly beautiful Vale do Capão.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition