Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina
The Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina is bigger than some countries (Holland, for example) and is one of the most fascinating, not to mention drop-dead gorgeous natural regions in Brazil. Within its borders is the Cachoeira da Fumaça, the highest waterfall (380 meters/1,247 feet) in Brazil (and the fifth highest in the world) as well as Pico dos Barbados (2,000 meters/6,562 feet), the highest peak in Bahia. Grottoes hide lagoons whose waters turn to piercing blue when touched by the sun’s fingers. The striking vegetation ranges from giant ferns to the rarest of orchids. And there is always the chance of stumbling upon a tiny chunk of diamond or gold.
Only one paved road cuts through the 152-square-kilometer (59-square-mile) Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina. There are, however, plenty of trails of varying difficulty—best traveled with a guide or on an excursion—many of which were carved out of the landscape by slaves and gold and diamond miners in the 19th century.
One of the main bases for exploring the area is charming Lençóis, a former diamond mining town, which is now a lively mix of locals and ecotourists. Other equally enticing diamond towns and their surrounding areas are also worth exploring, namely Mucugê and Andaraí—both of which offer their own access to several of the park’s breathtaking natural attractions.
The Chapada can be visited all year long, but in the summer, though the sun can be scorchingly hot, periods of rain (sometimes lasting for several days) can put a serious damper on hiking plans. A better time to come is during the winter, when cooler temperatures (which can become downright chilly at night), coincide with the “dry season” that lasts from March to October.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition