Lençóis means “sheets” in Portuguese. The name alludes to the town’s early 19th-century origins as an itinerant camp for hundreds of avid diamond and gold miners who slept beneath makeshift tents of white cotton fabric after long days spent combing the region’s river in search of precious stones. Although many struck it rich, by the end of the 19th century most of the big rocks had been found.
Over the next 100 years, the former boom town was abandoned and its population shrank significantly. Lençóis’s fortunes only revived in 1985; with the creation of the Chapada Diamantina National Park , it quickly became a cultural and touristic hub.
Tourism was a catalyst for the (still ongoing) renovation of Lençóis’s more than 200 superb colonial homes and civic buildings. Among the most splendid traces of its former grandeur are the Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário, the wealthy home of the Sá family, which later became the Prefeitura (city hall), and the Subconsulado Francês, the former French consulate building.
Despite its size and relative isolation, Lençóis possesses a surprisingly cosmopolitan flavor due to the collection of nature lovers, adventure sports enthusiasts, New Age groupies and Chapada-holics who linger and loiter in its cobblestoned streets, buoyed by the fact that the entire Chapada Diamantina  is at their feet.
From Salvador , you can fly to Aeroporto Coronel Horácio de Matos (tel. 75/3625-8100), 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from Lençóis. From Salvador’s Rodoviária Central, two daily buses depart regularly at 7:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. with the Real Expresso (tel. 071/3246-8355, www.realexpresso.com.br ) bus company (a six-hour trip). Extra buses are added during high season.
If you’re driving take the BR-324 until Feira de Santana, then you can choose between taking the BR-116 until it meets the BR-242 or taking the BA-052 until Ipirá, following the BA-488 until Itaberaba. From this point on, both ways follow the BR-242. Whichever route you choose, driving to Lençóis is not for the faint of heart. The roads are often full of potholes and slow-moving trucks.