Life is Fantastic – Exploring the Dunes of Lençois Maranhenses National Park (Brazil)

“Life is not measured by the breaths we take but by the moments that take our breaths away.”

After more than a year of living and traveling in the Amazonian Rainforest in the Guianas and Brazil, the contrast with the landscape we encountered in Lençois Maranhenses (Northeast Brazil) couldn’t have been bigger:

1500 square kilometers of dunes.

The Dunes of Lençois Maranhenses

The dunes of Lençois Maranhenses are among the most spectacular landscapes in South America and are protected by being a national park. On the UNESCO Tentative List since 2017, I feel that Lençois Maranhenses rightfully deserves to be acknowledged as a World Heritage List.

From the UNESCO website:

The National Park of Lençóis Maranhenses is characterized as the largest field of sand dunes in South America. It comprises an area of 155 thousand hectares, of which 90 thousand consist of mobile dunes and lagoons formed by these dunes.

According to Marinaldo, our guide (more on that below), 80% of the park consists of dunes. Due to the constant northern wind across the Atlantic Ocean, the dunes are moving inland.

Marinaldo pointed to the right.

“Do you see that dune? There’s a telephone pole underneath it; last year the pole was still visible. Do you see that telephone pole next to the dune? That one will disappear under a new dune in a year or two,” he said.

Lençois Maranhenses National Park, Brazil
Lençois Maranhenses National Park, Brazil

Those dunes grow fast, I tell you.

The dunes of Lençois Maranhenses are a landscape that fills any visitor with a feeling of awe. However, I do hope that the dunes will stop advancing at some point in time and won’t turn Brazil’s Northeast into China’s Taklamakan Desert, which has continued to push forward to the point where it has become a plague.

After a splendid day of driving and walking in this incredible landscape of endless dunes we returned to our camp just outside St Amaro, the western gateway to the park. The wind had filled every single orifice of our bodies with sand particles so it was time for a swim.

Don’t Forget to Bring

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A hat

Sunscreen lotion

Mosquito Repellent`

We went skinny-dipping in the crystalline river underneath a pitch-black sky studded with stars. Silence, darkness, the two of us and the Land Cruiser with its lights glistening in the smooth surface of the river.

Sometimes our life is not just great.

Life is fantastic!

Practical Information on Marinaldo & Pousada Lulayna Dunas

  • Marinaldo grew up in this village and knows every single dune. From a fisherman Marinaldo became a tourist guide who loves taking people on hiking and/or camping trips in the dunes.
  • Marinaldo also is the owner of Guesthouse (Pousada) Lulayna Dunas. The guesthouse is situated in Santo Amaro, the western gateway to the spectacular Lençois Maranhenses National Park. This basic guesthouse has rooms with private bathrooms and an open area in the garden shaded by a roof made of carnaúba palm leaves.
  • Marinaldo’s wife Lucia taught us how to make the perfect beiju – tapioca pancakes.
  • Pousada Lulayna Dunas
    • Email: bjosemarinaldo@hotmail.com
    • Rua Figueiredo Campos no. 93, Santo Amaro
    • Phone: (98) 8879-9438

Originally published in 2012 / Updated in 2018

Explore the Dunes of Lençois Maranhenses

The entire region of Lençois Maranhenses is spectacular, not just the dunes but also the Perguiças River. Barreirinhas is a good place to find tours or a guide to show you the very best that the region has to offer. Check what tours are on offer and see if they fit your needs.

Click on the images below to learn more.


Travel Guides for Brazil

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Photos by Coen Wubbels. Follow our overland journey on Landcruisingadventure.com or on Instagram.

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