My trip to Lencois, Chapada Diamantina has been one of my absolute trip highlights! This quirky small town is quite touristic, with many tour companies and hostels throughout, but it still has a very local and small-town charm, and so so much to do in and around the town.
What to do:
In this little town there are many gems to be found! There are many hiking trails in this area, with both short 40 minute hikes, to hikes that can take days.
Tourism is a huge income source for this small town. There are many tour companies and many hostels that offer their own tours so of course the locals will not go around telling you that many of their guide services are not needed. Many of the walks nearby the township are very easy to do yourself, without a guide, and hence FREE!
My favourite hikes to do for free/without a guide were:
Ribeirao Do Meio – a waterfall that is a natural water slide! This walk was only 45 minutes from the centre of town. Be careful if has been raining though, as we went two days in a row, the first day it was raining and the amount of water was strong but ideal. The second day there was far too much water that it looked to be pretty dangerous!
Cachoeira do Sossego – This was another waterfall and swimming hole that starts off along the same track as Ribeirao do Meio but deviates off and goes for another 1.5hrs up and down and over big rocks. This walk is definitely better when it has NOT bee raining! We got about 10 minutes from the end of the walk only to be trapped on rocks with nowhere to jump or cross! The pass was far too flooded to pass, but the spot we got to was still very beautiful.
The Serrano Loop, including Salão de Areia, Cachoeira da Primavera, and Cachoeirinha Waterfall –
This walk took us through the Serrano which is a stretch of the Lencois river where there are many small pools that you can relax in on a hot day. The Serrano is only 15 minutes walk from the centre of the town, but leads on to the other waterfalls further upstream. The Salao de Areia is an area on the riverside where there are huge sand stones that have slight changes in color. You will see around the town many glass bottles full of sand of different colors, those are taken from these rocks.
You can view all of these sites in a loop hike which will lead you back into town. All of these routes are on Maps.me, and while at some points you may get a little bit lost and need to back track, it’s not too hard to find the track again. With stopping at each of these locations, you should set aside half a day, easily stretching it out to a day activity.
To start the hike to the Serrano: from the centre of town, walk towards a hotel named Hotel Lencois, walk up hill and turn right into a shaded street just after a water treatment plant. You should be able to see the river. Once you see the river you should be on a small dirt track walking up stream, this will eventually take you onto the smooth rock surface riverbed. Walking from this direction, you will be starting the above walk in reverse, and the sand stone and Serrano rock pools will be at the end of the loop.
If you hike from the other side of the river, walk to the bus station and continue walking up stream. You will be on the right-hand side of the river, and will reach a pretty wide path through trees that will soon lead straight on to the smooth rock riverbed Serrano.
There are activities and sites here that do require a guide, especially if you don’t hire a car. If you are travelling with a group of people, you tend to have more bargaining power when buying tours.
We opted with a tour company called Eco Tur. We opted for a tour called ‘Tour 1’ which was the cheapest but took us to 4 amazing locations. The price was originally 195 Reals, but with bargaining power with 6 people we managed to get it for 160 Reals each for a private tour. Make sure that you clarify that you don’t want to be put into a bus or van with other tour groups! The sites we went to included: Poço do Diabo Waterfall, Pai Inácio, Pratinha cave, and Lapa Doce Cave.
My biggest tip would be to download Maps.me (free of charge from the app store), download the maps for this area of Brasil, and pick a few trails to explore surrounding the town. Once downloaded, this app does not need the internet to use. You can use it to follow already mapped hiking trails. We found it very useful for this area.
Where to stay:
Pousada dos Duendes was a little bit more expensive than Salvador prices at $R40 per night in a 4 person room with ensuite. However, the breakfasts they put on were incredible! The had a huge assortment of food, different every day. It was buffet style where you could pretty much eat all you could want. Fresh fruit including different melons, yogurt, cheese puffs, fresh baked bread, polenta crepe things, savoury lasagna looking things, cereals, tea, coffee, juice, eggs and more! We booked this hostel on Hostelworld. Hostelworld rates this hostel as having a bad location, but it really isn’t. It is only a 5 minute walk to the main restaurant area, the town is really small!
Where to eat:
There are many food options suitable to varying budgets. To be honest the restaurants here are more suitable to a larger budget but you are able to find cheaper options. I ate twice at a restaurant called Lanchonete Madji which had huge plates of salad, meat and hot chips for around 30 Reals, and delicious and big burgers for around 6 Reals.
If you are wanting to cook, I found that the stores were not the most well-stocked which forced us to eat out every night. You could come prepared here with fresh vegetables from Salvador. There is no supermarket here. The shop they call a supermarket is tiny with barely the essentials.
How to get there:
The best way to get to Lencois, Chapada Diamantina is from Salvador by bus. This little town is pretty much in the middle of nowhere so it is a little bit of a mission to get there. Take the bus from the main bus terminal in Salvador. There is only 1 company that does this service, and leave only 3 times a day (as at August 2016) at 7am, 1pm and 11pm. The price is 73 Reals. The bus takes about 7 hours.
You could also hire a car from Salvador, which would be useful once in Lencois to see the waterfalls and other attractions outside of the town.
How to get out of Lencois:
To get back to Salvador from Lencois, the process is reversed. Buy your bus ticket at the small bus terminal where you were dropped off on arrival.