atins_lencois

Atins… the secret gem of the Lençois Maranhenses

A journey around the Northeast of Brazil is full of adventures and discoveries: sandy landscapes, windy beaches, palm trees everywhere… Not only the scenery is incredible, also the people are very nice and hospitable.

When travelers visit the Lençois Maranhenses National Park sometimes they don’t arrive to Atins, a tiny little town with sandy streets, next to a long and beautiful beach and in the Lençois Maranhenses dunes… From Atins, you can walk into the National Park every morning if you are on the mood.

I was lucky to meet some travelers in Jericoacara, who were coming from the Lençois Maranhenses, and they recommended me not to miss Atins.

I arrive to Atins through the Preguiça River, with a small boat, after visiting Cabure beach, Vassouras and Mandacaru.

river preguica trip

The boat leaves you on the beach, across a Reggae Bar, where you can get a refreshment with the nice view of the sea before heading into town, which is just 5 minutes walking from there.

atins_praia

Once in Atins, you feel how peace get’s in to your soul with such a quite and layback atmosphere. Travellers recommend me to stay @ Posada Tia Rita so I headed straight there to get a room. Once there you will find out the different ways to visit the Lençois Maranhenses National Park: you can do a trekking with a guide, or you can go with the toyota 4×4 tour, depending on how much energy/time you have.

When I got to the Posada Tia Rita, I was super lucky to meet the amazing “Falçao” Girls: 3 sisters and their mother that came from Sao Paulo on holidays and were exploring the Northeast. They were going to do the toyota 4×4 tour the next day, so I decided to join them and do the same trip!

atins_chicas

After having a very nice breakfast @ Posada Tia Rita, with tropical fruits, coffee and tapiocas, we left on the 4×4 to visit the lagoons of the Lençois Maranhenses which were very near Atins (20 minutes car drive, also reachable by foot). We spend the hole morning swimming in the lagoons, walking around the dunes and admiring the amazing landscape. For lunch we went to the “Canto do Atins” where we had delicious fresh grilled fish.

  • Lençois Maranhenses National Park

Around 4 pm we were heading back to the pousada to be able to arrive just on time to enjoy the sunset by the beach.

atins_beach

I just spent 2 nights in Atins, because I needed to keep on travelling, but if you have time, Atins is a perfect place to spend some days exploring around, relaxing, enjoying the dunes & lagoons and the quiet atmosphere of the town.

What to do (without money!)

– Trekking into the Lençois Maranhenses: if you feel like walking and enjoing nature by your own, you can go walking to the natural park early in the morning. It’s around 1 hour walking until you reach the nice lagoons. To get there you just follow the sandy road which leaves the town and leads you into the national park. Once outside Atins, the road keeps on going surrounding the sandy dunes, until you arrive to the “Canto do Atins” which you will find on your right.

– Swim in the sea under the moonlight with plankton: after sunset, when it gets dark, if you are already @ the beach, you can go into the water and swim with plankton. If you move the water or jump into the sea, you will start seeing all those  million little plankton turning on and glowing in the dark in the water. The experience is just amazing and really worth it!

– Relax & chill in Atins: sit outside the Pousada Tia Rita and enjoy the locals conversations, while people passes by. Lay on a hammock and enjoy a good book or long nap to avoid the heat. Stroll around those sandy roads and discover hidden corners and places behind the vegetation. Head to the beach and walk all along the coast until you get tired and jump into the water to refresh yourself.

What to do (with money)

– Kitesurf: Atins is a perfect location to go kitesurfing. The windy season starts around June and you have many locations where to go kiting: you can choose one of the lagoons for your own, which are located in the National Park of Lençois Maranhenses, or you can go kitesurfing just on the beach, in front of the town, where you have the delta of the Preguiça River with kilometres of flat water for your own. If you take your own gear, check out that everything is OK, and take with you some extra lines or a repairing kit, because in Atins it’s not possible to get any assistance if you break your gear. If you want to do lessons or rent it there is the kite school Atins Kiteboarding, which offers lessons, kite trips, rentals, etc.

– Trekking through the Lençois Maranhenses National Park: locals will approach you to offer their service as guides, due to the fact that is very usual to do trekkings into the National Park, starting from one day, until a week or as many days as you wish. If you want to do a trekking, I would recommend to ask “Rita” to give you a hint regarding those guides, because not all of them are good, but she knows them all, so if you tell her the name, she tell you if it’s a good one, or not. Otherwise you just ask her to recommend you a guide and do the trekking with him. They charge around 120 R$ per day (food, accommodation or transportation are normally not included) and the 3 days trekking trip is the most recommended.

– Toyota 4×4 day trip to the Lençois Maranhenses: if you are short in time you can take the toyota trip which is 50 R$ per person, and you spend around 4 hours in the National Park. They usually leave every morning @ around 7:30 or 8 am from the Pousadas. You can book it directly there, the day before doing it.

How to get there

– From Barreirinhas: There are 2 ways to get to Atins from here, you can take a motor boat through the Preguiça River (35 R$, one way, 1 hour trip) or a 4×4 transfer through the dunes (25 R$, one way,a 2hs rough ride!). Both options leave early in the morning form the port in town.

– From Jericoacoara: If you are arriving to Atins from Jeri, once in Cabure Beach you can negotiate with a local boatman to cross you the river with his boat. He will leave you in Atins beach, across the Reggae Bar.

If you arrive with the toyota 4×4, you can ask the driver to drop you of @ the posada where you will be staying.
If you arrive with a boat, they normally drop you off on the beach in front of the beach bar. From there you turn to your left (the sea on your back) and walk 5 minutes along the beach until you find a sandy street on your right. This is the main street of Atins, where you might find all you need: nice posadas, local restaurants, a trendy bar, a kite school, and lot’s of peace.

atins_main street

Where to stay

Nowadays there are quite a lot of Posadas & Hotels in Atins in every price range. Pousada Tia Rita is where most of the travellers go:
Pousada Tia Rita: this pousada managed by locals (Rita and her family) offers the possibility of sleeping in a hammocks (from 20 R$ per night) or in a private room (single from 60 R$, double from 120 R$ per night). If you have a tent, you can camp in the garden, too (from 20 R$ per night). All options include a modest but testy tropical breakfast.

Camping Atins: There is a camping located across Pousada Tia Rita. The italian owner of Niky Bar & Spaguetheria manages also this camping (from 20 R$ per night per person, tent included). It could be an option for tight budgets or adventurer souls.

In booking.com you will find all the Pousadas & Hotels which are available, from around 100 R$ per night for 2 persons. Most of the offer in town, appears here.

Useful Information

THERE ARE NO ATM’S IN ATINS SO TAKE ENOUGH CASH FOR YOUR STAY THERE!!!! (and not many restaurants, posadas, accept credit card)

Some words in Portuguese that might be useful during your stay in Jericoacoara, as well as the map of the area!

Passeio: trip
Pousada: hotel
Praia: beach
Lagoa: lagoon
Pôr do Sol: Sunset
caixa electrônico: ATM, or something that they DON’T have in Atins, so just forget this word and take enough cash

Atins_Map

 

Atins is just… inspiring.

#travelwithmery
#getinspired

lencois maranhenses_lagoon

Barreirinhas, the Gateway to the Lençois Maranhenses

When people talked to me about Brazil, the first 2 things that used to come to my mind were paradise beaches with turquoise waters and the Amazonas rain forest…

Since I’m traveling around the country, after visiting the Northeast of Brazil, things change. In the Maranhão State you will be amazed with the Lençois Maranhenses National Park,  hundreds of kilometres of dunes and turquoise lagoons… Just breathtaking.

The main Gateway to visit this indescriptible landscape is the  small town of Barreirinhas, located near the National Park, across the River Preguiça. This town offer a lot of accommodation possibilities and for all kind of budgets. There is also a nice promenade “Beira Rio” next to the river where you can find restaurants, bars and enjoy the sunset while having a drink. All over the town center you might find a lot of travel agencies that offer the trip with the 4×4 to visit the national park. The town is not that big and its safe enough to go out for a walk for dinner or just to go for a stroll. Apart of the promenade next to the river there is not much more to see in Barreirinhas.

barrerinhias town

Visiting the Lençois Maranhenses National Park

There might be a few reasons why people arrive to Barreirinhas but the main one is to visit the Lençois Maranhenses National Park.
There are many agencies that offer the possibility to visit the park (you can’t go by your own), and they all do more or less the same trips.

Option 1: Passeio Lagoa Azul, 1/2 day trip by 4×4 (5/6 he)
You can take the 4×4 Toyota tour in the morning or in the afternoon (afternoon includes sunset!), and you will go in a group of maximum 12 persons. To get there first you cross the river with a balsa (in the trip included), and then you drive through the dunes and small lagoons until you arrive to the beginning of the National Park, where the Lagoa Azul and other lagoons are. Here you leave your flip-flops in the car and start walking barefoot through the dunes into the lagoons. Even though is very hot, the sand doesn’t burn, because is always moving due to the constant wind! You can take a bath in the non-salty water lagoons to refresh yourself and keep on walking through this breathtaking place. Each tour takes around 5/6 hs, including the driving time to reach the dunes. You can book the trip from your hotel or go directly in one of the agencies located in town. The price is around 60/80 R$ depending on the season and they all pick you up from your accommodation and bring you back there. In the morning they start around 8:30 am and in the afternoon around 2 pm.

heading to lencois maranhenses

Option 2: day trip with quads
Another really great way to get to know the Lençois Maranhenses park is with quads. You can also book this hole day trip from your accommodation. It will be a little bit more expensive that the Option 1 though (around 130/160 R$ per person/day), but it’s worth doing it. They will also pick you up and bring you back the place where you are staying.

Lençois Maranhenses with Quads                                      Lençois Maranhenses with quads

Option 3: boat day trip from Barreirihnas to Cabure through the Preguiça River
Another nice day trip is to take the boat to Cabure beach. This day trip also leaves in the morning and you arrive to Cabure for lunch. On the way there you stop @ the Mini Lençois in Vassouras where you can refresh yourself with a nice coconut water. Then you go to the light house in Mandacarú (really worth walking up, the view is very nice) and finally you arrive to Caburé where you can go to the water in the ocean side with the waves, or in the river side. The beach is huge here. They offer you the possibility to rent a quad to go around if you feel like. For lunch here you can have amazing fresh fish for a nice price. Really worth trying it!

river preguica trip

Option 4: Trekking around the Lençois Maranhenses (2 or 3 days option)
If you have time, the best way to visit the Lençois Maranhenses is doing a trekking tour around the National Park. You can book it from Barreirinhas or from Atins. The 2 days trip includes one day on the boat until Atins (stoping @ Vassouras, Mandacarú and Cabure) and another day to walk back over the dunes to Barreirinhas. The 3 days trip starts in Atins and goes to the Oasis where you spend the night there, sleeping in hammocks. The prices are around 120 R$ per day. Before booking ask if they include accommodation, transfers or food (normally they don’t, the 120 R$ are just for the guide that goes with you!).

sand_lencois
Option 5: Overflying the Lençois Maranhenses with a small plane
If your budget allows it, don’t miss the opportunity to fly over the Lençois Maranhenses National Park. There is one company that offer this trip from around 1000 R$: AVA, the office is located in Barreirihnas where you can do your booking. You can also contact them through their webpage to ask for prices and availability. They start with the sunrise and finish with the sunset so you can choose your best choice.

Tips before booking any of the trips:

  • book your trips at least 1 day in advance (they might be fully booked the same day)
  • always ask the price before, and if you can, ask in one or two places more to compare (normally the trips that the pousadas offer are very good)
  • try to negotiate the price if you get it direct from the agency. In low season you can get a lower rate (around 10 R$ discount)
  • if you want to do the trekking tour (which is 100% recommended) try to get a guide which is known in town, or one that the pousada suggests!

Another way to get to the Lençois Maranhenses National Park is directly from Saõ Luís, with a day trip. These are organised through your pousada: normally they pick you up @ 5 am, drive to the National Park, spend a couple of hours there and drive back to arrive around 9 pm to Saõ Luís. This tours cost around 120/150 R$ the hole day, but I only recommend this option, if you are really short in time and can’t spend more time visiting the National Park area.

Accommodation

Due to the fact that many people all over the world arrive to Barreirinhas to visit the Lençois Maranhenses, they offer a full range of accommodation possibilities. (These 3 options offer free WiFi)

Backpackers, Solo travellers:
This was my case, I was traveling alone so I decided to stay in the best hostel in town (and kind of the only one!): Casa do Professor 35 R$ per night with breakfast included. Rodolfo “the professor”, used to be an english professor, and around one year ago he opened this charming hostel located in Barreirinhas. The house is really cozy, with a nice living room where you can find a TV with movies in english and a conformable couch. There is a very complete and clean kitchen where breakfast will be offered, and where you can cook your own meals. There is also a garden with a hammock and the smoking area. They have 2 big rooms with bunk beds, one of them also has a hammock!!! If you are planning to arrive during the weekend you better book in advance. “The Professor” is really helpful, he will be ready to answer any question regarding the National Park tours, getting you a pousada in Atins, or trying to find you a guide to do the trekking through the park! (he also plays the guitar very well! 😉

casa do professor

Quiet low budget option:
If you are traveling alone, with a friend or with your partner, and you are looking for a local quiet experience, you can try the Pousada: Cama, Cafe e Aventura (35 R$ one person, 70 R$ double room). This house converted in to a little bed & breakfast is quite far away from the town center (20 minutes walking), but the house is over the river Preguiça, where you can go for a swim after a very nice breakfast or even use their Stand Up Paddle boards to go into the river (they have a dog, Mel, she loves SUP, too!). They also have bikes to ride into the town (when I was there only one was working… from 5! hope they repaired them). The owner has his own small boat, so they also offer boat trips or alternative options. Staying here is a very local experience, because you will be staying with the family, who lives in the house, too.

SUP with Mel

Comfortable and central located:
If you don’t have any budget problems this is the place to go in Barreirinhas: Pousada do Buriti (from 210 R$ per night). They offer private rooms with your own terrace, a big garden, pool and super buffet breakfast, tropical way!

Restaurants & Bars

Barreirinhas is really a small town, and doesn’t offer many options regarding restaurants. Most of them are located in the promenade “Beira Rio” next to the river Preguiça. For lunch most of the restaurants offer a buffet where you can get a full plate and they weight it (around 30 R$/kg), which is typical in Brazil (but you need to be veeeeery hungry to choose this option!). The other option is the “prato feito” which is one dish for around 12 R$, and they serve it for you with rice, feijão, pasta and a piece of meat, chicken or fish. There also a few pizzerias: Pizzeria Barlavento and Restaurant O bambu.

How to get there

From Saõ Luís there are two ways to get to Barreirinhas. You can get a transfer door to door from you pousada in Saõ Luís to Barreirinhas (4 hs ride, around 60 R$ per person, and they arrange it directly in your pousada, they normally leave every morning). You can also take the bus that leaves from the main bus station: Cisne Branco (it takes around 5hs, they charge 44 R$ and it leaves at 6am, 8:45am, 2pm and 7:30 pm). You can buy your ticket directly at the main bus station the same day, a couple of hours before the bus leaves. If you are coming from Jericoacoara to the Lençois Maranhenses, you will be arriving to Tutoia, and from there you go to Barreirihnas over Paulino Neves with a 4×4 toyota (around 3 hs trip).

Useful Information

Brazilian Real exchange rate today (09/09/2015):

3,79 R$ = 1 U$
4,23 R$ = 1 EUR

Some words in Portuguese that might be useful during your stay in Lençois Maranhenses and the map of the area as well as from Barreirinhas.

cafe d’amanhã: breakfast
passeio: tour
Lençois Maranhenses: the national park with dunes and turquoise lagoons
pousada: hotel
prato feito: a typical Brazilian dish with rice, pasta, feijão and meat or fish
Rio Preguiça: the river next to Barririnha
zuco: juice
sorbete: ice cream
toyota 4×4: the 4×4 cars that take you to the national park and can drive over the dunes
lagoa: lagoon
põr do sol: sunset

barreirinhas map

 

where is alcantara

Sailing to Alcantara, a day trip from São Luís

Sometimes when you are traveling around a country and you arrive to a big city, after a few days there you need “a break”. After being in São Luís for a couple of days, I needed to scape the city: I choose Alcântara, a small and quiet town an hour and a half away by sailing boat from São Luís. Alcântara is next to the coast, has narrow stoney streets, exuberant green cliffs, amazing views and a lot of historical ruins to discover, it’s like traveling back in time…

How to get there

The best way to go to Alcântara is by boat from the small port in Sâo Luís “Terminal hidroviaria- Praia Grande” (next to the historical center). There are daily boats that leave early in the morning (between 7 and 9am, depending on the tide) and return in the afternoon, before low tide (30 R$ round trip). It’s also possible to take the boat in the morning, and come back the next day in the afternoon. For any case,  you should book your ticket one day in advance, to be sure @ what time the boat leaves because it changes almost daily.

sailing to alcantara

Getting around Alcântara

Alcântara is really small, so after a few hours strolling around you might have already seen most of it. When you arrive to the town, in front of the small harbour you will see a couple of narrow streets heading up hill, follow them and after 10 minutes walking you will arrive to the main square “Praça da Matriz”. Here you will find the ruins of the church “Igreja de São Matias” as well as the best preserved pillory of Brazil. Next to the square is the historic museum of Alcântara “Museu Casa Histórica de Alcântara” (2 R$ entry with guided tour in Portuguese) which used to be a family house built in the XIX century. The museum is worth a visit to be able to see the house and how they used to live. The views from the upper levels are very nice. Keep on walking through “Rua da Miritua” and you will be crossing the center of the town heading to another church “Igreja do Pretos”. On  your way from the harbour to the town every few meters you might see ruins of colonial houses form the XIX century which are now abandoned.

the rests of old alcantara

Across the “Igreja do Pretos” church is the small and really unexpected museum of the aerospacial center of Alcântara “Casa da Cultura Aeroespacial” (free entry) which offers miniatures of the rockets and the history of the place. The museum is really tiny, but it’s interesting to see whats going on there!!! … I really didn’t know about it and enjoyed it very much.

placa y museo

Pousadas & Restaurants

Alcântara is really a small village, so I only spend a few hours strolling around. It’s also possible to spend the night there because it has a few pousadas. Just upon arrival (you can see them from the boat), there are 2 small ones. On the other side of town you might find the Pousada dos Guarás which offers bungalows, and in town is Pousada da Josefa (Rua Direita).

In town you might find a few bars with reggae music as well as street stalls where you can buy something to eat or fresh coconut water. Next to the harbour there are 2 small basic restaurants that offer food and drinks as well as ice creams, with nice views to the sea, and a good choice, while waiting for the boat to go back to São Luís.

alcantara streets

Useful Information

Brazilian Real exchange rate today (16/08/2015):

3,48 R$ = 1 USD
3,87 R$ = 1 EUR

 

 

The map of the town

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