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Chapada Diamantina

Brazil has incredibly diverse landscapes. Away from the “clichés” and postcards of fine sandy beaches and coconut palms, Chapada Diamantina will make you experience a different Brazil. This region in the heart of the largest state in the Nordeste, Bahia, invites you to step back, to reach new heights and depths. Much like the famous Monument Valley and the landscapes of Utah or Arizona, these flattop mountains attract many hikers who are curious to discover this grandiose and unique landscape that no one gets tired of.

Even if we know the thousand-year-old geological processes that have shaped this landscape, the impression of being surrounded by rock formations that are still moving and that have emerged from the earth’s crust remains strong. The desire to unravel this mystery will keep you amazed.

Geography and climate

Brazil - Chapada Diamantina - SunsetWe are more than 400 kilometers from the state capital, Salvador de Bahia, and we have left sea level for altitudes that on average are over 1000 meters. The Barbados Peak is the highest at 2033 meters.

This terrain combined with a logically more continental climate described as warm tropical results in a rather dry region even though the dominant color of this National Park is still green. It rains enough to make the landscapes even more beautiful but not enough to establish a time of year less suitable for a visit: the Chapada Diamantina is open all year round !

While rain is light or absent from May to August, it is present and welcome (but never for very long) the rest of the year.
When you come to hike here you will encounter a variety of natural sceneries that make the multi-day treks varied and entertaining. Diverse forests, arid savanna, rocky fields, caves with astonishing colors, rivers sometimes reddish because of their tannins, waterfalls of all sizes… This is a non-comprehensive overview of the panorama that awaits you.

Chapada Diamantina - Brésil

A few words about Chapada Diamantina

O Garimpo

Brazil - Chapada Diamantina - Typical houseA former mining region, it owes its development to diamond exploration in particular. Its golden age was also marked by characters comparable to those in the best western movies: garimpeiros et jagunços made their law prevail with guns. Typical cities, such as Lençóis, still reflect this period.
With the depletion of mining resources, the region has fortunately found its salvation in the development of its extraordinary tourist potential. O sertão Baiano, one of the best hiking destinations (often cited as the best trek in Brazil), Chapada Diamantina and with it the Capão and Pati valleys, real gems of this former mining region, offer you an immersion in the hinterland that contrasts with the more usual visits of the Brazilian coast.

A set of ecosystems, a region different from the rest of Brazil

Here, surrounded by canyon landscapes, flattop mountains, caatinga, waterfalls, narrow and steep paths, you will discover a whole set of ecosystems which stands out compared with the rest of Brazil. With temperatures as low as 15ºC, cool nights further emphasize the warm welcome of the locals who will host you and whose delicious meals you will share (let’s not forget that we are in Bahia).

From heights to depths

Chapada Diamantina, Brazil - pai inacio table mountainsAt the very top”, in the middle of these tabular reliefs with their distinctive shapes, you can discover Pai Inácio, the symbolic summit of the region which culminates at 1,120 meters and offers you a breathtaking view of the valley. These heights produce numerous and sometimes spectacular waterfalls, such as the Cachoiera da Fumaça, Brazil’s second highest waterfall which is 340 metres high. How magical when the water turns into smoke at the bottom!

“Down below” you can also discover wells with crystal clear waters and caves of moving beauty such as the Poço Encantado.

Our expert opinion

It is not the destination that counts but the journey that leads to it

Brazil - Chapada Diamantina - trekkersSuch is the experience we offer you here. Come and walk these paths during treks through the Valley do Pati for example, lasting 3 to 7 days. These trails will certainly lead you to viewpoints, caves with unsuspected treasures, sights that will remind you of some of the scenes from James Cameron’s Avatar but you will probably remember the nights with your hosts the most, the picnics, swimming in waterfalls and the intense walks (sometimes for a full day) that give full meaning to the principle of reward after effort !

The Chapada Diamantina as seen by Lucas, our photographer

Brazil - Chapada Diamantina - Poco Azul blue caveOnce at the bottom of a staircase that descends into the forest to reach a cave, the blue light and purity of the water takes your breath away. It is almost difficult to appreciate the 60 meters depth and 100 metres width of this basin as its vision is abstract. The bottom of the water mixes with the reflection of the walls and the unique sunlight arches into the water. The color is a surprisingly bright blue due to limestone sediments in the water. The atmosphere in the cave is almost divine…


Choosing another Brazil​

Chapada Diamantina shifts away from the exotic seaside image known throughout the world for a much more contrasting vision of the country than previously imagined. If you are among the travelers who like to discover a country in its diversity then dedicate a good week of your trip to visiting this place.

And even if you don’t necessarily have the desire or energy to go on long hikes, you should know that day trips will probably satisfy you just as much. Some of the jewels described here such as the Fumaça Fall are accessible without the need to walk for several days.

Charming “Base Camps”

Chapada Diamantina - Restaurants street - lencoisWhether you are going on a multi-day trek or a day trip, you will have the choice of resting and stopping over in charming small towns like Lençóis or Caeté Açu (also called Vale do Capão). The choice of one or the other will depend largely on the regions of Chapada you have chosen to visit, your timing as well as the mode of discovery that suits you best.

Lençois: colonial, pretty, authentic, festive, artistic….cosmopolitan. A small jewel carefully tended for trekkers from all over the world. It’s all there !

Vale do Capão (Caeté Açu) :sincere, humble, local, proud in front of her “big sister”.

Why you should visit Chapada Diamantina

  • To return from Brazil with a better knowledge of its diversity
  • Rediscover the sweet sensation of slightly lower temperatures before returning to the sun of the north-eastern coasts
  • Discover the valley that is beginning to make a name for itself among trekkers around the world, the “Vale do Pati“, a true treasure
  • Live unforgettable moments during the stopovers with the locals
  • For a complete immersion in inland Brazil
  • Rediscover or discover the sensations of wide open spaces, the power of the elements, distant horizons

Information and anecdotes

Reversal of currents

The Cachoeira Fumaça or “Smoke Cascade”,owes its name to the fact that the water seems to evaporate before it even touches the ground. Depending on the flow of the waterfall and on the strength of the winds it is possible to witness an amazing phenomenon: the wind blowing on the vertical wall reverses the flow of water which then seems to go up the waterfall instead of falling down!

A ghost city

At the time of diamond exploration, Igatu had a population of more than 10,000. Today it is a village of a few hundred souls with partly abandoned houses and difficult roads that can still be visited.

To go further…

Read the description of the Chapada Diamantina that Jean-Paul Delfino gives us in our “Travel diaries” section: terra-nordeste.com/en/chapada-diamantina-seen-by-jean-paul-delfino/