Chapada Diamantina National Park
The National Park was created in 1985 to protect Serra do Cincorá and to attract growing number of ecotourists.
This scenery mountain range includes mountains, valleys, monoliths, caves, rivers and waterfalls. Highest parts of the park raise over 2000 meters above sea level (average being 1000m above sea level) and offer breathtaking views. The area is about 400km inland, west of Salvador in Bahia state in the Northeast region of Brazil in the middle of the dry sertão (back-country plains).
It is an important water source with many rivers starting here. These rivers make incredible waterfalls as they fall off the vertical walls of the mountains. The vegetation is of open grassy fields with isolated trees (similar to the African savannah) with some thicker vegetation along the rivers.
Flora and fauna
At the top of the flat top hills the vegetation is particularly weird and fantastic. Wildlife is not very easy to spot. Apart from humming birds and vultures you are unlikely to see the anteaters or jaguars which live here.
Another option is to go to Vale do Capão which is at walking distance of many places of interest, and more quiet than Lençóis.
Coaches are clean, comfortable (good reclining seats) and air conditioned. The bus’ suspension also deals with the potholes and lumps better than a car’s. There’s a conductor as well as driver aboard.
Vale do Capão
You do not need to pay for the National Park. However, for some places you need to pay an entrance fee (e.g. when they are located on private property).
The best sights and experiences will be found on walks into the mountains. These can be short excursions (eg to see the Fumaça waterfall) or longer treks such as a 4-5 day Capão and Pati Valley hike.
Trekking and hiking
You should plan at least three days to go there. On the way you can stay in the houses of families providing food and basic accommodation. It is best to go with a local guide, who can also organise the home stays. This way you also support the local community.
If you do not have much time and/or do not want to spend money for a guide, you can do several day hikes from Vale do Capão. The following ones all take about 3-4 hours to go and get back. As long as you have an offline map and GPS, you do not need a guide for these:
Visit a cave
Godó de banana is a must try when visiting Chapada Diamantina. It's a dish created by the prospectors of diamonds who first inhabited the region and consists of: unripe cooked bananas, different types of meat (including sausage, dry/jerked beef and bacon), tomatoes, parsley and spring onions.
In this region one can find all kinds of flavoured cachaças, some found nowhere else in Brazil.
Lençois is the most developed town in the Chapada Diamantina thanks to its accessible position and to its history as a wealthy mining and trading town in the C19th and beyond. If you stay at the very pretty Hotel Canto dos Aguas, it’s a 2 minute walk into the town, crossing a smart bridge into the town square (Praça Nagôs).
Since commercial agriculture and mining is now banned in the National Park, the remaining handful of families in the Pati Valley make a living providing accommodation to hikers. They are basic, but impressive in the circumstances and more comfortable and responsible than camping. Maps of the Chapada have the few houses marked on it and labeled with the names of their inhabitants.
A couple of cheap Posadas are also available in Palmeiras, starting from 10 real, but not much point staying here, better head straight to Vale do Capão. Jeeps do the trip for 15 real usually, but if you charter the vehicle they will charge 50 real.
Vale do Capão : Many places to stay to all budgets. If you facy camping go to Pousada Sempre Viva, you get plenty of room for your tent, plus cement bungalows and cheap rooms with toilet.
Inside the National Park in the Vale do Paty trail you can camping in locals houses, they will charge you between 5-6 real pp and give you firewood and kitchen to use. Otherwise you can camp anywhere else, but beware of camping close to a river, because of flashfloods. Few people have drowned already.
In Vale do Capão, best place to camp is Pousada Sempre Viva, from 7 real camping, but you can haggle for longer stays.
Keep in mind that evening storms are quite frequent in the area.