Northeast: Lençóis Maranhenses, Jericoacoara
Brazil, a country slightly smaller than the United States has been a mystery to outsiders for years. Images of scantily clad beauties, lush rainforest, relentless drug gangs and dismal poverty plaster international magazines and newspapers without really revealing anything else extraordinary about the country. While these stereotypes obviously exist, there’s a lot more to Brazil than soccer, samba and Copacabana beach. Currently, with hordes of international attention from the mega-sporting events, the country is slowly becoming recognized for it’s incredibly impressive landscapes.
The northern, southern, eastern and western corridors of Brazil couldn’t be more different than regions in the U.S. or Europe. The north is predominantly Afro-Brazilian where religions like Candomble and dances like Capoeira rule the hot, arid and extremely poor region. Further west lays the endangered rainforest where rivers gush with sediment and treetops scrape the clouds. Stretching to the east sits cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo where life for some is full of privilege, while the remaining finds existence nearly impossible. Yet, they all occupy the same tropical beaches and steamy asphalt sidewalks usually with ease and little conflict. The south of the country could easily be mistaken for parts of Western Europe with grassy hills, cool temperatures, and large immigrant enclaves of Germans and Italians.
For Latin America travel enthusiasts all these regions are spectacular and worthy of exploration. Nonetheless, if you seek remote places whose sole existence serves to allure the eyes and calm the mind, a trip to the Northeast is a certainly a trek you will not regret.
The splendors of the Northeast region of Brazil, from the state of Bahia north to Maranhão, seem worlds away from the boisterous cities. Wild beaches, fine sand, historic cities and tranquilo attitudes are classic characteristics that merely skim the outer shell of Northeastern adventures.
Salvador, Natal and Fortaleza are all heavily traveled urban destinations in the region and well known outside Brazil. Nevertheless, destinations like Lençóis Maranhenses and Jericoacoara are beginning to attract international tourists who crave a paradisiacal escape from the populous beaches like Ipanema and Florianopolis without the costly price tag.
Though, both spots are popular amongst off-the-map travelers, they are quite tricky to reach due to the indirect sandy paths. Visiting Lençóis and Jeri (local nickname for Jericoacoara) requires some planning and flexibility, as the path between the two is not well defined.
The Lençóis Maranhenses are white sweeping sand dunes bending 1,500 square kilometers around green lagoons that closely resemble the Arabian Desert. Jeeps rip through the thick forest before arriving at the edge of the oases where clouds swallow the sky and white sand form hills before your eyes. The park’s vastness, silence and the unique colors lure visitors to explore the grounds, sunbath and ponder the creation of these sand mounds.
After spending a few days in Barreirinhas, the longest leg of the journey to Jeri will require at least one day of traveling. The 385 kilometer trip is long and bumpy due to the sand roads and frequent stopping to allow herds of animals to cross.
The village of Jeri is unpretentious with its semi-Caribbean vibe and naturally stunning landscape. Fresh restaurants, boutique hotels, dive bars and youth hostels align the sandy alleys where locals and tourists mingle, dance and drink caipirinhas every night at dusk. People are kind. Beach is plenty. Activity is everywhere. And somewhere in between the hours, the mind gently drifts out to the Atlantic.
The real world seems light-years away when the sun is setting over the sand dunes in Lençóis or across the horizon in Jeri. The mind is free of external influences and pent up energies we gather from living in cities. In places like Lençóis and Jeri, we are left to think or not think in peace without judgment and in communities of travelers and strangers all of who possess so much love and gratitude for where they are at that very moment.
KENDALL grew up in New England, yet started traveling at a young age and developed an internal compass which has grown into a voracious appetite for exploration. Throughout her travels learned to foster an open-mind, be kind to everyone and never just take one picture, but thousands. She is passionate about writing, photography and being around those she holds near and dear to her heart. Follow her here: www.instagram.com/kennie_lane