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January 29, 2008

Chapada Diamantina - Bahia


Chapada Diamantina - Bahia

Located in the heart of Bahia, Chapada Diamantina is cut by mountains, large plateaus, rivers, rapids, waterfalls, caverns and transparent pools of water. It has several springs sprouting from the rocky cliffs and more than 35 rivers – the largest are the Paraguaçu and Preto Rivers. Due to relief variations and to diverse forms of vegetation, the fauna is very rich and some species can be seen very easily, such as humming birds, parakeets, parrots, capybaras, and small lizards. It also has some small rodents, known as mocós (a kind of guinea pig) – which adapt from the feet of calcareous hills to the plateaus, over the mountain – and even some species of large mammals threatened with extinction, such as jaguars and pumas.
Chapada Diamantina

Chapada Diamantina’s attractions are innumerous, which make it difficult to choose where to start. One of these is the Enchanted Well, which receives sun rays from 10:30AM to 12:30PM, allowing the observation – through turquoise blue water – of even the tiny stones deposited 61 m deep. It is located in one of the many caverns in the area and it is the Chapada’s most famous postcard, but bathing is prohibited there.

Another very famous geographic irregularity in the Chapada is Mount Pai Inácio, a natural belvedere where it is possible to see and admire the Chapada Diamantina’s immensity, after a 20 minute walk uphill. It is located 30 km (19 miles) from downtown Lençóis, for a total walk of 5 hours.

There is also the Chapada Diamantina National Park, which occupies an area of 152,000 ha. The beauty found in the area is unique. There are trails with different levels of difficulty – many of them opened by slaves, cattle drivers, and miners – but because there are no signs, the presence of a guide is fundamental, especially on the longer trails.

On all trips, one can observe orchids, bromeliads, common immortelle and cacti – abundant vegetation in the area. But remember: the Park does not have any infrastructure for visitor support. Thus, one should always take sandwiches and water, and do not dispense the help of local tour guides. For those wanting to have a good time on each trip, do not forget bathing clothes, cap or hat, sunscreen, tennis shoes and flashlights with extra batteries – in case of visiting caves.

Sports on the Chapada
Canyoning on the Capivari waterfalls, 20 km (12 miles) from Lençóis, is one of the most sought after itineraries. The outing lasts three days and two nights, camping, and includes trekking and rappel on the waterfalls, which is 37 m high.

Fumaça waterfalls, a 48 km (30 miles) trip between Lençóis and Palmeiras, is one of the hardest outings. It lasts four days and three nights, with trekking over the Vale do Capão and tirolesa – a 60 m descent on a steel cable – and then diving into a pool of water, are part of the program.

Tourists who come to Chapada Diamantina looking for strong emotions will certainly be satisfied. Radical sports, such as cascading and caving are practiced in most waterfalls and caverns, with several levels of difficulty. Cascading on Fumaça waterfalls, in Palmeiras – a 340 m water fall and 420 m from the pool to the top – is the greatest challenge, and it is recommended only for the very experienced sportsman.

Rappel at Lapão Cave is the perfect attraction for those who never practiced this sport, but are willing to learn. The cave is 4 km (2.5 miles) from Lençóis, and rappel is practiced on the cavern’s mouth, which is more than 50 m high and 1,200 m long. For the most experienced, there is also the Mount Camelo option, one of the Chapada’s symbols, which is 1,050 m high. It is possible to do 240 m of rappel and 200 m more of cliff climbing.

Cave exploring tourism
Enchanted Well
This is a 61 m deep lake with dark blue water. The best time for visitation is between April and September, when the cave receives more sunrays, between 10:30AM and 12:30PM. To observe the well – where bathing is prohibited – it is necessary to enter 80 m into the cavern down a steep declivity.

This cavern has a great number of rare formations, like stalactites with transparent crystal and aragonite flowers. In some points it is necessary to walk crouched down. There are three tour options to visit Torrinha Cave, with different prices and durations.

Lapa Doce
This is an 850 m subterranean cave full of stalactites and stalagmites. Da Pratinha
On this tour, it is possible to visit the external lake and part of the river crossing the cave – wearing a mask and floating vest.

This is a steep cliff with a lake in the background – or a funnel-shaped depression – where the sun shines between 2:30PM and 3:30PM. This can be visited together with Pratinha because they are near each other.

Blue Well
This is a bluish colored subterranean lake. The best time for visitation is between 1:30PM and 2:30PM, and it is has easy access.

Do Lapão
This cave is made of quartzite, with a 50 m diameter entrance. It is a 3 hour walk over difficult terrain – 5 km (3 miles) starting from Lençóis.

It is the main destination for those willing to visit Chapada Diamantina. The city has good infrastructure to receive foreign and domestic tourists. It unveils itself in one of Serra do Sincorá’s spurs and its shape resembles a Nativity scene.

Lençóis was granted Historic Heritage status and is considered the capital of diamonds – one of the biggest references among Bahia’s cities connected with mining.

The houses reveal Lençóis aristocratic opulence that lived off the riches and prestige from diamonds. It is interesting to walk through the streets, observing the architectonic traces and city’s streets made of stones from the region. Another attraction is the Sá family residence, today the City Hall, a landmark of the traditional families’ riches. Besides that, Afrânio Peixoto, Lençóis doctor and writer, was born in the same house that today holds the Afrânio Peixoto Museum, which displays many of the writer’s objects, including his novel’s original writings and the ornamented uniform used by the Brazilian Academy of Letters members, to which he belonged.

Waterfall Tours
The Waterfall Tours can be done in two steps: the first one is an approximately 3 km (1.8 mile) walk that includes Cachoeirinha, Spring Fall, Halley Well, Colored Sand Room and Serrano. The second, another 3.5 km (2 mile) walk to Ribeirão do Meio. For all walks in the Chapada, it is necessary to wear a good pair of sneakers, light clothing, and take some water and sandwiches. On the longer tours, it is necessary to hire a guide and wear windbreakers for the temperature drops at the end of the afternoon.

Spring Waterfall
Located 2 km (1.2 mile) from the city of Lençois, a 45 minute walk, Spring Waterfall is the first of a series of spectacles offered by local nature. This 6 m high waterfall formed by the Grisante Creek, a Lençóis River tributary, is a cold and strong waterfall, great for massaging the body.

Halley or Paradise Well
Halley or Paradise Well, as it was originally called, is formed by the Lençóis River and it is located in a canyon. The river runs over a rocky bed and opens up wide, forming a 3 m wide by 10 m long and 2 m deep well.

Colored Sand Rooms
These are formed by the erosion of granite rocks and sandstone conglomerates, where artisans collect several hues of sand to fill bottles with several pictures offered to tourists as souvenirs. These bottles can be found in several arts and crafts stores around the area.

Serrano Well
The place, an old mine, is a natural belvedere, from where you can see the city and the São José River valley. Further ahead, this will join the first one and flow into the Paraguaçu River. The place provides an invigorating bath.

Ribeirão do Meio
Ribeirão do Meio is 3.5 km (2.17 miles) from downtown Lençóis. To get there, the preferred option for German and French tourists as well as tourists from São Paulo is a half an hour horseback ride.

Tranquility Waterfall
Tranquility (Sossego) waterfall is located exactly 8 km (5 miles) from the city – a 6 km (3.7 miles) walk along a trail and 2 km (1.3 miles) over the Ribeirão River bed.

Mount Pai Inácio
To get there you must climb a 400 m trail connecting the end of the paved road to the top of Mount Pai Inácio. From the peak, which is 1,150 m above sea level, you can see Sincorá Mountain Range, Bacia Mountain Range and Chapadinha Mountain Range. It is located approximately 30 km (19 miles) from downtown Lençóis. It is a 5 hour walk.

Mount Camelo
It is located on the Chapada’s north part, next to Mount Pai Inácio. For those willing to walk, there is a 4 km (2.5 mile) long trail. It is approximately 170 m high.

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