Chapada Diamantina has plenty of trails to explore, but many of them are unmarked or have an unclear route, so regardless if you speak Portuguese or are an avid hiker, you’ll need help. Avoid the stress of getting lost in the wilderness without cell service and hire a guide. This is especially important for overnight treks. In addition to keeping you from getting lost, your guide can arrange stays in local homes if you’re not the camping type.
It would take months to discover all the trails and excursions in Chapada Diamantina. The variety of excursions available in and around the park is dizzying. Enlist help from hotel (or hostel) staff on reputable companies with multi-lingual guides to narrow down options to what fits time, budget, and desires. Because the park is expansive, you should plan out your trip ahead of time to make sure you have time for what’s on your list. You’ll need at least four days to enjoy Chapada Diamantina, and consider making a stop at the caves with gorgeous blue waters, like Gruta Azul. The caves are formed by underground rivers and slow erosion, and the water get its intense blue color from mineral deposits. To explore these caves you’ll need a guide, so check with your hotel staff for help.
Tour agencies will certain have their set prices, but Brazilians are often comfortable with bargaining, so it may be worth trying. Note that arranging for a private guide should be more affordable than an agency as there’s no commission fee. Remember to be respectful but firm.
A few small towns near the park offer travelers what need to start their exploring. The most popular is Lençóis, an old mining town with cobblestone streets and old mountain charm—with a Brazilian twist, of course. Plenty of tour companies set up excursions around the area. Approximately 50 miles (80 kilometers) south is Vale do Capão with another small town called Caete-Açu, which has a slight hippie feel. This spot is closer to the park, making it easier for one-day excursions, but it is a little less structured than Lençóis. Either town is a suitable base for getting out and seeing Chapada Diamantina in all its glory.
The benefits of the park’s enormous size is there’s something to please everyone. The downside: it’s so large you will probably want a car to get around. Hitchhiking is an option, but it’s an unreliable one. Consider going with friends to offset the cost of a rental car and to get a better group deal on tour opportunities. Often single travelers may not be able to arrange a guide just to take one person, so the more the merrier.
Chapada Diamantina is a national park of epic proportions. It’s larger than some countries and covers diverse land. It’s home to the largest number of caves and waterfalls in all of Brazil and can leave an explorer feeling lost as to what to see first. Take time to consider what you really want to see, whether its the mountain views or the valley trails. Maybe cave diving is at the top of your list—or a multi-day camping trek. You may not have time to see it all, but whatever you see will be memorable.
Many of Chapada Diamantina’s best-known views are atop a plateau with sweeping valley view, but the area is also home to an astonishing number of Brazil’s caves, some with super-clear, still waters that can be explored with specialty swimming or diving tours. The deep blue color of the water makes for a #nofilter kind of photo.
Although Brazil is known for its bronzing beaches, Chapada Diamantina is far from the coast, and temperatures can drop quickly, particularly at higher altitudes. Pack in layers and prepare for sun, rain, and cooler temps. Pack sunscreen, bug spray, and a water bottle for hikes, and most importantly, wear comfortable shoes.
Speaking of shoes, for those not accustomed to hiking, it’s best to start prepping well before arriving in Chapada Diamatina. Take some long walks or practice hikes while carrying the weight you plan to have on the trails, whether that’s a small backpack or full camping pack, and wear the shoes you plan to bring on the trip to break them in. You’ll be better suited to enjoy all those stunning vistas if you’re not sweating it.
Another reason to have a guide is the lack of connectivity. Your guide will be able to make arrangements for you sans cell service, which is essential in the park. Of course, there will be an extraordinary amount of opportunities to take Instagram-worthy shots on a trip to Chapada Diamantina, so definitely bring a camera. But know that cell phone service in the park is spotty at best, so save your Snaps for another time. This is the perfect opportunity to leave your phone on airplane mode for a bit, disconnect, and enjoy nature without distraction.