Chapada Diamantina: The Diamond Plateau
Bahia is well known for its sparkling beaches, rich cuisine, and an abundance of cultural treasures.
All these aside, the state’s rugged interior hides one of the national park system’s greatest jewels: the varied landscape of Chapada Diamantina (Diamond Plateau) National Park.
This hidden treasure is adorned with sparkling caves and subterranean pools, silvery waterfalls, and resplendent jasper-hued mountains.
In the 19th century, Chapada Diamantina prospered through gold and diamond mining.
Today, the former boomtowns of Lençois (northeast of the park) and Rio das Contas (to the southwest) serve as bases for trekkers, climbers, and spelunkers.
Established in 1985, Chapa Diamantina’s 587 square miles protect a long section of the Serra da Garapa and Serra do Sincorá mountains, along with their surrounding river valleys.
Among the region’s most famous sites are:
Morro do Pai Inacio
A mesa offering panoramic, postcard-worthy views of the tabletop mountains at the park’s northern limit.
Like many of the region’s mountains, Pai Inacio is the subject of local legend—this one a love story between a slave and a colonel’s wife.
Cachoeira da Fumaça
The Smoke Waterfall plunges 1,150 feet, dissipating into vapor before reaching the rocks below.
This is reportedly Brazil’s highest single-drop waterfall.
Gruta do Lapão
One of the largest quartzite caves in the Americas.
Located three miles north of Lençois, this cave can be reached either by a steep trail or a 150-foot rappel. Its interior is over one-half mile from entrance to exit.
The Caves Circuit
This day trip from Lençois visits three caverns:
- Poço do Diabo (Devil’s Well)
- Gruta Azul (Blue Cave)
- Lapa Doce (Sweet Cave)
This cave tour can also include swimming at the natural pool of Pratinha (Little Silver).
From April to September, sunlight enters this cavern, causing its cerulean pool to glow.
Serra das Paridas
A complex of ancient settlements, home to 18 distinct archeological sites. Cave paintings here are thought to date back over 6,000 years.
Visitors can end the day with a refreshing swim below the Mosquito Waterfall (deceptively named and well worth the effort).
Vale do Paty
A lush river valley offering natural pools, waterfalls and ghost towns, connected by challenging trekking and climbing routes.
Chapada Diamantina lies roughly 250 miles due west of Salvador da Bahia.
Getting to Chapada Diamantina
Flights connect Salvador’s airport (SSA) to Horacio de Mattos Airport (LEC) in the town of Tanquinho, 16 miles northeast of Lencois and the national park.
Flight times average 50 minutes and are typically scheduled on Sunday or Thursday.
Private charter flights—helicopter or fixed-wing—can be arranged any day of the week.
Alternatively, the drive from Lencois to Salvador takes about six hours.
Chapada Diamantina Climate
Chapada Diamantina enjoys a fairly constant range of temperatures with highs near 85ºF and overnight lows near 60ºF to 65ºF.
The wettest months are November to April, with monthly rainfall averages of 6 to 7 inches.
During the May to October dry season, monthly rainfall rarely exceeds three inches.
“The truth is that it is natural, as well as necessary, for every man to be a vagabond occasionally.”
Samuel H. Hammond