Atins, Brazil and Lençóis Maranhenses National Park
One of nature’s most beautiful off-the-beaten-path surprises!
This sleepy little village is the absolute best place to start exploring Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, and if you don’t know what or where that is, take it from me, it is the most stunning natural landscape I have ever had the privilege of visiting and photographing.
Atins has a population of 100 people, maybe. It is a sand streets village of fisherman and cattle farmers (limited) and that’s really about it. Tourism is growing steadily and my guess is it will begin to quintuple and whatever comes after that in the upcoming years. It is truly a hidden gem along the backpacker route of South America and the time to visit is now.
The town sits at the far southern border of Lençóis Maranhenses and offers the perfect walking access into the park. It is a quiet, quaint experience and great place to chill in the hammock for an afternoon, reading, sharing laughs and stories of travels past, before or after smashing out an incredible natural trip into one of the most surreal landscapes on earth.
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
This is where things get tricky. From Jericoacoara the best way to reach Atins is by private transfer in a 4×4. Sadly this is incredibly expensive and even split between four it still ended up costing me 200 reais (100usd) for a six hour ride. This can be organized in one day from any accomm in Jeri.
The second way to reach Atins is by boat from Barreirinhas. Barreirinhas is typically the launch point for visiting Lençóis Maranhenses. This is where all of the tourists go. You have 4×4 access to two lagoons and the opportunity to take a half hour flight over the park (highly recommended). The boat can be organized any day from any hostel in the town. The ride is one and a half hours and winds its way through some pretty incredible scenery before finally docking at the beach of Atins. I took the boat from Atins to Barreirinhas after my time spent in Atins. This can be organized by Rita. The coast was 40 reias per person.
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Do – Activities & Attractions
Stay – Accommodation
There are only two places to crash in Atins. Rita’s guest house and a kite surfing guest house of which I cannot remember the name. I stayed at Ritas as per the recommendation of an Australian I met in Jericoacoara. From Ritas it is possible to hire a guide to take you into the park. It was her brother who took us on a five hour walking tour to Lagoa Tropical (see photos), this is really the highlight of the stay and easy enough to organize from the guest house. Ritas also does a community pizza night once every week in her homemade stone pizza oven, amazing!
You can’t miss it, it is on the main street once you get dropped off by the boat. There is a green sign above the door and it is across from the only restaurant in town, also run by one of Ritas family members. From what I gather, she is always there, speaks Spanish, Portuguese, some English and is incredibly friendly. A truly great find.
Eat – Restaurants
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
The best time of year to visit is when the Lençóis Maranhenses Dunes carry the most water. The phenomenon of this location is due to evaporation over the Brazilian Amazon and seasonal rains passing the north east coast. Now as travellers we know that visiting a location as per annual weather patterns is increasingly changing I would say visiting Atins at any time of year is fine, however to ensure the most amount of water in the lagoons the best time of year to visit is probably July to September.
Safety – Possible risks
Atins is incredibly safe and there is no sense of danger what so ever. That being said you should always be mindful of your necessities, passport, camera, etc.
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
We paid 20 Reais per night, per person. Ritas has 8 rooms, three triples, three doubles, and two mat. She also has space for about 10 hammocks strung in the common area out back by the pizza oven. I believe a hammock accomm goes for 10 Reias per night. She has a few but bringing your own is recommended.
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
Reality Check – Be Aware
Getting to and from Atins is not cheap. It is an extremely remote location and any transport in or out will cost you, although super worth it for the walking and camping ops throughout the southern part of the park.
There are not many options for places to crash and activities to do. Really your best bet is three days, two nights maximum. The day tour to Lagoa Tropical is a must do and if you are a keen kite surfer, the winds here are great and the waters shallow.
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Have you ever come across a landscape that was so vast it never seemed to end? What type of environment was it (desert, forest, ocean, etc)? Did you feel like you owned the planet, or were just a small spec in the middle of a massive mosaic?
Please feel free to share your stories and thoughts in the comment section below!