Chapada Diamantina: last-minute planning at its finest

We spent the first part of this segment in the beautiful city of Salvador, capital of the Brazilian state of Bahia and what many consider the cultural capital of Brazil.


Now, we can finally escape the burning question that’s been running through our heads nonstop:

With its historic colonial center of Pelourinho and its dramatic, rocky shoreline, Salvador was a beautiful city that we could have spent much longer in. In fact, we'd originally planned to stay there for a week. But, after two nights, we did a little more investigating and decided to take an epic detour.

Heard you like buses

Early the next morning, we hopped a bus to the town of Vale do Capão, right in the heart of Chapada Diamantina national park.

We’d read a footnote on a wikitravel page that recommended we skip the town of Lençóis, which is the more common jumping off point for trips to the park, and press on. As the bus left Lençóis and its sheet metal signs advertising cheap hamburgers, we wondered if we should have just hopped off while we were still in civilization.

Luckily, after one more hour of busing and an incredibly bumpy hour in a van, we arrived in Vale do Capão to a scene that looked like 'Avatar' meets Pixar’s 'Up.' And because we’d ventured this far into the park, all our hikes over the next few days would begin from our doorstep, instead of with a tour bus. Win!

Storm Waterfall

First, we set off on a trek to the feature that inspired this trip: Cachoeira da Fumaça. Meaning ‘storm waterfall,’ the falls are so high (1000 ft) that the wind carries the water away before it ever hits the ground.

We scrambled up a steep trail and crossed a plateau for 5 miles before being rewarded with an epic view of the waterfall below.


The low clouds and breezes created constantly changing shadows and views. After enjoying the vista and a pack of melty M&M’s, we bikram hiked our way back down to the bottom and inhaled an icy acai bowl.


Down in the valley

The next day we decided to take a trail that offered a panoramic view of our valley home. The instructions for this hike called for mountain biking to the end of the road before hiking up past the tree line. They also mentioned two picturesque waterfalls along the way, but our lack of compass skills (and lack of compass) led us to skip those. Half a day of climbing later, we turned around and paused to enjoy a stunning view back through the valley as well as a cherished, molten Snickers bar.


After clambering back down the rocks and maintaining a death grip on the handle bars for the bike ride back home, we tucked into our new local favorite: chicken parm for two.

Chapada Matada

Chapada Diamantina was much, much more than we expected and hoped for after a fateful Google Image search for “cool Brazil national parks.” After enjoying some of the big name destinations in Brazil, it was fun to spend some quiet time in a place that attracts more Brazilian visitors than international ones. Our advice for any future, English speaking tourists is to keep smiling and asking for “Vale do Capão” until you eventually find yourself in this incredible place.


Up Next

We’re headed 200 miles off to coast of Brazil to the small island of Fernando de Noronha.