Or, should I say a hidden gem? Actually, it is both. The name Chapada Diamantina can be translated as the Diamond Highlands. It sits smack at the geographical center of the state Bahia, 249 miles from Salvador, Brazil.
If you love hiking through deep valleys and canyons, past stunning peaks, swimming in natural pools, then the isolated Chapada Diamantina National Park is clearly for you. Explore dramatic caves such as Lapa Doce. Formed by an underground river, the cave system runs over 14 miles. Some of the chambers have 66-foot ceilings. Discover unique aquatic plants and fish in the river and the beautiful lake. Not far away is Pratinha’s crystal lake with opportunities to zip line or snorkel inside Pratinha Cave; and the impressive Devil’s Pool Waterfall beckons you to take a swim.
This seems like the perfect place to get lost for a time, but the trick is to find it. You’ll need to get out your GPS to discover its location – or just ask us.
The park is close to Salvador, yet few outside the area know about it. This was not always the case. The first inhabitants of these mountains were the indigenous Brazilians. It was not discovered by Europeans until the early 1700s. The Portuguese crown was aware of gold in the northern area of Chapada Diamantina so by 1720 the government had legalized gold mining, so the quest for more gold went on for two centuries. A mere 12 years later, the Portuguese discovered diamonds were in the mountains but they did not go after them for fear of Spain’s intervention.
In 1844, a gravel of diamonds was discovered near the town of Mucugê, which brought adventurers, cowboys and all manner of get-rich characters. Lençóis, Mucugê and Andaraí were the most important booming diamond cities. But by the end of the century the diamond boom pretty much went bust along with these new towns.
But nature has given the region a second chance, having blessed these mountains with lavish waterfalls with countless cascades, where you can swim all year round in the many pools and falls because the sun is very strong both in summer and winter. There are also opportunities to do some ziplining abd.
If you want to relax a bit, you can take a break in some of the small towns of Chapada such as Lençois, which offers museums, a variety of restaurants and art galleries. Every year between August and September there is a “City Festival” with concerts, expositions and parties.
You will want to make sure you set your GPS to find this still relatively unknown diamond. Begin your Brazil exploration here.
Note: As of June 17, 2019, Brazil will no longer require visas for U.S. and Canadian citizens.