Every rainy season, Lençóis Maranhenses National Park in Brazil undergoes an incredible transformation: its pristine white sand dunes are seemingly flooded, overrun by gorgeous blue lagoons that springs up overnight.
Located in the Maranhão state in northern Brazil and running along the Atlantic coast, Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is home to miles of beautiful white sand dunes. The park’s name translates from Portuguese to “bedsheets of Maranhão,” a reference to the sprawling smooth sand dunes.
The park runs along more than 40 miles of coast and stretches inland for another 3o miles. With such a large expanse of sand and nearly no vegetation, it would be easy to assume this park is classified as a desert. However, deserts, by definition, receive less than 10 inches of rain in a year, and Lençóis Maranhenses National Park has an average rainfall almost five times that.
For the first half of the year, the sand dunes are the site of constant rainstorms. This rainfall gathers in the valleys between the dunes, creating an entire lagoon system that encompasses miles of interconnected leftover rainwater. Mid-year, when the water has reached its peak, the lagoons can reach an amazing depth of 10 feet.
Incredibly, these temporary water sources are not devoid of life, despite their unique method of formation. Some of the lagoons attach themselves to permanent water sources, such as nearby rivers, and fish freely move between the permanent and the temporary waters.
Once the rainy season has ended, the heat of the sun works fairly quickly, evaporating all the rainwater lagoons in the span of just a few months. The dunes are once again the area’s only fixture, returning to their status as the “bedsheets of Maranhão,” until the next year rolls around and the cycle begins again.
Visitors interested in exploring the dunes and lagoons are encouraged to stay in São Luís, the capital of Maranhão. Though the city is located a few hours away from the park, there is a system of tourist accommodations and daily bus routes that make travel from the city to the park convenient.
Once inside the park, visitors travel via foot or Jeeps with a guide to ensure they do not get lost in the miles of identical dunes. If visiting in a month with high water levels, tourists are welcome to take a dip in the lagoons, which can reach temperatures in the high 80s, thanks to the constant beating sun.