1. Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, Maranhão State
The Brazilian Sahara? Not quite. Located on the outskirts of the Amazon basin, the Lençóis Maranhenses National park looks like a desert but isn’t. This majestic land of rippling dunes situated just east of Baía de São Joséo decadently spreads like a creamy gelato or silky sheets of sand (Lençóis actually means bedsheets) across an area the size of Rhode Island. During the rainy season the land collects rain water in the valleys between the dunes creating spectacular natural pools of fresh water and a visual masterpiece.
2. Roraima, Mount Roraima on the border of Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana
Mount Roraima is one of the oldest natural formations on the planet tracing back over two billion years. So old that it is central to the mythology of the indigenous people of the area-the Pemon and Kapon. They tell parables of the plateau being the former stump of a grand tree that once held all the fruits and tuberous vegetables in the world and about the pterodactyls that once lived on the plateau. Today the area remains the least populated state of Brazil with fewer than 500 000 inhabitants and was featured in a modern story on the big screen- the animated movie ‘Up.’
3. Chapada Diamantina, Bahia
Dubbed the Lost World, Chapada Diamantina is like a Disney World of everything nature has to offer in one mammoth park. it is a surreal mix of countless underground rivers, dozens of glorious waterfalls, mountains, plateaus, savannah, rainforest, high peaks, caves, pools and a giant natural water slide you have to see to believe.
4. Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina
Situated between two of the largest cities in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo is Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, an especially unique and rich strip of the proteced Atlantic oceanic forest. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a lush and intricate 104 thousand hectares of rare and nearly extinct species of fauna and flora, wildlife and diverse landscapes. Not to be missed is the Gold Trail (Trilha do Ouro), which offers hikers a 3 day exploration of the historic path that links the park to São José do Barreiro Parati- just mindful of the jaguars, capuchin monkeys, sloths, marmosets, hawks, and eagles that may cross your path.
5. Mamiraua Reserve, near Tefé
The Mamirauá Reserve along the Rio Solimões is the largest flooded forest ecosystem in Brazil and one of the most unique places to view the wildlife of the Amazon. Just a 90-minute boatride from Tefé, Mamirauá is one of the best places to see the Amazon in all it’s splendor- overflowing with pink dolphins, sloths, rare scarlet-faced uakari monkey, macaws and toucans. In the rainy season (January–April) the area becomes a várzea ( flooded forest) the water rises to the trees and local tourguides lead vistors around the area by canoe. During the dry season, the rest of the year, the water subsides and vistors hike on foot. A true exhibit of sustainable development, the local community directly maintains and benefits from the fiscalization, maintence and research of the reserve.