By Alison McGowan, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The northeast of Brazil is made up of the most diverse landscapes, including islands, mountain ranges, waterfalls, rivers and lakes and as one of the largest of Brazil’s states, Bahia boasts many magical off the beaten track gems to explore. The Maraú Peninsula, Vale do Capão in Chapada Diamantina, and Caraiva, are three such destinations, and all have fabulous pousadas to make for a perfect getaway.
The Maraú Peninsula in Bahia, is a narrow strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Camamu Bay, the third largest bay in Brazil. Here you can snorkel in the natural swimming pools, hike in the Atlantic rain forest or chill on the dozens of deserted beaches. Then if you crave kayaking or swimming in freshwater, head for the calm waters of the Lake of Cassange – ‘Lagoa do Cassange’.
Positioned between the lake and the ocean is the Pousada Lagoa do Cassange a beautiful collection of eco-bungalows, combining comfort with style. It is a favorite with travelers from around the world and has the bonus of being right on the beach where magnificent giant turtles lay their eggs.
Getting there for many may involve hiring 4×4 transport from Barra Grande, the main town on the peninsula, as the road is predominantly sand track, but the journey is definitely worth it, and part of the unforgettable experience.
The Vale do Capão (Capao valley) sits right in the heart of the Chapada Diamantina National Park and is arguably the most beautiful valley of them all. It is an area of outstanding flat-topped mountains and ridges, dating back 3.6 billion years, and was formerly at the bottom of the ocean.
To get to the Capao there are several options, the easiest and most convenient of which is driving (approximately six hours) from Salvador. Alternatively there is a weekly flight to Lençois- the main town in the Chapada Diamantina, or you can bus from Salvador to Lençois and take an onward connection to Palmeiras.
There are wonderful hikes to do in the Vale do Capao, including the unmissable climb up to the Cachoeira da Fumaca (Smoke Waterfall), the tallest free-fall waterfall in Brazil. All activities can be organized from the Pousada Lagoa das Cores.
Once you see the pousada though, you may just change your mind and chill by the pool, in the sauna or in the hot tub, enjoying the views and the peace and quiet.
Caraíva is a different sort of place altogether but similarly remote and beautiful. It feels like an island but it is actually a land spit divided from the mainland by the Rio Caraíva. This is an area of sand tracks and equally sandy beaches which only got electricity a few years ago.
The best (and indeed the only) transport on the “island” is the horse drawn cart which all adds to the feeling of being lost in time. Pousada Lagoa is right in the village and walking distance from the arrival point of the boats.
Here popular pastimes for travelers include boat trips up the river to the Indian reservation, and along the coast to Praia do Espelho and Praia do Curuípe. But once you have done you’ll just want to chill on the beach or watch the sunset with the locals from one of the river bars.
To get to Caraiva the best starting point is Porto Seguro in the south of Bahia and the easiest way is to hire a car and leaving the car in the very convenient and secure car-park where the boat leaves for Caraiva. An alternative is to get one of the hourly buses south to Trancoso and another on Caraiva. However, be warned- there are only two a day.