Imagine powdery white sand dunes that go on seemingly forever, dotted by dark turquoise lagoons. It may sound like something out of a surrealist painting, but this distinctive landscape is very real—and you can experience it yourself when you visit Lençóis Maranhenses National Park in Brazil. As part of a travel series at The James, we’re spotlighting this unique destination, which is one of the places we’re most excited to visit in the future.

Dunes and Lagoons
With Rio de Janeiro hosting next summer’s Olympics, Brazil is on many people’s travel radar. But this South America country has much more to offer than Carnival and capoeira. Venture outside Brazil’s major cities, and you’ll find lush rainforests, steep mountain ranges, and other intriguing topography. One of our favorite areas to explore there? Lençóis Maranhenses National Park. Located in coastal northeastern Brazil, the park features miles of sweeping white sand dunes that resemble linens hung out to dry (its name means “bed sheets” in Portuguese).

But don’t let those dunes fool you. Lençóis Maranhenses National Park isn’t a desert at all. In fact, the park gets plenty of rain—enough to form thousands of crystal blue and green lagoons between dunes for several months of the year. The result is a vibrant landscape that’s perfect for exploring, trekking, and—when the water is high enough—swimming.

If You Visit
The best time to visit Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is between July and September, when the lagoons are at their fullest and the weather is still temperate. To visit, fly into Luís, the capital of Maranhão. Then book a tour or take public transportation to the town of Barreirinhas, just outside the park. From there, you’ll be taken to the park in a Jeep. Because of the size of the park, you’ll need to use a guide to prevent getting lost. Dedicate at least two days to explore, and bring your bathing suit: If the water is high enough, you can swim or just relax in the warm lagoons.

Book a room at The James and visit us in New York or Chicago next time you’re traveling domestically.

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