Fly to Salvador, a tropical melting pot of Afro-Brazilian culture and one of Brazil's finest colonial cities. You’ll have a walking tour of the atmospheric historic core. This multi-coloured Portuguese colonial heart of Brazil’s most exotic city throbs with drum and dance.
Next, you’ll drive inland to the forested Chapada Diamantina, a national park studded with table-top mountains and run through with crystalline rivers: at its heart is the laid-back little town of Lençois. It is magnificent walking country and you’ll be able to explore its caves, waterfalls and rocky hills.
On the island of Tinharé is the village of Morro de São Paulo, accessible by catamaran, which is traffic-free and has a string of pousada-dotted beaches accommodating at one end tranquillity seekers and the other beach party fanatics. You have three full days of leisure here: swing in a hammock, fruity cocktail in hand, or swim in the warm sea.
Day 1 Arrive in Salvador. Transfer to hotel in the colonial centre.
Transfer to your guesthouse close to the Pelourinho in the historic colonial centre.
Day 2 Half day walking tour of historic Salvador da Bahía.
The city of Salvador is the most exotic in the country, where the influence of Portuguese colonial architecture and culture blends with the African traditions imported by the slaves brought in to work on the plantations. The compact historic core has recently been renovated and is crammed full of colourful colonial mansions, churches and museums, all clustered around a large open space known as the pelourinho, which is the heart of the city.
You’ll have a private guided walking tour of this quarter, best discovered on foot. The area is enlivened with bars, shops and restaurants, and you can expect spontaneous eruptions of music at every turn. The local cuisine is very much a product of the region and its cultural mélange: you can try out any number of dishes at the many eateries in town.
Day 3 Public coach to Lençois in the Chapada Diamantina National Park.
Transfer to the bus station for a modern public coach journey (6hrs) to Lençois in the Chapada Diamantina, 420km from Salvador. The pretty, colonial town of Lençois is set in the heart of the Chapada Diamantina, 420km from Salvador. It is a well-watered land of densely vegetated beauty set close to the dusty Sertão desert. The national park's most distinctive features are the table-like mountains which define its topography.
It has a hot climate all year around, which makes visiting its natural pools, rivers and delightful waterfalls an even more welcoming attraction. Lençois was the centre of a diamond rush in the 19th century but since the 1980s the accent has been on ecotourism. Your hotel is convenient for visits to the many gift shops, family-style restaurants and bars in this friendly low-key little town, until recently the preserve of hippies and New Age aficionados.
Day 4 Full day tour of Chapada Diamantina National Park.
After breakfast there's a full day tour of the Chapada Diamantina. Drive from Lencois to the Mucugezinho river, and trek to the black lake of Poço do Diabo. From here there's a chance to visit Lapa Doce cave, which involves about an hour's walking underground. You’ll also visit Pratinha Cave, a beautiful subterranean river and lake. Later, drive to Pai Inacio plateau and walk the last 500m (20mins) for some very rewarding views.
Day 5 Full day trek to Sossego waterfalls.
You’ll probably work up a sweat on this moderately strenuous guided walk to these lovely falls. There’s an uphill three-hour trek (in each direction), in part over boulders, with stops to cool off in natural pools en route. After a picnic lunch, return towards Lençois, stopping at Ribeirão do Meio, a natural waterslide. The brave-hearted can toboggan down the slippery rock surface, or swim in the lagoon below. In the event of heavy rain, the trail to the Sossego may not be possible and an alternative excursion may be offered.
Day 6 Public coach to Salvador.
Take the public coach service back to Salvador.
Day 7 Catamaran boat crossing to Morro de São Paulo and its beaches.
Embark on a catamaran for a trip across the bay to Morro de São Paulo. This is a relaxed fishing village on the northern tip of the tropical island of Ilha de Tinharé. It is surrounded by an old Portuguese fort wall which is a popular spot to enjoy the sunset or spot dolphins. There are no roads or cars as such - just a few dirt tracks, one of which leads down to the start of 4 picture postcard palm-fringed beaches fringed with coconut palms. The village has a relaxed barefoot atmosphere with numerous informal restaurants, shops and an evening crafts market.
Days 8-10 At leisure on the beach.
Day 11 Catamaran to Salvador, transfer to airport for international flight home.
• Walking Tour of Historic Salvador.
• Full day tour of Chapada Diamantina National Park.
• Full day intensive trek to Sossego waterfalls.
• Catamaran boat crossing.