Stretching on for miles upon miles, the picture-perfect sand dunes in Brazil’s Lençóis Maranhenses National Park are so vast and so blindingly white that it’s easy to see how the park got its name—Lençóis Maranhenses, in Portuguese, literally means “bedsheets of Maranhão,” the northeastern coastal state where the national park is found.
At first glance, this stunning landscape looks like a desert —miles and miles of sand with almost no vegetation. But in reality it’s not a desert—Lençóis Maranhenses gets about 47 inches of rain each year, making it too rainy to be officially considered a desert (which get less than ten inches a year). From the months of January to June, the area is inundated with torrential rainstorms. Rainwater pools in the valleys between the dunes creating thousands of crystal clear lagoons.
In July, when the park’s lagoons are at their peak, some reach over 300 feet long and ten feet deep. Visitors can swim in the lagoons if the water level is high enough—water temperatures in some lagoons have been measured as high as 87° F.
Interconnecting lagoons combine with neighbouring rivers, opening up channels so that fish can explore the pools, but the experience is short-lived, as once the dry season starts, the lakes vanish without a trace.