Updated on March 16, 2014
A geological opus 1.7 billion years in the making, Chapada Diamantina has Morro do Pai Inácio ("Father Inácio Hill"), in the Sincorá Mountain Range, as one of its most popular landmarks.
The closest towns are Palmeiras and Lençóis, about 17.5 miles southwest and southeast respectively. Tours with reliable operators can be easily arranged in Lençóis, the main gateway to Chapada Diamantina.
Morro do Pai Inácio, at an altitude of 1,150 meters above sea level, is outside the northern rim of the Chapada Diamantina National Park. It's part of the APA de Iraquara-Marimbus, an environmental protection area which also includes the Marimbus wetlands, caves (Lapa Doce, Pratinha, Torrinha) and the town of Lençóis, which is listed by IPHAN, Brazil's Artistic and Historic Heritage Institute.
Cars can go part of the way up to an entrance at the foot of the hill where donations are accepted for the site's maintenance; there is no set fee to visit at this time. It takes about 25 minutes of light to moderately difficult hiking on a trail with some boulders to reach the top of this monument in sedimentary rock, sculpted by erosion over the course of half a billion years.
Try to schedule your tour so that you can enjoy and photograph the sunrise or the sunset at the hilltop, where the 360-degree view encompasses other beautiful formations, such as Morrão.
The cross at the summit, said to have been placed there at the time when the BR-242 highway was under construction, is probably one of the most ubiquitous man-made items in the Chapada travelers' photo files.
Tales of Ambition and Desire
Somewhere along the geological saga told in the layers and folds of Chapada Diamantina, humans enter the scene. Their early rock art has been found, for example, in the area known as the Chapada Diamantina Piedmont, near Jacobina.
Minerals determined major turning points in the history of this land: first there was some gold mining, which attracted people to the area in the 18th century. Then a sample of a mineral formed in the depths of the Earth's mantle was found in the Mucugê River in 1844. That diamond, though possibly not the very first to be spotted in the area, triggered an intense mining cycle which lasted about a quarter of a century, leaving behind a new name for the region, a much larger population, abandoned settlements, a washed out land, and the tale which gave Morro do Pai Inácio its name.
Inácio, a handsome slave entrusted with the supervision of other slaves owned by a mining "colonel", got involved with the sinhá - either the master's daughter or his wife. The couple was spied in an amorous encounter by a slave, who ran off to tell the colonel in hopes of obtaining his freedom. Having killed the informer, the enraged master gave chase to Inácio, who for a while managed to hide in the hill until he inadvertently gave himself away to his pursuers by lighting a small fire.
Cornered at gunpoint, he jumped into the abyss, carrying an umbrella (hers, a parting gift) - to his complete disappearance? To a glimpsed magical escape with his beloved? The ending depends on who tells the story.
Ecotourism with adventure travel is the new story being written at Chapada Diamantina. Join in by hiring a local tour operator and exploring Morro do Pai Inácio. The attraction is one of the top choices offered by most of the area's companies.
Some Tour Agencies in Lençóis:
- Volta ao Parque
- Chapada Adventure Daniel
- Explorer Brasil
- Fora da Trilha
- Terra Chapada
- Venturas & Aventuras
- When to Go: Apart from a rainy season at the end of the Southern Hemisphere summer, Chapada Diamantina is likely to be dry, warm and sunny year long.
- Chapada Diamantina's proneness to dry weather - in 2012, it has faced one of the worst droughts in its history - makes it vulnerable to wildfires. Follow all the essentials of wildfire prevention, including maximum attention to the responsible disposal of cigarette ends.
- Check with the agency if their tour price includes a snack. Pack water and a snack of your own, bring a light jacket - it may get chilly on the hill around dusk - and wear comfortable hiking shoes, preferably with long socks if you're in shorts to avoid scratches on your legs from thorny plants growing by the trail.
- There's a family-owned pousada and restaurant at the foot of the hill, on BR-242: Pousada Pai Inácio. Even if you stay here, hire a guide to accompany you on the tour of the hill.
- Wear sunblock and a hat. Also wear mosquito repellent, especially if you're allergic to insect bites.
Next: A famous photo-op
Tour taken during a press trip with Bahiatursa. As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this article, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.