At the northeastern tip of Brazil lies a sandy oasis that transforms with the seasons: Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.
In the winter, the stark white-sanded park — which when translated from Portuguese literally means “bedsheets of Maranhão,” the state where the park resides — resembles more of a harsh desert than a tropical wellspring. Once the rainy season takes over in the summer months, the 600-square-mile expanse becomes a seemingly endless range of sand punctuated by turquoise-blue pools. Like Canada’s Spotted Lake, it’s hard to believe that this isn’t the product of some Photoshop alchemy.
What’s behind the park’s shifting appearance? Wind and tidal patterns. Two nearby rivers, the Parnaíba and Preguiças, carry sand toward the northern coast of Brazil, where they deposit thousands of tons of sediment. During the dry season, tides and swift winds whip this sediment in the opposite direction, ultimately moving the dunes further inland and creating the carefully sculpted dunes that have made the park a popular travel destination.