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You’ve already read how in just one week, I fell deep under Jericoacoara’s spell. While the tiny, remote Brazilian beach town had charm in spades, most people were drawn to what lay beyond its borders — miles upon miles of endless, untamed sand dunes, their shapes changing with the whims of the wind.

To explore them, you’ll need a set of wheels. From what I discovered, the tourism industry in Jeri is still quite underdeveloped and most “tours” are arranged on a whim. If you’re traveling solo like I was, you’ll need to form a group of your own before approaching a tour operator or they are likely to shrug you off.

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

Thankfully, I was adopted by a group of a dozen Israelis who arranged two separate days exploring on ATVs for us. The first day we had a slightly smaller group than the second, and each paid 140R ($40US), while for our second outing we each paid 115R ($33). My newfound travel tribe were excellent negotiators, I should note — I have no doubt we would have paid more had I been the one in charge of setting a rate.

In general, it appears there are two general routes the guides will lead you on — one to the east, and one to the west. You could also tackle either of these routes in a buggy with your guide behind the wheel, if you didn’t feel like self-driving. In our case, the guides zoomed ahead on monster-sized dirt bikes, leading the way for our caravan of ATVs.

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

On our first day, we went west. I have to admit that I’m not the most comfortable behind the wheels of an ATV — I’ve had a few friends get in serious accidents in the last few years and well, I just feel vulnerable bouncing around on this big ‘ol hunk of metal that could flip over and crush me any second.

So I was more than happy to be a passenger on this little excursion, though within moments I could tell that at the speeds my crew was driving, I was going to spend a lot of the day screaming with my eyes clenched shut.

Our first stop was in the hamlet of Mangue Seco. It’s not every day you get to use the word hamlet, but in this case it seems the only descriptor appropriate for the blip on the map that Mangue Seco was.

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

Water levels were high in the area at the time, and so we eventually reached a standstill where our ATVs had to be loaded onto precarious rafts and pushed across the water onward. On the other side, our guide asked us if we wanted to take a short boat trip for another 10R to see the “Cavalo Marinho.”

We puzzled over what this could possibly be, my Israeli friends turning to me and asking if my Spanish knowledge might reveal any clues. “Well… caballo means horse in Spanish,” I said with a shrug. “Could they be talking about… sea horses?

I said it with incredibly trepidation. After all, we were crossing a freshwater lake, right? But shortly after we loaded into the boat, the new guide leaned over the hull and scooped into a mason jar, yup, three tiny little seahorses. It was my greatest moment of communication victory in all of Brazil. Six weeks, and I finally was able to accurately predict what sea creature I was about to see.

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

After exiting through a surreal, jumbo-sized mangrove forest that we unfortunately didn’t stop to photograph, we were back to the dunes.

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

We soon spotted a crowd in the distance, and paused as we pulled up next to them to see what all the commotion was about, out here in the sand-filled middle of nowhere. We found an enterprising group of locals selling rides down into a rainwater lake for a mere 5R. After watching a few groups face-plant in the sand, I grabbed a board and took my own turn publicly humiliating myself. It was wonderful.

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

Finally, a chance to relax after the super stressful day we’d been having (ha!) Looking back at a map, I can’t say for sure if we were at Lago Grande or Laguinho da Torta Tatajuba, but I can confirm that it doesn’t really matter. The dunes surrounding Jericoacoara are surrounded by scenic lagoons dotted with in-water hammocks and fringed by palm trees. I wouldn’t get too picky about which one you end up in.

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

This was the best part of the day. It was incredibly windy, but we didn’t mind. Hours melted away as we lounged in the sun, watched kite-surfers work their magic, and marveled at the paradise we stumbled upon in what felt like the end of the earth. Seafood and beer were offered every time we so much as looked at a hammock; and my travel companions were all too happy to take one for the team with a few orders.

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

All good things must come to an end, and eventually we packed up and prepared ourselves for the long drive back to Jericoacoara. Now, all day, I’d been lightly teased for my clear discomfort with our driving speeds. As our guides geared up, one of the boys, Eliko, approached me and asked what was making me so nervous. “These things flip over all the time,” I pointed out. “No, no,” he assured me. “You are very safe. We all drove in much more difficult circumstances in the army. You are safe.” Who can argue with a man who just dedicated three years of his life to compulsory military service?

I hopped on the back of another ATV and braced myself when the adrenaline-loving driver started taking it in tight circles. Maybe now would be a great time to ask him to stop doing this, I thought to myself, and in that exact moment I felt the left two wheels of ATV lift off from the ground as we both were launched into the air. Somehow, time really did go into slow motion, enough for me to push off with my feet to get as far away from the vehicle as possible, and enough for me to lock eyes with Eliko, who was looking on in horror. If I didn’t know better, I might even recall that I had time to shake my head with disapproval mid-air. When we hit the ground, time resumed at a normal pace, and I was quickly surrounded by a dozen faces of concern.

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

We slowed down a bit after that. Eventually, the girls teamed up and I hopped on the back of Maude’s ATV for a bit, where we happily enjoyed the view from the back of the caravan. Never a dull moment, as they say!

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

A few days later, when my bruises and memories of the crash had faded, I was talked into doing it all over again (sorry mom.) This time, we went east.

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

Our first stop was the famous arch called Pedra Furada. It was quite the scramble to get there after we parked our wheels, but it was worth it for the gorgeous geological formation that awaited us. Here, I wowed everyone with my remote shooting capabilities to capture a group photo with my dSLR balanced on a rock and triggered from an app on my iPhone. Stick with the travel blogger, I assured them. They always have the best selfie tricks.

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

Next up was Arvore da Preguica, a truly amazing tree shaped by years of wind and harsh desert conditions. We didn’t have it to ourselves for long though before the next group rolled up next to us — this route was far busier and far less remote and wild than the one we’d taken the previous day, when I wondered how the guides knew which way to go into the endless dunes ahead of us.

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

This was a much more subdued journey, a balance I was more than a-ok with.

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

Again came my favorite portion of the day, the one in which we lounged in Instagram-ready water hammocks. This time, we ditched the local beer shacks in favor of the upscale beach club (or should I say lake club?) Alchymist at Lagoa Paraiso. As the fanciest of its kind in the area, stepping into Alchymist felt a bit like stepping into a portal to a European beach club — and I didn’t hate it.

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

That said, we didn’t spring for beach chairs or expensive cocktails. After splurging on a late lunch, we happily spent the rest of our time splashing around in the lagoon and enjoying our last day in Jericoacoara together.

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

ATV Sand Dune Tour in Jericoacoara, Brazil

Simply put, you’d be crazy to come to Jericoacoara and not spend at least one day out on the dunes exploring the wild west of the desert. These were some of my greatest adventures in all of Brazil — I loved them almost as much as the town we went home to.

Are you an ATV wimp like me or an adrenaline-loving daredevil like the rest of my crew?

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A Guide To Jericoacoara Brazil

ATV Adventures in Jericoacoara Brazil

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26 Comments...
  • Marni
    April 21 2017

    This looks amazing! Going through the west portion, I wondered how the east could possibly compare, but I can see why you’d be crazy not to do both. Which one did you like better in the end? I’m more on the adrenaline junkie side, but your flip sounds very scary! I’m glad you’re okay.
    Marni recently posted..Ottawa Events: Take Four

    • Alex
      April 23 2017

      Thanks Marni! It was one of those dumb travel moments where you think, damn… I really could have gotten hurt. So lucky! I really, really loved both sides and if you come this far you might as well do both!

  • Adriane
    April 21 2017

    Have you ever been to Trancoso? I’m heading there this May, wondered if you had any good tips!
    Adriane recently posted..Uruguay – A Year in Review

    • Alex
      April 23 2017

      I have not, but it was on my short list for Brazil! Let me know how you like it!

  • Cate
    April 21 2017

    Boy, am I loving the influx of posts these days! Great job, yet again! This looks like an amazing adventure, and the hammocks and rest stop from your first day look amazing, a true paradise. Bad luck about that crash, but good you were all okay and had the courage to get back on one. You have me spellbound to Brazil, Alex! Its a must see now
    Cate recently posted..A Love Letter to the Sea

    • Alex
      April 23 2017

      I am dedicated to getting back on track with posting πŸ™‚ Let’s see if I can keep the momentum going this week!

  • Dave
    April 21 2017

    This looks absolutely incredible. I’ve never really heard about this place before, and will be adding it to the list. Amazing photos by the way πŸ™‚
    Dave recently posted..The Beginner’s Guide to Exploring Bali on a Moto

    • Alex
      April 23 2017

      Thanks Dave! It’s a must for adrenaline junkies everywhere πŸ™‚

  • Dominique
    April 21 2017

    What a scary story! I’ve done this once in South Africa and I was also told it couldn’t flip over. It very nearly did and I was scarred for life (though not literally). I attempted to do it in Egypt again, but I was so scared at the speed they were travelling that I decided halfway I wanted to be a passenger. And sure enough, two people flipped over… It’s a dangerous dangerous activity! πŸ˜‰
    Dominique recently posted..Doha – A Long Transit

    • Alex
      April 23 2017

      Jeez, two in one group!? Definitely going too fast! I definitely wouldn’t have chosen it on my own (I think I would have gone with the buggy tour) but I was feeling pretty go-with-the-flow at the time.

  • Jo-Anne the crazy lady
    April 21 2017

    Not something I have ever tried, my sister has been on a quad many times over beaches at high speed and loved it but me never
    Jo-Anne the crazy lady recently posted..Five Things Friday

    • Alex
      April 23 2017

      It’s definitely something for the daredevils πŸ™‚ That and snowmobiling… I’m a baby!

  • Ijana Loss
    April 22 2017

    This sounds so amazing!!! I really want to go to Jericoacoara after reading your posts! Like, it’s shot up there to my top 10 future destinations. What a fantastic choice you made coming here

    • Alex
      April 23 2017

      Yay! That is so awesome to hear. I really want to explore more of Northern Brazil after getting this little taste of it. So magical!

      • Ijana Loss
        April 24 2017

        Hey so say I found a really decently priced flight from Germany to Fortaleza; what would be the most expensive part of visiting there? Say I stayed in budget accommodation and shopped for my own food, do you think I’d be able to do this trip budget-ish?

        • Alex
          April 25 2017

          Definitely! The hostel/pousada I stayed in had dorms, and you could definitely get by on beach food and groceries. The priciest part would probably be tours like these — if you aren’t traveling with a big group, you’ll have a lot less negotiating power.

  • Erika
    April 22 2017

    Hi,
    Reading your post makes me remember my trip to Jericoacoara way back in 2008…I went with my family and just loved the place! The sunset at the dunes there is beautiful! I did the same ride as you did, but in a buggy with the guide driving, and it was very safe…I would not have courage to go into this ATV thing…The sea horses I donΒ΄t think it worth a while, because they do this in other brazilian northeast beaches too, specially in mangue areas, to take money easy from tourists, but I was catch just once… The lagoons and sands are really stunning, and seeing your pictures made me remember my trip! I hope to come back there someday…

    • Alex
      April 23 2017

      Hey Erika! Lovely to hear this place was so special for you too! Happy to hear that the buggy is a slightly less intimidating option for those who want to see the dunes but perhaps don’t want to speed around on an ATV πŸ™‚

  • Breanna
    April 23 2017

    Next time I’m in Brasil I will so be going here. The only thing that deterred me from going last time was cost.

    • Alex
      April 23 2017

      Yeah, that was my big deterrent when I was weighing my options too. I actually found accommodation pretty reasonable considering the country, though flights were a big pill to swallow (nowhere near as steep however as, say, Fernando de Noronha!) Also I really only ate out in nice restaurants twice the whole trip, and otherwise did a lot of grocery store picnics and beach eats. So that kept costs down!

  • Nitin Khanna
    April 24 2017

    Beautiful Place! Stunning Pictures. After reading your amazing post, I also want to go at Jericoacoara. Thanks!
    Nitin Khanna recently posted..Challenges When I Travel Abroad

    • Alex
      April 26 2017

      Thanks Nitan! Definitely worth adding to the bucket list πŸ™‚

  • Sandy
    April 25 2017

    Ah each Brazil post I read by you makes me want to go more and more and I don’t think I ever considered visiting the country before. My husband would definitely love the ATV tour, I would have to be a passenger trying to keep him from going TOO fast. I’m glad you didn’t get too hurt!

    • Alex
      April 26 2017

      Yup, I was very comfortable in the passenger seat. Everyone in my group kept very good-naturedly trying to get me to drive and I was like yeah, I’ve jumped out of a plane so you can’t really adventure shame me into doing something I don’t want to do. Lol!

  • Scott
    May 19 2017

    I first heard about ‘Jeri’ while watching Map for Saturday a few years ago, and while it looked great on film, it looks even better here. Good stuff, Alex.
    Scott recently posted..How to Spend One Day in York England

    • Alex
      May 30 2017

      I’ve actually only started that movie, and never finished it! You just gave me a reason to!

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