13 Jan 2016 21:55 IST

Surreal beauty of dunes and lagoons

Waves of white sand and undulating strips of turquoise blue water form a stunning landscape

The Lençóis Maranhenses National Park in northeast Brazil, with a name that translates from Portuguese to “bedsheets of Maranhão”, is no mirage in the desert. At a first sweeping glance, this vast landscape with waves of white sand interspersed with curving aquamarine pools, looks like a desert that might have just seen freak rains but, actually, about 47 inches of rain fall in Lençóis Maranhenses every year — too rainy to be called a desert.

During the dry season, Atlantic winds blow sand from the Brazilian coast as far as 30 miles inland, quite close to the Amazon Basin. And, during wet weather, the rain water that collects between the sand dunes is prevented from percolating down by a layer of impermeable rock that lies underneath the sand.

Many people still reside inside the national park today, but their occupations are in sync with and serve to protect the area’s ecology. While the 1,500 sq km park does attract tourists, there are rules to follow. The best way to visit is to fly into São Luís, the capital of Maranhão, and then make your way to the town of Barreirinhas, located just outside the park. Read the full article, and view the stunning pictures here .