The Best Hike in Brazil: Hiking Vale Do Pati in 7 Days
In the heart of the Brazilian state of Bahía is Chapada Diamantina. The area used to be mined for diamonds and other precious stones, and whether you believe in the energetic powers of these stones or not, you will definitely feel something special here. There is a reason why people from all over the world gravitate to this place for a more connected lifestyle. When you go, you’ll know. Chapada Diamantina is well known for its spectacular hikes, and Vale do Pati is regarded as the best multi-day hike in Brazil.
The hike takes you through jungles, waterfalls, open valleys, clifftops, wide open plains and small communities of people living in harmony with the nature around them. Most people try and complete the Vale do Pati hike in 3 or 4 days, so this was our expectation. But we ended up staying a week, and could have easily spent weeks, months or years soaking up the glory of this wonderful place. We went without a guide, which I recommend to anyone who has hiking experience and is adequately prepared.
Day 1 – Bomba to Rancho
About 5km out the centre of Vale do Capão is Bomba. This is the best place to start the hike into Vale do Pati if you are going without a guide. You can get a lift from town or walk there past the communities who live on the outskirts of Capão. We got a taxi to this point because we were starting the hike later than planned, at around 10am. In Bomba is the starting point to the hike and an excellent ‘lanchonette’ or snack shop where you can buy Pastel de Jaca, a pastry filled with jackfruit.
Cachoeira da Purificação
Our first stop was Cachoeira da Purificação. This waterfall isn’t typically considered “en route” for people doing the Vale do Pati hike, but it’s high on the list of waterfalls to visit near Capão and seemed easy enough to add it as a stop.
We ate our packed lunch at this spot and then continued to hike up and out of the forest. This was our first mistake. My map showed two possible trails to hike up and out of this part of the jungle. So we took what we saw as the best option: the closest one to where we were. The path was extremely steep and overgrown with ferns. I assume no one else had taken that path in months. We decided to brave the path, and ended up with a bunch of cuts up our arms and legs. So much for ‘adequately prepared’.
The path did take us where we needed to go though and I enjoyed each moment, despite the intensity. Once you’ve climbed up a bit, you get your first view out over the jungle you just crossed.
Once you’re out of the jungle, the landscape opens up into a vast plain, nestled between two cliffs. The view is spectacular and a stark contrast to what we just hiked through. The ground here was covered with rocks including pieces of clear quartz. It makes you wonder how many precious stones must be buried deeper when you see so many on the surface. The path literally sparkled.
After a few more hours walking through the open vale and crossing streams under the full sun, we found a place to camp for the night. There is a designated camping spot called Rancho. This spot is next to a stream and there were a lot of mosquitoes, which is not ideal. We tried our luck about 5 minutes away from here and found a small clearing.
If you want to camp in ‘the wild’ like this, it’s important to choose a place where you are not going to destroy the vegetation and not leave your rubbish. It should go without saying, really. You leave no trace that you were there. In fact, on this hike there aren’t opportunities to get rid of your rubbish, so what you bring in, you bring back out. I love the idea of camping anywhere I want, but you need to choose the spot responsibly to minimise your environmental impact.
That evening we met some local farmers and their horses (whose route took them running right past our tent) and enjoyed a camping meal of rice and lentils. We also decided that our decision to carry a big heavy glass bottle of rum with us was not the smartest decision. Logic first, we proceeded to drink a lot of it to lighten the load and to warm up our bodies. It gets cold at night in the Vale!
Day 2 – Rancho to Ingrejinha
After a relaxing morning drinking coffee and eating oats and granola, we packed up our little tent and got back on the road. The first part of the hike was a steep climb out of the valley and up to the ridge. It is a tough climb.
Once you’ve reached the peak, it’s flat all the way along the ridge for a few hours walking. The scenery is stunning, and you better get used to me saying that. There’s a lot of different vegetation lining the edge of the cliff that you don’t see in other parts of the Vale and you will catch your first glimpse of Morro de Castello.
After a few more hours you reach the Mirante do Pati, or the Pati viewpoint. From there you have another spectacular view over the Vale and can even see Ingrejinha, where we were headed to sleep for the night.
After a late lunch we took the steep path downhill into the vale again and arrived at Ingrejinha to watch the sunset over the cliff tops above us.
Most people chose the homestay of Ingrejinha (or others close by) as their destination for the first night. We chose to do the hike at a relaxed pace and arrived after two days. It worked out well for us to camp here, if only just for the privilege of refilling our water supply. We also used the shower, which was cold but an absolute delight after two sweaty days.
The cost for camping is 20 $R per person per night. It’s a lot more if you want a bunk bed and food. The food at these places is supposed to be amazing, but we had decided to bring and cook our own stuff. As a camper you can use their communal kitchen for an extra 15 $R per group.
Day 3 – Cachoeira dos Funis to Mirante do Pati
On the morning of our third day we woke up and decided to leave our bags at Ingrejinha to explore the area close by. We were headed for some waterfalls – Cachoeira dos Funis and Cachoeira das Bananeiras. I decided to give my hiking boots a rest and walk in thongs. In hindsight I would probably recommend boots for this part of the hike, as it ended up being a lot of time climbing up and down a steep path next to a gorge. It felt a lot longer than 1km on the path by the river, but the path was really fun and you cross a bunch of different waterfalls and swimming holes on the way.
We didn’t see many people at this part of the hike, and most people who passed didn’t stop because of their tight schedules. The few hours spent relaxing by the waterfalls, enjoying the sun and the chilly water were beautiful and restorative. At Cachoeira das Bananeiras the sunlight was filtered through the canopy of trees and the rays of light illuminated the emerald green water with gold. I’m so glad we could take our time enjoying these moments and not only focus on the hiking aspect.
After lunch time we packed up the tent, stocked up our water supplies and made the steep hike out of the valley.
Mirante do Pati
We spent another night camping ‘in the wild’, not too far from Mirante do Pati. The spot was on the way to where we wanted to go the next day.
This night was beautiful and very wholesome. The sky was clear with a perfect crescent moon and the lack of light pollution meant we could see the stars in all their glory. We listened to a playlist of Bossa nova and cooked pasta on my camping stove. I think that anything you make on a camp stove is going to be delicious, even the cheapest kind instant coffee. I was in excellent company in a stunning place and felt super happy about it.
Day 4 – Cachoeirão and Prefeitura
We hid our big backpacks in some bushes to make the hike to Cachoeirão with a small bag of water and food. After we found a good spot to leave them we marked the spot on the map to help us find them later. It’s incredible how strong you feel walking without a big pack when you’ve been lugging one around on your back for a few days. We made it to Cachoeirão within an hour or so, though the path was a little harder to follow at times because there are multiple tracks.
Cachoeirão is one of the most iconic views of the whole hike. From up the top you have a view of the waterfall and all of the lower valley. This is potentially one of the most photographed spots of the hike, as it has the rock ledge that people like to sit on the edge of. I really didn’t feel confident risking my life for the ‘gram, and decided to enjoy the view from what I saw as a more appropriately cautious position.
Close to Cachoeirão there is a river and waterfall spot where a lot of people stop to each lunch, enjoy the shade and have a swim. On this part of the hike you see a lot of groups who have hired guides to take them around. We enjoyed our lunch here before we walked back to our bags and hiked back down into the valley. We ended up hiking about 8 km downhill into the lower valley. I found the downhill aspect tough, but the whole way is picturesque and you pass the homes of many people who live simply and in harmony with the land around them.
This night we decided to aim for Prefeitura, another homestay where we could camp. From there you have a view of the Morro do Castello and the other cliffs in the area. The owners were kind people and have created a beautiful place to host people. The price to camp was 25 $R per person and this included access to their kitchen. Of the two guest houses that we camped up, Prefeitura was my favourite by far.
There is a small shop where you can buy food if you need. If I had known this before, I would have bought a few kilos less of food in my bag. They also sell homemade cachaça. We sampled most types and they were all delicious, but I liked the one they made with bananas from their land the best.
Day 5 – Prefeitura
It rained so much overnight I’m surprised our tent didn’t get washed away. When we woke up the rain was still super strong and showed no signs of stopping. The idea of hiking slippery trails during a storm wasn’t appealing or recommended, so we decided to stay another day at Prefeitura. We couldn’t have been luckier that this happened when we were in such a comfortable place. The facilities at Prefeitura are nice and we were the only ones there for the second day in a row so we had the whole space and wood-fired kitchen to ourselves. We spent the day reading, writing, playing cards and cooking on the wood-fired oven.
Day 6: Prefeitura to Middle of Nowhere
We decided against attempting the hike to Morro do Castello on the recommendation of the guest house owner. He said the rain from the previous day would have made the path slippery and unsafe. Neither of us is a big fan of suffering so we decided it was time to start the walk back to Vale do Capao.
A lot of people make the hike directly from Prefeitura back to Vale do Capao in one day. I don’t like to compare my journey to anyone else’s, but I expected this route was going to be a whole easier based on this information. This was the first surprise. The path from Prefeitura was wet and slippery from the storm. I had a few embarrassing and funny but not overly serious falls because of it.
We spent a while enjoying the sun and eating lunch by Cachoreira do Calixto, befriended a lizard who had the same idea and then kept going through the jungle.
It took a long time to get out of the jungle, mostly due to the muddy path and the trees that had fallen and blocked the path. It wasn’t the most enjoyable part of the trek and felt a bit eerie. Once we were well and truly out of the jungle we decided we wanted to find our place to camp for the night. We found another clearing close by to the path with a view of the back side to Morro do Castello and set up for our last night in the Vale do Pati.
Day 7: Middle of Nowhere to Vale do Capao
The final day of hiking was the shortest and easiest yet. We left our camp spot by 10am and after walking only an hour or so we were back in the flat plains and the crossroad that we hiked the first day. We passed so many beautiful spots, including a cave that would make an excellent camping spot. I hope I can go back there one day, and I would aim for here if you find yourself in the area.
We hiked back down into the jungle on a much better path than the way we took the first day and quickly made it back to Bomba, where we started the hike. I mentioned there’s a great snack shop at the entrance to the reserve here. I had been dreaming of eating a Pastel de jaca as a reward for my hard work hiking. It was better than I could have dreamed.
From Bomba we managed to hitch a ride back to the town of Vale do Capao with a nice couple who had just moved their lives there to open up a guest house and artistic community space. These are the kind of people Capao attracts – open, generous, creative and kind.
Hiking Vale do Pati Without a Guide
I’m so glad we decided to do the hike without a guide. This gave us the flexibility to go at our own pace and wouldn’t have been possible if we paid someone to show us around over a set amount of days. It also let us go with the flow of Mother Nature and rest during the storm. We chose to do this having had a lot of experience hiking and camping and were well prepared if something was to go wrong. You don’t need to be afraid of doing this hike unguided, but if you have doubts then the guides can help you with that.
We used maps.me to navigate our way on the hike. This app is the bread and butter for most travellers, though it does at times lack details. Despite the minor hiccup regarding the overgrown trail on day 1, we had no real issues using this app to guide us. Every path we needed was clearly marked and location services always showed us where we were despite having no reception. For people who want a more detailed map, I’ve heard good things about Wikiloc, which includes information on elevation, altitude and other fancy map stuff.
I’m so grateful for my time in Vale do Pati. I loved every intensely beautiful, challenging, awe inspiring and connected second of it. The energy in that place is absolutely electric and this hike has to be one of the best things I’ve done not just in my travels in Brazil, but in my entire life.
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