The mountainous Chapada Diamantina National Park 725 mi/1,165 km north of Rio de Janeiro, where diamonds were discovered nearly 200 years ago, is dotted with abandoned mining towns. The lush mountains are laced with hiking trails that pass roaring waterfalls (including the fascinating Cachoeira da Fumaca), rivers, mysterious caves and dozens of varieties of wild (often rare) orchids. Be sure to hire a guide—trails are not always marked. Rock hounds will enjoy the opportunity to collect unusual specimens—those with a keen eye may even spot a diamond.
The charming town of Lencois was the center of the diamond activity, and it has retained much of the flavor of its diamond-rush days. Visit the old French vice-consulate (the French bought industrial diamonds for use in drills in the construction of the Panama Canal) and the Mining Museum (Museu do Garimpo). Other interesting old towns include Mucuge and Palmeiras.
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