An Insider’s Guide to Atins, a Hidden Paradise on the Northeast Coast of Brazil

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You have to earn the pleasures of Atins, a tropical Eden in the Northeast of Brazil. Though there’s no easy, or quick, way to get there, it’s more than worth the investment of time. (The trip from New York was about 27 hours and consisted of two flights, New York to São Paulo, then on to to São Luis (SLZ), followed by a 3+ hour car ride from there to Barreirinhas, and finally a magical 1+ hour midnight ferry ride on the Preguiças (Lazy) River.) Even within Brazil, getting to Atins is a trek. Still, the time to go is right now because this uncut jewel is becoming ever more polished and attractive to visitors.

Atins, Brazil

Atins is a very small town in a state of transition. “Se Vende” (For Sale) signs are painted on many homes, and “designed” spaces, even when they pay tribute to local materials and traditions, stand apart from the rusticity of the place. Once a small fishing village, Atin’s tourism—which looks set to become supercharged in the not too distant future—has become its people’s main livelihood. Right now there are no paved streets or street signs, and when I ran to a small market to buy water one night my escort home was a family of mules. Animals, including cows, fowl, and wild dogs, roam freely here.

Atins, Brazil

Nature is the town’s main draw; people come specifically to kite surf and visit the incredible Lençóis Maranhenses National Park with its lunar-like landscape of quartz-sand dunes, among which clear water lagoons form during the rainy season (February-May). There are many ways to experience this unique ecosystem: on foot, by horseback (this was our choice), and by buggy. “It’s regular that people come back from the park crying. Many people feel a lot of energy here. As for me, I’m under its influence,” says Tim Vidal, an expatriate Frenchman who has lived in Atins for nearly two years and was our local savant.

Atins, Brazil

The draw for us was the tropical disco served up by the Mareh Music Festival, an annual event which will return as 2019 turns into 2020. Mareh, explains founder Guga Roselli, “is an experience of rekindling cycles that surround music, nature, and people. To keep the Mareh experience fresh, [every two years] I look for a new and paradisiac spot [where people can] stay close to each other, with no digital communication so they interact more. Tropical vibes also means less clothes, more equality.” About that digital communication: electricity arrived in Atins, in stages, only about six years ago, and it remains iffy, which means you might get the actual digital detox you thought you wanted. As Leticia Santanna of La Ferme de Georges, a boutique hotel there says, “Atins is a paradise, and wifi (pronounced wee-fee in town) usually doesn’t work well in paradises.” In fact, as Vidal notes, Atins feels and acts like an island, although it isn’t one.

Atins, Brazil

Long cut off from the world, Atins tends to attract off the grid adventurers. Facundo Menossi, who leads horse tours at sunrise, sunset, and under the full moon through the locality and the park, is a typical story. Born in Argentina, he discovered Atins while touring South America. He extended his stay for ten days, then never left. The couple who own La Ferme, Pierre Bident Moldeva and Olivier Verwilghen, from France and Belgium respectively, fell in love with Brazil on a visit. So drawn were they to the music of Rio, they bought a villa there and converted it into a hotel; kitesurfing brought them to Atins, where they bought land and became hoteliers. Walking a similar path are a group of French and Brazilian friends, including Vidal, who will open a restaurant and inn in June called Lagoa do Vento. They looked for spots all along the coast, but nothing compared to Atins: “There is not only a paradise beach, there is not only the wind, there is the park of Lençóis Maranhenses,” Vidal says, “and that makes the whole difference among all the other paradise beaches.”

Atins, Brazil

Many predict that Atins will become the next Cumbuco or Jijoca de Jericoacoara, two popular kite spots in the North. “Every year there’s a new posada, bar, or kite school, notes one of Lagoa do Vento’s silent partners,“but it’s still paradise here. It’s very virgin and it’s why we came here, to find the peace and the good vibes.” Freedom is the word and a feeling that permeates this beautiful, isolated place that is almost as far away as the moon—and makes you feel very close to the stars.

Atins, Brazil

Where to Stay

La Ferme de Georges
This boutique hotel currently offers the most luxe accomodations in Atins. There are nine white-walled chalets on the property (specially designed to be cooled by the wind rather than air conditioning), a swimming pool, and two Dalmatians, Ipa and Nema, in residence. La Ferme has an organic farm; its bounty is used in the restaurant.

Atins, Brazil

Vila Guará
Boasting a prime beach-side location, Vila Guará has accommodations alongside a fancy restaurant/bar. VG is also the base for AKB Atins Kiteboarding, the first with IKO certification. It takes its name from the local, red, crab-eating birds called guarás.

Atins, Brazil

Lagoa do Vento
Soon to open, Lagoa do Vento is located about 30 meters from the beach and will offer accommodation with beach views, and fine dining.

Where to Eat and Drink

Pizzeria Maresia
This popular spot close to the beach is owned and run by an expatriate Italian. Despite the name, there’s more than pizza on the menu (the carpaccio roast beef comes recommended). Like the bread, the gelato (available in flavors including avocado) is made daily. Everything is prepared in-house and served in a tropical garden with tables placed under lighted palm trees that seem to sway in time with the well-chosen playlist.

Atins, Brazil

Céu Aberto
Order the “moqueca,” a traditional North Eastern Brazilian dish, at this restaurant owned by a local family.

Lar Doce Mar
A traditional beach “barraca” (hut) located in the middle of the kite action. Go here for grilled fish and cold beer.

Bar.co
Also located beachside is Bar.co. Run by an Ibizan who serves a special caipirinha made of passion fruit and some Brazilian pink flowers, best enjoyed at sunset.

Atins, Brazil

Canto do Atins
You’ll find big, local shrimp here.

Restaurante da Sese
Don’t miss the shrimp risotto in pineapple here.

Restaraunte Estresse Zero
Located on the beach, this place was a favorite among some of the Mareh DJs.

What to Do

Sempre Atins
Expatriate Facundo Menossiand local horse lover Oziel. The horses are lively and the landscape incomparable.

Atins, Brazil

Instituto Amares
This preservation association rescues and rehabilitates sea turtles, pink dolphins, and the like. They have a collection of whale bones and those of other threatened species of the region.

Getting Around

Ask your hotel to arrange transfers (car and boat) from the airport to Atins and back again.

Portuguese is the langua franca in Atins; Google Translate can smooth your way.

The incredibly fine quartzose sand gets incredibly hot. Sandals are fine for the beach but if you’re walking to lunch, more covered up slip-ons, like espadrilles, are a better bet.

You can usually stop a passing quad on the street and negotiate a price for a ride. WhatsApp is the preferred form of communication in Atins, and Vidal recommends getting your driver’s handle for future use. There are no cash machines in the town so payment for transportation, and nearly everything else, is in cash.





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