Salvador de Bahia
Introduction to Salvador de Bahia
Salvador is the heartbeat of Brazil’s African culture, with rhythms, dances, clothes, foods and beliefs all imported, along with the people, from the continent across the Atlantic Ocean. The majority of Africans, who were taken to Brazil as slaves to work on the sugar and coffee plantations, arrived in Salvador, the first capital of the country. Like the people, some aspects of the culture have retained their African heritage while some have mixed with those of other cultures in the area to provide a uniquely Brazilian flavor. Salvador is alive with the insistent sound of the drums of samba bands, the intriguing sights of Candomblé rituals, and the mesmerizing twirls of people playing capoeira, a Brazilian martial art developed by the then slaves of Salvador.
As well as a rich cultural heritage, Salvador is the gateway to the wonderful beaches of Bahia. The coastline north of the city contains well-appointed resorts such as those at Praia do Forte and Costa do Sauípe. To the south are the less developed towns of Morro de São Paulo, Itacaré and Trancoso, with the city Ilhéus providing the cultural highlight of the south of Bahia.
What not to miss in Salvador de Bahia
The city has a vibrant historical center full of colonial buildings, churches and museums packed with artifacts along the Pelourinho. Salvador’s squares teem with treasures both large and small, and in the markets you can enjoy some local treats.
Praia do Forte
Praia do Forte was the first eco-resort in Brazil developed specifically in harmony with the natural splendor of the area. The upmarket resort is situated among the palm trees and sands of the village, which still retains the charm of a traditional fishing village on the coast of Bahia, 50 miles (80km) northwest of Salvador.
Morro de São Paulo
Morro de São Paulo is a charming little beach town on the northern tip of the island of Tinharé, 50 miles (80km) south of Salvador. A 17th century fortress gate welcomes visitors arriving at the island by boat, and the ruins of the old fort and the lighthouse on the top of the headland are also visible from the sea.
What you need to know
When to go
Salvador has a tropical climate meaning the weather doesn’t vary too much throughout the year from a humid 86˚F (30˚C). Tropical rain will appear at irregular intervals throughout the year with most falling from March to July. From December to March it’s the best time for festivals, with New Year’s Eve, Lavagem do Bonfim on the second Thursday in January, Festa de Iemanjá on February 2nd and Carnaval between mid-February and mid-March. Slightly smaller festivals happen throughout the year in Salvador, especially the Festas Juninas throughout June, and the drums and capoeira never seem to stop.
How to get there
The airport in Salvador does receive some direct flights from Europe, with Air Europa and TAP providing schedule flights. All other flights are domestic so for other international arrivals, a connection in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo is necessary. Flights from all other major Brazilian cities head to Salvador but may stop in a few cities along the way without you needing to change planes. This can significantly add to your traveling time.
Where to stay
Popular with Brazilian and international tourists, Salvador has many hotels ranging from the cheapest to five-star hotels in the old colonial houses of the upper city, or in the newer buildings with beach views.
The city is the capital of Bahia, a state renowned in Brazil for its unique food. Restaurants for all budgets abound, some with sea view dining or with a historic colonial feel. There is always the possibility of dining under the stars on the cobblestones of Pelourinho. Portions of classic Bahian dishes, such as the seafood stew moqueca, are usually large enough to feed two people or those with colossal appetites!
Taxis are the best way to get around the city, whether using the meter or agreeing the price first. Salvador has no metro system, and buses can be hot, crowded and sometimes unsafe. Driving around the city is not recommended for visitors unfamiliar with Brazilian driving styles. Even though Salvador has many amazing sights, the roads leading to them can be frustratingly one-way, steep and dangerous.