Lying at the mouth of the tropical Bahia de Todos Os Santos (All Saints’ Bay), the city of Salvador was the first capital of Brazil and one of the most important cities in the New World but as the rest of Brazil modernised, industrialised and generally kept up with the times, Salvador did what it does best: relax, and entered a long period of genteel decline…
This lasted until the second half of the twentieth century, when it re-emerged as the prosperous regional capital for Brazil’s north-east but even today there is a more laid-back feel about Salvador than any other large Brazilian city, which really is saying something!
Another big difference between Salvador and the rest of Brazil is its Afro-Brazilian heritage. Here more than anywhere else in the country you can see the legacy of the mass transport of slaves to the New World from West Africa. Around 80% of the city’s population have black African heritage and this heritage is celebrated in every aspect of life in Salvador today, from the food you eat to the music you hear, making Salvador one of the most interesting places to visit on your holiday to Brazil. Musically, Salvador is perhaps the most important city in Brazil, with luminaries such as Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa and Dorival Caymmi all born in the city.
Although it’s always around you in Salvador, this musical heritage especially comes to life once a year at the incredible Salvador Carnival. Many people planning a carnival holiday in Brazil automatically think of Rio but increasingly those in the know are tipping Salvador’s as the carnival to attend. Whereas in Rio, the focus is on the Sambadrome and watching the -admittedly incredibly impressive – parade and floats, in Salvador carnival is all about getting out on the street and feeling the beat. Dozens of huge blocos (floats) mounted on articulated lorries wind their way through the city, enormous sound systems pumping out the music while the streets are filled with hundreds of thousands of partying revellers. It’s much more democratic than the Rio Carnival and is also -for the moment – less expensive and less touristy.
However, Carnival’s not for everyone, and Salvador certainly has much more besides to recommend it for Brazil holidays throughout the year. The Old City, known as the Pelourinho, is home to some of Brazil’s finest colonial architecture, including the Cathedral and the church of Sao Francisco. It’s also well worth visiting the excellent Afro-Brazilian museum in the old city to give you a bit of historical perspective on everything.
The Pelourinho sits on a spur of land above the rest of Salvador, but the oldest elevator in Brazil (now refurbished!) takes you from the Pelourinho down into the rest of the city, where you can enjoy the excellent city beaches such as the Porto de Barra – recently voted one of the top 5 beaches in the world by the Guardian newspaper in the UK.
If you’re looking for beaches, however, then outside the city itself, the beach of Praia do Forte is one of the undoubted highlights of any holiday in Brazil. The miles of white sand beach are next to a coral reef that stretches from shore around 30 metres into the ocean and which is home to brightly-coloured and beautiful tropical fish, basking in the clear, warm water, turning an evening along the beach into a mini safari! If you’ve had enough of sunning yourself on the beach or relaxing with a cocktail in one of the many beach bars, then it’s a dream destination for snorkelling.
So from history to beach-life and from culture to coral, Salvador is a destination you should definitely think of including on your Brazil holidays must-see list: just don’t forget to pack your shorts so you can make the most of that year-round fantastic weather…
By fgmsp from Pixabay