The African Roots of Salvador, Bahia

Streets of Pelourinho

Streets of Pelourinho

Salvador, the state capital of Bahia, was also the first capital of Brazilian Republic and even today is the city with most african influence. Salvador is also the third biggest city of the country, right after São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and naturally its’ airport is among the busiest of northeastern part of Brazil. In Salvador you can easily feel the african roots of Brazilian culture, hear the rhythms, taste the flavours and feel the power of myths and such african religions as candomble.

If you are looking for culture together with city life, Salvador is probably one of the most interesting brazilian cities to stop by. The main attraction of Salvador is the old town called Pelourinho, located in the upper part of the city, which belongs in the Unesco list of World Heritage sites. It’s dominated by colorful colonial style buildings, beautiful churches and lively streets. Here you will find plenty of charming restaurants, shops of local handcrafts, artists of all kind and “baianas“, the local ladies wearing traditional white dressing and often selling some delicacies. It’s not rare to find people practising capoeira or playing Afro-Brazilian rhythms on the street. It’s here, where samba-reggae was born and became famous thanks to well known Afro-Brazilian band Olodum. Up from the edge of Perlourinho you will also have beautiful view over the Baía de Todos os Santos bay and if you take an elevator down you will find yourself being in front of the Mercado Modelo market, an another excellent place to buy local handcrafts and souvenirs of Bahia.

Mercado Modelo

Mercado Modelo

Salvador has another important historical spots as well, one of the most popular being the church of Bonfim. This church is a pilgrimage destination for the Brazilians, but is worth visiting for anybody who enjoys old architecture and history. To reach Bonfim, you can either take a regular bus leaving in front of Mercado Modelo or alternatively try the touristic Salvador Bahia Bus, which works on “hop on, hop off” basis and in addition to Bonfim takes you to many other interesting parts of the city with fixed daily price. If you choose regular bus, you better be prepared to longer travelling time, due to the number of stops and depending on the type of the bus, air conditioning may not be available either. Just like in Rio de Janeiro, in Salvador organized tours to favela (=slum) can also be found. Part of the tour fee usually goes in the education or in the improvement of the living conditions of the favela inhabitants, so therefore the tours are not only a safe way to visit favela, but also a great way to make this world a better place for everybody.

Church of Bonfim

Church of Bonfim

When choosing your neighborhood in Salvador we would recommend you to stay either in Pelourinho, Barra or Rio Vermelho. In Pelourinho you will find some charming old building that were refurbished to serve as hotels and has turned out to be an excellent place to spend overnight.  Another good options to stay are the neighborhoods of Barra and Rio Vermelho, both just a short drive away from Pelourinho with large variety of accommodation options for all budget and several restaurants and bars for dining as well. The carnival of Rio de Janeiro may be world widely more famous than the carnival of Bahia, but in fact the carnival of Salvador is the world’s biggest street party and attract a countless number of participants to celebrate in the streets of Salvador. Definetely something you should consider about, if you are into carnivals!

Baianas

Baianas

Many tourists travel to Bahia planning to stay at one of the stunning beaches of the state, but once you are in Salvador make sure you stop there at least for two or three nights. Salvador is worth stopping and after having explored Pelourinho, we are sure that you are not regretting at all. We recommed you to combine Salvador with some of the many beach or eco-tourism destination located close by.

In our other blog posts we have already covered destinations that combine perfectly with Salvador, check out our related blog posts:

Our suggested itineraries including Salvador:

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Casa do Amarelinho – A small hotel located in refurbished building in the heart of Pelourinho. Excellent level of service with special charm and all the amenities you might be expecting.
  • Catharina Paraguacu – A good tourist class hotel located at Rio Vermelho. Catharina Paraguacu offers you an intimate stay in an old style building surrounded by gardens.
  • Restaurante O Nilo – An excellent restaurant serving arab food in a peaceful corner of Pelourinho. O Nilo has tables both inside and outside, but does not accept credit cards.
Pelourinho

Pelourinho

Getting around in Brazil: Travelling and Transportation

Travelling in Brazil would be so simple, if the country were not that huge as it really is. This means that to discover Brazil, a lot of time and patience are needed. Once you have decided to travel around the country you basically have two choices, either you take a bus/transfer/car or you decide to fly. Below we have listed few tips and opinions of ours, just to give you an idea of what would be the best choice in each situation.

Alternative transportation

Alternative transportation

Many times hiring a transfer will end up to be the best option to reach your final destination. This means you don’t need to worry about the arrangements and you reach your accommodation in minimum time without any stress. At some parts of Brazil, especially in the northeastern coast hiring a car can end up to a good option, especially if you are heading from airport to smaller villages and keep on discovering the region by car. The traffic varies depending on the place, but in general Brazilians drive fast and do not always respect the traffic rules.  Big cities suffer major traffic jams especially when the locals are heading to work or returning back at home. If possible avoid driving in cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, often a public transportation (especially metro) is a quicker way to reach your final destination. The condition of the roads vary as well. If possible try to travel during the daytime, which is not only safer, but you will also face less heavy traffic, such as trucks and haulers.

When it comes to regular bus services, the long distance buses in Brazil are in fact surprisingly comfortable, with wide and inclining seats, plenty of leg space and air conditioning, which generally tends to be really so cold that you better be prepared with long sleaves if you pretend to travel longer distance by bus. Well, when it comes to buses there is just one little problem, the distance and the time it takes to get from point A till point B. Travelling by bus during 12 hours, 24 hours, 36 hours or even more within Brazil is not rare at all. You will also find buses of different standards operating in the same routes, and naturally the more money you pay, the more comfortable will your journey be. Usually you will be given a tag when you luggage is stored in the hold, so make sure that you keep it safe as the tag will serve as a receipt when claiming your luggage.

Tam Linhas Aéreas

Tam Linhas Aéreas

If you are not into sitting hours and hours in a bus to reach your destination, and most importantly if you are lacking time the only option is to take a domestic flight. When it comes to flights the same rules apply, travelling within Brazil takes time even if you are flying. The distances are long, there are several time zones in the country and the delays are not rare at all. Lately the air traffic has been slightly calmer and more stable than during the last few year, but still never ever book youself with too tight separate connections. Doing this will only increase your blood pressure once you find out that the schedules are not working out as expected. There are two main companies operating in Brazil, TAM and Gol. Both of them fly international and domestic routes, but Gol mainly concentrates in operating within South America while TAM flies to Europe and North America as well. There are also many other regional companies operating widely around the country. The most useful ones for a traveller might be Trip, covering a large number of smaller airport and Azul, so called low cost company bringing more competitive prices for domestic markets. Domestic routes tend to include many stops without that a change of aircraft is needed. This means that your flight departing from São Paulo may stop for example in Salvador, Recife and Fortaleza before reaching São Luis. This obviously takes time and may not be the most comfortable way to travel. So when booking flights always keep an eye on the number of stops and prefer as straight flights as possible. Domestic flights can be purchased with major credit cards in the sites of both TAM and Gol.

Gol Linhas Aéreas

Gol Linhas Aéreas

Don’t expect domestic flights to be cheap, they are not. If you are planning to travel around Brazil, so before leaving your country the wisest thing to do is to book an airpass provided either by TAM or by Gol. When it comes to airpasses there are several rules and they are sold only together with your international ticket. This means that you have to arrive to Brazil with certain co-operative airlines in order to be able to purchase an airpass. TAM for example has two different price levels, the lower price is available for travellers who arrive to country by TAM and the higher price on the other hand for those arriving by co-operating airline. The price of the airpasses varies also depending on the number of flight segments purchased. Please note that many domestic connections include more than one flight segment, which has to be taken into account when planning a trip. Same leg cannot be flewn into same direction more than once either. In addition to a traditional Brazil airpass Gol offers also an another airpass covering the northeastern part of Brazil. This northeast airpass turns out to be a very good deal for travellers willing to explore this part of Brazil. Check out also TAM’s South American airpass if you are planning to travel widely around the continent, and Gol’s Mercosur airpass if in addition to Brazil you are heading to Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru and Bolivia. Please note that the maximum time of any airpass tends to be 30 days after the first flight. For bookings and further information contact the airline or your travel agency.

Last but not least, when travelling long distances in Brazil, remember the attitude. Travelling is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, so after all it’s the attitude that matters!

A regional airline

A regional airline

Brazil Diversity recommends:

Broaken Canoe of the Northeastern Coast: Canoa Quebrada, Ceará

The village of Canoa Quebrada, broken canoe in English,  is located in the state of Ceará in northeastern part of Brazil. The closest airport is located in Fortaleza, about 160 km from Canoa Quebrada and can be easily reached by car. A drive from Fortaleza to Canoa Quebrada takes about 2½ hours, depending on the traffic and in general the road is in good condition. Canoa Quebrada is a former fisherman village, which turned out to be one of the most popular tourism destinations of the coast of Ceará.

Canoa Quebrada

Canoa Quebrada

Unlike some other brazilian beach destinations, Canoa Quebrada can be accessed by car and you will find some motorized traffic in this charming village. However please note that the roads are tiny and so is the traffic as well. The few cars coming and leaving the village will not disturb your holiday feeling at all. The surrounding nature is very dry and you will not find palm trees nor tropical vegetation in Canoa Quebrada. The charm of Canoa Quebrada consists of a sand beach surrounded by the colorful canyons of baked sand and dunes. It’s an ideal destination for a city escape, as the atmospheare in this village remains very rustic and relaxed reminding us of the era when this paradise was found by the first leisure seekers, the hippies .

Canoa Quebrada Beach

Canoa Quebrada Beach

The main attraction of Canoa Quebrada is the long beach with several beach side kiosks serving small snacks and ice cold drinks. Due to the geographic location the climate you is warm and windy during the year around, but don’t worry in Canoa Quebrada the wind is warm and quickly you will find out that if there were no wind you wouldn’t be able to resist the strong sun of this latitude. Thanks to the wind, Canoa Quebrada is also a popular destination when it comes to kitesurf and the best winds can be experienced from June till January. The yearly rainfall is very small and usually appears from February till May. In addition to water sports, there are also possibilities to make several excurcions in area. You can take a buggy ride over the dunes and have a swim in one of the lagoons located in the middle of the white sand. Another interesting excursion is a buggy ride along the beach. You will be able to enjoy the baked sand canyons on you right hand side and have see the sparkling see when you look on your left. One of the highlights of this excursion is the “Garganta do Diablo” (=Devil’s throat), a weird natural sand sculpture.

Garganta do Diablo

Garganta do Diablo

Canoa Quebrada is a very popular destination especially within younger public, but serves all travellers with young spirit. If you are looking for a resort kind of holiday with fancy services you better turn your attention elsewhere. Along the main street called “Broadway” you will find a number of restaurants, shop and bars, everything from reggae to traditional brazilian forró, all of them with relaxing atmospheare.

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Restaurant Cabana (at Broadway) – tasty and well cooked brazilian food with excellent value for money!
  • Pousada Aruna – Pousada located in a peaceful corner of the village, large pool area and superior rooms with special roof top terrace. Recommendable especially for travellers with car.
  • Dolce Vita – Pousada consists of individual chalets with double bed and bunk bed – an excellent choice for families. Comfortable pool area and peaceful location, just a short walk away from the main street.
  • Refugio do Manati – Centrally located rustic pousada with green areas and pool. Chalets with two floors and veranda has natural ventilation and no air conditioning.
Canoa Quebrada beach

Canoa Quebrada beach

%d bloggers like this: