Latin America Travel & Tour Information
Salvador de Bahia Travel Information
Salvador, capital city of the Bahía State, is proud of being one of the most historical cities in Brazil and a jewel of colonial architecture. It is also known as "Africa in Exile", due to the influxes of African immigrants over the course of the centuries. The intermingling of African and European cultures largely reflects on Brazil´s second most popular Carnival.
Salvador stands as the fifth largest city in Brazil with 2 million-inhabitants. Average rainfall is rather low throughout the year, and falls mainly in May to September, the actual rainy season. Climate is generally nice and days are sunny. Temperatures range from 25 ° C to 32 ° C and never plummet under 19 ° C in the winter.
Salvador was founded in 1549 atop a hill located by the magnificent Bahía de Todos os Santos, a foamy sea inlet dotted by a cluster of 38 islets. This is the largest bay on the Brazilian coast and covers an 1100-km² surface. A gigantic cliff that commands the best views of the surroundings rises to the eastern side of the bay. The cliffs bear on their shoulders, 71 meters above sea level, two of the major neighborhoods in Salvador which feature 17th and 18th century buildings. This inlet was discovered by Americo Vespucci on November 1st, 1501, the Day of All Saints.
The first Captain- General, Tomé de Sousa arrived in Salvador on March 23rd, 1549 and fortified the city to protect the interests of the Portuguese Crown from the constant menace of a French invasion. Salvador was Brazil´s capital until 1763, at the time the second most important city in the Portuguese Empire, second only to Lisbon. The city was located in a secured spot, possessing a well-protected port for the New World´s main trading routes.
Sugarcane and tobacco plantations gave the city the first economic bloom, based on labor force brought over from the West Coast of Africa. For three centuries, Salvador was the center of a blooming slave trade, which contributed to make it into the most African city in the Western Hemisphere. The African influence features on every corner: the food sold on the streets is just the same as food they sell in Africa´s Southeast and Nigeria; Brazilian music fused with the vibrant African rhythms; men and women indistinctively carry their loads on their heads; and the pace of life is more relaxed than the rest of the country.
The pulse of the city hangs on the Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion based on the natural world´s deities worship, such as the Sea Goddess and the God of Creation. These deities or Orixás are venerated in either lavishly elaborated temples, decorated rooms or simply in a small lounge in front of their altars. Visitors may assist Candomblé ceremonies, but photos are never allowed.
At present, Salvador counts 15 forts, 166 catholic churches, 1000 Camdomblé Temples and a fascinating mixture of ancient and modern elements: the rich and the poor, Africans and Europeans, devotees and atheists. It is still a major tropical fruit-exporting port, as well as cocoa and soy seeds. However, the chief income lies in the tourist industry, after Río it is the second biggest destination in the country, very popular among national tourists who see Bahía as an exotic destination, conditioned by its cultural spectrum.
Salvador Attracions & Sights
The City Center is split into 2 levels: the High City ("Cidade Alta") that harbors the Old Town called Pelourinho, and the Low City (Cidade Baixa), which features the commercial district and the piers. Both levels are connected by a series of steep hills called ?ladeiras´. The easiest way to move between either level is by using the Lacerda Lift. There is also Gonçalves Sloping Route, a cable car starting from behind the cathedral which heads up to the commercial district.
Pelourinho teems with interesting sites from the Municipal Square to the Carmo Area. The Old Town, nowadays declared a National Monument and also protected by UNESCO, lies 2 km to the north along the cliff. It was here that the Portuguese built their fortified citadel and it still treasures some of the best examples of colonial architecture in the Americas.
The Old Town has been undergoing a massive project of restoration, financed by the State Government since 1993. A new infrastructure of restaurants, bars and shops have popped-up among the restoration, giving the area a more vivid feel.
Colonial mansions have recovered their original pastel colors. Crime, once a major issue in this section of town, has considerably dwindled. Many bars offer live music emanating from every corner. Several cafés and bars have sprung-up in open and nicely ornamented backyards. Art galleries, antiquities and craft shops have given a new boost to the once bohemian atmosphere. Several restaurants and bars, typical of other regions, can also found a spot here.
The Carnival is no doubt the event not to be missed in Salvador. The carnival here is totally different from Río de Janeiro´s, for it takes place on the streets and everybody may partake. People are not there to watch, but to take active part in it. During these festive days, the locals and the visitors spend their time outdoors partying and dancing to the rhythms of the electric trios and the big sound trucks that carry around some of the best local musicians.