Salvador da Bahia has an energy and unadorned beauty that few cities can match. Once the magnificent capital of Portugal’s great New World colony, Salvador is the country’s Afro-Brazilian jewel. Its brilliantly hued center is a living museum of 17th- and 18th-century architecture and gold-laden churches. More importantly, Salvador is the nexus of an incredible arts movement. Wild festivals happen frequently, with drum corps pounding out powerful rhythms against the backdrop of colonial buildings almost daily. At night, capoeira circles form on plazas and open spaces, while the scent of acarajé (bean and shrimp fritters) and other African delights fills the evening air. Elsewhere in town, a different spirit flows through the crowd as religious followers celebrate and reconnect with African gods at mystical Candomblé ceremonies. In fact, there’s no other place in the world where descendants of African slaves have preserved their heritage as well as in Salvador – from music and religion to food, dance and martial-arts traditions.
Aside from the many attractions within Salvador, gorgeous coastline lies right outside the city – a suitable introduction to the tropical splendor of Bahia.
Chosen as one of Brazil’s 12 host cities for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Salvador is bracing for a major influx of visitors. Preparations have been slow to start, though. At the time of writing, construction was underway for an overhaul of the old Fonte Nova Stadium and city officials were discussing plans for improving the congested public-transportation system.
Best places to stay in Salvador
Carnaval in Brazil: Rio and beyond
One of the world’s largest parties, Carnaval is virtually synonymous with Rio de Janeiro. But Carnaval, in all its colorful, hedonistic glory, is also celebrated in practically every town and city in Brazil.
Salvador destination guides
Top ten South American reads: a literary trip
Fiction was invented the day Jonas arrived home and told his wife that he was three days late because he had been swallowed by a whale. - Gabriel García Márquez.
In Search Of Iguassu—Rio to Buenos Aires
Dance your way through the best of South America's colourful cities. Kick off your adventure in Rio where you're free to explore the carnival atmosphere or soak up rays. You'll enjoy time outdoors and on the beach at Ilha Grande and connect with the land at an estancia stay in Uruguay. Best of all, we'll fly over to Iguassu Falls for more time to explore the immense cascades.
Wonders of Brazil
From the cobblestoned streets of colonial Paraty to remote interior wilderness, uncover the wonders of Brazil in two exciting weeks. Experience Iguassu Falls—so massive they straddle two countries and so intriguing you'll need two days to fully appreciate them. Not to be outdone, the Pantanal wetlands are teeming with wildlife like caiman, jaguar and exotic birds.