Thursday, 31 July 2008

Salvador da Bahia Travel Guide


Everyone in Salvador was saying how lovely Praia do Forte was, in fact, they were saying it in Rio too. The travel books made it seem like a small resort town. We've got enough of those here so I wasn't completely convinced until we got there.

To ge there you'll need to take a tour from Salvador, hire a taxi for the day, or rent your own car... We rented a car.

When we pulled off the highway at the sign that advertised Praia do Forte and TAMAR I had no idea what to expect, we travelled down a winding dirt road for a while and then... there it was, this village, so remote yet charming, with thatched roofs and huts, small shops, small cafes and such. We headed for the beach first... gosh, it was lined with some of the most beautiful palm trees I've ever seen.

After alittle R&R beside the ocean we visited TAMAR, the sea turtle project. Very cool little set up with a variety of sea turtles and sea life to observe and even TOUCH at one of the many pools. Be sure to stick around for a feeding, those little guys go crazy when fed, it's cool to see.

After TAMAR we strolled the main thoroughfare of Praia do Forte, checking out the little shops, seeking out a place for dinner... There were tons of choices. We settled on a place and enjoyed more caipirinhas and a good meal. I'll write a tip on that place soon.

After dinner we found a unique ice cream shop with what seemed like a thousand flavors... and strange flavors at that! Ninon had CORN ice cream...Another unique aspect of the ice cream shop was that you served yourself from the big buckets of ice cream. I'd never seen that before!
There seemed to be a lot of cozy little pousadas in Praia do Forte, I could see how a person could stay there and vegetate for a week.... I'd definitely go back.

In a land so full of music & dance see a folk show

OK, so, usually I would see such as a bit too touristy but all the music and dance that is Salvador drew me to experience the show at Solar do Unhao.
Solar do Unhao exists in this great 18th century colonial building of stone and exposed wood beams, down a steep hill- Warm lighting invites you in, the scent of a Bahian buffet fills your nostrils. And BAM! your photo is snapped with a woman in traditional Bahian dress which someone will later show you, glued to a plastic plate that you can purchase.... :-)
Tim and I opted to skip the dinner buffet and have wine instead as we watched the show... (We had dinner at Sorriso da Dada on Rue Frei Vincente later that night). I think we paid $40 REAL per person for the show alone.
The performance began with the sacred dances of the Candomblé, then Puxada de Rede in honor of Yemanjá, the goddess of the sea, followed by Maculelê, an acrobatic stick and sword dance from the cane fields.
The most amazing part of the show in my opinion, was an exhilarating display of Capoeira- it was incredible. The show ended with the Samba de Roda, a spinning, swirling version of this exuberant national dance in which those in the show dragged members of the audience up onto the stage to samba away with them...

There are two nightly shows, call for exact times.

• Address: Solar do Unhao is located on Av. do Contorno
• Phone: 329-0660
• Directions: Take a cab here.

Folcloric ballets: samba de roda, capoeira and more

In the square of Jorge Amado museum, near a beautifull church there is a foundation to learn a job to young ‘not rich’ boys and girls: they can learn brasilian cooking, became weiters or learn about music and traditional dancing, so every night you can taste in a good ‘all you can eat’ restaurant a lot of brasilian dishes made by themselves and see a beautifull show about ‘orishas’ of candomblè, capoeira and the slavery history......but they speech only portughese!
Another chance is Balè Folclorico da Bhaia: rua Gregorio de Matos 49 - 55(71)3221962

Cidade Baixa (the Lower City)

Cidade Baixa is part of the city at the foot of the bluff. The most easy way to get from Cidade Alta is by Elevadora Lacerda. This historic district was made up of the port of Salvador and adjoining warehouses and business. There's little of interest for tourist here. Most of the original structures have been demolished and replaced with private and government office buildings from the early 20th century. ¸
However, it's not completely without interest. You are likely at least to pass through to get to the Terminal Maritimo, where you can catch a boat to one of the islands in the bay. And there is one essential stop, Mercado Modelo, offering seemingly endless choice of regional arts and crafts. Cidade Baixa extends westward to the area known as Bonfim, a neighbourhood famous for its Afro-Brazilian festival and home to the famous Igreja do Bonfim. If you go on little further, you soon come to Ribeira.

Mercado Modelo

Mercado Modelo is a Salvador's largest market and one of Salvador's landmarks. An old covered market with the best selection of the artesanato in the city, is set on its own by the old harbour, across the road from the foot of Elevador Lacerda. It was built in 1861 and originally used as the customs house for shipments coming into port. In 1971 the building was converted into the present-day Mercado and in 1984 quickly rebuilt after the fire.

It functions again as a centre of Bahian arts and crafts with more than 250 stalls. Here you'll find capoeira trousers, Bahian traditional clothing, lacework, jewelry, wood carving, trinkets, musical instruments and CDs, souvenirs and much more. Prices here are about the same as in Pelourinho, but don't be afraid to bargain, especially for jewelry and handicrafts. Some of the nicest souvenirs are the painted statues of candomble deities - look for the sign "antigos religiosos".

In the square in front of the market you'll find more arts and crafts stalls with a host of hippie-style items and occasional capoeira demonstrations and live music. Even if you don't buy anything, Mercado is a very enjoyable place to visit. There is always something going on in and around the market and it's always crowded with Bahians and tourists. In the back is the covered patio area, where you can relax and have lunch or a cold drink. You find a Banco do Brasil ATM machine and an information ofice to the left of the front entrance, and upstairs there are a couple of good restaurants.

It is open Mon-Sat 9am-7pm, Sun 9am-2pm.
• Address: Praca Visconde de Cairu
• Phone: 071 3241 0242
• Directions: Cidade Baixa (the Lower City)

Pelourinho - The Old Heart of Salvador

There is no visit of Salvador without spending some time in the old city of colourful pastel-hued colonial buildings, cobblestoned streets and a sense of history, clustered around the Largo do Pelourinho, also known as Praca Jose de Alencar.

Pelurinho is a living museum with numerous buildings from 16th and 17th centuries fully restored to their original beauty and charm (there are always buildings undergoing restoration as the job is practically endless). It's the largest example of Baroque architecture in the America's, declared in 1985 a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site.

"Pelourinho" means whipping post and this is where African slaves were publicly punished during colonial times. Slavery was outlawed in 1835, and over time, this part of the city, though home to artists and musicians, fell into disrepair. A major restoration effort resulted in making the area a highly desirable tourist attraction.

During the day you can walk the streets, looking into the many clothing and art shops, bars, restaurants, museums and churches. At night Pelourinho offers music and dance events in its many public squares. The Laranjeiras area is loaded with charming restaurants offering delicious Bahian food and a number of programmed events take place during the week.

No other place reflects so well the soul of Bahia as Pelourinho!
• Directions: Cidade Alta (the Upper City)

Porto da Barra Beach

This beach is locaded in Barra. As it is a kind of bay, there are no waves, that´s why many pepole go there to swim.
At this beach you find many tourists, because Barra is a tourist neigborhood. But you also find people from Salvador, specially students. Almost forgot: It is possidle to practice diving here (i´ve never tried!).
Its it one of my favourits.

Catedral Basílica

Constructed in the 17th century, with gold, marble, wood and ivory, mixing baroque and rococo styles.
In this church we can usually appreciate concerts, such as Bahia’s Symphonic Orchestra presentations.
For me, it is the most beautiful church of Salvador (and the city has MANY churches), an amazing place.

• Address: Praça 15 de Novembro
• Phone: (71) 321-4573 / 3484
• Directions: Terreiro de Jesus Centro
• Website:

Igreja da Nossa Senhora do Rosario dos Pretos

Built by and for slaves between 1704 and 1796 to honour Our Lady of the Rosary of the Blacks, this church didn't receive due attention outside the local Afro-Brazilian community until long after it was built.

The church uses a mixture of themes, both African and Catholic. The blue and white facade is a mixture of baroque and rococo architecture with oriental-looking towers. After extensive renovation, it is worth a look at the side altars to see statues of the Catholic church's few black saints. One of the highlights of this church is the painting of the Passion with a black Chirst. African rhythms pervade the service.

It is open Mon-Fri 9:30am-6pm, Sat 9:30am-5pm, Sun 10am-noon.
• Address: Largo do Pelourinho
• Directions: the old city centre of Pelourinho

Sport, drinks and foods on the city beachs

It's impossible to stay in Brasil without spend some time on the beachs: you can choose quite, desert palce, but all the brasilian love to stay on beaches with 'barracas' ( beach bar) drinking fruit shakes (vitaminas) or "bem gelada cerveja", eating fish or shrimps, playing beachvolley, football, fishing, doing capoeira, surf, windsurf or is a way of life, like music that you can listen everywhere.

• Address: 10 minutes along the Orla Maritima, north side
• Directions: In Salvador you can do beach sport in a lot of palce but I prefer Piatà because is a littel bit more outside from the city center and it's we practice kitesurf.

Elevador Lacerda - The City's Largest Landmark

In 20 seconds, Elevador Lacerda (Lacerda Elevator) takes you from Praca Tome de Souza in Cidade Alta (the Upper City) to the Praca Cairu in Cidade Baixa (the Lower City). You travel more than 70 meters in one of the tallest public elevators in the world. Some 50.000 passengers make the trip every day (about 120 at a time) using four elevator. It's especially suitable for visiting of Mercado Modelo and the harbour. The fee is unbelievably low. Usually there are short queues but the elevator runs quickly and so does the queue.

Jesuits installed the first manual rope-and-pully elevator around 1610 to more easily transport goods and passengers from the port to the settlement (before that, slaves would ride mules up and down the hill carrying heavy loads). In 1868 an iron structure with clanking steam elevators was inaugurated, replaced by an electric system in 1928.

Elevador Lacerda is an Art Deco masterpiece and Salvador's largest landmark. Don't miss the fantastic view on Baia de Todos os Santos from the windows behind the elevator entrances!
• Directions: from Cidade Alta to Cidade Baixa

Igreja de São Francisco/Ordem Terceira de São Fran

Beautiful from the outside yes, but step inside and be sure to spend a good amount of time observing the ceiling of the room that you first enter.
It would be good if someone that works there helps you a bit, but the ceiling features a magical mural. Depending upon where in the room you are standing, images within the mural change- it's fascinating really.
Once you've paid to enter step out into the courtyard, if you're not totally awed by the beautiful blue and white porteguese tile work about you, something's wrong with you! :-)

Each panel (and there are several!) of the courtyard depicts tales of faith, death, friendship and 'the world' depending upon what exists just beyond that wall- the wall of faith has the church itself on the other side. the wall of death has the cemetery beyond it, the wall of friendship has the monkhood behind it and lastly the wall of the world has the streets of Pelourinho behind it.
OK, now.... go into the actual church and marvel at the mass quantities of gold EVERYwhere you look. This place is gilded to the hilt in high-baroque fashion. It practically glows gold. You'll just have to see for yourself...
. Address: Praça Ancieta (off Terreiro de Jesus)

Savour some Acaraje

Baiana women are everywhere selling acaraje...
You will recognise them by the hoop skirted frocks and the white headwraps. The last time I arrived in Salvador I ate my first Acarje there directly outside the airport car park.
Baianas have secured a monopoly on the dish. Acaraje is a protected food in that is is designated as a national food item where one has to be licensed and dressed in traditional cloths in order to fry and sell it in public.
Acarje is shelled and ground black eyed peas deep fried in palm oil/dende oil. Abara is the steamed version... I was suprised because it is exactly the same dish West Africans call Moi Moi... I had heard about this food before I went on here... come to find out I had been eating it all the time!
It is served split in half and then stuffed with vatapá, shrimp, salad and okra.

It is so delicious and filling... you have to try!
Address: Pelourinho, beach areas... restaurants...

Palacio Rio Branco

I was told that this is now a museum, but it once was a government palace. It sits high above the lower town in the Praça Tomé de Souza, which also contains the City Hall of Salvador. The Rio Branco Palace is definitely the most architecturally interesting building in the square. You'll also find the Elevator Lacerda which gracefully drops you down to the lower town and gives you great views over the Bay of All Saints below.

Casa de Jorge Amado

If you're trying to decide which museum to visit in Largo do Pelourinho, go to this one instead of the Museu da Cidade. Once again the signage is exclusively in Portuguese (people must have thought I was a slow reader when they saw me struggling to decipher the information on the signs).
As the name implies, the museum is dedicated to Brazil's most well-known writer, Jorge Amado. Unfortunately, at the time of my visit, I had never read one of his books, but since I love literature, I was very interested in learning about him. Keep in mind, I don't read Portuguese, but from what I could tell, Amado was fairly unknown for a time. Then he was accused of being a communist and fled to Prague where he remained in exile for awhile. Then, when the dust settled he began to focus his stories on the lives of women and the poor and set most of his stories in his home of Bahia. The streets of Pelourinho are the setting for his popular novel, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands.
Check out the website below for more info and reading suggestions.
• Address: Largo do Pelourinho 51
• Phone: 071 321 0122
• Website:
• Other Contact: 3 reais admission

Have your picture taken with a Bahian woman...

When we got to Pelourinho we noticed many woman dressed in typical Bahian dress...

These Bahianas, bedecked in white turbans and white dresses to resemble candomblé priestesses will eventually approach you and ask if you'd like to have your picture taken with them for a small fee. Why not?

Aeroclube Plaza Show

This place reminded me of Orlando?Ultra colorful and lively, it's like an outdoor entertainment center and mall rolled into one. But the locals seemed to flock to it. Featuring restaurants, food and drink kiosks, tons of shops, bars, a night club, a miniature golf course, go carts, bungee jumping, you name it...
Doesn't feel like Salvador there. But it's something different to do, especially if you're traveling with kids.
This is also where Fashion Club is located... a nightclub some of the concierges at our hotel told me about. Didn't venture out to it though.
Sorry I didn't take pictures, like I said, it looked and felt like Orlando so I didn't see it necessary.
• Address: Av. Otávio Mangabeira, 6000
• Directions: On the beach side of the street just North of Yemanja
• Website:

Watch Capoeira
Most days in Praca de Se (Pelourinho) you will see young men playing Capoeira, as well as drummers... drumming. Just have some spare dosh to give them because they don't take too kindly to having their pictures taken without pay.
Capoeira is an art form that emerged in Brazil during the era of the Atlantic Slave Trade. It is mostly practised in Salvador blending music, ritual, acrobatic movement, and combat, capoeira is at once a dance, a game, and a dangerous martial art. You will often here people saying that they are going to "play Capoeira."

• Address: Praca de Se
• Directions: in Pelourinho, The Historic District

A Candomble Ceremony
We booked through a travel guide we met in Pelourinho to go to a ceremony. It cost us 40 Reais each.
We were picked up at about 9/10 pm in a mini bus and went around hotels to pick up other people. The ceremony was held in a community centre in a favela.

In the communal ceremonies of Candomblé, the orixas are summoned through ritual drumming, chanting, and dancing in terreiros or houses of Candomblé. Exu, the messenger spirit who intervenes between the believers and the orixas, is the first to be summoned by the drummers and dancers. Exu opens the way for the orixas to descend to the earth.
As the Candomblé ceremony gains momentum, orixas become manifest in particular initiates who enter stated of ecstatic trance, becoming mediums through which orixas perform ritual dances and make their presence known to the believers.
It was midnight when we left and the ceremony had not yet finished. It was very interesting to watch but I think it was perhaps a show put on for tourists... but nonetheless I can understand that because if it was real they wouldn't necessarily want a whole bunch of tourists observing and taking pictures.

Directions: Can probably book through the Tourist Office in Pelourinho... Rua Gregoria de Matthos

YES you can also samba!!!

=) Don't get me wrong, I am not one of the dancers in the pic, I got this pic from google, so if anyone from the pic get to see this, don't sue me abusing your pic, ( I just got this pic cause thought was too good)
yeah there are couple of samba schools where you can indulge yourself into samba madness. I wanted it so much, but couldn't manage to sign up for it, cause of lack of time. Maybe next time..
but the brit I met in the hostel said wasn't too expensive (oh well, to a brit, virtually everything in brasil might seem cheap though), and also pretty fun, too!!!!!!!
Have fun in your samba night!

Visit a Favela
dont know if this is something I would reccommend everybody to do... but I certainly was curious... hearing so much about Favela conditions... danger etc...
I was scared when I first got there because of everything I had heard... but when I got there it really was fine... Yes it is poor and the conditions are somewhat shabby... but they are just people living not robbers... drug dealers etc... they have eating and drinking places... beauty salons etc...
I was fortunate enough to have someone I met take me to their family's home. They were very welcoming and made me feel comfortable. We sat down had cofee and watched a talent show on TV.
I wouldn't reccommend going in the dark or when it is raining because those slopes are a bi%*h. I was struggling to climb the hills and the lack of drainage makes it all the more worse.

Cidade Baixa

Salvador is a city of two halves, divided into the Cidade Alta ("Upper Town") and the Cidade Baixa ("Lower Town") by an escarpment some 85m (275ft) high. The easiest way to travel between the two is to take the elevator known as Elevador Lacerda, which was built in 1873 (the first to be installed in Brazil) and, fortunately, been restored several times over the years.

The Cidade Baixa is Bahia's commercial and financial centre and port. It is busy and safe during working days, but largely deserted and considered unsafe at night. We spent most of our time in the Upper Town but one morning took the elevator down (it costs just a few cents) to explore the area at its foot. Emerging from it the first thing we saw was a large covered market, the Mercado Modelo, which is a major shopping point for locals and tourists alike, with everyday food stuffs and delicious-looking seafood alongside craft and folk art pieces such as musical instruments, masks and carvings.

At the far end of the market we emerged onto a street facing the water, where young boys were practicing capoeira outside a small café and collecting plenty of tourist tips for their trouble. We were happy to sit here for a while, enjoying the show while we relaxed with a cold drink – well worth the few coins we paid them for their efforts.

There was also a stand selling the traditional berimbau, a percussion instrument consisting of a wooden bow about 4 to 5 feet long (1.2 to 1.5 m), with a steel string, and a hollowed-out gourd attached to the lower portion of the bow as a resonator. These instruments are an integral part of capoeira.
• Directions: Take the Elevador Lacerda

Tuesdays Carnaval Blocos

Anybody who goes to Salvador have to experience these drums! Sometimes it feels like the different Blocos are "fighting" to make the loudest sound. All the streets will be filled with music, especially first and last tuesdays of the month.
You dont even have to go to a bar to get yourself a drink, as vendors will come around offering icecold and very cheap softdrinks and beers to the audience.

• Address: Pelourino, Center of Salvador
• Directions: The streets of Pelourino tuesday nights from 20 – midnight

Nigerian Cultural Centre

Bahia, the state with the largest percentage of Blacks, is the capital of this religion, which closely follows its African roots and traditions among the Yoruba people of Nigeria and the Bantu people of Angola and the Congo. Yoruban traditions, including the most commonly used names of the orishas, predominate... so it is only approriate that there is a Nigerian Cultural Centre.
• Address: Pelhourinho
• Directions: I dont have the exact address and can't find any detail about it but it was in Pelo and can be spotted by the green and white flag hanging outside.

Dique do Tororo

Dam built by the dutch (NATURALLY!) a long time ago and recently reformed, Dique do Tororo is simply dazzling. In its surroundings you find good restaurants, places to work out at, sidewalk so you can promenade along the lake, benches for those in love, boats, canoes etc...
• Address: Tororo
• Other Contact: The dam is full of sculptures of


Enough of walking around zombielike in the harsh heat of the day , from 16th century church to 17th century church...? Now you're starving and thirsty and you want to rest in the shade..... Go and have lunch at the open air Cantina da Lua near Terreiro de Jesus and diagonally across from Igreja da Ordem Terceira de Sào Domingos. On the first picture we slowly gather at the right place planning to pig out as much as possible. On pic # 2 it's like : "After the Deluge"....The table looks like a battle field.... After hanging around for quite a while , pic # 3 shows our group at dusk near the Elevador Lacerdo ( 1872 and refurbished 1930 ) , with the Bahia De Todos Os Santos ( Bay Of All The Saints) in the background and the Cidade Baixa below. Driving along the Bay / Ocean Boulevard , we come to the point where the Bay ends and the Atlantic starts , there is this beautifully lit lighthouse which is more tourist attraction because of it being built on top of a fortress ( pic # 4 ) and finally , before heading back to the hotel THE typical brazilian refreshment - very tasty and healthy - coconut water , served in it's natural cask at shacks along the Ocean Boulevard. ( pic # 5 )
• Directions: Cantina da Lua near Terreiro de Jesus and driving along the Bay / Ocean Blvd

Abaete Lagoon

The city of Salvador has a lagoon where laundrywomen used to launder in the past. Nowadays there are some public buddles close to the lagoon, where laundrywomen still do hand wash. You can see them walking with a clothes package on their heads.

La ciudad de Salvador tiene una laguna en donde las lavanderas solían lavar al ropa en el pasado. Hoy en día hay varios lavaderos públicos cerca de la laguna, en donde las lavanderas aún lavan a mano. Se las puede ver caminando con un atado de ropa sobre sus cabezas.

BEACHES - III Stella Maris


Stella Maris
The name of this beach is latin and means 'Star of the Sea' - the name in portuguese of the starfish. This beach is absolutelly dazzling and the most surfable in Salvador. White sand, wonderful sunset, troubled water - we like it wild, we like it rough!
• Address: After Itapoan.
• Other Contact: You'll need to take the bus 'Pra

Salvador, as I have said, is a party-town. While nearly every night can be party-night here, the authorities - themselves party animals - actually organised special street parties on weekend and TUESDAY nights.
During these nights, stages, food and drink stalls are set up at the various squares - Largo do Pelourinho and Largo Terreiro do Jesus, for sure - and the party starts early.

From 8pm onwards, there ought to be some bands playing away, and locals should start hip-swaying and forro-dancing somewhere soon.
Then, as the night progresses, the streets heat up with more and more people gathering to join the Olodum drummers, following them behind like Pipe Piper, and dancing crazily away to very vigorous beats. Nearly every alley-way is crammed with people hanging out, dancing and listening to great music. Sometimes, there are concerts somewhere. Simple local bars become very crowded, chairs are set out on the streets nearby and impromptu bars are created as endless alcohol gets dispensed.

As more and more cans of beer are consumed and tossed, and perspiration gets sprayed about, you might see more and more couples suddenly hooked up and kissing and making out right at the alley-ways, oblivious to all around.

One big amazing party!
Note that, on the contrary, Monday night is dead-town.

1 comment:

Brightspark Dublin said...

Great post - informative and helps me out as I work out what to do in Salvador in the rain!