Attractions of South America e-Book

Argentina Bolivia Brazil Chile Colombia Ecuador Peru Venezuela

Salvador da Bahía

Salvador da Bahía (in full, São Salvador da Bahía de Todos os Santos, or in literal translation: "Holy Savior of All Saints' Bay") is a city on the northeast coast of Brazil and the capital of the Northeastern Brazilian State of Bahia. It's also called the African Capital of Brazil due to its mainly black population. It's one of my favorite cities of South America.

The city was founded in 1549 by Tomé de Souza (although the Bahía de Todos os Santos was first encountered in 1502), the first governor general of Brazil. The sea port of Salvador was the most important one of the country and the city became one of the biggest of the Americas around 1780.

With a history so rich and a culture so exciting this can be the highlight of your tour in Brazil.


The historical center Pelourinho in Salvador Salvador is divided in an "upper city" (Cidade Alta) and a "lower city" (Cidade Baixa). The upper city has a splendid and very colorful historical center Pelourinho (called Peló by the locals). The name means whipping post in Portuguese as it was here that black slaves were traded.

It's here that the best hotels, shops and restaurants are located and it's also here where there's a lot of hot action going on in the evenings. Music, music and music and after that? Music, of course.

The city contains many fine colonial buildings and Pelourinho is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Besides many magnificent old houses you find the nation's first medical school, and, even more importantly, Brazil's oldest cathedral (1572) and over 350 additional churches (they say you can go to a different church every day of the year), many featuring significant works of art. The great number of Catholic houses of worship in Salvador has earned it the nickname of "Black Rome."

Check out some of these wonderful Salvador da Bahia budget hotels
and splendid hotels in Salvador!

It's a great spot to wander around and watch the action going on. Surprisingly Pelourinho is not that big which takes you straight to the...


Bahía de Todos os Santos

Lacerda Elevator - Salvador da Bahía, Brazil The "All Saints' Bay" lies in the lower city (Cidade Baixa) some 85 meters (275 ft) below. If your up to it you can stroll down at your pace or speed it up a bit with the landmark of Salvador, the Lacerda Elevator.

The Elevador Lacerda has connected the two sections since 1873, having since undergone several upgrades. The bay itself looks out over the Atlantic ocean and offers some spectacular sunsets.

Near the bay you find the statue of the Brazilian poet Castro Alves (he died at the tender age of 24), who was one of the first to write poems about the miseries of the black community.

The lower city (Cidade Baixa) is also the starting place of some Lavagem do Bonfim - Salvador da Bahía, Brazil fantastic festivals. One of the most beautiful ones is the "Lavagem do Bonfim" (the "Cleansing of the Bonfim" Church). It's a 9 km (5.5 mile) walk (well, it's more like a dance) to the church but you'll be accompanied by the exciting "blocos" (drum bands). This is a lot of fun.

It's a festival for mainly the "Filhos de Gandy" (Sons of Gandhi) which is one of the biggest blocos of Salvador da Bahía. They're dressed in white and wear a turban and their leader looks like... well, Gandhi.

Other very famous blocos from Salvador are Olodum (they performed with Paul Simon on his Brazil album), Ylé Ayé and Banda Dida.



Carnival (click for some pictures) is the event of the year, especially for Brazilians, it's their moment of glory. To be part of carnival is just unbelievable. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can match this 6 day long party from sunrise till sunfall. Drums, drums and drums... O Brasil! Que Beleza!

The streets are packed with people during carnival. Trucks (Trio Eletricos) pass by with bands playing music on top of them. If you like what you hear just join the masses dancing behind the truck. If not... just wait till the next one passes by. I had great fun in Pelourinho (the historical center of Salvador da Bahía). Drum bands (blocos) parade in the city, small samba combos appear everywhere... The mood is great, the atmosphere vibrant and there's always a place to join in and show off your excellent samba moves.

Dida (Banda Feminina) performs during Carnival in Salvador da Bahía, Brazil

Tip: Some wonderful photo collages may come up if you click on certain Brazil pictures... explore and enjoy.

Accommodation gets expensive and you need to book in advance. Other than that? Just enjoy the best party you'll ever have!

Capoeira, a Dance of War

Capoeira, a Dance of War Everywhere you go in Salvador you see performances of Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art form that came to Brazil on the slave ships from the African continent. It is a "war dance" where 2 opponents perform acrobatic movements without touching each other. If one player succeeds to unbalance his opponent the dance is over.

Capoeira is accompanied by rhythm and chant. The instruments used are berimbaus (I have one at home, don't ask me to play on it), pandeiro (tambourine), reco-reco (rasp) and agogo.


Learn more about Salvador da Bahía here


Other Must See Places in Brazil

Rio de Janeiro Ouro Preto Brasilia
Rio de Janeiro Ouro Preto Brasilia

Food from Brazil
Music From Brazil


© All photographs by Mark Van Overmeire*

*Photographs of "Pelourinho" and "Salvador" by Vinicius Tupinamba | Agencies: and