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Salvador is Bahia state's capital city. Its pulse and vibrancy will linger in the minds of visitors long after they've left its golden shores.
Founded in 1549, Salvador quickly became Brazil's premier city, and the Portuguese Empire's second most important one - after Lisbon. It prospered in the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was Brazil's major port. A significant portion of the country's gold, sugar and diamonds passed through its territory.
Today, the city's impressive colonial architecture is evidence of its rich history. Well-restored enclaves of the old city remain between modern tower blocks. Visitors will encounter cobblestone streets, colourful mansions, and dozens of ornate Baroque churches. The São Francisco Church and Convent, a high-baroque cathedral located in downtown Salvador, has to be seen to be believed. Funded by the area's sugar barons and built between 1708 and 1723, the cathedral's interior is literally plastered with gold. Precious stones and Sistine Chapel-like paintings adorn the ceiling. Most churches are open to the public and many have been turned into museums.
This delightfully decadent city's spicy atmosphere is best soaked up on foot, within its narrow streets and markets. The Mercado Modelo arts and crafts market may be Salvador's finest. One of the city's more unusual experiences is to ride the Elevador Lacerda. The Art Deco structure houses old electric elevators that carry passengers between the port and the old historic part of town.
Salvador's beaches present visitors with an enviable list of options. The range extends from calm coves ideal for swimming, sailing, and underwater fishing, such as Porto da Barra beach, to wild coasts facing the Atlantic Ocean. Aleluia beach falls into the latter category and attracts many surfers. Some beaches are surrounded by coral reefs, forming natural swimming pools that are ideal for children. Beautiful beaches host many of Salvador's great festivals, including the performances and fireworks of the New Year festivities.
Salvador is Brazil's most Africanised state. Indeed, thousands of slaves were taken to the region's sugarcane plantations 400 years ago. The Museu Afro-Brasileira is dedicated to this history and culture. The fusion of African and Latin cultures has given Salvador a unique brand of magic that is particularly evident at the city's many festivals, most notably the massive Carnival in mid-November. It attracts two million revellers from all over the world and is said to rival the famous Rio Carnival.
Salvador da Bahia experiences a humid tropical climate, with average highs reaching 77°F (25°C) all year round. The coldest months are June through August, when temperatures are at their lowest, ranging between 70°F (21°C) and 79°F (26°C). The warmest months stretch from December through February, with average daytime highs reaching 86°F (30°C). The rainy season typically spans April and June.
City buses are frequent in Salvador, but the system can be confusing. Air-conditioned minibuses cost about twice the normal fares, and most major tourist destinations and shopping areas have their own stops. Passengers board buses from the back and disembark from the front. Busses generally run between 6am and 11pm.
Driving on the narrow streets of Salvador's old city centre can be stressful and confusing. Cars are only recommended for travellers intending to explore outside the city. Taxis are a better option. Passengers should negotiate a price if they aren't metered.
Salvador de Bahia is the former capital of Brazil, and a vibrant, colourful mix of African, Native-Indian, and European culture. Its history is evident in its cuisine, music and architecture. Founded in the 16th century as a Portuguese colony, its historic district, also known as Pelourinho or the Cidade Alta, has been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The city has over a thousand sacred houses, including churches like the Cathedral of Salvador, the Church of Nossa Senora do Rosário dos Pretos, and the Convent and Church of Sao Francisco. Another building worth seeing is the donut-shaped São Marcelo Fort, built in the 17th century.
Salvador is also known as the 'Capital of Joy', and locals certainly know how to have a good time. The Mercado Modelo is the city's bustling market area, where visitors will find arts and crafts stalls, and a variety of bars and restaurants. One of the main reasons to visit Salvador is the city's continuous line-up of wild festivals and celebrations. Set on beaches and in plazas, they fill the city with music and dancing.
The coastline spans over 50 miles (80km), making it one of the longest in Brazil. Each beach has a unique draw. Porto da Barra is popular for swimming, as it faces the bay and has calm waters. Farol da Barra's rocky pools and reefs are perfect for kids to play in. Farol de Itapoan has strong currents suited to experienced swimmers and surfers, while the scenic Flamengo is home to several fun barracas, or beach bars. Visitors can also visit Projeto Tamar, which is a sea turtle conservation project at Praia do Forte.
Visitors can get spectacular views from Farol da Barra. The lighthouse is situated where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bay of All Saints. Unlike Farol da Barra, Forte de Monte Serrat offers wonderful views of the city itself.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination
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