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  • Salvador da Bahia

    Salvador da Bahia travel guide

    Overview

    Salvador is Bahia state's buzzing capital city, its pulsating vibrancy staying with visitors long after they leave the golden shores.

    Founded in 1549, Salvador quickly became Brazil's premier city, and the Portuguese Empire's second most important, after Lisbon. Prospering during the 17th and 18th centuries as Brazil's major port, it handled a significant portion of the country's gold, sugar and diamonds.

    Today, the city's impressive colonial architecture is evidence of its rich history. Well-restored enclaves of the old city and ornate Baroque churches remain amid modern tower blocks and colourful mansions, all of it connected by quaint cobblestone streets. 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, while precious stones and paintings reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel 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 probably being Salvador's finest in this regard. 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 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 ideal for children, while others host many of Salvador's great festivals, including the performances and fireworks of the New Year festivities.

    Salvador is Brazil's most Africanised state, owing to the thousands of slaves who were transported 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.

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    English Pronounciation

    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.

    Deputado Luís Eduardo Magalhães International Airport
    Location: The airport is located 14 miles (22km) north of downtown Salvador de Bahia.
    Time: Local time is GMT -3
    Getting to the city: Public buses run from the airport to the city centre. Two kinds of buses are available: the 'executivo' and the urban bus. The buses provide transportation to the main city sights such as Pelourinho, Barra, Mercado Modelo, and the Lacerda Elevator. Tickets can be bought on the bus or within the terminal and the trip takes approximately 90 minutes.
    Car Rental: Avis, Thrifty, Europcar, and Hertz all have desks in the arrivals hall.
    Airport Taxis: Coometas taxis are available at the airport, and wait outside the terminal.
    Facilities: Airport facilities include a comfort station, hairdresser, information desk, medical post, tourist service centre, banks and ATMs, currency exchange, restaurants and coffee shops, a post office, gift shops and newsagents, and duty-free shopping.
    Parking Parking is available at the airport.

    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. Generally running between 6am and 11pm, buses are boarded from the back and disembarked from at the front.

    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, but passengers should negotiate a price before the journey commences if the taxi isn't metered.

    Salvador de Bahia is a vibrant and colourful mix of indigenous, African and European culture, its history evident in its diverse 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 such as the Cathedral of Salvador, the Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos and the Convent and Church of Sao Francisco. No less holy but not quite sacred is the 17th-century donut-shaped São Marcelo Fort.

    Also known as the 'Capital of Joy', Salvador 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 people visit the city is the continuous line-up of wild festivals and celebrations, when beaches and plazas come alive with music, dancing and partying.

    Salvadore's coastline spans over 50 miles (80km), 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 frolic in; Farol de Itapoan has strong currents suited to experienced swimmers and surfers; while the scenic Flamengo is home to several fun barracas (beach bars). Visitors can also visit Projeto Tamar, which is a sea turtle conservation project at Praia do Forte.

    Another huge drawcard are the spectacular ocean views from Farol da Barra. The lighthouse is situated where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bay of All Saints. Forte de Monte Serrat, on the other hand, offers wonderful views of the city itself.

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    No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination