Bahia in Brazil
White-sand beaches backed by coconut palms, steep winding streets lined with pastel-coloured houses, ornate baroque churches, Afro-Brazilian ceremonies, gymnastic martial art ballet, the rhythm of the
berimbau, the aroma of spices ... Bahia conjures up as many exotic images, sounds and smells as Rio de Janeiro and has as an equally strong claim to be the heart of Brazil. The state capital, Salvador, was the country's first city for far longer than any other, and is considered by many to be the country's cultural centre.
Brazil's most famous novelist, Jorge Amado, was a Bahian, as were many of its greatest musicians; it was Bahia that gave the world samba, capoeira, Carnaval and
candomblé. The state has some of the best cuisine in the country, along with many of its best beaches. Bahia's beautiful coast stretches far to the north and south of Salvador and is dotted with resorts along its length: laid-back little places like Itacaré, Morro de São Paulo and Trancoso, and larger more hedonistic party-towns like Porto Seguro and Arraial de Ajuda. Inland, in the wild semi-desert of the
sertão, is one of Brazil's best hiking destinations, the Chapada Diamantina, whose towering escarpments are cut by clear-water rivers and dotted with plunging waterfalls.
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