Salvador and the Recôncavo in Brazil

Salvador is the capital not just of Bahia but of African Brazil. The country's African heritage is at its strongest here - in the ubiquitous Orixá spirit gods and goddesses, the carnival rhythms of the drum troupe orchestras of Ilê Aiyê and Olodum, the rich spicy cooking, the rituals of candomblé (Brazil's equivalent of santeria) and in the martial art ballet of capoeira. You will see the latter being played on Salvador's beaches and in the squares and cobbled streets of the city's historical centre, the Pelourinho. The Pelourinho is also home to one of the most impressive collections of colonial architecture in South America. There are myriad baroque churches here. Some, like the Convento do São Francisco, have interiors covered with tons of gold plate. Others, like Nossa Senhora do Rosário, are decorated with statues of black saints and art that celebrates African Brazilian culture. The city is famous for its frenetic carnival which, unlike Rio's, takes place in the streets to the pounding rhythms of axé music. The crowds are overwhelming.

The Recôncavo is Brazil's largest bay and is dotted with islands; many of them are privately owned by the northeast's wealthy, others serve as weekend resorts for people from Salvador. The best known is Itaparica, a long thin island lined with palms, with a pretty colonial capital and some reasonable beaches. Many buses run from here and taking the ferry across from Salvador and then road transport from Itaparica is the quickest way of getting to southern Bahia.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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