Check the other cities here: Travelling across South America in 15 Days
On our first day in Brazil we went to the super urban landscape of São Paulo; on the second day, we enjoyed the beaches and mountains of Rio. Today, our journey through South America in 15 days brings us to the amazing city of Salvador – a place with such a distinct culture it will make you feel like you are in another country!
Salvador was the first capital of Brazil, back when it was a colony of Portugal. It was also the city where the ships with the slaves coming from Africa would set sail. In that time, it was the main commercial city of Brazil. When the law freeing the slaves became official and all the slaves were freed, the ones in the city (along with the ones in the ships that were yet to arrive) stayed in the surroundings of Salvador and that fact completely changed the culture and society of the city. Up to today, Salvador is a city with one of the highest percentage of population with African descendence.
The African roots pretty much dictate the whole lifestyle of Salvador. From food to religion, everything is different there. On our trip around the city you will experience all the heritage from the colonial period, incredible meals and a lot of touristic attractions that you surely won’t find anywhere else.
Start your day strolling through historic downtown. Salvador’s historic Pelourinho district is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its architecture and unique preservation of the history of resistance by African slaves. Walk on the famous Rua Chile to the Municipal Square and Rio Branco Palace, one of the country’s oldest palaces.
Salvador is divided into upper town and lower town; the traditional way of exploring the two levels is to take the Lacerda Elevator in the historic center of town. Built in 1873, the elevator has two towers reaching 72 meters and carries more than 900,000 people per month. From the top you have a panoramic view of Baía de Todos os Santos, the main bay of the city. There is a small maintenance fee to use it, but it’s worth paying for. For some souvenir-shopping, go to Mercado Modelo. founded in 1912, you’ll find typical Salvadoran arts and crafts: paintings, dolls, musical instruments like drums and berimbau, necklaces, and other ornaments. The market is across from the Lacerda Elevator in Praça Visconde de Cayru.
After you go to it, treat yourself with an acarajé, a pastry made of a fried bean bun with vegetables, prawns and pepper, sold by the traditional Baianas, the old ladies in wide white dresses, representing the matriarchal culture of the area. But mind you: when they ask you if you want it hot or cold, they are not talking about the temperature, but the amount of pepper they put in it, so remember to ask for a cold one – unless you are feeling very brave.
For some playful activities, you can join a capoeira circle and try the Brazilian self-defense dance. Created by the slaves as a way to be able to defend themselves, they had to mask it as a dance so nobody would suspect. Nowadays, it is a sport practiced in many countries and has distinctive wavy movements. Many groups practice it at the many beaches of the city.
And of course, don’t forget to hit the beach when you are there. The beaches in the north of Salvador, located in the Linha Verde zone, are among the best in Brazil. Imbassaí beach, which means “Path of the River” in the Indigenous Tupy language, is 63 kilometers from Salvador. You can go by bus from the central bus station.
At night, you can enjoy a nice meal at any of the many restaurants in the Barra area. Very touristic and special for having the Barra Lighthouse, the experience of trying some regional food there will definitely give a grand finale to your stay in the city. Next stop, save a whole day to enjoy the nature, because we are going to the city of Pipa!