Bahia - Brazilian Sun &
The warmth of a tropical sun is something that comes to mind when we
think of Brazil: golden sand beaches with palms blowing in the wind,
warm green waters, and a cool beverage in hand to pass the time.
Bahia is all of that and much more to offer.
Located in the northeast region, Bahia is a large state of Brazil
famous for its history; one of Brazil's most important carnival
locations, a land of eternal sunny days, and some even say where the
soul of Brazil actually resides.
Bahia is the actual birthplace of Brazil as a nation and will always
remain a very desirable location for Brazilians and foreigners
The Portuguese explorer Pedro Cabral made the discovery of Brazil
for the Portuguese officially on April 22, 1500. Near present-day
Porto Seguro in southern Bahia, Cabral spotted the 1500 foot hill
known as Monte Pascoal (Easter Hill), landed, built a cross and
performed the first Christian service to the amazement of the native
Indians that greeted him. Brazil was named Terra de Vera Cruz (Land
of the True Cross).
Bahia is divided into 3 regions: the
Atlantic Forest (Floresta Atlantica) the recôncavo,
the area surrounding the Baia de Todos os Santos, and the
planalto, the elevated mountain plateau which includes the
the famously drought-stricken far interior of Bahia.
It is estimated that 80% of Baianos
(natives of Bahia) are of African descent.
Baianos are known and even envied by some, for their easy-going
life-style. Things are taken down a notch in the sense of urgency,
as there will always be another sunny day soon to follow in Bahia.
The booming sugar industry was the motivation to import 10's of
thousands of Africans into slavery, and Bahia was the largest area
for the development of agriculture in Brazil. Tobacco and cattle
farming also proved to be profitable industries.
Mineral wealth was also a huge source of wealth for Salvador, with
the discovery of gold and diamonds in the interior of Bahia, in the Chapada Diamantina.
After the sugar industry declined in the 1820’s, Bahia was left
behind to fend for itself by the federal government, as the
interests of the Portuguese shifted south to Rio de Janeiro and
Minas Gerais, as the federal capital was transferred to Rio in 1763.
Salvador da Bahia, the capital of the state of historic Bahia,
served as the official colonial capital of Brazil from 1549 to 1763.
Holding true to its roots, the culture of Bahia defines itself from
its African descendents, one of few places in the new world that
embraces their African influence.
African culture, cuisines and colors thrive in Salvador, as it is
known. It is said to have a church for every day of the year, many
richly decorated (some in gold leafing), a
testimony to all of the wealth acquired in the Serra de Sincora in
Religion in Bahia is known for its many gods, called orixas.
Catholicism was blended with African cultures to accommodate both
the church and the people of Brazil. Candomble is one of the
best known Afro- Brazilian religions and popular throughout Brazil.
The Sao Francisco catholic church was built by forced labor by
African artisans, whom were not allowed to practice their own
religion. The artisan slaves responded to this injustice by
distorting many of the images in the church during its creation.
Pelourinho (little pillory) is the historic area where the slaves
were sold and tortured, located in the center of the cidade alta
Salvador is known for its music and has no shortage of live music
and nightlife to celebrate.
Carnival in Salvador is famous for the street parades and
Trio-Elétricos, large flat-bed trucks laden with
amplifiers, musicians and participants, which crawl throughout the
city with hordes of revelers in tow, blasting out highly infectious
Bahia is known for producing some of Brazil's most
popular musicians. Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso both had a
substantial influence on Brazilian Tropicalismo, music blended with
other genres and peppered with lots of percussion. Other well-known
and influential musicians include; Ivete Sangalo, Gal Costa, Daniela
Mercury and the godfather of Bossa Nova, Joao Gilberto; all that hail
from Bahia Brazil.
Bahia struggled along with the decline in sugar until cacao (cocoa)
was introduced to the coastal region of Ilheus from Belem in 1881.
Cacao went on to become known as white gold, and unscrupulous
landowners in the Cacao Coast known as the coroneis, (coronals) scrambled to attain as
much land as possible to farm the cacao.
As fate had it, the boon in
cacao came to a streaking halt when the disease known as vassoura de
bruxa (witch’s broom) swept over the Brazilian cacao, diminishing
the once vibrant tree to shriveling sticks that wouldn’t produce
fruit. What remains in Ilheus is its wonderful beaches and churches.
Brazil’s best known romantic novelist, Jorge Amado, describes the
times of cacao prosperity in Ilheus in many of his books.
Baiana cuisine is typically hot and spiced with hot peppers, coconut
milk, coriander, shrimp and dende oil, taken from an
African palm tree. It has a yellow color and although exotic and
delicious, it has a reputation as being hard on the unfamiliar
Capoeira is a dance,
game and martial art that was invented in the slave era. The art was
thought to be developed to fight back against the slave owners, and
it was quickly prohibited by the authorities. The practice went on to be developed in
the forests, hidden from the masters, whereby the dance-like
moves were encouraged with little physical contact being made. The berimbau is a single-stringed instrument used along with clapping
and other instruments like the tambourine, to keep the rhythm.
Bahia is known for its 365 days of
sun and beautiful beaches. Porto Seguro,
Costa do Sauípe, Morro de São Paulo, Itacare and
are some of the better known beach destinations in Bahia. Depending
on your personal preference, you are not limited in your options of
Porto Seguro is one of Brazil's top
tourist destination, one known for the active year round nightlife
and axe music; a fast paced dance music, blended from samba, pop,
reggae, funk and rock. Other beautiful beach settings include
the neighbor to Porto Seguro, Arraial d' Ajuda. Trancoso is close by
and known for a tranquil refuge away from the party scene.
Morro de Sao Paulo is
a community at the north end of Ilha Tinhare, south of Valenca.
Morro has been given the distinction as one of the best beaches in
Brazil, and continues to grow as international visitors take
advantage of the tropical paradise and its clear waters and reef
pools. Although cars are not allowed, tractors run up and down the
beach, taking people to accommodations, bars and restaurants.
Eco-tourism in Bahia has a excellent destination
west of Salvador named Chapada Diamantina. Incredible hiking trails,
waterfalls, caves and much more wait those that appreciate these
The colonial town of Lencois was founded when diamonds were discovered in the Serra de
Sincora, and serves today as a base for the growing eco-tourism of
the beautiful Chapada Diamantina. The Fumaca Falls holds the title
as the largest drop of water in Brazil at over 1000 ft (340 m).
The Chapada Diamantina
region has many waterfalls and caves as well. Gruta (cave) Azul and
Pratinha are connected by a subterranean canal. Gruta Azul has
transparent waters where you can snorkel. Lapa Doce is one of the
largest caves in Brazil with 12 miles (21 km) of extension. Only 1
km can be visited, with a fee being collected by the owners of the
land, with guide provided.
Various hiking trails
can be made with the help of registered guides. The Vale de Paty is
the test of fire for those interested in a hike of 35 miles (50 km).
The hike usually takes 3 days, two of those nights camping in the
Biking tours are
another outdoor sport available, averaging 5 days through some
beautiful vistas. They can be arranged out of Mucuge and Palmeiras.
There you have it -
Bahia, Brazil. Sunny skies and tropical flavors are waiting to be