Salvador's Top 5 Attractions
If you’re visiting Brazil, then Salvador has to be on your list of must-see destinations. First, the northeastern city and capital of Bahia is the birthplace of Brazil, where Portuguese, African and Indian cultures melded to create the colorful country we know today. Second, Salvador’s raucous Carnival rivals Rio’s as the largest street party in the world, according to Guinness World Records. You may want to reverse these facts in order of importance, depending on your interests. Either way, Salvador captivates travelers of all stripes, from hardcore Carnival-goers to the culturally curious. Here are 5 attractions sure to appeal to all.
1. Largo do Pelourinho
If you happen to be in Salvador for Carnival, you can join the crush of drummers, dancers, bands and other revelers squeezing into the square for a last run at debauchery on the eve of Lent. Be sure to look out for Carnival favorites such as the Sons of Gandhi, or “Filhos de Ghandhy,” as the locals call them. Thousands of men in white turbans sing chants of African origin. Meanwhile, the Afro-Brazilian group Ilê Aiyê parades in its trademark yellow, red and black garb. And the cultural group Olodum showcases its infectious samba reggae beats -- a unique mix of merengue, salsa and reggae rhythms.
2. Museu Afro-Brasileiros
But the most impressive exhibit is one dedicated to the Orishas -- the deities that the slaves paired with Catholic saints so they could continue to practice their old Yoruba traditions in a new religion called Candomblé. Exquisitely carved wood panels -- over 9 feet tall -- depict 27 of these deities and the spiritual powers that followers believe they possess.
3. Balé Folclorico da Bahia
Not only do the dancers represent the deities through bursts of color, but through spectacular dances, retelling the legends of the spirits and how they came to be along with rhythmic percussion and song.
4. São Francisco Church and Convent
Outside, the convent courtyard features gorgeous blue and white hand-painted Portuguese tiles. Many of the cherubs and other religious ornamentation in the church appear a bit odd and distorted. They were the handiwork of disgruntled slave artisans who were forced into Catholicism and decorated the church with pregnant cherubs and other figures distasteful to their captors.