Salvador da Bahia has an energy and unadorned beauty that few cities can match. Once the magnificent capital of Portugal’s New World colony, today Salvador is the pulsating heart of the country’s Afro-Brazilian community. Its brilliantly hued center is a living museum of 17th- and 18th-century architecture and gold-laden churches. Wild festivals happen frequently, with drum corps pounding out rhythms against the backdrop of colonial buildings almost daily.
Elevator to upper town:
The upper and lower towns are linked by steep streets and a number of lifts, including the Plano Inclinado de Gonçalves (a funicular) and the Elevator to upper town, a dramatic free-standing elevator that has become a landmark of Salvador. From the terrace formed by the upper plaza, Praca Tome de Souza, there is a superb view of the lower town and the harbor.
Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosario dos Pretos:
Unable to worship at their masters’ churches, Brazil’s slaves built their own finishing the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos in the 18th century. With two bell towers and painted in pale blue and white, it is an architecturally fine building that still thrives and functions today. Services are a mix of Catholicism and Candomblé, and visitors are usually welcome to observe. It has neoclassical altars inside and a small graveyard for slaves out the back.
Head to the small coastal town of Arembepe, about 27mi (45km) north of Salvador. There’s a small hippie village located close to the city center, where the peace and love generation still sell crafts and locally-grown produce. Locals here choose to live off nature, in mud and straw houses, and without electricity. If you are lucky enough you’ll be able to witness turtles beating around the water.
San Salvador is El Salvador’s capital city. Located in the central plateau region, it is the second largest city in all of Central America (second to Guatemala City.) Despite its colossal size, visitors are generally surprised to find laid back locals, an easy going atmosphere, and a relatively slow pace to the city. Infrastructure, though on the mend since the millennium, is still hit or miss, with earthquakes and war showing their scars throughout the city.
Pierre Verger Gallery:
If you want to celebrate the culture and beauty of Salvador through the eyes of a true admirer, stop by the Pierre Verger Gallery in the Pierre Verger Foundation. Verger was a French photographer who fell in love with Salvador and its people upon his arrival in 1946. He was embraced in return and began to study Candomblé. Verger even followed its roots back to Benin in Africa. His love of African-Brazilian culture and its people is on full display in the gallery through a small rotating exhibit of his 62,000 photographs.