The millions of slaves captured in Africa and brought to Brazil by the Portuguese brought with them a culture rich in music, dance, cuisine, and religion that’s still present and mainstream in Salvador de Bahia. This city was the epicenter of the largest slave market ever in the Americas, in fact, five times more slaves were brought to Salvador alone than to the entire United States! Get ready for a cultural journey to Salvador de Bahia’s historic center, declared a Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, and let us help you discover the singular Afro-Brazilian Beat, Heritage & Soul of Salvador de Bahia.
In this city, steeped in Afro-Brazilian, colonial and indigenous heritages, you’ll get to admire the greatest collection of Baroque architectural heritage in Latin America, the first urban elevator in the world, as well as appreciate the sight of multicolored colonial and baroque houses and mansions that make up the city’s historic center. Occasionally, the locals gather for impromptu performances on the strets, so maybe you’ll get to hear the sounds of rhythmic Afro-Brazilian beats. Our expert private guide we’ll help us explore the historic center, also known as the Pelourinho, meaning “pillory” or “whipping post,” since it was the place where the African slaves were humiliated in public.
The first highlight we’ll see will be the Barra Lighthouse on the picturesque coast of Salvador. From this vantage point, we’ll take in some beautiful panoramic views of the entrance to Bay of All Saints. It’s the largest bay in Brazil, and also one of the largest in the world, with 190 miles (300 kilometers) of coastline. As we drive towards the Pelourinho, we’ll take the opportunity to traverse the Corredor da Vitoria (Victory Trail), a trail that’s home to the most expensive real estate in northeastern Brazil. Here we’ll spot a few antique mansions from the colonial era, providing a striking contrast to the modern high-rises that neighbor them.
Upon our arrival at the Pelourinho District, located in the Upper City, we’ll stop at an outpost to observe the panoramic view of the “Lower City.” One of the notable features of Salvador is that the city is divided by a 236 feet high cliff (72 meters or about the height of the Statue of Liberty). The two sections, known as the “Upper City” and the “Lower City” are connected by the Lacerda Panoramic Elevator. This postcard icon of Salvador de Bahia (much like the Eiffel Tower in Paris) was built in Art-Deco Style in 1873 and is the first urban elevator in the world to exist. From our outpost in the Upper City, we’ll see dozens of private boats docked on the Lower City Port, the Lacerda Elevator itself, and the Mercado Modelo, a huge indoor/outdoor market featuring handicrafts, leather goods, and Afro-Brazilian percussion instruments.
From this point onwards, we’ll go on foot along the winding cobblestone streets of the Pelourinho. This area has something to see along every street, including churches, beautiful Baroque and colonial architecture, cafes, restaurants, and shops. It’s also a very colorful place, with most of the houses painted in a different pastel color that makes for a unique yet tasteful visual feast for the eyes while enhancing the already striking architecture.
While the Portuguese colonizers built the city’s backbone, it was the African slaves that truly built the soul of the city’s historic center (known as Pelourinho). Salvador natives are also known for their joyous personas, and celebrate that joy in life with the biggest party on the planet (according to the Guinness Book of World Records) with their Salvador de Bahia Carnival, when once a year nearly 4 million people gather on the streets and celebrate as they dance along to the beat of Afro-Brazilian rhythms.
Down a quiet street, we’ll find the Saint Francis church, the most ornate and lavish church in Brazil. Its interior (including walls, pillars, vault, and ceiling) is covered with gold-plastered woodwork. The place glitters so vividly with gold that some locals brag that one should put on dark glasses before stepping into the church! Built in the Baroque style around 1713, the church is awash with gold arabesques and is connected to a monastery whose walls are decorated with priceless 18th century Portuguese tiles.
Next we’ll visit the Largo do Pelourinho, the main and most iconic square in the Pelourinho. What was once the first and largest slave market in the Americas is now arguably the most chic spot in colonial Brazil, featuring restaurants with the most distinct flavors of Bahian cuisine, a lot of Afro-Brazilian culture, and quite a bit of music and dance.
Many international artists have fallen in love with the Pelourinho’s groove. In fact, the “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson, chose it as a location to film the video-clip for his hit song “They Don’t Care About Us,” featuring the renowned Afro-Brazilian band Olodum. This band is the most famous of the many Afro-Brazilian bands that periodically perform and can be seen on the streets of Pelourinho in the evenings.
In the afternoon, we’ll reach the hill of Bonfim and stop for a photo opportunity at the most famous church in Salvador: the Bonfim Church. Built in the 18th century, Bonfim is arguably the most popular house of worship in Salvador, where Catholicism is blended with the worship of West African deities of the Yoruba religion. From there, we’ll pass by the Monte Serrat Fort, with its beautiful architecture and impressive view of the Bay of All Saints. Lastly, we’ll make a brief stop at the Mercado Modelo, to check out and enjoy the local handicrafts.
Our tour concludes with a trip back to our hotel with a newfound appreciation for the singular Afro-Brazilian beat, heritage & soul of Salvador de Bahia and it best scenic highlights.
Since you’ll be doing this tour with your own private vehicle and guide, you’ll be able to enjoy each attraction at your own pace; making all of the stops you want while enjoying personalized assistance and care from your expert guide. You’ll also enjoy more convenient and faster transfers from and to your hotel, as there will be no other travelers to pick up or drop off at other hotels.
Important: the tour’s exact itinerary and duration may change subject to weather conditions and decisions of the tour guide to optimize your tour experience.
Duration: around 8 hours from the time you leave your hotel until you return (including time for lunch. Lunch is not included.)
Guide: private guide.
Vehicle: private vehicle.