Planning Your Trip to Bahia, Brazil – Find here Information About Bahia
Enchanted by exuberant nature and rich heritage, the state of Bahia offers a myriad of experiences. From virgin beaches to the most historical center of Brazil in Salvador, its capital, Bahia presents an abundance of locations to explore. Salvador, Praia do Forte, Chapada Diamantina (which includes Lencois and Mucuge), Morro de Sao Paulo, Itacare, and Porto Seguro (which includes Trancoso and Arraial D’Ajuda) will delight the inquisitive mind and will make your spirit soar to new heights.
Information about Bahia
Salvador became the first capital of Brazil in 1549, when the Portuguese court sent Tome de Souza as the country’s initial governor-general. The city has a wealth of beautifully restored colonial architecture and according to legend; Salvador has 365 churches, one for each day of the year. It has the reputation of being the center of Brazilian culture and with its racially mixed population of 2.2 million, Salvador is Brazil’s third largest city and capital of the state of Bahia.
The religion and mysticism that are so much a part of Bahian life are represented by Catholicism, brought over by the Portuguese and Candomble, the pulse of the city, which came over with the slaves from Africa. They also brought with them Capoeira, a mix between dance and martial art, which is practiced all over the city and the state.
Carnival here is one of the biggest in the world, encouraging active participation with thousands of people dancing in the streets, traditionally enjoying their one last fling before Lent. The city is constantly alive with the sounds and rhythms of samba, axe, pagode, MPB, and African drum beats. Salvador is blessed with one of the best cuisines in the country and also with marvelous beaches.
If you would like further information on Bahia History, Culture, Natural Aspects, Cuisine, Weather or Travel Tips please click on the menu above.
If you would like further information on Bahian sub-destinations please click on the links below:
- Information About Salvador
- Information About the Chapada Diamantina
- Information About Itacaré
- Information About Morro de Sao Paulo
- Information About Porto Seguro
- Information About Praia do Forte
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Information About Bahia Cuisine
To the uninitiated, Bahian cooking can seem a bit heavy. However, until they´ve tried it, most people agree that this unique Afro-Brazilian cuisine is delicious and satisfying, and they come back for more. Though it contains contributions from the Portuguese colonists and the Brazilian native Indians, by far the most important influence on Bahian cuisine came from the enslaved Africans, who not only brought their own style of cooking, but also modified Portuguese dishes with African herbs and spices.
Bahian cuisine is characterized by the generous use of malagueta chile peppers and dendê oil extracted from an African palm that grows well in the northeastern climate. Several Bahian dishes also contain seafood (usually shrimp), coconut milk, banana and okra.
The colorfully dressed baianas set up shop daily in thatched-roof kiosks or at improvised tables where they serve homemade sweets and acarajé, a Bahian-style hamburger. Try this typical food at a place that has been recommended to you to be sure of getting a fresh product. Dinha, in the Largo da Santana in Rio Vermelho, Salvador is a very popular and highly recommended place to try these exotic delights.
This is street food eaten before lunch or dinner as an appetizer, or at any time as a snack. It consists of a patty, made of black-eyed beans, fried in palm oil. It may or may not be left open and stuffed with ‘vatapá’ (a dish made with cassava flour, oil, pepper, fish or meat) and dry shrimp sauce.
– 1 kg of dried fradinho beans (black-eyed beans)
– 1/2 kg of onion
– 1 spoon of salt
– 1 litre of dendê oil
– ground dried shrimp to season
Method: Leave the beans to soak overnight. Rub and wash them to remove the skins. Then put them, together with the onion, in a grinder to mash them up and beat the mixture in a large bowl until it becomes a light batter. Season with salt, ground dried shrimp, hot pepper and dendê oil. Heat the dendê oil in a saucepan until it is really hot then plunge large spoonfuls of the mixture into the boiling oil. When the acarajé patties rise to the surface and are a crispy golden brown they should be taken out of the oil and eaten while still hot. Each pattie is then filled with carurú sauce.
This dish is traditionally served during the festival of Saint Cosme and Saint Damian in the month of September. It is traditional to invite 7 small boys from the street into your home to eat Caruru. During this festival it is the custom to put 7 whole okra in the caruru and whoever receives one of these on their plate must offer another caruru to the saints.
– 100 okra
– 1 cup of ground cashew nuts
– 100g of ground toasted peanuts
– 2 cups of ground smoked skinless shrimp and a few large dry whole ones
– 2 cups of dendê oil
– 2 3 limes
– 2 spoons of salt
– 4 cups of hot water
– hot pepper, ginger and garlic
Method: Wash well and finely chop the okra. Put the ground shrimp, grated onion, garlic, salt, cashews and peanuts into the hot dendê oil. Then add the chopped okra, water and lime juice and add the whole shrimp. Cook this altogether until the seeds of the okra are really pink, then remove the saucepan from the heat.
Moqueca de peixe (serves 6 people)
There are as many recipes for this marinated fish dish as there are cooks in Brazil. Named after the Indian method of barbecuing fish wrapped in banana leaves, developed in the great plantation houses of the sugar zone, the dish is now cooked on top of the stove in a pan.
– 1kg fillets of mixed, fresh white fish
– 1 can of coconut milk
– 50ml dendê oil (or olive oil)
– 1 chopped medium onion
– 2 fresh hot chilis, seeded and chopped
– 2 large peeled tomatoes, chopped
– 1 crushed clove of garlic
– a handful of fresh coriander leaves
– 3 tbsp lime juice
Method Crush the marinade ingredients to a purée in a mortar, or use a blender. Cut the fish into 5 cm pieces, mix with the purée in a non-metallic bowl and leave for 1 hour. Transfer to a saucepan. Add the coconut milk and cover and simmer until the fish is cooked (about 10 minutes). 1 minute before serving add the dendê oil and turn up the heat. Serve with hot pepper and lime sauce and rice.
Arroz de coco
– 4 cups of rice
– 8 cups of water
– 1 cup of coconut milk
– salt to season
Method Boil the rice in the water and salt and when it is almost cooked add the coconut milk, leaving it to almost dry over the heat. When it is ready put the rice into a hollow cake mould and turn it out onto a serving dish. Garnish with coriander leaves.
The women of Bahia are among the world´s great confectioners. They concoct sweets from coconut, eggs, ginger, milk, cinnamon and lemon.
Ambrosia de Coco
– 1 cup of coconut milk
– 2 small dry pieces of dark brown sugar
– 4 eggs
Method Boil the coconut milk with the cloves and the sugar. When the mixture is boiling add the beaten eggs. Leave it to simmer over low heat until the mixture becomes thick and the desired consistency is achieved.
– 1 kg of dark brown sugar
– 2 coconuts (grated)
– 1 teaspoonfull of grated ginger
– 1 lime
– 1/2 cup of water
Method Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Grate the coconut, but do not squeeze out the milk. Add the coconut and the ginger to the sugar mixture. Mix together over the heat continuously until the mixture is thick and syrupy and the bottom of the pan is visible. Mix in the juice of one lemon and take the pan off the heat. Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet immediately and when it has hardened a little, but is still soft, cut into squares. Wait to eat until the squares are hard and have cooled off.
– 12 egg yolks
– 450g of sugar
– 1 spoon of butter
– 1 grated coconut
– juice of 1 lemon
Method Grate the coconut. Mix the sugar, a bit of water and a few drops of lemon juice over medium heat until a thick consistency is obtained. Take off the heat and leave the sauce to cool. Strain the egg yolks through a plastic sieve. To the cooled down sauce add the strained egg yolks, the grated coconut and the butter, mixing thoroughly. Pour the liquid into small buttered ramekin dishes and place in a bain-marie. Then put into a hot oven until the mixture is set and golden.
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Information About Bahia History
Bahia. “O Brasil nasceu aqui.” (Bahia. Brazil was born here) This sentence is more than just an advertising phrase; it expresses a reality. From Bahia emanates the cultural and historic traditions of Brazil. The Portuguese Navigator, Amerigo Vespucci, made his way to the Atlantic coast of the South American continent, arriving in the beautiful bay of Bahia de Todos os Santos. He named it after the date on which he arrived, November 1st of 1501, the day of all saints. Almost half a century later the Portuguese decided to divide the colony of Brazil into captaincies and Bahia was granted to Francisco Pereira Coutinho, who arrived in 1535. However, the first Governor Tome de Sousa officially founded the city of Salvador in 1549.
For a short period in the late 17th century, Salvador was under the control of the Dutch crown. Through naval and land battles, however, Bahia reverted to the Portuguese crown and remained under its domain until its independence in 1823. The growth of the capital city of Salvador came with the advent of sugar plantations at the end of the 16th century and continued throughout the 17th century. The plantation economy required a strong workforce, which was imported from West Africa. Hence the beginning of Brazil´s slave trade. For the next three centuries, Salvador, Bahia became the most prosperous and important slave trade center not only in Brazil but in all of the Americas.
The 18th century brought with it the growth of coffee based economy and the discovery of gold and diamonds in southern and central Brazil. Bahia lost its primary economic significance to the Portuguese Crown and, in the 19th century, Salvador was replaced by Rio de Janeiro as the capital of Brazil. Throughout these centuries, Bahia was shaped by a myriad of different cultures; the African influence, with its candomblé religion, was by far the strongest. By the 17th century, Brazil had already imported a half million slaves to work on the sugar plantations, resulting in a population composed mainly of African descendants. By the time of abolition in the late 19th century, Brazil had already imported about 3 or 4 million slaves.
The economy of the state remained basically agricultural until the introduction of petrochemical industries and tourism in the 20th century. The state of Bahia is the most visited state and the Bahian economy is the fastest growing in Brazil. This state has vast mineral resources, possessing gold, rock salt, chromite, magnesite and copper, making it one of the richest states in Brazil. These mineral resources attracted the attention of global investors who, in the 1970s, invested in the region of Camaçari (50 kilometers away of Salvador) to create what is today called Polo Petroquimico de Camaçari, (the petrochemical center of Camaçari).
The sugar plantations and agricultural resources in Bahia gave path to a more modern economy, the industries. Bahia is now in the top five most populated states of Brazil, with more than 12 million inhabitants, making it the principal state of the Northeast region. As a port city, boats and ships have always been an important part of Salvador´s history. Ships import and export goods internationally and move cargo from the port of Salvador to other cities and national regions. Today, enormous ocean going freighters tie up and depart from Salvador’s commercial docks every day, which lie in the downtown area. Small boats and fishermen continue to be an evident and important part of Bahian culture and history.
The local fishermen use small wooden crafts, jangadas, canoes and pirogues to navigate the coast, swamps, lakes and rivers. Many of them concentrate on catching shrimp with nets, as well as fishing for bigger fish with nets and lines. These activities have been part of daily life in Bahia for hundreds of years. Today, Salvador and the state of Bahia preserve their historical colonial significance in their architectural monuments, magnificent mansions, baroque churches and forts, but mainly, in the natural expression of their people, the cultural life, and their natural beauty.
Walking through Salvador´s historic center of Pelourinho, one is surrounded by classic 18th and 19th century European architecture, much of it Iberian. Restoration projects have recuperated the glory of many of the oldest buildings, and the Pelourinho is protected today by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Most of the old streets continue to be covered by cobblestones, just as in the days when horse drawn carriages were the principle forms of transportation.
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Information About Bahia Culture
Throughout its history, Bahia (Bah-eeya) has been one of the Brazilian states with the richest cultural diversities. Many of Brazil’s most influential writers, poets, composers, singers, thinkers and artists in general are Bahianos (by-anos): Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil (both recent Grammy winners in the World Music category), Raul Seixas (Brazil’s version of Jim Morrison, and good friend of John Lennon), Gal Costa, Maria Bethania and Tom Zé are just some of the famous names who have made Bahia a font of inspiration and who have helped to make Brazilian music world famous.
All Brazilians love Bahia, as if it were a favorite, magical son. Art Artists who visit Bahia frequently end up staying and blending into the community. Bahia accepts visitors with open arms and souls. Those who decide to stay are spiritually adopted, and become true Bahianos. Carybé, originally Argentine, was arguably the greatest Bahian painter. Pierre Verger, a Frenchman, was and is Bahia’s pride in photojournalism. Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page is one of the newest Bahians, having originally discovered its beauty in the sixties with Janis Joplin, Gina Lolobrigida, and other artistic souls who found paradise in Bahia. Natural Beauties Bahia is so easy to fall in love with, for many reasons.
The warm and friendly people; the delicious food there are juices made from fruits you’ve never even heard of; the beautiful landscapes from the coast with coconut strewn beaches and turquoise ocean; to the interior where there are waterfalls (including the highest one in Brazil) surrounded by mountains and lush valleys; and the incredibly vibrant musical rhythms and dance which ooze creativity and inspiration. Literature Jorge Amado is one of the most beloved homebred Bahians. His novels deliciously describe the color and humor of the Bahian way of life. Amado has been translated into more than 50 languages, and is internationally recognized as one of the best writers of the 20th century. Many of his works have been made into films.
Among the most memorable are Dona Flor and her Two Husbands (the ghost of Dona Flor’s first husband climbs back into her life, and her bed!) and Gabriela Cravo e Canela (a poor mulatta girl whose stunning beauty and sensuality leads her blindly to the top echelons of society). Both films starred Bahian bombshell Sonia Braga, who eventually made her way to Hollywood and Broadway. Her international career peaked with Kiss of the Spiderwoman (Oscar for Best Actor to William Hurt).
Anolther example of Bahian talent is the filmmaker Glauber Rocha, who in 1967 directed O Rei da Vela (The king of the sail). This piece was originally written by the modernist Brazilian writer, Oswald de Andrade who, following the examples of contemporary art, cinema, music and literature, mingled together these influences to create new artistic expressions, particularly in the Tropicalism movement.
Music Many musical movements originated in Bahia. In the 1960s, Tropicalia incorporated electric guitars and keyboards with traditional Brazilian instruments, thereby creating a whole range of new musical sounds. Rock and Roll has been adopted as a solid menu choice in Brazil, with the local production having its very distinctive spice of additional percussion instruments and the sway of Brazilian Portuguese (considered by many as the most beautiful of languages).
Raul Seixas is definitely the eternal king of Bahian Rock and Roll, and is an important influence on all Brazilian rock. His lyrics were absurdly genius, funny, insightful and from the hip. Since the 1980s afro influence on music has been constantly growing. Today almost all of Bahia’s music production has strong afro undertones and overtones, especially through percussion.
An interesting detail of contemporary Bahian music is the six string electric bass guitar. The rhythm necessary to keep people dancing in the streets through five days of Carnival is so strong that the traditional four string bass just isn’t powerful enough. Carnival Carnival is Bahia’s most important festival, which begins 40 days before Lent and ends on Ash Wednesday. Having been an elite club party event decades ago, it has been transformed into one of the biggest public seasonal events in the world, attracting approximately one million visitors to the capital city of Salvador during Carnival week.
This metamorphosis began when two friends, Dodo and Osmar, transformed a small car into a small mobile stage which paraded through the city streets, and were followed by whoever wanted to tag along. Their tradition grew year by year into today’s extravaganza of dozens of 18 wheeler trucks transformed into mobile stages, using the most advanced technology. The trio eletricos, as they are locally known, follow two main circuits in the city center and have bands on top of them playing for hours on end.
Sometimes two or more bands meet along the way and perform together on pure improvisation. Each trio elétrico and its band are associated with Carnival clubs with 2-4 thousand members who parade and dance behind the trio during the five days of Carnival. Each day the members wear a different Abada (colorful t-shirt which allows the wearer access to the private cordoned-off area in the street behind the trio eletrico). Visitors who wish to join one of the Carnival clubs for one or more days of the street party can pay a fee and enjoy the club’s infrastructure. The Afro groups display a rich variety of rhythms that are performed only with percussion instruments.
One of the most famous and beautiful is Ilé Ayé (Eelay Eye ay). Dressed in their vibrantly colored African clothes, they dance through the streets mesmerizing their audience with their beautiful movements and rhythms. Another outstanding Afro group is The Sons of Ghandy. Inspired by Ghandy’s peace teachings, thousands of men and young boys dressed with white robes and turbans, chant their way along the carnival circuit in such a way that they appear to be a beautiful river of peace winding through the city center.
Religion Bahia is the center of cultural and religious syncretism in Brazil. Here the elements of Catholicism brought by the Portuguese colonists, the Tupinambá Indian beliefs, and the religions of African slaves blended together to create a fascinating religious experience. When slaves were brought from Africa, they were forbidden to practice their religions, so they secretly practiced by changing the names of their deities to those of Catholic Saints.
Today, as any adept of Candomblé has a Patron Saint, almost every Catholic has an Orixá. Candomblé is widely practiced in every corner of the state. This Yoruba tradition came along with the many slaves brought from western Africa during more than 300 years of slavery in Brazil. During the religious ceremonies the drumming and dance create a very unique atmosphere that activates a state of trance which enables the participants to receive the Orixás (the gods of Candomblé). A visit to a Terreiro is a must! The head of these spiritual centers, called Mothers of the Saints (it’s a matriarchal religion), are so influential that many of Bahia’s most important politicians, artists, writers and dignitaries consult them before making any important decision.
The most famous Mother of the Saints was Mae Menininha (Mother Little Girl’) do Gantois. In her time she was as influential as Salvador’s Archbishop. Many of Salvador’s main festivals combine Catholicsm and Candomblé. In January there is the Festival of Bomfim where Bahianas and Mother of Saints dressed in their traditional white lace with hoop skirts and turbans leave in procession from Praia Catholic Church balancing vessels of spiritually scented water on their heads. Thousands of faithful follow them, singing and dancing and parading through the city’s main avenues towards the Bomfim Church.
On arrival, the Mothers of Saints wash the steps of the Church with the scented water, blessing those who enter the most important of Salvador’s three hundred churches for yet another year. Every February 2, during the Yemanjá Festival (a Candomblé Orixá equivalent to goddess of the sea, and very vain), the Catholic population takes offerings such as perfumes, mirrors, brushes and flowers to the fishermen, who have a colony next to the Catholic Church in the district of Rio Vermelho. Some give the offerings to the fisherman to take to the sea to bestow them upon the Orixá Yemanjá.
Others venture out onto the rocky shores and personally give their offerings to Yemanjá. This ritual was begun by the wives of the fishermen who did not want Yemanjá to take their husbands for herself. Today the tradition is more about bringing good fortune for the following year. In June there is an important harvest festival in Bahia and Northeast Brazil: Sao Joao (St. John), which traditionally takes place in small towns around the countryside. People gather around a big bonfire in the main square to dance forró (a cross between a square dance and the Texas two step) and drink Cachaça (alcohol made from sugar cane) and a variety of fruit liqueurs until the sun comes up.
During the 3 days of Sao Joao accordion led music is played and traditional food is served, such as corn cakes, corn dogs, cream of corn, coconut milk pies, corn on the cob, grilled corn and pop corn. This festival is a very welcome break for the natives of the northeast region, where the land is arid, with very little water to grow crops, income is one of the lowest in Brazil and life is tough.
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Information About Bahia Weather
The climate in this state varies according to region. Salvador da Bahia has a dry season, which runs from October to April, and a rainy season that runs from May to September. The temperatures oscillate between 24° C and 33° C. The temperature is pleasant most of the time, especially in the afternoon, because of the nice ocean breeze.
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Information About Bahia Natural Aspects
The State of Bahia has the largest coast line of Brazil. This 1,100-kilometer coast is also one of the most beautiful in the country. The sandy Bahian beaches have waters of about 23°C. The predominantly climate is the tropical humid, and the vegetation is the original Atlantic Forest that covers mostly the Northern and South parts of Bahia.
In the Midwest of the State, in the Chapada Diamantina National Park region, the tropical climate predominates, the vegetation is a natural forest called cerrado made of small trees and bushes. Wild life is abundant in the Chapada: wild cats, snakes, small rodents, such as the moco and prea, deers, etc. Praia do Forte.
A hundred thousand coconut palms stand on 12km (7 miles) of white sandy beach in this tranquil fishing village, 80 km north of Salvador. It has a strong emphasis on preservation of the local flora and fauna and is protected against the exploitation of tourism and other threats to the environment by a private foundation.
The Tamar Project was set up to preserve the sea turtles, which lay their eggs on the beaches in the area. Inland from the coast is a restinga forest, with a very delicate ecosystem, which is a beautiful place for horseback and quad-bike riding. The coral reefs off the coast are superb for snorkeling and near by is a picturesque river for canoeing and kayaking.
Near the village is a small pantanal which is host to a large number of birds, caymans and other animals. Praia do Forte has many bars, restaurants and boutiques and has recently become one of the most sought after destinations in Brazil. Chapada Diamantina Lençois is the headquarters of the Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina (founded 1985), which contains 1,500 sq km of mountainous country. There is an abundance of endemic plants, waterfalls, large caves with impressive stalagmite and stalactite formations, rivers with natural swimming pools and superb trekking and walking through beautiful landscapes full of valleys and mountains with stunning views.
The town of Lençois, founded in 1844 to exploit the diamonds in the region, is a historical monument and a colonial gem. This town of approximately 8,000 inhabitants is full of restaurants with international cuisine and has a big, interesting market on Mondays. Morro de Sao Paulo This peaceful fishing village is situated on the headland at the northernmost tip of Tinharé Island. Lush with ferns, palms and birds of paradise this island has lots of good walking tours and horseback riding.
The town is dominated by the lighthouse and the ruins of a colonial fort, built in 1630 as a defense by the Portuguese against other European raiders. From the lighthouse, a path leads to a ruined lookout with beautiful panoramic views of the 3 big beaches and the lush green vegetation of the island. Lovely sunsets can be seen from the old fort and dolphins can sometimes be seen jumping through the waves. Itacaré This picturesque fishing village with 20,000 inhabitants has always been popular amongst surfers from all over the country, but has recently become the hot spot for the in-crowd of Brazil.
With its many different beautiful beaches, waterfalls and pleasant walks through lush forest vegetation, Itacaré is a refuge for nature lovers, surfers and anyone who wants to relax in beautiful, tranquil scenery. There are still many hidden virgin beaches without any infrastructure. Itacaré is located in what used to be the biggest cocoa-producing region in the world. However, with the decline of cocoa production, the village has turned towards tourism. Fishing, however, continues to be the main activity.
The village has lots of bars and restaurants and the nightlife is fun with lots of axé, forró and reggae music. Porto Seguro Pedro Alvares Cabral is credited with being the first European to lay eyes on Brazil, landing here on 22nd of April of 1500. Porto Seguro, in the extreme south of Bahia including Arraial d’Ajuda and Trancoso is Brazil’s newest tourist mecca. This once sleepy town now has well over a hundred hotels and pousadas, countless restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
Carnival here is especially lively. Pataxo Indians still live near Porto Seguro, fishing and making handicrafts to sell to tourists. The town itself has a historical city on top of the hill with some interesting churches, lovely gardens and wonderful panoramic views. The area around Porto Seguro is a densely forested nature reserve of original Atlantic forest.
Across the bay lies Arraial d’Ajuda, which is set high on a cliff overlooking a rugged coastline with idyllic beaches. The town is full of bars and restaurants and has a good nightlife. Further along the coast is Trancoso, which is a simple little village with beautiful beaches.
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