4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil

This post was last updated on January 23rd, 2017

4 Reasons You Need To Visit

When it comes to cities in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro is the sparkling crown jewel that seems to get all the attention. Honestly, we can see why. We have absolutely fallen in love with Rio, and it is without hesitation when we say we are not ready to leave it so soon. (Though as this post goes live we will have already said our goodbyes and will be well on our way to the Southern Amazon!)

But despite the magical energy that is Rio, Brazil boasts many other cities that are well worth exploring. One perfect example is Salvador.


4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador Brazil


Salvador was the first colonial capital of Brazil, a port city strategically located on a peninsula of the northeast coast. The Portuguese would later ‘import’ tens of thousands of slaves from Africa to Salvador to build their New World, which today has contributed to the city’s vibrant Afro-Brazilian culture. But in addition to the African rhythm that beats throughout the city, Salvador is also simply known as the capital of happiness’ due to its frequent fun-loving outdoor parties and the world’s largest Carnival. These factors combined make Salvador one of the most unique and dynamic cities in Brazil, if not in all of Latin America.

We will say up front that Salvador has a certain edginess to it. After three weeks of traveling throughout Brazil and six weeks of staying in a favela in Rio, Salvador was the only place where at times we felt a bit anxious walking around, especially at night. But all in all Salvador and the surrounding region have so much to offer those visitors willing to venture to the Northeast, and by acting as you would in any large city, you likely won’t encounter any problems.


4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador Brazil


The Pelhourino


Pelourinho 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil

Historic Center 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil


The best way to begin any visit to Salvador is by wandering the quaint cobblestone streets of the Pelourinho, otherwise known as the Historic Center. The neighborhood was the city center during Portuguese colonialism, and quite unfortunately received its name from the whipping post in its central plaza where African slaves would be publicly punished.

Despite its unfortunate past, today the Pelourinho is absolutely charming, and restoration of the neighborhood in the 1990s has resulted in a number of lovely shops, restaurants and cafes, along with cultural centers and arts schools. Walking past the city’s—and some of Brazil’s—oldest architecture was a memorable experience; we particularly enjoyed the pastel colored buildings from the 17th and 18th century, along with the Ingreja e Convento Sao Fransisco—often considered to be one of the most magnificent churches in all of Brazil.


Salvador Government Palace 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil

World Cup Festival 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil

Sao Franciso Church 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil


The Afro-Brazilian Culture

Lonely Planet claims that there’s no other place in the world where descendents of African slaves have preserved their heritage as well as in Salvador. As you walk around the city, the aromatic smells of fried acaraje wafting through the air, the occasional beats of samba reggae pulsing by, it doesn’t take long to see the proof behind the statement. Here are a few things in particular not to miss:


Food: The food in Salvador is divine—some of the best we’ve tried in all of Brazil. Dishes typically feature coconut milk, palm oil, pepper, and seafood. Don’t miss acaraje (bean and shrimp critters deep-fried in palm oil) and moqueca (a rich fish or shrimp stew with coconut milk, tomatoes, spices and palm oil).


moqueca 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil


Capoeira: Developed by Afro-Brazilian slaves, Capoeira is a martial art that combines dance, acrobatics and music. The impressive movements are accompanied by the clapping of hands and a berimbau, a one-string musical instrument. It’s common to see Capoeira in the Pelourinho, though expect street performers to hustle you for a tip.


Capoeira 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil

Capoeira 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil


Olodum: Olodum is an Afro-Brazilian cultural group that aims to combat racism, provide opportunities for marginalized youth, and fight for civil rights for Afro-Brazilians. However, the group is most famous for developing the signature sounds of samba reggae. The Olodum percussionists have gained international fame (you might have heard of them from Michael Jackson’s ‘They Don’t Care About Us’). Unfortunately there were no concerts on during our time in Salvador, but if you can, stop by Casa do Olodum and listen for the beats of the Olodum street performers in the Pelhourino.


The Coastline

Local Fisherman 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil

Surfing 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil

Salvador’s perfect positioning on a peninsula means that there is plenty of beautiful coastline to enjoy both in and around the city. We particularly enjoyed walking from Rio Vermelho along Av Presidente Vargas and Av Oceanica, past the lovely beach Praia do Farol da Barra all the way to the fort and lighthouse (South America’s oldest) on the tip. There is a slew of more pristine beaches both north and south of Salvador, though we didn’t have time to see them ourselves.


Praia do Farol da Barra 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil

Barra Lighthouse Salvador Brazil

Sunset behind Barra Lighthouse 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil


Morro de Sao Paulo


Morro de Sao Paulo 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil


Every time we mentioned Salvador to a Brazilian, they told us we had to visit Morro de Sao Paulo, too. So we did. Though it was a nauseating two-hour boat journey, the effort to arrive was well worth the reward. Morro de Sao Paulo boasts a Mediterranean-esque vibe, with lush hills, calm cerulean water and picture-perfect beaches. Few cars are allowed on the island, but wheelbarrows meet guests at the pier to help shuttle their belongings to their hotels, and the occasional horse driven carriage takes passengers from beach to beach.


Morro de Sao Paulo Beach 3 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil

Taxi on Morro de Sao Paulo 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil

Horse Carriage Morro de Sao Paulo 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil


The beaches on Morro de Sao Paulo are named for their numerical order; Beach One – Beach Three are closer to the pier and have a certain backpacker feel to them. Expect vendors on the beach, open-air bars, hostels and generally tons of people. We can certainly appreciate these details, but after the chaotic crowds of the World Cup, we were more interested in experiencing the secluded side of Morro de Sao Paulo. Luckily we found exactly what we were looking for as guests of the luxurious Vila dos Orixas, located on Praia do Encanto, the last piece of developed beach.


Morro de Sao Paulo Beach 1 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador Brazil

Morro de Sao Paulo Beach 3 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil

Morro de Sao Paulo Beach 6 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil


To say we were away from it all at Vila dos Orixas would be a complete understatement. When we weren’t lounging by the pool or enjoying the beachfront hammocks, we could walk and walk along the beach and through the mangroves without stumbling upon anyone, save for the occasional local on horseback. A courtesy 20-min shuttle ride could have brought us to downtown Morro de Sao Paulo, but with only a one-night stay this wasn’t necessary. We had enjoyed the fun frenzy of the World Cup, but we also immensely appreciated our piece of island paradise.


Pool Vila dos Orixas 4 Reasons You Need To Visit Salvador, Brazil

Pool and Bar Vila dos Orixas

Sunset Morro De Sao Paulo


Staying at Vila dos Orixas was an experience in itself, primarily due to the unique luxury bungalow concept. A spacious, open two-level bungalow, the bottom floor contained a sitting area, bathroom and Jacuzzi, while the comfortable king size bed comprised the top level. Clean design, utter privacy, and exclusive ocean views were just a few of the details that set these bungalows above the rest.


Vila dos Orixas Room

Living Room Vila dos Orixas

Tub Vila dos Orixas

Bed Vila dos Orixas



We ate all of our meals at Vila dos Orixas, and though the menu was a bit pricy, we found the food to be quite good. (We’re still talking about their carrot cake!) The dinner staff was phenomenal and able to provide honest recommendations; however, the breakfast staff was half asleep and looked like they couldn’t be bothered with anything before noon. Luckily the fantastic energy and service of everyone else during our stay more than made up for morning grumps.


Salmon at Vila dos Orixas


One night at Vila dos Orixas certainly wasn’t enough, but it was still definitely worth the journey from Salvador.


So now you know! If you’re headed to Brazil and you have the time in your travel itinerary, don’t miss a stop up north to Salvador and Morro de Sao Paulo. Boasting everything from Portuguese colonial architecture to vibrant Afro-Brazilian culture to scenic coastline to stunning Morro de Sao Paulo, this is one place that’s guaranteed to enrich your overall Brazilian experience.


Have you ever visited Salvador, Brazil? For which reason would you visit Salvador?


We were guests of Vila dos Orixas. We were not asked to write a positive review, and as always, all thoughts and opinions are our own.


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4 Reasons You Need To Visit


  1. It looks so beautiful and I’m fascinated by the way that African culture has remained such a big part of life in Salvador! I didn’t make it here when I recently visited Brazil but I had a friend who used to live in Brazil and said that Salvador had a vibe unlike anywhere else she had seen in Brazil! Food sounds amazing too!
    Shikha (whywasteannualleave) recently posted…Scenic Salzburg – From Mozart to MariaMy Profile

    • Salvador definitely dances to the beat of it’s own drum. Very unique and surely worth a visit next chance you get :-)

    • The capoeira is really fun to watch! They give classes, but I’m sure I would be hopeless at it as it’s a lot of flipping and handstands. I have a hard time doing a couple of pushups :-p

    • Hi there Corinne. If you’re not a soccer fan it’s a good idea to steer clear until the World Cup had finished. Now that it’s over you’re free to come whenever you like :-)

    • We really enjoyed wandering around the Pelhourino, lots of history and culture to be seen (with food in hand of course!)

    • That’s very kind of you Miriam! Salvador was fantastic simply because there is so much to photograph there :-)

    • Thanks Hannah! Glad we weren’t the only ones to find the culture there so enticing :-)

  2. I haven’t been to Brazil yet. Salvador looks lovely. I had a friend who used to be in a Capoeira group and it was neat to watch. My favorite shots here are the beach. It looks so inviting, and probably worth the 2 hour cruddy boat ride.
    Rhonda Albom recently posted…We Went to Tui Brewery Looking for Gorgeous Women – WWMy Profile

    • That Capoeira looks like hard work! Kudos to your friend :-) Morro de Sao Paulo is a beautiful island, our only recommendation is to go for more than 2 nights to really make that boat ride count!

    • Hope you get the chance to see it soon! If you need help getting your husband’s approval just let us know and we’ll chat his ear off about how great it is :-p

    • Thanks so much for sharing Mandie! Glad we could spark your wanderlust :-)

  3. I’ve never even been close to South America, let alone Brazil. I’m dying to finally go there. That probably won’t be for a while though, but for now I’m happy reading about other people visiting and writing about it. Great photos!
    Bram recently posted…Top 5 Adrenalin Pumping Luxury Safari ExperiencesMy Profile

    • Thanks Bram! Hope you get the chance to check it out for yourself one day :-)

  4. My family will be moving to Salvador in July. We are teaching at a school there for two years. Your article was informative and I am even more excited for our move. We will definitely have to plan an anniversary trip to Morro de Sao Paulo.

    • That’s so cool Alicia!! I hope you find is a fun as we did :-)

  5. Amazing pictures! I’m going to Salvador in December but don’t have much time. Do you think a day trip to Morro de Sao Paulo would be worth the effort? Expensive? Thanks for your advice!

    • Hmm probably not. We thought even going for only one night was definitely rushed. It’s a beautiful island, but it’s a trek to get out there. There are some great beaches though outside of Salvador that might make a good alternative! Enjoy your time there – the culture in Salvador is fantastic :)

  6. Wow, I really need to visit Brazil! It’s on the bucket list.
    Thanks for sharing:)

  7. Your pictures of Pelourinho are so pretty, the buildings are super well preserved, which is sometimes not the case in Brazil.

    I hope to go to Salvador and Bahia in general for the spicy food soon! The rest of the country just can’t handle the spice haha



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