Rio de Janeiro: And Why You Should Go To Salvador Instead

If you're dreaming of samba beats, stunning beaches, and vibrant culture, Rio de Janeiro might be the first city to come to mind, especially when considering Brazil. However, it’s time to think about diving into a colourful adventure that might convince you to trade in Christ the Redeemer for some Bahian beats and true carnival by swapping Rio for the irresistible charms of Salvador!

The Samba Showdown 🎡🎉🇧🇷💃

Whilst Rio is known for its iconic samba-filled streets during Carnival, Salvador’s carnival scene is bursting with non-stop fiesta that many are yet to experience! Carnival here is something that takes over the entire city for a whole week! Picture yourself dancing in the historic streets of Pelourinho, surrounded by stunning colonial architecture, while the rhythm of African drums pulses through your veins. Every day in Salvador feels like a carnival, with tourists and locals celebrating the best of what is on offer!
It’s common amongst most Brazilians who have ventured beyond Rio that they enthusiastically vouch for Salvador as the ultimate carnival destination in the country. And who can offer a more genuine opinion than the locals themselves? Salvador's carnival promises an authenticity that's deeply rooted in its cultural heritage, with Salvador's carnival remaining a true creation of Brazilians, by Brazilians, and for Brazilians, as opposed to Rio’s slightly more commercialised celebrations.
"Historical neighbourhood of Pelourinho in Salvador, Brazil"

Beach Beauty ☀️ 🌊 🏝 🐚

Copacabana and Ipanema might have their fame, but Salvador's beaches are just as gorgeous. Whilst it is the only country in Central America without a Caribbean coast,, the absence of one is irrelevant when you're greeted by the breathtaking beaches that adorn its shores. Boasting an extensive 190-mile stretch along both the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Fonseca, El Salvador generously offers a multitude of stunning beaches. And if your aim is to discover the finest, your search ends right here.
La Costa del Sol might stand as the polar opposite of a secluded, hidden beach, but its natural allure is an absolute must-see for those exploring El Salvador. Nestled within a tourist enclave that shares its name, Playa Costa del Sol constitutes one-third of the trio of beaches, along with San Marcelino and Los Blancos. Extending over a vast expanse of nine miles, this beach of pristine white sands provides ample room for relaxation or launching yourself into exhilarating escapades. Activities like boating, sailing, and water skiing thrive here, offering a dash of excitement to your coastal experience.
"Playa San Marcelino, Salvador"

A History of Culture and Religion 🙏 📖 💃

Rio has its history, but Salvador is a living, breathing time capsule. The cobblestone streets of Pelourinho are like stepping into a vibrant history book, where every building has a story to tell. From the days of Portuguese colonisation to the Afro-Brazilian heritage that runs deep, Salvador's history comes alive with every step you take. Here are some top spots oozing with history and culture:
Nosso Senhor do Bonfim Church - Among Salvador's countless churches, Nosso Senhor do Bonfim stands out as possibly the most renowned. It embodies the harmonious coexistence of the area's two major religions: Catholicism and Candomblé, originating from West Africa. The annual Lavagem do Bonfim is an eagerly anticipated and unmissable celebration that entails a vibrant procession through the town, culminating in women ceremonially washing the church's steps.
Cathedral Basilica of Salvador - Erected by Jesuits upon the grounds where their inaugural church once stood, Salvador's cathedral is a grand structure from the 17th century that graces the Terreiro de Jesus square. While it presents an imposing yet modest façade, the interior dazzles with a resplendent display of gold. This sacred space not only hosts regular church services but also resonates with the melodies of frequent concerts and a variety of events.

Culinary Adventures 🍽 🐟 🤤

Brace yourselves, foodies, because Salvador's cuisine is a feast for the senses. Indulge in acarajé, a savoury street food made from black-eyed pea dough, fried until golden, and stuffed with delicious fillings. Fancy something freshly caught? Feast on moqueca, a mouthwatering seafood stew cooked with coconut milk and dendê oil. Salvador's culinary scene is a symphony of flavours that will have you adding this spot back onto your visit list.

Music & Dance! 🎶 💃 🎤

Rio's music scene might have the bossa nova, but Salvador boasts an array of musical styles that will have you moving your hips in no time. Axé, forró, and samba-reggae are just a few of the beats that infuse the air with energy and joy. Don't be surprised if you find yourself in the middle of an impromptu street party – it's just the Salvadorian way of life!

Starting from Skratch? Here are some links to help you get started:

Brazil — Facts before you go


🇵🇹 Portuguese


💰Brazilian Real


👍 A 10 percent `servico` is routinely included in the bill.

Famous for…

🌊 Stunning Beaches

🍃 Rainforests

🌆 Diverse Cities

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Imogen Kemp
September 15, 2023
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