With all the buzz about the World Cup and The Olympics it seemed like the ideal time to pay a visit to Brazil to explore its hidden gems. Most people I spoke to while planning my Brazilian adventure talked with great enthusiasm about Rio and its surrounds, the Panthanal and Iguazu Falls (a popular route people seem to take). But the more I asked around, the more I discovered that no-one really seemed to bother with the North East of Brazil. Friends I know who have contributed to guidebooks on Brazil have barely touched the surface of it. And when I tried to do some research for my trip info on most destinations, how to get there, and where to stay, was pretty thin on the ground. But rather than follow the usual tourist trails, this made me all the more determined to find out first hand what hidden gems North East Brazil has to offer.
Our journey across the North East of Brazil began in Salvador. Admittedly I was more than a bit nervous on arrival in Salvador. My pressing concern was finding the safest place to stay in Salvador. Mainly because Salvador is often cited as one of the most dangerous cities in the world (sorry mum). After weighing up the options we decided against a stay in the Pelhorinho, the historical centre of Salvador. By all accounts the Pelhorinho appeared to have a bit of a dodgy reputation so perhaps not the safest place to stay in Salvador. I’m sure like anywhere the Pelhorinho is fine as long as you’re careful but as it was or first visit to Brazil we wanted to feel relaxed. To break ourselves in gently, we opted for the slightly more middle class beach suburb of Barra, the safest place to stay in Salvador. Barra is a 20-minute bus ride away from the centre of Salvador. We took a bus to the safest place to stay in Salvador from directly outside the airport (which took an hour). It dropped us off opposite Barra lighthouse (see below) which was hassle-free and saved us a fortune on a taxi.
The delightful pousada Estrela Do Mar with its whitewashed walls, free wi-fi and free tea and coffee (bonus), was our home for the next three nights. This Barra pousada was great introduction to Brazil. The staff were super friendly and it was spotlessly clean. The huge breakfast, complete with freshly squeezed juice, eggs and tapioca (a Brazilian speciality) set us up for the day. An added bonus, its owner Sean is Irish, so was able to email me directions in advance explaining how to get there from the airport, as well as giving us the lowdown on Salvador’s top attractions and how to find them. During our entire time in Barra we never had to worry about whether Salvador was safe.
A real hidden gem, the pousada Estrela do Mar is located practically opposite Barra (pronounced Baha) lighthouse. This is another plus, as watching the sunset from Barra lighthouse in Salvador is a must (and another of Salavdor’s hidden gems as you can see from the pic below).
Wandering round Barra, even after dark, we were totally at ease. We felt that Barra was the safest place to stay in Salvador. Barra has lots of lively restaurants and bars close at hand so we didn’t feel as if we were missing out on any of the action downtown as there were plenty of places to frequent. If you do want to head into the Pelhorinho it’s only R20 (just under £7) for a cab from Barra, so you get the best of both worlds. Michael Palin listed Salvador as one of his five top attractions in Brazil in his TV series. And it’s easy to see why Salvador is a hidden gem that made his list. If you’re planning a trip to Salvador and aren’t sure what area to stay in then I’d highly recommend the beach suburb of Barra. It makes an ideal base and for me it’s the safest place to stay in Salvador.