On the road for Lonely Planet: Brazil
Traveling through Bahia, Sergipe & Alagoas. July/August 2015
- Pack your Havaiianas and a bikini — or if you're a man who's brave enough to do as the locals do, the tiny, close-fitting Brazilian swimsuit known as a sunga. We're off for Bahia, also known as 'a terra da felicidade' — 'land of happiness.'
- The northeastern state is the world capital of Afro-Brazilian culture, famous for its spectacularly beautiful coastline and a reputation for throwing one of the largest parties in the world, Salvador's annual Carnival.
- No wonder I keep coming back: this was my third time covering the region for Lonely Planet. (Here I am, underwater: face to face with tropical fish.)
- My assignment for Lonely Planet's Brazil 10 took me through Bahia, and the smaller states of Sergipe and Alagoas. I expected to see some changes this time around, as Salvador served as a World Cup host city last year. As usual, I sketched out a map of my travel plan before leaving home.
- I touched down in Salvador in the first week of July. I was surprised to see gray skies outside my window that first morning: this was my first time researching during Bahia's rainy season. Little did I know that in the weeks to come, I'd be caught in sudden downpours on remote beaches and forced to wade through thigh-high 'puddles' that looked more like murky ponds.
- In the 16th century, the port of Salvador was a primary point of entry into the Americas for Portuguese explorers, and quickly thereafter, a hub of the slave trade. It's estimated that more than one-third of all slaves taken from Africa came to Brazil, the vast majority through Bahia. It's the contrasts between Portuguese and African cultures, and between happiness and heartbreak, that make Bahia so fascinating today.
- On the first leg of my trip, I headed north to Aracaju in the state of Sergipe. Low season: there was no one around.
- Next up was Maceió, Alagoas, one of my favorite stops on the itinerary. This is a place where I always see plenty of Brazilian tourists, but rarely other foreign travelers. I think of it as one of Brazil's better-kept secrets.
- And, indeed, there was no shortage of vendors catering to the Brazilian beachgoer's every need.
- Two parts cachaça + two parts sugar + the juice of two limes + ice = caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil. It's always a good time for one of these.
- Next, I zipped up the coast to Maragogi, popular with divers and snorkelers for the idyllic piscinas naturais (natural pools) around the off-shore coral reef.