A huge region of stunning coastlines, dense jungle, open wetlands and scattered yet thriving cities, Brazil has long been a nut that Llama Travel has been keen to crack. We are therefore delighted to announce our brand new Spirit of Brazil holiday collection, which traverses the iconic hot spots and hidden secrets of this vast, varied and vibrant country.
So to celebrate the arrival of our brand new Brazilian holidays, and the magnificent diversity of Brazil itself, we are launching a series of blogs that shine a spotlight on the various cities, beaches, nature and amazing ways to experience all that Brazil has to offer. We begin with two very different cities:
Rio de Janeiro
At the mention of the word ‘Brazil’, the mind cannot help but conjure up an image of Christ the Redeemer, arms outstretched, looking out towards a magnificent kingdom of glittering lights, sparkling tropical beaches and hills rolling down into the ocean. Or perhaps it is the famous Sugarloaf Mountain, rising up out of the surf, which springs to mind, or laid back locals playing football on Copacabana beach. Rio de Janeiro may not be Brazil’s capital city (that honour goes to the lesser known Brasilia), but in terms of hype and and headlines, it is the capital of the world right now and one of the most well-known destinations in South America.
The bedrock of the city was first discovered by Portuguese sailors in 1502 who mistook it for the mouth of an enormous river, and named it Rio de Janeiro or ‘January River’ after the month of their arrival. With the discovery of gold in nearby Minas Gerais in the 1700s, Rio started to prosper and became a city with power, and it has not slowed down since.
What makes Rio a stand out city in South America is that it is ever-changing, with its eyes to the future rather than the past. Although some colonial architecture still stands in the old town, it is the comparatively contemporary phenomenons such as the art deco Christ the Redeemer, the striking modern cathedral, built in 1976, and the city’s status as a mecca of the beautiful game that make Rio de Janeiro so famous and iconic.
Rio’s global profile is set to rise even further, as the host of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and word is that the city is also campaigning to prolific movie director Woody Allen to consider Rio de Janeiro as the location for the next film in his renowned travelogue series.
If you have been inspired to pay a visit to Rio de Janeiro during its perfect moment, then take a look at our Samba, Tango and Iguazu Falls, Spirit of Brazil and Wildlife, Waterfalls and Rio Holidays, all of which include a few days in this buzzing metropolis.
Salvador, capital of Brazil’s sunshine state of Bahia, is a charmingly unadorned old town city that tells a very different story from that of Rio de Janeiro. It is not without its modern comforts and amenities, but unlike Rio, what makes Salvador special is its past and how strongly its colonial heritage still permeates its culture of today.
The magnificent capital of Portugal’s New World colony, Salvador was colonised by Portuguese merchants in the early 16th century and quickly established itself at the heart of the flourishing sugar trade. Today, Pelourinho, the historical centre of Salvador, is a living museum of 17th and 18th century architecture, with pastel coloured houses in the Portuguese style, narrow cobbled streets and imposing gold-laden churches.
Salvador may not be as loud as Rio, but it has its own kind of energy. Brazil’s biggest street carnival is held in Salvador each year, and wild festivals have been known to break out spontaneously on the streets. At night, capoeira circles form on plazas, while the scent of acarajé (bean and shrimp fritters) and other African delights fills the evening air.
African customs play a huge part in Salvadorian culture. In the colonial era, Salvador was a capital of the slave trade, and thousands of men and women were brought from Africa to Brazil to work as slaves on the sugar plantations. Many of the city’s current inhabitants can trace their lineage back to the these early African communities, and the African influence is still strongly felt in the whole state of Bahia. The African Candomblé religion is still practiced today, and in the markets of Salvador, you are able to browse rows of garments, jewellery, figures, herbs and food used in Candomblé ceremonies. The African inspiration can also be found in Bahian cuisine, which is considered amongst the best food in Brazil, where African ingredients such as dendê palm oil, as well as seafood, coconut, fresh coriander and hot chillis form a big part of the typical Salvador diet.
If you have been inspired to walk the comely colonial streets of old Salvador da Bahia, then check out our brand new Spirit of Brazil Holiday program, which includes 2 nights in Salvador as well as visits to the the tropical coast north east of the city, the Iguaçu Falls, and of course Salvador’s counterpart city of Rio de Janeiro.