Home to 2.7 million residents, Salvador is the capital of the north-eastern Brazilian state of Bahia and the country’s third most populous city after São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Known for its cuisine, music and architecture, it also is the centre of Afro-Brazilian culture, with up to 80 percent of its population being able to trace their ancestors to the almost 5 million slaves who were shipped into the country via its ports during the Portuguese colonial period, to work in the nearby sugar cane plantations.

It was established in 1549 on a small peninsula at the northern tip of Baía de Todos os Santos (Bay of All Saints), on Brazil’s Atlantic coast, and soon became the Portuguese colony’s first capital, remaining so until 1763, when Rio de Janeiro took over that role. Today, the federal capital of the country is Brasilia.

The city is built on two planes, with the upper city, Cidade Alta, and the lower city, Cidade Baixa, connected by the famous Elevador Lacerda, a 72-meter-high concrete structure with four elevator cars that transport 50,000 people daily.

Salvador’s historic centre is located in the Cidade Alta (Upper Town), and is known as Pelourinho. Home to the largest concentration of 17th and 18th century colonial architecture in all of the Americas, it was named a world cultural site by UNESCO in 1985. Today is it home to rich collection of cafes, restaurants and shops, housed in distinctive pastel-coloured buildings. 

While most associate Rio de Janeiro with the carnival, for Brazilians Salvador is frequently voted the best place to enjoy this huge annual celebration. The experience between the two is different, with the music of the Samba characterising the event in Rio, while in Salvador the music is called Axé, which fuses different African and Caribbean genres. Claiming title to the world’s biggest street party, the carnival takes place over six consecutive days every February, with around 2 million people parading along the streets of the city.

Bahia is the fourth most populated and fifth largest of Brazil’s 26 states. In addition to important agricultural, industrial and petroleum sectors, the state also has considerable mineral deposits, including gold, emerald, sapphire, aquamarine and topaz.

In 1842, large diamond deposits were discovered in Bahia, along the banks of the rio Mucugê in a mountainous region that became known as Chapada Diamantina. The discovery created a diamond-rush to the region. Although its known gem-quality deposits are today depleted, the area is still one of the few locations on earth that produces carbonado, a rare, semi-porous, black polycrystalline variety of diamond. In 1985, the Chapada Diamantina region was declared a national park.