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SALVADOR

Salvador is the capital of the state of Bahia, Brazil. With a charming Old Town which is also a World Heritage Site, a vibrant musical scene and popular Carnaval celebrations, it is considered one of the birthplaces of Brazilian culture.

One of the main attractions in Salvador is the Carnaval. Salvador's giant Carnaval, the biggest of the world, according to the Guinness book of records, lasts for one week and is extremely popular with Brazilians and tourists alike. The main parades follow three circuits: one in the historic center Pelourinho (with mainly traditional groups in costumes), one on Campo Grande, where most bands play samba, and in recent years the most popular one in Barra / Ondina, where modern Brazilian Axé music mixes with percussion and all kinds of rhythms and styles, and the bands parade between "Camarote" boxes on one side and the beach on the other. Options to participate are either by watching from the camarote boxes, or purchasing an "abadá" shirt to join a group that accompanies one of the bands throughout the parade.

The former features Pelourinho, the old city center that packs historical sites, colonial architecture, museums, restaurants, bars, hostels, artisanal shops, and music/dance/capoeira academies into a convenient, albeit tourist-swarmed, set of winding cobblestone streets. The latter features a commercial center with lots of bus traffic coming in from all over Salvador.

Outside of this area, there are many beach districts that stretch from the tip of the peninsula northeast along the Atlantic coast. The Barra neighborhood at the tip of the peninsula is the main alternative jumping-off point to Pelourinho, and a little further to the northeast are the hip neighborhoods of Rio Vermelho and Amaralina, which feature a nightlife less geared to the foreign tourism industry. A decent bus ride beyond these is the neighborhood of Itapuã, which has an energetic beach side nightlife and relatively few foreign visitors. Northward from there are kilometres and kilometers of gorgeous beaches, all accessible by bus.

The bayshore coast north beyond Pelourinho features a more tranquil atmosphere and a locally patronized, though less scenic, beach life. The interior of Salvador is where the "new city" has developed, full of residential neighborhoods, shopping megaplexes, and knotted highways, all of which can be quite alienating without actually having a friend to show you around.

Solar do Unhão is the best place in Salvador to watch the sunset. It is an old style house located at the Baía de Todos os Santos. Inside there is a small museum (Museu de Arte Moderna) with local art pieces.

Salvador shopping is the bargain hunters paradise. There is nothing that you cannot find in a mall. If you plan to buy popular art, crafts and clothing, check the small stores at the Old Town or head to the Mercado Modelo (Model Market).

Be sure to try acarajé, small fritters made from black-eyed peas and onions fried in palm oil slathered with spicy vatapá (shrimp paste).These are sold by Baianas on the street.

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