By Lindenberg Junior | Translation: Andrea Alves
“First a grand hill top, very high and round, with more land surrounding to the south, then flat lands with great forests…”. It was land at first sight and the registered image recorded by the ship’s recorder Pero Vaz de Caminha on the 22 nd of April, 1500; when captain Pedro Alvares Cabral and his crew and fleet discovered the land that would later be called “Brazil”. The official intention was to sail west to reach India, this was part of the Portuguese Maritime expansion to discover and control of the Orient.
No one really knows if Cabral had knowledge of Brazil’s existence and sailed intentionally to claim possession of the land. There are some indications of this rumor but the natural phenomenon of the south shifting winds that change directions in April is a fact. This could have routed Cabral and his fleet off their course and into Porto Seguro. There’s no doubt however, Porto Seguro is one of the most developed tourist attractions, and thanks to the tropical flavor, beautiful beaches, art history and the Bahian hospitality and of course, the birth of the nation’s pride and joy, Carnaval.
Historic Locations and Cultural Attractions
Porto SegurO was developed in two sections: First, on a plateau, where the historic “Old Town” section and second, along the Joao de Tiba river, where Santa Cruz de Cabralia (place where the Portuguese first stepped foot on land and also where the first Catholic mass in Brazil was held). Also in Cabralia, visitors can easily find native Indian descendents offering folk articles like bracelets, collars, and decorative clothing made from colored feathers and even exotic seeds. Be prepared to get approached by native Indians dressed in costumes soliciting to pose for a picture for you in exchange for a small fee.
For the more culture seeking visitors interested in learning about the history of Brazil, you should go visit the “Marco da Posse” or the mark of possession. Brought to Brazil in 1503, made of marble of Carrara, it served to claim the rights of property by the Royal Crown of Portugal over the entire South American continent. It’s currently situated at the top of the “Cidade Historica” or Old Town. The panoramic view is spectacular: you could see the Buranhem river, lower side of Porto Seguro, the Atlantic coast, north all the way till Praia de Ponta Grande.
Don’t forget to visit the Nossa Senhora da Penha Church (also the city’s godmother), this is the second oldest church in Brazil (1535). The tower to the church also serves as a light house, the reflector section is made of small pieces of porcelain that came from Macao. This is a natural reflector and it works by reflecting 80% of the light coming from the moon and the stars! This makes me wonder how they managed during cloudy rainy nights. Who knows? Also go visit the light house from the Brazilian navy, there you’ll find the Igreja da Misericordia church, the first one constructed in Brazil in 1526!
Sunshine, Beaches, Romantic and Natural Greenness
Porto Seguro is located on the southern coast of Bahia (State), also known as the “Costa do Descobrimento” or discovery coast, this is about 50 miles (90 km) of beach with natural formation of reefs, natural pools, corals. Amazing for scuba diving.
All beaches include well developed facilities like hotels, restaurants, and beach bars (except for Trancoso) with prices for all budgets. From Porto Seguro, you can visit neighboring towns like Arraial D’Ajuda, about 10 minutes away by boat (over the Buranhem river), this place is known in Brazil as the “corner of the world”, from Arraial D’Ajuda you can choose from the hip party beaches like Mucuge, Pitinga, Apaga-Foco and Taipe. Places still naturally preserved, ideal for ecoturism, we recommend.
Trancoso is a small charming village located 13 miles (22km) south by road from Arraial D’Ajuda. This is a naturalist’s beach and you could shed off all your cloths and get rid of the tan line. You could sun bath nude on the beaches or visit the local town square called the “Quadrado”, where you can find hidden restaurants and bars where many Brazilian and International artists and musicians hang out.
For those of you that want to go diving, we recommend the south coast of Bahia. The Caraivas sea is perfect! Since its very clam. When there, make sure to appreciate the night sky and do some star watching, since the Caraivas area has no electricity and it’s darker e there than in Porto Seguro. Make sure to take a flashlight!
Porto Seguro and Carnaval
The Bahian Carnaval in Porto Seguro is explained as an entirely uplifting experience. A true emotion incomparable to anything else I’ve been through in my traveled years. Thousands of visitors mixed in with the locals, creating and hot and racy blend. Five days of party, sound cars cruising through the streets of Porto Seguro, mixing joy, music, dance and nature. It’s impossible to stay still: everybody dances to the rhythmic sounds of Axe music from Bahia.
You can count on the most famous bands from Brazil playing live during Carnaval. Chiclete Com Banana (famous Axe music band) comes in for the grand finale ending the experience on Ash Wednesday. You’ll need many “capatas” to keep up with the fast paced Bahian music. Even though you’ll spend most of your time discovering the exciting places and parties, it all pays off when you find yourself very well partnered with your new or current soul mate, on the sandy beach, watching the new sun rise as Carnaval in Porto sleeps till next year.