Where to Go in Salvador During Carnival

Ilê Aiyê | © Alex Carvalho
Ilê Aiyê | © Alex Carvalho
Photo of Georganne Hassell
20 March 2017

Salvador, the capital of the north-eastern state of Bahia, is famous within Brazil for its Carnival celebrations. Many foreigners believe Rio de Janeiro is the only city to discover Carnival, but in truth all of Brazil celebrates this holiday with passion, and Salvador has some of the most exciting parties in all of the country. Discover where to go in this seaside party town.

At the center of the parties in Salvador is the trio elétrico, which is essentially a large truck or semi trailer piled up with sound equipment and a band on top playing music for the masses. The trio elétrico drives slowly through the streets, creating a parade and a block party all at once – or a bloco, as it is known in Portuguese. These are the main parade routes in Salvador that every traveler should know.

The Campo Grande-Praça Castro Alves Circuit

This route is considered the original bloco circuit, as it has roots dating back to at least the 1950s. It is also called the ‘Osmar’ circuit in homage to one of the trio elétrico creators. Another nickname for this route is the ‘Avenidas’ and it begins at Campo Grande – where dignitaries sit and bloco judging takes place – and runs down Avenida Sete de Setembro to Praça Castro Alves. The whole party then takes a left turn to follow Rua Carlos Gome back to Campo Grande. In all, the bloco usually lasts six hours so Carnival goers should be prepared for a long haul – bring plenty of water with you to keep hydrated in the heat.

Carnival in Salvador | © Turismo Bahia

The Barra-Ondina Circuit

This bloco route is a much newer route that was first included as part of the Carnival festivities in the early 1990s. It also has a nickname in homage to the other creator of the trio elétrico, Dodô. The bloco begins at the Farol da Barra (the lighthouse) and follows the coastline to the Ondina neighborhood. The ocean breezes are a welcome respite from the heat, as this party usually keeps going for about four hours. Many travelers prefer to stay in the Barra or Ondina neighborhoods to enjoy this bloco route.

Carnival in Salvador | © Carnival.com Studios / Flickr

The Pelourinho Circuit

The new kid on the Carnival circuit, this bloco route runs through the old city and is also called the ‘Batatinha’ circuit after samba musician and composer Oscar da Penha, nicknamed Batatinha. This bloco often features African-Brazilian music and culture, but the public squares, or praças, in Pelourinho are a perfect place to sample many kinds of Brazilian music throughout the Carnival festivities.

Pelourinho | © Rosino / Flickr

Liberdade Neighborhood

This community in Salvador is deeply connected to the founding of the city, as well as its African roots. These roots are represented during Carnival by various blocos such as Ilê Aiyê, Muzenza and Filhos da Liberdade. These Afro-Brazilian groups are rich in tradition and offer an entirely different view of Carnival, but one that is steeped in history.

Ilê Aiyê | © Alex Carvalho

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