The BR-101 highway is the main route to the southern Bahian coast, a region immortalized in the much translated and filmed novels of Jorge Amado, a native of Ilhéus. From the bus window you’ll see the familiar fields of sugar replaced by huge plantations of cacau, cocoa. Southern Bahia produces two-thirds of Brazil’s cocoa, almost all of which goes for export, making this part of Bahia the richest agricultural area of the state. The zona de cacau seems quiet and respectable enough today, with its pleasant towns and prosperous countryside, but in the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth, it was one of the most turbulent parts of Brazil. Entrepreneurs and adventurers from all over the country carved out estates here, often violently – a process chronicled by Amado in his novel The Violent Lands.
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- Ilhéus and around
The most popular destination in southern Bahia is the resort area around PORTO SEGURO, where Cabral “discovered” Brazil in 1500. Founded in 1526, it has some claim to being the oldest town in Brazil, and buildings still survive from that period.
Porto Seguro is now about as far as you can get from pre-colonial tranquillity. It’s become one of the biggest holiday resorts in Brazil, and heaves with tourists throughout the year, reaching saturation point at New Year and Carnaval. You may enjoy yourself here if your main interest is nightlife – but you’ve got to like crowds and not expect much peace and quiet. All the same, Porto Seguro has somehow managed to retain its reputation as a fairly classy destination.