The Recôncavo, the early Portuguese plantation zone named after the concave shape of the bay, arcs out from Salvador along 150km of coastline, before petering out in the mangrove swamps around the town of Valença. It’s one of the most lush tropical coastlines in Brazil, with palm-covered hills breaking up the green and fertile coastal plains; it’s still one of the most important agricultural areas in Bahia, supplying the state with much of its fruit and spices. Only the sugar plantations around Recife could match the wealth of the Recôncavo, but, unlike that region, the Recôncavo survived the decline of the sugar trade by diversifying into tobacco and spices – especially peppers and cloves. It was the agricultural wealth of the Recôncavo that paid for most of the fine buildings of Salvador and, until the cocoa boom in southern Bahia in the 1920s, Cachoeira was considered the state’s second city. The beauty of the area and the richness of its colonial heritage make it one of the more rewarding parts of the region to explore.