Salvador and the Bahia Coast: Places to Explore

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Ilhéus

In Brazil, Ilhéus (literally meaning "islanders") is synonymous with cocoa and Jorge Amado, one of Brazil's best-known 20th-century writers. Amado spent his childhood here, and the house he lived in is now a cultural center. Many of his world-famous novels are set in places in and around Ilhéus, and bring to life the "golden age" of the region, when cocoa production was so prosperous that it was nicknamed "black gold." Catedral de São Sebastião (San Sebastian Cathedral) is the heart of the central area—a plaza surrounded by colonial-period buildings akin to those in Pelourinho. While Ilhéus started the 20th century as one of Brazil's wealthiest towns, a shining example of modern development driven by the export of cacao (cocoa) from the nearby plantations, in the 1980s it suffered a devastating blow with the onslaught of a disease known as "Vassoura de Bruxa" (Witch's Broom). Regarded as the world's first example of biological espionage, the bacteria wiped out more than 80% of the cocoa plantations, with a dramatic effect on the region. In recent times improved agricultural techniques and higher cocoa market prices are leading the way to economic resurgence in the region, with tourism providing another of the economy's main pillars. While Ilhéus has many beaches, it is worth escaping to the white sands that lie along the north and south coast rather than settling in Ilhéus.

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