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As usual the new year has brought a slew of opinions across the travel press about where to head in 2016. In extreme-remote terms the Financial Times suggests Greenland and Kyrgyzstan (implying that its supremely well-heeled readers are hell bent on wilderness and cool temps) here while the New York Times seems only just to have discovered Morocco’s Atlantic Coast, albeit NOT Agadir.

Morocco_Coastal_town

Ahem, a confession – I first explored this coast soon after Jimi Hendrix’ sojourn in Essaouira (above) back in the 1970s— but I’ll give the feature its due, it does cover lesser known seaside towns like El Jadida and Oualidia (surfing and oysters) – both up and coming.


Salvador de Bahia must be one of the most energising cities out there – packed with streetlife, colour, rivetting sound and salivating flavours. You leave it with regret, though sometimes that d-d-d-drumming gets a bit much.

Salvador_Brazil_batucada_drums

Most visitors end up staying in the old colonial quarter of Pelourinho or down by the beach at Barra. I followed the pattern, holed up in a very comfortable pousada full of artworks, the Casa do Amarelindo, bang in the heart of the action between the much photographed Largo do Pelourinho and the stunning square of Terreiro de Jesus. Incidentally the pousada roof bar is a great spot for a drink while watching the sun sink over the bay in front.


One of Brazil’s most intriguing aspects is candomblé, a Yoruban religion brought by West African slaves in the 16th century, which continues to thrive today. There are strong similarities with santeria, a syncretic religion blending Catholicism with African beliefs, which I’ve seen in Cuba and, to a lesser extent in the Dominican Republic. On a tropical island, though, it’s a bit different.

Brazil_Boipeba_Yemanja_offering

Salvador, Brazil’s first capital and still a pulsating hub of African culture, is home to numerous terreiros (simple meeting-halls for candomblé followers); in fact they are said to number well over 1,000, over three times the number of churches. Ceremonies are a whirlwind of rhythmical dance, chanting and music, often ending in spirit-possession for the worshippers, all of whom dress in immaculate white in respect for the gods.


Sometimes you just get it right. Time, place and mood. Last week, the Ilha de Boipeba fulfilled those criteria to perfection, leaving me longing for more – more beach-time, more lobsters, more caipirinhas, more coconuts, more of that chilled Brazilian flow.

Brazil_Boipeba_empty_beach

Boipeba is a lotus-eating classic, tossed gently into the Atlantic just south of Salvador off Brazil’s endless coast. About 3,000 people live on the island, formerly on fishing, now mainly on tourism – though that last word is pretty hard to apply to a place with no cars (transport is only by mule, tractor or wheelbarrow), convoluted access and beaches as empty as in these pics. AND it was high season.