Are you stressed due to long working hours? Can't you free your mind from your boss' comments, your distressing working days in a gray environment, and even from your day-to-day family problems?
You just want to take a break from this world without spending a huge amount of money? Come to Itaparica, the island facing Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.
Here, despite being close to one of the most lively cities in the world, where there is the greatest Carnaval on earth, you find an amazing combination of piece, large historical center, good cuisine and beautiful beaches.
And indeed in high season (summer time for Brazilians, winter for Europeans and Americans) in Itaparica the landscape is crowded with Brazilians and especially Bahians going all around in a loud environment.
But in winter time (August- September) the scenario is completely different. This is a real isolated place where you can sit and rest in peace, forget the whole world, and still visit a beautiful historical center and stunning beaches.
The combination of piece and relaxation comes with a limited hotel offer, so you really have to reserve in advance. Do not be worried: in winter time the few hotels are empty and there are still many houses you can rent at cheap prices (between US$ 400 and US$ 600 a month).
And the cuisine is excellent: the Turkish restaurant in the historical center is a must-go place if you want to experience a delicious cuisine in Itaparica city.
But where is this wonderful island, how can you get there, how can you move around? Well first you fly to Salvador da Bahia in Brazil. Then you go straight from the airport to catch the ferry boat in Feira de São Joaquim.
Do not take the little boat (lancha) in Mercado Modelo like most of tourists do. This is because these boats are very unsafe, maneuvered by unskilled people and you can seriously risk your life there.
By taking the ferry boat, instead, the trip is safe, although it is advisable not to catch it during rush hours as it fills up very quickly. The area surrounding the ferry station is not pleasant but the trip is safe.
Once you get in Bom Despacho you take a cab to Itaparica city, the capital of the island (20 minutes trip). The island of Itaparica is actually divided in two towns: Itaparica (its land covers approximately 18% of the island) and Vera Cruz (with 82% of the island).
Let's start with the city of Itaparica, with its beautiful historical center, probably the best preserved historical center in Brazil. Pelourinho in Salvador and Paraty in Rio state are larger but Itaparica path walk is much better and easier to get around.
A good option is to have the city of Itaparica as a base and visit the beaches around. But remember: the tranquillity of Itaparica is due to the virtual lack of nightlife.
Here walking along the bay at night is very relaxing indeed, but you will not find pubs or restaurants opened at night.
At the end of the day I advised you: you come to Itaparica if you want to unplug from the stress of the world. The best you can get is an Internet place where you can check your emails accumulated when you were laying on the beach. And in Itaparica city there is DSL connection, a luxury on the island.
Where to stay? Try and avoid pousada Cantinho da Ilha if you can, as the rooms are small and fairly unpleasant. Hotel Icaraí is a much better option, as it is larger and close to the beach.
At this stage you are in the center of the historical center where you can move around safely during the day. Be a bit careful if you are a woman travelling by yourself: it is not dangerous at all but you might be approached a few times by locals in search of adventures.
The city beach, behind the fort, is an option if you want to stay in the city and not move around. But the best beaches are in other parts of the island. Where are they? The closest to the historical center is Ponta de Areia, a stunning beach just 4 km away from the city of Itaparica.
This dream beach has clear and clean waters; there is plenty of restaurants and cabanas next to the beach. The bar-restaurant Copacabana, run by an Angolan guy, Rogério, has good food but it is a bit small. A large restaurant further up along the beach, run by an Italian guy named Renato, is a good option for quality food although a bit expensive.
After 7 pm the street along the beach is desert and the sunset is beautiful. Very relaxing and total absence of mental stress or anxiety.
Another beautiful beach is Barra do Gil in Vera Cruz. This beautiful place hosts an expensive but very comfortable resort called Sol e Mar run by a French man named Jean Louis Desnoes.
Be careful: although the place is close to the city of Itaparica, if you go to Barra do Gil by public transportation (namely van or small buses often overcrowded) you have to catch two vans even for a small distance. You probably better off renting a motoscooter or a car and are free to move around.
published in august 2007