How to experience Afrotourism in Brazil

South America’s largest nation is championing its Black heritage with Afrotourism experiences

Laura Field
28 November 2023

Just when we thought that visiting Brazil couldn’t get any more enticing, the nation has announced its priority to promote Afrotourism and become the world’s premier Afrotourism destination. A rich tapestry of cultural vibrance, natural phenomena and people as warm as the climate, Brazil offers far more than just glistening beaches.

Brazil’s focus for 2024 is to champion its Black heritage and promote Afrotourism to create social change, encourage sustainable and community-based tourism, and contribute to combatting racism. Afrotourism in Brazil includes promoting destinations, experiences and routes that honour and celebrate the history and culture of Black people in Brazil. Here are just some of the ways to experience Afrotourism in Brazil.

Get to know Little Africa in Rio de Janeiro

The Valongo Wharf (Shutterstock)

Beyond Christ the Redeemer and the soothing shores of Ipanema, Rio is also home to a place known as Little Africa, a community dating back to the abolition of slavery in Brazil. On a walking tour of Little Africa, visitors can learn about lesser-known figures from Brazilian history including the engineer, abolitionist and inventor, André Rebouças; the cook and key figure in the development of samba, Tia Ciata; and the novelist and poet, Machado de Assis.

Visitors can also head to the Valongo Wharf (Cais do Valongo), an old dock which was a site of landing and trading enslaved Africans until 1831. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an important memorial to Black identity.

Experience the Black São Paulo Walk

Nossa Senhora Rosário dos Pretos Church (Shutterstock)

The Black São Paulo Walk revives and recounts Black Brazilian stories, which are found throughout South America’s largest city. A visit to São Paulo offers an immersive and unique experience that takes you from Quilombos Urbanos (settlements founded by people of African origin who were escaped slaves), passing by the Nossa Senhora Rosário dos Pretos Church, to Liberdade (meaning ‘freedom’), a recognised neighbourhood with a dark but important cultural connection to Black history.

Also recommended to visit in São Paulo are the Thebes Monument, the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art and the Zumbi dos Palmares statue, which are all part of the extensive framework and narrative of Black heritage in Brazil.

Head on The Path of Legends Walk in São Luís

The Festa do “Bumba Meu Boi”, celebrated every June in Maranhão (Shutterstock)

In northeastern Brazil in Maranhão state, the city of São Luís is known as the Brazilian capital of reggae. Set out on a walking tour centred on the legacy of Black African people to learn about the local cultural identity, where guides give visibility to the history of a people who have significantly contributed to the formation of Maranhão culture.‌ This culture includes the Cultural Complex of Bumba-meu-boi, a ritualistic practice blending music, choreography and performance, which has been recognised by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Taste African-influenced flavours in Salvador, Bahia

A Baiana woman offering acarajé in the Pelourinho, Salvador (Shutterstock)

The colourful and tropical state of Bahia boasts some of Brazil’s most pristine beaches and opportunities to immerse in nature. Bahia is also home to the rhythmic and historic city of Salvador where you can learn about and taste African-influenced Brazilian foods like acarajé (black eyed pea fritters stuffed with seafood) and visit São Joaquim food market. The UNESCO-recognised Pelourinho historic area of the city is not only architecturally mesmerising but is also a key place to learn about the Afro-Brazilian practice of capoeira and axé musical rhythms.

Also in Bahia, Chapada Diamantina has a fascinating history and is home to several traditional communities as well as some of Brazil’s most show-stopping natural landscapes including mountains, rivers, caves and waterfalls.

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