Two hours from Salvador , this atmospheric town on the banks of the languid blue Rio Paraguaçu is a treasure trove of arresting colonial architecture, which after years of abandon is slowly being restored. Cachoeira is also a center of Afro-Brazilian culture; there are an extraordinary number of traditional Candomblé terreiros as well as the Irmandade da Boa Morte (Sisterhood of Good Death)—a female religious order created by freed slaves over 200 years ago. The order’s annual Festa da Boa Morte  has become a major event, attracting loads of Afro-Descendentes in search of their ancestral roots.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, Cachoeira was one of the wealthiest and most populous cities in the Brazilian colony. Its strategic location upriver from the Paraguaçu’s entrance into the Bay of All Saints  made it an important crossroads for the riches—particularly the gold mined in the Chapada Diamantina —that were being shipped from the interior down to the coast and off to Portugal.
Meanwhile, its fertile soil lured Portuguese colonists to cultivate sugarcane in the surrounding hills and led to the importation of thousands of African slaves who worked the plantations. While the slaves toiled, their rich masters poured money into the embellishment of the thriving town, bequeathing a legacy of magnificent baroque churches.
By the early 19th century, colonial rule was being increasingly challenged, and as a hotbed of revolt, Cachoeira achieved national prominence. Cachoeirenses led the battle for independence against Portuguese troops. When Brazil  subsequently won its independence, it was in Cachoeira that Dom Pedro I chose to be crowned as Brazil’s first emperor.
At the end of the 19th century, sugar prices had diminished and slavery had been abolished. However, Cachoeira and, the neighboring town, São Félix  (across the river), still prospered due to the cultivation of tobacco, the quality of which was renowned throughout the world. In recent decades, however, even tobacco’s importance has dwindled. Today the glory of former times is but a distant memory preserved in the town’s rich architectural and cultural heritage.
Santana (tel. 71/3450-4951) provides bus service between Cachoeira from Salvador . Buses, all of which pass through Santo Amaro , leave hourly from Salvador’s Rodoviária Central as well as from the Santana office in Rua Lauro de Freitas in Cachoeira.
If you’re driving, take the BR-324 from Salvador for 60 kilometers (37 miles) until it meets the BA-026 near Santo Amaro. From Santo Amaro follow the BA-026 for 38 kilometers (24 miles) to Cachoeira.