Rio de Contas is a historic part of the Chapada Diamantina.
The city is one of the tourist destinations in Bahia that attracts visitors not only because of its natural beauty and ecological trails, but also because of the memory preserved by the best preserved colonial houses in the region.
Located 620 kilometres from Salvador, Rio de Contas was the first town created in Chapada Diamantina, in 1723, still as a village, according to IBGE.
However, historical data indicate that the region began to be populated by escaped slaves from the Bahian coast in 1687.
Rio de Contas has wide streets and large stone pavements and is 56 km from Palmeiras, originated from a landing point where travellers stayed overnight, and which gave rise, at the end of the 17th century, to a village called Creoulos on the new route between Goiás and Salvador.
Some freed blacks lived there as a community, which justifies its first name.
Then came bandeirantes and Jesuits. The discovery of gold deposits made the village grow, becoming the town of Nossa Senhora do Livramento das Minas de Rio de Contas.
This old town preserves more than 400 17th- and 18th-century mansions of baroque architecture, all restored, among which stand out the City Hall building, the churches of Santíssimo Sacramento and Santana and the São Carlos Theatre.
The Municipal Archives of Rio de Contas houses old newspapers, photographs and documents dating back to the 18th century.
In the main square, scenes from Behind the Sun were filmed under the direction of Walter SaIles.
Estrada Real The 6-kilometre stretch of the old Estrada Real near Rio de Contas, made entirely of stones laid by slaves in the 18th century, is perfect for a walk, with magnificent views.
It was the main access to Livramento and today is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the region.
See also Tourist Spots of Chapada Diamantina
Videos about Rio de Contas
Rio de Contas
1. Architectural Richness
Rio de Contas was the first planned city in the country, it has wide squares and streets, baroque churches, with buildings from the second half of the 18th century and early 19th century.
It is one of the rare colonial “new towns”, created by Royal Provision of 1745, which recommended a regular layout and architecture capable of ensuring its beautification.
The buildings in the centre are among the most important and beautiful in Bahia. The stone houses and streets are very well preserved.
The town was a gold route and a trading point on the Royal Road. The beauty of its streets served as the setting for the film Behind the Sun (2001), by filmmaker Walter Salles.
With several natural attractions in its surroundings, the municipality has some of the highest peaks in the Northeast. Among the singularities of the city are the traditional carnival of masks and the quilombola villages and Portuguese descent;
1. Cadeia e Casa de Câmara
This mansion housed the most feared jail in all the highlands of Bahia, which was located on the ground floor, along with the jailer’s house and the bodyguard. The second floor was the place of the Chamber and the Audience.
The building is characterised by the people’s bell, installed on the doorframe of one of the windows on the second floor.
It is located in Praça Senador Tanajura, formerly Praça da Matriz, with immense visibility. It is undoubtedly the most photographed house in the city.
Former Jail and Town Hall, now Forum of the city of Rio de Contas.
2. Igrejas de Santana
This church is a very rare example with three naves and a chancel which communicates with the side sacristies. Built by slaves in the first half of the 18th century, it was never completed.
Work was halted around 1850, when the local population moved to the diamond mines of Mucugê, Lençóis and Andaraí.
In 1914, due to heavy rains, the roof of the church collapsed. Only in 1960, after being listed by IPHAN, were new works carried out in order to preserve it.
3. Igreja Santíssimo Sacramento em Rio de Contas
The Igreja Matriz is the best example of religious architecture that is preserved in the whole of the Bahian hinterland. It was built in the 18th century, and was not completed.
It was built in stone masonry by slave labour and boasts remarkable carpentry.
The high altar and the two side altars are all covered in gold panelling. The ceiling of the chancel features an Italian-inspired illusionist painting.
Santíssimo Sacramento Church.
4. Teatro São Carlos
One of the three oldest in Brazil and the oldest in the interior of Bahia. Inaugurated in 1892, it was the stage for numerous performances by local groups and productions from other parts of Brazil. It currently functions as a space where educational and cultural actions and activities take place.
5. Casa natal do Barão de Macaúbas
The birthplace of Abílio César Borges, the Baron of Macaúbas (1824-1891), a great Brazilian educator.
Probably built in the early years of the 20th century, it is a typical example of diamond residences, with mixed use (residential and commercial). It is currently occupied by the IPHAN Technical Office and the Municipal Archive of Rio de Contas.
6. Casa de Fundição
Foundry house, where gold was melted and transformed into bars. It is currently the headquarters of the City Hall of Rio de Contas.
2. Tourist attractions
1. Pico das Almas
With its 1,958m of altitude, Pico das Almas is not for beginners, but it offers adventurers who reach its top an incredible view of the entire Chapada Diamantina.
2. Cachoeira do Fraga
Very close to the city, it is an easily accessible leisure option. Its wells are great for bathing. There is a bar in the vicinity.
3. Andorinhas Waterfall
Located inside a cave, it is one of the most beautiful places in Chapada.
4. Pico do Barbado
With an altitude of 2,050 metres, this is the highest point in the Northeast, and the most visited by mountaineering enthusiasts. Its extraordinary natural beauty is mainly due to the curiosity of its rock formation and the presence of evergreens, bromeliads and orchids.
From the top you can enjoy panoramic views of neighbouring peaks such as Pico das Almas and Pico de ltaobira. Talk to the staff at the Rio de Contas Tourist Information Centre and get hold of reliable maps.
See also the History of Rio de Contas
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