llheus Port used to be Brazil’s main place of export for cocoa and dates back in the early 1500s. Today, it is a busy port exporting not only cocoa but also rubber, chemicals, piassava and timber. Cocoa plantations used to the local source of income; now the town has turned to tourism. Most tourists visit llheus because of its beaches, lagoons, mangroves, virgin tropical forests and its tropical climate.
Aside from its cocoa products, the Brazilian town also gained its popularity when Jorge Amado used llheus as the setting of his famous novel “Gabriela, Cravo e Canela”. It was adapted by Hollywood into a movie and later adapted for the TV screen.
The Mercado de Artesanato is located in llheus downtown area and sells almost everything you can imagine. Hammocks, purses, landscape paintings, electronics and tiles are some examples of goods found in the market. Haggling is recommended as most of the items are set at exorbitant prices.
Things to See
The Chapel of Santana dates back to 1537 and is now a protected national monument. Another church worth visiting is the Piedade Church and Convent. It was built on a hilltop in 1910 and its gothic-style towers are still intact until now. The Saint George of Ilheus Church dates back to the seventeenth century and is currently the seat of the town’s Roman Catholic Diocese.
Located next to the Saint George Church is the Sacret Art Museum. It houses important town artifacts and includes a collection of Saint George secular statues.
The Casa de Cultura Jorge Amado is the famous author’s townhouse and converted into a museum in 1997. It houses a huge collection of books, photographs, local artifacts and the writer’s personal belongings. Inside the museum is a small restaurant serving local dishes.
You don’t need to travel to nearby Itacare as the “little Itacare” is in llheus, the Cabana Itacarezinho. It is a great place to enjoy the crystal clear waters and the privacy of the resort. Another must-see beach is the Back Door Resort famed for their huge waves. The resort has been the venue for several surfing championships in the region.
Both located in the downtown area; Una’s Ecopark and Hope Woods Botanical Garden are biological parks aimed at preserving the native flora and fauna of llheus. The Esperanca Sugar Mill is a must-visit for those who would want to dig further into the town’s history.
You can finish off your tour at the Sloth Recovery Center. It is located at the heart of the Atlantic Forest where species of sloth are re-introduced to their natural habitat.
Restaurants and Bars
Situated on a hilltop overlooking the sea is the Sheik Restaurant. Its offer the best seafood dishes in town; enjoy the food while relaxing with an excellent view of the crystal clear blue waters.
The Gabriela Cravo e Canela is housed at the Praia Hotel and offers lunch and dinner even to non-hotel guests. Popular among the locals and tourists alike is the Vesuvio’s Restaurant. Their houses specialty is the camarao (shrimp dish) and fish dishes.