Even though it’s celebrated across the Americas, nobody does Carnaval to such a lavish, hedonistic extreme as Rio de Janeiro.
On paper, the celebration lasts only five days – from Friday to Tuesday before Ash Wednesday – though in reality, the party starts up to a month beforehand.
Cariocas (locals) believe in living passionately, and this passion runs red-hot through the sambadromo, where thousands of drummers and dancers – in vibrant costumes which leave little to the imagination – parade with reckless abandon.
They’re not amateurs. Over a dozen samba schools compete for the crowd’s favor; each has one hour to strut their stuff in front of 30,000 screaming spectators (which isn’t really accurate; no one is really a “spectator” during Carnaval… you have no choice but to join in).
The parade is certainly worth watching, but the real attractions are the parties around town. Nightclubs host costume parties, while decadent invite-only balls cater to wealthy cariocas looking to celebrate in style.
If you’re looking to get involved, join in with one of the many bandas. Sometimes called blocos, this where anyone and everyone follows a procession of drummers and singers throughout Rio.
You’re quite literally dancing through the streets. Details can be found on the official Carnaval website.
And of course, no visit to Rio would be complete without seeing…
The beauty of this 2.7 mile (4.5 km) white sand beach will bring tears to your eyes. You’ll probably shed another set once you realize how insanely crowded this beach really is. Dozens of bars and cafes line Av. Atlantica, along with a sizable portion of cariocas – ranging from young professionals to inner-city kids and prostitutes – during the day.
If you can deal with the crowds, you will love it here. If not, you probably shouldn’t visit Rio during Carnaval.
Credit: Los viajes del Cangrejo
Noticeably more upscale than Copcabana, Ipanema is another wildly popular beach destination in Rio. Some of the world’s most gorgeous people can be seen walking, sunning and playing volleyball or futbol. It’s one of the few places in the world where the people are sights in and of themselves. Try not to drool.
There are different sections to Ipanema: Posto 9 is popular with the beautiful people (think Venice beach in Los Angeles) and has a thriving gay scene. Posto 11 is where most families head.
For the full experience, walk the entire section of beach, or duck into Av Delfim Moreira – the main coastal road – for some shade and cool drinks.
When To Go
The best time to visit Rio De Janeiro for Carnaval is in February or March, however the weather is best from May to September.
From May to September, the average high temperatures range from 77 to79°F (25 to 26°C), low temperatures range from 66 to 70°F (19 to 21°C), and precipitations ranges from 1.5 to 3 inches (39 to 78mm) each month.
Getting There & Around
Rio De Janeiro is located on the east coast of Brazil along the South Atlantic Ocean.
The best way to get there is to fly into Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport which is located 10.5 miles (16.7km) from the city center.
The best way to get around is by taxi. Be sure to agree on a maximum price before getting into a taxi.
- Mid-range accommodations: $150-200
- Meals: $10-15
- Bottle of beer: $2
- Try to learn a little Portuguese before heading out on a trip or create a cheat sheet of some basic words and phrases. A little goes a long way.
- Greet people with a kiss. One on the right cheek, followed by another on the left cheek.
- Dress causal but fashionable. Skip the tourist look if possible.
- Wear jewelry or draw attention to yourself as a tourist. Keep your valuables close to you at all times. A money belt is a good option. And always walk with a purpose.
- Leave your valuables unattended at any time. Even while at the beach.
- Walk into the street without looking first. Drivers rarely stop for red lights or pedestrians.
- The first people to discover Guanabara Bay on New Year’s Day 1502, thought it was the mouth of a river. Hence the name ‘Rio de Janeiro’ translating to ‘River of January.’
- Cariocas are people who were raised and born in Rio.
- There are roughly 31.1 miles (50 km) of beaches in Rio.
Feature Image Credit: sfmission.com