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Brazilian Carnival

Known the world over as “The best show on earth”, the Carnival in Rio truly is a spectacle and one experience that should be lived at least once in your life. Held every year, the Carnival’s dates are not fixed as it falls between the Friday afternoon before Ash Wednesday.

The most famous is the one in Rio de Janeiro however, do consider the one in other areas of Brazil, like Salvador, the country’s second biggest celebration. Nonetheless, if you have never been we do suggest to choose the one held in the Cidade Maravilhosa for a true once in your life experience.

Sambadrome, the temple of samba

The Sambadrome is where you’ll find the most traditional Carnival in Rio.  Each samba school represents a neighborhood, and they compete to see which one can put on the best parade. In the contest, schools are awarded points in several categories, including costumes, percussion, and storytelling. If that sounds like something you would like to experience, be prepared. Tickets sell out very fast. Ticket sales usually start in the second half of the year, so make sure to plan ahead.

How the samba school parades work

Twelve schools compete for the title of Carnival champion. They each have up to 82 minutes for their parade, and the number of components must range from 2,500 to 4,000. Judges award points for each school based on a number of categories, such as costumes, song, drums, and the more subjective categories “progression” and “harmony”.

The group with the highest score wins the competition. Each school chooses which story or theme they will explore during their parade. The most popular choices are historical events and the lives of important people. Every year, one or two schools manage to fall into the crowd’s favour. That, however, does not mean they have a higher chance of winning, as popularity is not one of the criteria judges take into account.

Parades start in the evening and go well into the night, only ending at sunrise the next day. Watching both nights of the competition requires plenty of stamina, as it often adds up to eight hours of non-stop samba.

The main parades are always on Sunday and Monday and the Winners parade on the following Saturday. Usually, international travellers get tickets for the Winners parade only.

Carnival parades in 2024 will be in February and March and in 2025 in February!

Street parties

Even if you don’t get a ticket for the Sambadrome, the best Carnival atmosphere is actually on the streets! The best street parties are organized by street groups called ‘blocos’ and it is virtually impossible to turn a corner without bumping into one as the whole city truly comes alive with the sounds and colours of Samba!

How to book

Planning ahead and booking as early as possible the prior year is a must! Tickets sell out fast and you want to avoid disappointment, however, do note that hotels will require a minimum number of nights and the prices during this periods will be much higher than normal. But don’t let this put you off and make sure to enquire early to gain access to the best prices and availability.

Preferred Hotels for Rio Carnival

Rio de Janeiro
Brazil's Cidade Maravilhosa, lives up to its name. Set in a truly stunning setting, it is an unforgettable city that will get under your skin and its friendly people will capture your heart.
The North Pantanal
The Pantanal is the world's largest wetland and Brazil's best place to get close and personal to an immense array of flora and fauna, including the jaguar. If you are a nature lover, this is the place you want to be at least once in your life!
The South Pantanal
The southern part of the Pantanal is less visited than the northern counterpart but it offers the same opportunities to get in close contact with nature. If you want to see the anteater, head here for you chance to see this wonderful mammal.
Iguaçu, Falls
A true spectacle of nature, the Iguaçu, falls will take your breath away with their visual majesty and the sound of their roar!
Once a tranquil fishermen's village, Buzios is now an elegant resort with plenty of idyllic beaches and beautiful boutique hotels, perfect for a relaxing end to any Brazil holiday.
Lovely colonial architecture, sandwiched between the blue Brazilian sea and the vibrant nature in the hills, Paraty in the Green Coast deserves a place as a must see destination in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.

Your adventure starts here!

Do you fancy having a chat about Carnival? Personally, it's one of our favourite things to talk about.

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