Nothing embodies the spirit of Brazil more than carnival. Every year, six weeks before Easter, the country turns out for four solid days of partying, dancing and singing in the streets. Hundreds of thousands of visitors come to Brazil for this unique celebration.
The most famous place for carnival in Brazil is Rio de Janeiro. Each year, the different samba schools compete for first place in elaborate parades that last for hours. The dancers wear incredible costumes of sequins and feathers (and often little else). Rio became famous in the 1930’s for their parades, parties, and balls which become larger and more impressive every year. The paradeÂ´s history began in 1928 and used to take different routes through the city before settling on its current path. Today, the parades pass through the enormous Sambodromo, a sort of long stadium. Seating at the Sambodromo is reserved, so make sure you’ve booked through a reliable travel agent. And if you want to particpate in the samba parade, samba schools are always looking for extra performers to be part of the show.
If you can’t get tickets to the Sambodromo, don’t worry. There are many other parades in Rio during Carnival, and most of the main streets will be one solid party. Be sure to book a hotel far in advance, as they fill up, sometimes years ahead of time.
If you want a different carnival experience, you may want to consider Salvador, in the state of Bahía in the north. Salvador also hosts a huge carnival, which is less famous than the one in Rio but just as much fun. Instead of sitting in the Sambodromo and watching the parade go by, visitors to Salvador can easily participate, and it costs less than the more famous Rio parade. The Salvador parades consist of a trío eléctico – basically a truck with a sound system and a band – followed by a bloco, which is a moving area, roped off by security guards. If you buy a ticket to a bloco, you’ll be given a t-shirt and shorts and will be allowed to walk along with everyone else and drink and dance and sing. Often, the bands leading the blocos are well-known. After the parades, you can go to the barracas, which are sort of like block parties.