Rio Carnival is a celebration of what Brazil is all about; a bold, hardworking & passionate nation of diverse people with a deep European history dancing in harmony to their rich African and Amerindian cultures. The traditional Carnival parade dates to the 1930s, although similar festivities can be traced back to 1750. The official days of celebration start 40 days prior to Easter, from Saturday to Tuesday, before Ash Wednesday. However, the party starts well before as the samba schools rehearse their songs and dancing in what is known as “bandas and blocos” all over the city.
You can visit any of these samba schools run by the local “bairros” or favela community groups. Each school is generally made up of 2000 -3000 participants, divided into “wings” who dress different costumes, followed by 2 or 3 amazing floats. They compete by choosing a theme they dance to samba music, which is held together by the “bateria”. Bateria is a percussion group made of 300 or 400 participants; the sound they create make the hairs on the neck raise. They must make sure their schools keep dancing and entertaining and get audience participation.
The school must keep moving and are allocated 90 minutes to pass through the Sambodromo, if they are late they will lose points. The judges will pick the best judging on costumes, music, drumming, lyrics, design, theme and overall presentation. The following Saturday the Champions, together with other five best-judged schools will parade again.
We strongly recommend arriving quite a few days earlier and get involved in any number hotel fancy-dress balls, the best happening at Copacabana Palace. You can attend the samba schools, where you won’t be able to hear yourself think let alone talk! We can organize joining one of the samba schools and getting in on the parade, costume and all, now that’s an experience! Then there are the street parties along the “bairros” of Copacabana, Flamengo, Ipanema and many others.
Alternatively, you can see the production centre of the larger schools, where you can watch the floats being build and costumes prepared and learn the history of Carnival. Carnival is celebrated in many of the South America countries, as it is part of the catholic celebrations prior to Easter, but they all celebrate it differently. We can recommend other festivities like in La Paz in Bolivia to see a colourful parade of the Indian native “Cholas”. Or best Carnival in the Caribbean in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; and anywhere from Cartagena to Ushuaia we can make an extraordinary itinerary for you. Just make sure they book well in advance to get the best deals!