10 of the best - Carnivals and festivals
1 Rio Carnival, Brazil
The event: The biggest and most famous fiesta of them all, Carnival takes over Rio with its parades, balls and events marking the arrival of Lent. www.rio-carnival.net
When: February 17-21, 2012; February 8-12, 2013
What happens: Kicking off on the Friday night before Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday), Rio turns into one big street party when the mother of all carnivals comes to town with feather-clad, sequinned and body-painted dancers from the city’s samba schools competing with each other as they swirl to the infectious rhythms of the samba drums. The Sambadrome stadium is the focal point, with the most spectacular parades featuring colourful floats on the Sunday and Monday nights. There are carnival balls, and impromptu street parties take place throughout the city including on its beaches.
Do it: Four-night Rio Carnival packages with Tucan Travel start from £480 as a bolt-on to a longer tour and include a Sunday ticket to the Sambadrome. Stand-alone package prices start from £530 per person, excluding flights. Tell Tale Travel includes the carnival as part of a two-week Brazil tour that also features wildlife-spotting and some sun and beach, from £3,300, including direct UK flights. A package from Dehouche costs £3,310 staying at celebs’ favourite, Hotel Fasano excluding flights.
Brazil’s other carnivals
Where and when: Salvador, Olinda and Recife carnivals; same dates as Rio.
What happens: Bahia’s one-time capital, Salvador, has a strong African heritage and hosts South America’s wildest carnival celebrations, the Afro-samba rhythms at the heart of the carnival. Recife and neighbouring Portuguese colonial town Olinda throw Brazil’s most traditional carnival celebration, with parades, frenetic frevo dancing and African-Brazilian balls and parties.
Do it: A Salvador Carnival package from Dehouche includes a stay at a former convent, the Convento do Carmo, and a five-day VIP pass, spending all five carnival days on the Olodum Afro-samba drumming band’s float, for £3,347 excluding flights. Veloso also features the Convento do Carmo on seven-night stays, from £2,053 with flights. Tell Tale Travel includes Recife and Olinda on a two-week trip costing from £2,999 with flights.