Carnival & more, Brazilian Style.
Brazil is my second home. I love everything about it. The people are passionate and vivacious. They live with a love of life and cherish family. I spent a year in Brazil as a Rotary Exchange student in 2000. I then returned 10 years later to visit my family, friends and home. It was like I’d never left. I loved every single minute of it. Brazil is the home of pao de queijo and it will forever hold a very sacred place in my heart.
Where to go for Carnival:
Wow where do I start?!? Carnival in Brazil is not JUST a festive event. It is the heart and soul of the nation. It is their reason for being and it defines each and every one of them. Brazilian’s live for carnival and pretty much plan their year around it.
To simplify it there are 2 “types” of carnival:
The first one is in the purpose-built Sambodromo Stadium (http://www.sambadrome.com/) in Rio. That is what you see on TV. Basically all year round samba dance schools prepare for this 3 day festival. They design exotic outfits and learn super sexy samba dance moves. The Sambodromo is a long corridor with a grandstand on either side. The samba schools walk down this alleyway and the millions of admirers observe from the grandstands. This is what all tourist THINK the carnival is about as it’s all that is publically broadcast due to it’s beauty. However, very few locals outside of Rio actually go to this celebration as it is in a dodgy part of town, full of tourists and a bit dangerous. If you do go to Rio though then also visit the Maracana soccer stadium (try catch a local soccer game – a serious experience – just keep to the side of the walls so you don’t get caught in a stampede!), have a ‘coco verde’ (green coconut drink) on Impanema and Copacabana beach, visit Pao de Acucar at Guanabara bay (Sugar loaf mountain – like their Table Mountain) and Corcovado Christ Figure (One of the 7 wonders of the world. It is very beautiful and overlooks the entire city).
Besides the Sambodromo, the rest of the country all flock to key beach areas for carnival. From Rio and above carnival signifies 3 days of holiday, party, family time, drinking, friends, laughter, no aggression, good food, dress up parties and loads of fun. I celebrated at a smallish beach called Iriri. However the best, most famous, traditional place to go would be to Salvador or even Fortaleza. Brazil was discovered when the Portuguese landed at Salvador so it is a large city with much history, culture, good food, old churches and authentic bars. Apparently they have by far the most people and best fun during carnival. It is right up north, on the beach and very beautiful.
Carnival is normally from the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Festivities usually begin on the Friday. There are several parties leading up to carnival and then when it arrives for three days and nights nobody sleeps. There is a constant buzz, loud music and people filling the streets for the three days and night solidly. While some sleep, the rest party. Most people only start partying in Brazil from 12pm (a tad later than us). It amazed me how so many people were drinking yet everyone was completely friendly. I don’t remember seeing any fights – Brazilians really believe in the concept of ‘make love not war’. Roads during this time are chaotic so get there before and try only leave a few days afterwards. Try meet some locals (should be easy as they are very friendly) and follow them around. The beautiful Brazilian ladies all wear teeny tiny bikini’s and the less attractive men all wear speedo’s. I found that they absolutely LOVE foreigners that speak English so you’ll be like local celebrities.
Other cool places to visit:
Ouro Preto (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/124 ) – A small historical city which is now a world heritage site. It has cobbled streets and beautiful, tiny churches.
Foz do Iguacu (http://www.tripadvisor.co.za/Attractions-g303444-Activities-Foz_do_Iguacu_State_of_Parana.html ) – This is the largest collection of waterfalls in the world. It is in the South of Brazil and forms the border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. It is like the Vic falls on steroids and well worth a visit. There are many tours going down there.
The amazon obviously – expensive to get to but not as rural as you’d imagine once you get there. Manaus even has a McDonalds. You have to fly into the amazon and then if you do go take a boat trip along the Amazon or Rio Negro (Black River) to really get into the Amazon. Most Brazilians have never been but in my opinion there is no point in going to Brazil if you don’t go to carnival and to se the amazon. Their market places are amazing and you’ll see fish and animals not yet even discovered. I caught a bug while on a 3 day boat trip in the Amazon and nearly died – so take some antibiotics with you.
Buzios (http://www.buziosonline.com.br/indexe.htm ) – This is a collection of about 365 small islands. The entire place is totally wow. You catch little boats out to sea and can spend the day on your very own island. The water is crystal clear and you see star fish floating by you. Most amazing beaches in the world. Take motion sickness tablets or you will end up feeding the fishes – like I did.
Do not bother visiting:
Brasilia, Brazil’s capital city. Total waste of time, full of politicians, expensive and boring. Nothing very Brazilian about it.
Sao Paulo – Other people go there and love it but it really is just a huge, overly crowded, extremely polluted city in my opinion.
More info from: www.brazil.com