Night descends and cheers erupt. The fast tempo of the Samba keeps dancers moving furiously. The beating of drums, chapping of hands and whistles blowing creates an atmosphere of electrifying energy urging you to break out of the stands and join the crowd, dancing below in the streets. The butterflies in your stomach begin flapping their wings feverishly with anticipation that the worlds largest party is about to begin.
Carnival is celebrated in many countries around the world each showcasing different rhythms, themes, floats and costumes depending on the region in which you choose to celebrate. The biggest and most well known celebration happens at Carnival Rio de Janeiro. Over 500,000 tourists will travel to Brazil to join more than two million people who flood the streets all day everyday for the five wild days of carnival.
Carnival Rio de Janeiro
The top Samba schools compete against each other each year with over the top passion. The goal is to be crowned the best Samba school in the country, a highly sought after honor.
Planning for this years festivities has been building since the closing of last years party. The floats that move past the spectators are colossal in size. The music blares and lights flash making the whole scene glow.
Almost blinded by the reflection of thousands of rhinestones that make up the dancers costumes I wonder if any fabric has been used or if the shiny stones have been glued to the women bodies. Brightly colored feathers of aqua, magenta and canary explode off headpieces like fireworks. In a trance, unable to peel your eyes off the scene unfolding before you, waves of bodies move down the street to the pulsating music.
I’ve never seen so many beautifully bronzed people in one place. Everyone is fit and can move there bodies in ways I could only dream of doing. Yet, caught up in the moment I shimmy and shake with everyone else in the crowd.
If celebrating Carnival in Salvador one must participate in a “blocos”. These rowdy street parties are typically organized by groups of neighbors during Carnival. Less extravagant but equally crazy the floats at these parties consist of stacked speakers of epic proportion on the back of 18 wheel semi truck flat beds. With deafening decibel levels music is pumped into the streets making every cell in your body vibrate. Be sure to bring earplugs or you will be deaf for a couple of days after. Be sure to buy tickets in advance as they sell out quickly. Tickets allow you to take part in the celebration. Once you buy a ticket you will be given a t-shirt to wear with thousands of other people in your Blocos tribe. The shirt you wear will identify which float you will follow. I suggest you customize your jersey (tie it up, cut it, generally make it look cool).
Another more expensive option is a camaruche. These parties overlook the action of the Blocos in the streets below. It’s more of a luxurious VIP club vibe. The parties boast delicious food, beautiful people, great music and vendors that will do your makeup, hair or give you a massage.
After Carnival, once you have recovered from the sleepless nights and sensory overload there are many other amazing sites to see in Brazil. In Rio you might want to decompress with an afternoon on Copacabana Beach one of the worlds most famous beaches. Be sure to take a day to visit Sugar Loaf and the world famous Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks the city. The view looking back on the city is spectacular. For a different side of Brazil take in a football game. Brazilians take football very seriously. Make sure you are sitting on the correct side of the stadium and cheer for the team everyone around you is cheering for or else…
If you make it all the way to Brazil and do not visit a Brazilian steak house, a churrasco, your whole trip has been in vein. Boasting an endless buffet of meat and a expansive salad bar you won’t leave hungry. When you are seated you are given a block that is red on one side and green on the other. When the green block is showing this indicates to the waiters that you want to be bombarded with cuts of exotic meat from their skewers. Flip it to red and they will stop offering you the juicy cuts of meat. Keep room for a slice of the grilled pineapple, it will rock your world.
Have fun and play it safe. There are a lot of pick pockets in Brazil who are not afraid to rob you in broad daylight. Be aware of your surroundings and try not to attract attention to yourself. A money belt is a great idea. Don’t carry anything with you that you don’t mind losing. Now let loose and enjoy your trip to Carnival Rio de Janeiro – The Worlds Largest Party!