Rio Carnival is the biggest party on the earth! It has been a dream of mine to attend the famous Rio Carnival in Brazil. I’ve seen countless photos, documentaries and heard stories of the biggest party on earth but honestly nothing prepared me for the festivities.
First of all, Brazilians know how to party. I don’t know how they do it but they party all day, all night for over a week and everyday they are wearing an outlandish costume with full make up and accessories. It’s clear that the Rio Carnival is a very important event for Brazilians and they do their very best to celebrate in style.
I found myself after a 44 hour bus journey from Buenos Aires in a hot, sticky and seriously busy Rio in February this year. I took a taxi to my hotel in Lapa which I can only describe as the ‘party town’ of Rio. I of course didn’t realise this when I booked it but hey ho I’m here for the party!
The smell upon arrival was that familiar stench of alcohol, bad drainage and piles of rubbish. Lapa was already teeming with people wearing glitter, fish net stockings, weird hats, hot pants, body paint and various other crazy costumes.
I had been pre warned about the famous ‘bloco parties’ which occur during the week of Carnival all over Rio, the blocos are planned events which are posted online a few weeks before the Carnival each with a theme. A bloco basically means thousands of people turn up to an area or street, a band plays, trucks drive through the streets with people dancing on them and it is a sweat fest!
I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the bloco, because I’m only 5ft tall (or short) being a big crowds is probably the most unenjoyable experience, I’m usually lodged between some guys smelly arm pit and someone else’s sweaty back. I couldn’t see anything, my feet were barely touching the ground and I found them to be a series of long walks in sweltering heat with no dancing as it was just too cramped to move.
The best way to embrace the Carnival is to drink caprihania’s. These drinks are the go to drink in Brazil, they are super sugary and super strong and they serve them in a pint glass. So after I got a couple of them in me my whole Carnival experience improved immensely. I knew during a bloco where not to go so I wouldn’t get lost in a crowd and rather hung back and spoke terrible English and Spanish to the lovely Portuguese speakers of Brazil.
My favourite place to hang out during the Carnival was the famous steps in Lapa called Escadaria Selaron as it was a brilliant place to sit back, rest my tired feet and people watch. One night when myself, Dan and my friend Kristy were just chilling on the steps having a good time, a band turned up for impromptu bloco. It was probably my favourite moment from the whole Carnival. Everyone who was sitting down got up and started dancing and didn’t stop for the next half an hour whilst this band played their instruments up and down the stairs. Everyone was connecting through the music and there wasn’t one face without a smile on it. I’ll never forget that moment.
A huge part of Carnival is the costumes, every person is wearing something to stand out. If you aren’t wearing something different you look like the odd one out so it pays to get into the spirit of the carnival. There are people on the street selling hats, costumes and glitter and they’ll even help a gringo out when it comes to putting it all together!
The main event of Carnival is the famous Sambadrome performance from all of the local samba schools. The atmosphere as soon as you walk into the Sambadrome is electric, everyone takes their seats and eagerly awaits the first samba school to arrive.
The actual show didn’t start until around 10pm and went on until the very early hours of the morning. I think the last samba school even performed in the daylight because the sun had risen and a new day had began. But I didn’t stick around for that, at 4am I’d heard enough drumming to last me a life time.
The costumes, dancing and singing were beyond what I had envisioned and I’m so glad that I got to see the Carnival there. I’ve never seen so much colour and vibrancy in one place. It was so captivating, each samba school was trying their best to out do the next. The dancing, costumes, music, singing and decorations were beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
The Rio Carnival was an experience and I’m so glad that my South American adventure started here.
Next stop: Paraty
Check out my Brazil video here including some clips from the Sambadrome!