Whoever you bump into, people would tell you that the best Carnival location is still in the Sambodromo during the Carnival Sunday and Monday. However, not too many tourists know that the festivity actually spills over to the other areas from Rio de Janeiro to Bahia, Recife and Olinda , Sao Paulo, and Florianopolis . It’s hard to say that one Carnival location is better than the other because each area throws a unique party infused with the local character and color with the Carnival providing the backdrop. You might be shortchanging yourself if you decide to just stay around Rio at this time.
The numerous parties at Recife and Olinda may not be comparable to the larger-than-life street bands in Rio.
But they possess that certain charm that can only be found in small towns with character. Part of their attraction is the large African influence on the festivities. The frenzied celebrations in Recife and Olinda are actually very popular in their own right, luring over a million people.
The Carnival in these areas are also more tame compared to the bigger cities, which makes them ideal destinations for wholesome family entertainment. The Carnival in these two towns kickstart with the Galo da Madrugada or literally translated as “Rooster of the Dawn.” Recife and Olinda , just like Rio, is the best Carnival location for you to participate in the street dances as residents are more than keen on teaching you the samba.
The Night of the Silent Drums celebration holds more significance because it is a tribute to the slaves who died in jail. Recife and Olinda should also be a priority Carnival location for the crowd energy alone because the street dancing goes non-stop for days and nights. You can be sure you are in the right place when you find yourself in the middle of sea of dancing people as the Virgens do Bairro Novo de Recife and Olinda , which starts the night before the Carnival, typically lures over 200,000 visitors. As the revelers march alongside the seafront, more people join in the dancing.
Colossal papier-mâché puppets, locally called the Bonecos, serve as flagposts to point locals and visitors where to go during the Carnival Friday. While you are there, you should also check out Elefantes and Pitombeira, which are very popular among tourists. Recife and Olinda is also the preferred Carnival location for gays, transvestites and cross-dressers who organize their own version of the Carnival. That only means upping the ante in terms of overstatement, garishness, and flamboyance.
With that in mind, it’s better if you can check with your agent to book your Carnival Accommodations at the earliest possible time so you won’t be left hanging out to dry.
The Carnival is a unique marriage between European culture and African tradition.
So if you are looking to experience the African flavor of the Carnival at its core, you should pencil in Salvador da Bahia in one of your destinations. When Brazil did away with legalizing slavery, a large number of Africans settled in Bahia. There celebrations here are more unadulterated, more devoid of the trappings of commercialism that is obvious in the Rio Carnival.
Bahian drums and trumpets enjoin onlookers to participate and once you do, it’s very difficult to stop that it’s not uncommon for revelers to turn in late, or even continue the party in the morning. It’s a test of your stamina to even just witness the Filhos de Gandhi, a street band whose ideals are patterned after the Indian pacifist and revolutionary Mahatma Gandhi. The Rio Carnival starts with the mayor giving King Momo the keys to the city on Carnival Thursday. This is also how the Carnival in Salvador da Bahia begins.
The organizers set up three major areas where special grandstands or camarotes are constructed to accommodate the thousands of visitors who come to watch the dance exhibitions in comfort. But why should you content yourself to watching the brilliant displays sitting down when you can directly participate in the parade. Here the most admired bands take center stage as people follow them around town.
Among the more popular street bands include the Psirico, Timbalada and Olodum. They trumpet around town on extravagant floats while earning a crowd along the way as people sway their hips and stomp their feet in tune with the rhythm of the music.
Of course, participating does not come without cost but it’s not as expensive as you think. You only need to buy a t-shirt which represents the band.
You will parade along the Campo Grande Circuit, Beach of Barra -Ondina Circuit and the Batatinha Circuit. The venues are already pre-chosen according to tradition and crowd capacity. The Campo Grande and the Beach of Barra-Ondina routes usually attract the best bands so you will know where to go for the best Carnival experience in Salvador da Bahia .
Again, when you choose this Carnival location, you had better plan your trip ahead of time.
Sao Paulo is slowly taking claim to be a top Carnival location in Brazil even if nobody can trump Rio in terms of popularity because of the Sambodromo , which is already considered an icon on its own right. When you look at it another way, it’s just an excuse for Brazilians to dance the samba—the more platforms where they can showcase their skills, the better.
Sao Paolo also has its own stadium called the Anhembi Sambodromo which can boasts of being nearly equal with Rio’s Sambodromo in terms of no-holds-barred partying and celebration even though it couldn’t compete in terms of size and capacity.
Here the most competent samba schools including Vai-Vai, Unidos do Peruche and Gavioes da Fiel perform before a large crowd during the Carnival Friday and Saturday. At the Anhembi, the energy becomes palpable when you just imagine at least 30,000 visitors standing and dancing in unison as they try to follow the dancers on the parade.
But the luxury of being in the Sambodromo can be steep or cheap, depending on your budget. There are tickets for general admission and there are also tickets for private boxes that can seat 25 people.
The Blocos and Bandas do Trem Elétrico and Bantantã are known to throw the best parties in Sao Paulo. Blocks and restaurants also hold parties to attract more visitors to this Carnival location.
The Carnival at Florianopolis attract the both the exultant crowd and homosexuals.
But tourists and gays are attracted to this Carnival location not just of the presentations but also for the beaches. Florianopolis has about 42 unspoiled beaches which are perfect for singles to meet up with other equally available visitors or residents.
During the Carnival period, you can join in the seemingly endless samba dances from Consulado, Copa Lord, and União da Ilha da Magia as well as the gay parade and festivals, and Best street parties organized by Rua Blocos and Bandas . Some of these performances are not free, however.
If you want to buy tickets to watch the samba schools compete with each other, you have to be quick about it until supplies last. In your itinerary, try attending the Pop Gay Festival at Tancredo Neves Square, which is considered to be one of the largest gay-friendly affairs in Florianopolis .
The festival draws each year around 50,000 participants which surprisingly are not constrained within the gay and lesbian community. If that’s your thing, then consider Florianopolis as your next Carnival location.