When people think of the carnival in Brazil, it is natural to think about the two million people that pack on to the streets of Rio every year to enjoy the wonderful chaos of dancing, music and floats that flood the city. However, the carnival is a party that can be enjoyed across the country, and different areas have some very different traditions and entertainment that you will be able to see during your visit.
While we aren't saying that you shouldn't join the crowds thronging Rio's streets for the event, trying a carnival elsewhere in the country will give you an alternative taste of the country's party spirit.
Olinda and Recife
Olinda and Recife are twin cities in the state of Pernambuco, and in Olinda especially the carnival has a very special atmosphere because of the fact that the carnival is held in a traditional colonial district with the distinctive colorful buildings. One of the most famous aspects of the carnival is a parade with some huge puppets that are designed to mimic everyone from traditional carnival characters to modern Brazilian celebrities. Street parties are enjoyed throughout the area with the traditional Afro-Brazilian music, while over in Recife the party is a huge eleven day musical event held during the Easter period.
Attracting around two million people during a week long event, the party in Salvador is the second largest in the country following the carnival in Rio, and is held around the same time of year, from late February to early March.
The parades are famous for the electric band floats, where large speakers mounted on the back of a truck provide some of the musical entertainment. Salvador is notable for having a theme to the carnival celebrations every year, so make sure that you check out the theme and plan your attire appropriately to join this massive party.
The coastal town of Porto Seguro is one of the biggest destinations in Brazil for the carnival, and this beautiful site is famous for the golden sands and thick forests that come up to the shore. The carnival takes place in mid February, and while the parades and parties travel through the streets, they will often continue on to the beaches where the pounding music and party atmosphere will make for a memorable event. One of the key locations along the parade route is the 'Passarella do Alcool' passageway, where locals and visitors stop for a drink at one of the range of drinks stalls that set up especially for the event.
The religious roots of the carnival festival are particularly strong in the city of Belem, as here you will see that people come from across the region to honor the statue of 'Our Lady Of Nazareth', which is said to have performed miracles. Carnival here takes place during the second week of October, and along with the street parades there is also a parade of floats that travel through the city on the Amazon River. The Cirio de Nazare festival also includes a fireworks display, before the festival is closed with a procession returning the statue to the basilica in the town.
If you like your carnival with a strong Amazonian theme, then Manaus is a great city to visit, as the parades here feature many of the same styles as Rio carnivals, but with a distinctive twist, with many of the floats referencing the Amazon and the animals found within. However, one thing that is a part of the typical Rio carnival is the dancing at the Sambadrome, and in Manaus as well you can get a seat to enjoy the performances of the superb Samba schools.