Visit Rio during Carnaval and have the time of your life!

Fancy dancing samba in the street from dusk 'til dawn? There's no greater party on earth than this iconic festival of Rio de Janeiro, so focus on perfecting those saucy samba steps. Join the conga line, move and shake in the drum-fuelled street parties, witness the festivities reach their dizzying climax and get swept up in this magic celebration of life. This is the ideal extension to any South American trip or a great adventure in its own right. Sign up for the party of a lifetime and join the spectacle of Rio Carnaval.

Start
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Finish
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Countries
Brazil
Themes
Festivals and Events
Code
GDRA
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 1 Max 22
Carbon offset
0kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Witness the kaleidoscopic colours of the Sambadrome
  • Experience the pulsating energy of Rio
  • Soak up spectacular views from Corcovado Mountain
  • Marvel at the legendary Christ the Redeemer monument
  • Ride a cable car up Sugarloaf Mountain
  • Cruise the waters of Guanabara Bay
  • Dance up a storm in Rio, the world's samba capital

Itinerary

Bem-Vindos! Welcome to Brazil.
The first day of Rio Carnival is free time, as everyone will be arriving at various times throughout the day to start the package. Hotel check in is from midday and Dragoman crew will be on hand all day to give you any assistance. There will be a joining meeting in the afternoon.
The locals like to say that 'God made the world in six days, the seventh he devoted to Rio'. In this heaving metropolis, set against the luminescent green of Guanabara Bay and surrounded by the slopes of Sugarloaf and Corcovado, it's hard not to be caught up in the passion of the city's residents (known as Cariocas).

The French were the first to settle here as they logged wood along the Brazilian coast, but they were soon driven out by the Portuguese, who built a fortified town named Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro and quickly amassed wealth during the gold rush of Minas Gerais. In the 19th century, the Portuguese monarchy fled from the threat of Napoleon in Europe and took up residence in Rio, where they built grand buildings that still stand today.

These days Rio is a fascinating and diverse city best known for its contrasting images of favelas (shanty towns) and the glitz and glamour of Carnaval.
Rio is particularly famous for it's huge annual party - Carnival. The celebration of Mardi Gras 6 weeks before Easter is a great Brazilian tradition - the whole city goes wild for a full 7 days in a whirlwind of music and colour. Samba schools compete with ever more awe-inspiring dance displays and costumes putting on marathon performances in the Sambadrome, street parties are held all over the city and friends and families take to the beach.
Today is free for you to rest up in preparation for a big week! Explore the surrounding area in the lovely Flamengo district, head to the beach, or people-watch over a coffee in a nearby cafe.
There is also the option of a guided tour to Sugar Loaf Mountain.
This tour offers you the chance to head to one of Rio's most famous sights, Pao de Azucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain). Rising almost 400 metres above the harbour, its name is said to refer to its resemblance to the traditional shape of concentrated refined loaf sugar. However it is believed by others that the name actually derives from Pau-nh-acuqua ("high hill") in the Tupi-Guarani language, as used by the indigenous Tamoios. Accompanied by a local guide and Dragoman crew, you'll travel in a private bus to the foot of the mountain from where you get the cable car to the top.
Alternatively, you may wish to head to the famous Maracana Stadium to watch a football game. Tickets for this match will be available to buy locally but not in advance. This is because the football schedule still hasn't been set for football games during the carnival period. The below price is an indication only.
During the Carnival period the Rio State Championship takes place. Watching a football game in Brazil is a not to be missed opportunity. Even if you are not a massive fan of the sport, the amazing feeling of thousands of people singing, celebrating and cheering will make for a few hours that you will never forget.

We will leave the hotel approximately two hours before the kick off and travel by coach to the match. We will be accompanied by our local English-speaking guide as well as Dragoman crew. Following the match we will return back to the hotel on the subway.

Our football trip, as well as all other optional activities must be booked in advance. The price for this activity will be available in October.
This morning we have an optional visit to Corcovado Mountain.
Head to what is probably the most iconic sight in Brazil - to the statue of Christ the Redeemer at the top of Corcovado mountain. From the base of the statue there is an incredible view of southern Rio and its beaches, Sugar Loaf mountain and Guanabara Bay. Accompanied by our local guide and Dragoman crew, you'll travel in a private bus to the foot of the mountain, and from there get a private tram to the top. There is free time at the top before returning via the tram. If you wish to spend longer at the top of the mountain and make your own way back to the hotel, just let your guide know.
Then tonight it's the main event at the Sambadrome for the samba parade. The top samba schools parade their outrageous floats and costumes and we'll party well into the early hours. We'll be situated in sector 13, the most lively of the sectors, however alternatively you can upgrade to sector 11 for a closer view.
The Sambadrome was designed by Brazil's world-famous architect, the modernist Oscar Niemeyer. It was purpose-built for the Samba Parade and inaugurated in 1984. Being made of concrete, it seems a bit dated for the post-modern eyes of today and feels derelict if not ugly, surrounded only by favelas, serving only little cultural events, during the year. However it comes to life and is totally magnificent and overpowering being lit up with special effects on. Samba Parade nights, filled with thousands of cheering spectators and surrounded by other thousands of people who could not get in. It can seat around 70,000 people, which is already far too few for the ever growing Rio Carnival Parade. However, since it is under protection, it cannot be rebuilt or even extended.

The Samba schools have prepared all year for their hour of glory on carnival night. The top 12 Samba schools parade on Sunday and Monday, six each night. The two nights are similar in terms of set-up, the only difference being the schools parading. These are the most glamorous parades, the ones which need to be seen. The best school is chosen by a hand-picked set of judges on the basis of many components including percussion, the theme song, harmony between percussion, song and dance, choreography, costume, storyline, floats and decorations. The championship is hotly contested, with the winner becoming the pride of both Rio and Brazil. Samba is a glitzy, lavish, vegas-style affair with beautiful, topless mulatas who make samba look easy in their feathered head-dresses, long flowing capes sparkling with sequins and rhinestone studded G-strings. The floats are also extremely lavish and some of them are technically quite amazing. The Brazilians harness sweat, noise and confusion and turn it into art, with the parades beginning in moderate mayhem then working themselves up to a higher plane of frenzy. The samba is driven by the drummers with between 200 and 400 per school. This samba is the loudest music you are ever likely to hear in your life. The parades head down the “run way” of the Sambadrome flanked by the tiers of spectators, singing, dancing and applauding their favourite schools. The parade continues on through the night and into the morning. Some of the best schools are always kept until last to make sure that the party continues until the very end.
On Sunday night we will be situated in sector 13 , this allows an overview of the whole event and a good chance to party with the locals. Sector 13 is at the end of the Sambadrome runway and is slightly set back however has the best atmosphere of all the stands. It is full of local Cariocas who really support their samba school with lots of singing and dancing. It is a wonderful local experience but can get very busy, reminiscent of a noisy football crowd. There are no fixed seats but concrete bleachers and people stand up as the samba schools pass by. We will travel to the Sambadrome in the early evening by metro and on foot with the Dragoman crew. It is up to you how long you stay but every year there are a few who make it through to the last parades and get back to the hotel for breakfast at 7am!

Sitting in sector 13 is not for everyone and for those of you who want a view which is less set back we offer you the chance to upgrade to sector 11. This sector neighbours sector 13 but is much closer to the action. The seating however is identical, being on concrete bleachers and can be equally busy but not quite so boisterous.
Today is a free morning to sleep in and relax after a late night last night. In the afternoon there is the option to join a guided visit to the Morrinho project.
Morrinho is a 300m2 model favela created by children living in the local Pereira da Silva community, from recycled materials such as bricks, scrap metal and wood. The model was started in 1998 by Nelcirlan Souza de Oliveira and, when his friends became involved, the ‘play set’ gained considerable size. The reproduction of favela life in their model is so accurate that it has gained a world wide reputation appearing on Brazilian TV and has been the subject of a documentary which is now on sale. Morrinho has even been recognised by many art critics as an expression of contemporary art. The model is now being used to generate money by NGO Morrinho, a charity that provides professional qualifications to the residents of the Pereirão Community through workshops, including audiovisual production; art-education; Brazilian culture; and youth and citizenship. The charity is also involved in utilising the project as a film set, which has raised awareness of how harsh life is for shanty town dwellers.
In the evening you have the chance to revisit the Sambadrome for a second big night or perhaps even take part in the parade itself by buying a costume and dancing your way down the Sambadrome runway - a once in a lifetime experience!
During Rio Carnival the top 12 Samba schools parade in the Sambadrome with 6 parading on the Sunday night and then 6 on the Monday night. This second visit will give you the opportunity to see all 12 of the schools so you can choose your own winner. You will be exhausted after a second visit but it’s a fantastic experience!
Watching the parade is one thing but actually taking part in the parade is a real thrill and an unparalleled experience. Yes it will be hot and sweaty and your feet will ache after an hour or more parading but it will make a talking point for years to come. Not many people can say they have actually taken part in a Sambadrome Parade. You will be a part of one of the ground wings or alas, parading behind the massive floats that make up the parade. Each school has between 65 and 80 minutes to parade and each ala/wing passes through the Sambadrome in about 30-40 minutes. It is exhausting but unforgettable! The alas provide a massive display of colour and movement, each school has about 25 alas; each one tells a part of the overall story/ theme of the Samba School. The alas get judged for their stamina throughout their parade, the singing of the whole parade, being able to Samba is not necessary; there is a kind of jumping, bouncing way that people parade to overall create the whole feeling of strength and happiness. You will be 1 of the approx 4,000 paraders in a school, each and every person must put their utmost energy into their performance for the School. This is the most important event of the year for Cariocas (the people from Rio) and you will be playing a part on the biggest stage in the world! It is an amazing once in a lifetime experience you will never forget.

The cost of this activity includes your costume delivered to the hotel ready for the parade and the services of a guide to accompany you to the start point. Transport and entry into the Sambadrome is not included. You will need to meet your ala and school about 2 hours before the parade time (the first school will meet at 7pm and the last at 1am approx) the parade lasts about 1 hour.

Info needed at time of booking: shoe and clothing size, please see the link for the appropriate sizing: http://www.rio-carnival.net/costume-sizes.php
For shoe sizes it is advisable to order one size larger than usual as the shoes are often very tight.

PLEASE NOTE: A place in the parade can only be guaranteed if booked before 1 December 2015.

ALSO, at the end of the parade everyone is led outside of the Sambadrome so if you wish to see the reminder of the parade you will need to buy an entry ticket in advance (see "Return to the Sambadrome"
Today is a free day for you to relax, hit the beach or perhaps join in with one of the numerous street parades throughout the city.
In the evening there's the option to glam up and go to the Gay Ball.
The Balls at Carnival are part of the whole experience and this has been the most popular Ball from past Dragoman visits. If you are going to visit just one ball then this is the one we recommend! Put aside any inhibitions you may have, get your costume sorted – plenty of glitter absolutely necessary - and get dancing with all the other party-goers. It is a fantastic experience and people are generally very friendly with loads of photo opportunities and some incredible sights! Music is a variety of Samba and more modern music, something for everyone and if dancing is really not your thing there is plenty of people watching to do. The Ball can startle some people and please be aware that in previous years you have had to parade down a red carpet when you enter usually whilst being filmed live on Brazilian TV but it really is a memorable event and one which you will talk about long after carnival has been and gone. Make sure you save a bit of energy for this climax to carnival. The ball goes from midnight on Tuesday until the early hours of Wednesday morning. You may be able to find cheaper tickets available and you could get them at the door of the ball but this cannot be guaranteed. In previous years tickets sold out and were exchanging hands for twice the face value in the days leading up to the carnival.

Transport is not included but it is easy to share a taxi there and back with fellow revellers.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
n/a
Transport
Metro
Accommodation
Hotel (5 nights)
Included activities
  • Sambadrome Ticket

Dates

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Important notes

1.A discount is available if booking this trip in conjunction with another Dragoman-operated Overland style trip starting or finishing in Rio de Janeiro for Carnaval.
2. You may be joined by up to 140 fellow travellers on this trip however will be split into smaller groups of up to 24 for included activities.
3. There are several optional activities available with this itinerary, and which must be booked in advance. These are listed under each day in the trip notes. Please see Trip Notes (Optional Activities) for booking instructions.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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Reviews

Our Rio Carnaval Package Basix trips score an average of 2.5 out of 5 based on 2 reviews in the last year.

Rio Carnival Package Basix , February 2016