Join the world's greatest party on the streets of Rio!

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, witness the festivities reach their dizzying climax, move and shake among the drum-fuelled street parties 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
GDSB
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 1 Max 22
Carbon offset
182kg pp per trip


Highlights

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

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. In past years there have been two meetings - one at 4pm and one at 6pm. Please check the Carnival noticeboard in the hotel reception for further details on arrival. Following the meeting there will be a table booked in a restaurant if you wish to join your group and local guide for an optional dinner.
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 we'll have a guided walking tour for you to get your bearings. In the afternoon, 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.
Alternatively, you may wish to spend the afternoon sightseeing or relaxing on the beach.
This morning we will head to Corcovado for a half-day guided tour. The statue of Christ the Redeemer is one of the most iconic sights of Rio and if the weather is clear there is a fantastic view over the rest of the city including the Sugar Loaf mountain.
After taking a coach to the base of Corcovado with our local guide, we climb aboard the train carriages to begin our journey up to the Christ Statue. The train heads up through the Atlantic rainforest, which used to clothe all of the hillsides around the coastline, it is now protected to try and prevent further destruction for building and housing and provide corridors for birds and animals to pass through. It is a lovely journey in the cool shadow of the trees and there are some great views if the weather is clear. You may also be serenaded by musicians from one of the samba schools who will be getting us in the carnival mood and raising funds for their samba school. At the train station we will then disembark and climb the last steps or escalators to the base of the statue. You are free to wander around as you wish or you may like to listen to our guide who can tell you more about the history of the statue and the area.

There are fantastic views across Rio in all directions but the clouds can decide to hide all of this from us at a moments notice, so take your photos as soon as you have the opportunity. There is also a restaurant and shop for drinks, snacks and gifts as well as toilet facilities. At a prearranged time we will all meet to return back down to the train station, catch our train back through the forests and to our waiting coach.
In the afternoon there's the option to go for a guided visit to the Morrinho Project which is a favela community project we support.
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.
Tonight we get to the main event of the week 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.
The day is free for you to recover from last night in the Sambadrome. A chance to hit the beach, explore the city, find a street party or simply have a lie in!
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"
The morning is free for you to catch up on sleep or explore the city on your own.
In the afternoon we have a guided visit to the Sugar Loaf mountain.
We will take a half day tour to visit the iconic Sugar Loaf Mountain or Pao De Azucar as it is locally known, entrances are included. We leave from the hotel on our coach, accompanied by our local guide. The mountain gets its name from its shape, as the huge rounded incline looks like traditional cones of sugar. These sugar cones were made from raw sugar to make transportation easier. On arrival at the base of Sugar loaf mountain, we will board the cable car and head up to the mid way point and then up to the top station, the ride in itself is a fantastic experience skimming above the forested mountain peak with the sea and city spreading out below. At both stations there are incredible views of the city below and across to Corcovado. There will be plenty of time to wander around and take in the spectacular views, learn more about the construction of the cable car and enjoy a drink or snack at one of the restaurants. Just make sure you have plenty of space on your memory card for all your photos. Once we have taken our fill of the panoramic views we return to the bottom by cable car and back to the hotel on our waiting coach.
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.
Hotel checkout is at 11am.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
n/a
Transport
Metro, Private vehicle, Train
Accommodation
Hotel (5 nights)
Included activities
  • Sambadrome Ticket
  • Visit to Corcovado
  • Visit Pao de Azucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain)

Dates

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Important notes

1. While there will be one leader for every 24 travellers, there may be more than 150 travellers joining you on this experience.
2. 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.
3. Please note the order and days of the activities may change.
4. This trip is run by our experienced overland partner Dragoman.

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.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Rio Carnaval Package Original trips score an average of 3 out of 5 based on 2 reviews in the last year.

Rio Carnival Package Original , February 2015