Rio de Janeiro for Carnaval

Copacabana beach

They say Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro is the ultimate party…and they aren’t lying! We spent six days in the thick of it all–street parties, grand-stand parades, costume balls, and somehow we even managed a little sightseeing.

Escadaria Selarón, Santa Theresa, Rio
For a little culture amongst the madness, we snuck to the stairs of Escadaria Selarón. It's a project that has been in motion since 1990, where artist Jorge Selarón has gathered tiles from 60 countries around the world to bring them to his multi-flight masterpiece.
Pao de Acucar
When you visit Rio, a trip up Pao de Acucar (Sugar Loaf) is a must. We hiked the first half called Urubu mountain, which we HIGHLY recommend. Great views, exotic fruit trees, and tons of monkeys...What more could you ask for?
Jack fruit in Brazil
On the hike up Urubu Mountain we came across a slew of massive jack fruit trees. I chased this one down with a stick and here I am enjoying my spoils. (Note: This beast is only 25% of one jack fruit). Sticky. Sweet. Yum.
Monkey sticking his tongue out
One of the best parts of the hike is the monkey watching. This cheeky guy was one of a dozen we saw.
Copacobana and Impanema from the top of Pao de Asucar
After a hike to a funicular (the first in South America), this was our view to Copacabana and Ipanema.
El Señor in Rio
A nice glimpse at Christ the Redeemer can be had from Sugar Loaf. Plus it's a nice alternative to the hours in line to see "El Señor."
Museum at the top of Pao de Asucar
As if the views weren't enough, the museum at the top of Pao de Asucar had beautiful, interactive displays.
brazil honeymoon travel ideas
A trip to Rio wouldn't be the same without a stroll down the chic and mountainous Copacabana beach. Here we are for a tranquil sunset but by nightfall there is music and dancing up and down the shore.
Sambodromo in Rio for Carnival
Despite all the sightseeing and the multiple street parties (Blocos, as they are fondly called), we set out at 1am to find tickets to the world-famous Sambadromo parade. After the first scalper asked R$1,000 ($600USD) for a pair, we found a lady selling tickets in the locals section #13 for R$150 ($90USD). Tip: Pack your own snacks and booze. They allow you to bring it in and you'll need it to survive until the last samba school arrives at 6:30am with the sunrise.
Float celebrating brazilian music
This is one float within a samba school's arsenal of 10-15. Each takes on a different theme, this one was celebrating Brazilian music.
Amazing floats at Sambodromo, Rio
The floats were so extravagant with thousands of dancers, drummers, and singers in the most outrageous and intricate costumes.
Carnival costume graveyard
After a Samba school finishes their performance, many people shed their garb in what we deemed the "Costume Graveyard." It took a bit of schmoozing but we got the guard to let us go back there and look around. We met some Canucks with the same idea and had quite the fashion show.
Anne changing costumes in the cab
After the Sambodromo ended at 6:45am we jumped in a cab with our official costumes to make it to a 7am mimosa party to start the day off. That's Carnaval for you.
Team "Volta Alice Bloco" in full costume
Some new Brazilian friends took us to the "Volta Alice Bloco" in full costume. We joined the procession for a three-hour dancing fest/stroll around the neighborhood.
Volta Alice Bloco
At around 9am we headed over to Laranjeiras for the Volta Alice Bloco/three-hour dancing fest around the neighborhood. At 2pm, we crossed the 32-hour mark and we headed home for a much-needed siesta.
Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
To bid our farewell to Rio, on our last night we headed over to the scenic Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas to relax on the lake. We were hoping for a simple little float with foot pedals for our lake jaunt but over-the-top is the only way Rio rolls.

Have you been to Rio? What was your favorite part?

  • Wow!  That looks like SOOO much FUN!

  • Lee Rider

    Haha so cool.  great posts.

  • Now that’s living!!!   Don’t think I could do 32 hours of awake time at my age.  I would have really struggled with it any any age.  I like my sleep!
        How’s you salsa dancing coming along?  Did you know much Spanish before starting your journey?

    • we didnt think we would be up either, it all just sort of happens here at Carnaval. first the night out, then the sambodromo, then another party, and before you know it…..

      we have taken one lesson of Tango and then on a seperate night went to a tango club to practice. been going great.

      anne’s spanish is stellar, mine is mediocre. we have both been practicing a lot, and loving it 🙂

  • Hey guys….great photo presentation as always.  Plays out like a documentary, really get the feel.  We were in Rio ’85-86 (I’m bleepin’ old!)  No Carnaval, but we did go up Pao de Acucar.  Took the lift all the way and I remember it being a little scary…wide open (including the steel grating of the “floor”) & swinging in the breeze,  which discouraged us from looking down.  Maybe they’ve updated them since.

    I recall the native women on the beach looking nothing like the thonged babes depicted in travel brochures, etc. 🙂  Also, a nice restaurant/bar in downtown Rio named “Peoples”….wonder if it’s still around. (had some awesome steak “bites”)

    Stay safe and “obrigado” for the beautiful photos,

    P.S.  Around Carnaval time, I believe there is a huge rock concert in Rio.  Know anything about it?

    • bob. man you remember so much about your trip there. sounds like you guys had a blast! with regards to the bathing beauties, we also saw more than our share of people that shouldnt really be rocking thongs. dont know about Peoples, didnt stop there.

      and yeah, as long as people are enjoying our photos we will keep posting them 🙂

      • Bob

        Going thru boxes of stuff in my basement I found a Pao de Acucar souvenir t-shirt….unworn.  I am afraid to try it on, for fear I may look like 2 lbs of baloney in a 1 lb bag 🙁 
        (line stolen from “The Honeymooners”)

        P.S.  The photos and descriptions of your adventure are compelling, but I might have to bail out of accessing them for a while.  Gettin’ too damn jealous!!!!

        P.P.S.  What country/city is next on your list?

  • A once in a lifetime experience! Amaaaaaaazing!!!!!!

  • eriksmithdotcom

    Looks like an amazing experience! Did you feel secure the whole time? I’m not too easily frightened, but I don’t like what I read about street crime in Brazil.

    • a) we entered Brazil very cautiously, hearing many horror stories.
      b) we were relatively cautious in big cities (i.e. didnt flash the iPhone and DSLR everywhere), but we pretty much did everything we normally would with a touch more caution. 
      c) the result….we were not in a sticky situation once. never approached by beggers, never worried about our camera or our wallet. and in all honesty the people of brazil could NOT HAVE BEEN NICER. it blew our mind. everyone went out of their way to help us with directions, recommendations, etc. it was so much different than people made it out to be.

      disclaimer: i think you could be in the safest city in america and get robbed, and spend 10 years in the worst city in the world and never get mugged, so it all comes down to being smart and rolling with the punches.

      but in a nutshell i would recommend every city we visited in brazil to my grandmother. it felt very safe and we had the most amazing time! go Erik!

  • Lindsey Barton

    oh so jealous, looks like a wonderful time!

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  • marcia albuquerque

    kkkk – its crazy…