Rio Carnival Dancer The Rio Carnival is the world's biggest party ! In fact carnival is a Brazil wide event that happens every year at the beginning of Lent in the Christian Calendar. If you just visit Brazil for carnival you'll end up missing the rest of it - and the rest of Brazil is just as good !

There are literally thousands of events and parades across the nation in the fortnight around the two day carnaval bank holiday. The largest and most famous is the televised competitive parade of "Escolas Especiais" in the Samb˘dromo in Rio de Janeiro. Salvador Bahia has an equally large carnival but does so without the media attention. Upcoming carnivals are on the following dates:

2011: March 5th to March 8th
2012: February 18th to February 21st
2013: February 9th to February 12th
2014: February 3rd to February 6th
2015: February 16th to February 19th
2016: February 8th to February 11th
2017: February 27th to March 2nd
2018: February 12th to February 15th
2019: March 4th to March 7th
2020: February 24th to February 27th


Carnival Costume Rio Carnival Drummers

Rio Carnival Mask

Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.


The Special Schools (Escolas Especiais) parade for two nights running on the middle weekend of carnival fortnight. It starts around 22:00 and goes on until around 07:00 the next morning on both Friday and Saturday nights. If you don't have tickets for the private boxes make sure you take a cushion to sit on. Lots of people sell tickets to the parade so it's worth asking around to get the best price. The ticket comes in two parts. The first is a credit card sized magnetic stripe card which will take you through the first security perimeter. The second is a larger magnetic stripe card (with a string to wear it round your neck) which will take you into the sector of the Samb˘dromo for which it is valid. 

Rio Carnival.mpeg 2m 50s 131.4 MB

Rio Carnival.wmv 2m 50s 7.13 MB


The Samba Schools in Rio are organised in competitive leagues, the Escolas Especiais being the top. The total prize pool is usually around R$15 million ! Serious money in any currency. Please read Competition Info to learn how the contest works.

Samba Schools

Before carnival the Samba Schools are open for a weekly public practice. These events are exceptional in their own right as you'll get to see various Samba dancers and the Bateria (drummer band) close up ! As with most things Carnival it's an all night event. See Samba Schools for a list of were to find them.

Mangueira Carnaval Parade.wmv 2m 57s 7.62 MB

Bandas and Blocos

The Bandas and Blocos are street parties that and held all over Rio during carnival. The most famous is the Banda da Ipanema which marks the official start of the carnival period. Mono-Bloc is also gaining a reputation for much carnival madness !

Banda da Ipanema.wmv 1m 32s 3.8 M

Carnival in Salvador

Whilst the main event in Rio is the Samb˘dromo parade the Carnival in Salvador is centered entirely in the street and is a participatory event. It's considered the most voracious carnival in Brazil.

Carnival Elsewhere

Porto Seguro, Olinda, Recife and Natal all have major carnivals that are worth checking out. If you get there before we do send us some pictures and we'll post them on the site.