7 days

Rio Carnival

Rio Carnival

Rio de Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer

Trip rating
  • Travel to South America and visit Brazil to experience the dynamic atmosphere of Rio de Janeiro's legendary Carnaval. Spend the days enjoying the best of Rio from the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue to the architecture of colonial Rio and the waters of Guanabara Bay. By night, soak up the pulsating rhythms and bright hues of lively street celebrations. After a lively lead up, witness the climactic finale - a furious blend of music, culture, lavish fashion and heaving masses of party people all out to celebrate life. With comfortable hotels providing a deluxe haven to recharge and revive, this is a chance to do Carnival in style.

    Why we love it

    • The Rio Carnival is the biggest carnival in the world and offers viewers an experience of dance, song and celebration to remember.
    • The festival is well-known as one of the most amazing artistic events on the globe and attending is a fantastic way to experience Brazilian culture.
    • The focus of this tour is fun!


    Day 1 - Rio de Janeiro

    • Upon arrival in Rio, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. There will be a welome meeting at 6pm, where you will meet your tour leader and fellow travellers. Check the hotel reception for details. The rest of your evening will be free to relax and explore Rio.
    • The intense green of Guanabara Bay and the beauty of the surrounding slopes of the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountain, make Rio a majestic place, locals like to say that 'God made the world in six days, the seventh he devoted to Rio'.
    • The Portuguese influence is ever-present here, especially in the opulent Portuguese buildings that were constructed when the Portuguese monarchy fled Europe under threat of Napolean and took up residence here.
    • The contrast betweeen the opulence of this architecture, the extravagance of Carnaval and destitute poverty of the favelas make this one of the most fascinating and diverse cities in the world. Live music is the heartblood of the city, with everything from samba, jazz, bossa nova, hip hop, reggae and rock to the myriad of regional styles and fusions. Lapa is the place to go if you want to join locals for some serious dancing in the many dancehalls there.
    • The white sand beaches at Copacabana and Ipanema are certainly the best place for people watching.

    Day 2 - Rio de Janeiro

    • This morning you will have a tour to explore some of the roots behind the Carnaval as preparations for the parade get underway.
    • This tour will help you to discover the past and present areas of Carnaval and the birthplace of Samba.
    • You will visit the area of Sambadrome – created by Oscar Niemeyer for the parade to take place in as well as Praça 11 where Samba was first played in public. You will then travel to the Gamboa district, the historical birthplace of Samba from when the African Slave ships first arrived.
    • Samba City is the new home of Carnaval and although you will not be able to visit inside you will learn more about this area and pass by areas of the city important for today’s Carnaval celebrations - Rio Branco Ave, Tiradentes Square & Lapa district – on your way back to the hotel. This tour will provide you with an interesting history of Carnaval and how the samba music became such a part of the Carioca Carnaval.
    • The remainder of the day will be yours to enjoy, explore or relax on the beach.

    Day 3 - Rio de Janeiro

    • In the morning you will take the tram up Corcovado mountain to get a spectacular view of the bay and the city from the foot of the iconic Statue of Christ the Redeemer.
    • After taking a coach to the base of Corcovado with your local guide, you climb aboard the train carriages to begin your 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 you in the carnival mood and raising funds for their samba school. At the train station you will then disembark and climb the last steps or escalators to the base of the statue. You will be free to wander around as you wish or you may like to listen to your 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 you 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 you will all meet to return back down to the train station, catch your train back through the forests and to your waiting coach.
    • In the evening you will head to the Sambadrome to witness the main event of the carnival, the Sambadrome parade. Your seats are in sector 5.
    • 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 Carnaval 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.

    Day 4 - Rio de Janeiro

    • This morning will be free for you to relax on the beach or stay in bed after the late night partying from the day before.
    • In the afternoon you will take the cable car up Sugar Loaf Mountain for more wonderful views of the city and the beaches.
    • You will 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. You will leave from the hotel on your coach, accompanied by your 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, you 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 you have had enough of the panoramic views you will return to the bottom by cable car and back to the hotel on the waiting coach.
    • For those with Sambadrome fever there is the chance to return for a 2nd visit or do the ultimate and actually take part in the parade.
    • 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 one of approximately 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 two hours before the parade time (the first school will meet at 7pm and the last at 1am approx) the parade lasts about one hour.
    • Information needed at time of booking: shoe and clothing size, please see the link for the appropriate sizing: www.rio-carnival.net/sizes.php. For shoe sizes it is advisable to order one size larger than usual as the shoes are often very tight.

    Day 5 - Rio de Janeiro

    • This morning will free and in the afternoon you will visit a community favela project that we support.
    • Morrinho is the name used by the youth of the Pereira da Silva favela for their scale model of a favela made basically with bricks. The "Morrinho" began in 1998, when Nelcirlan (14 years old at that time) starting building the Morrinho, together with his brother Maycon. Both were impressed with the view of favela's, high on the hillside, and decided literally to bring it closer. The "toy" became a construction and attracted other boys like Rodrigo, Naldão, Júnior, Paulo Vítor, Luciano and Raniere, and became a part of the community.
    • Today, the "Morrinho model", occupies an area of 300 square metres in the community "Pereira da Silva", with a wealth of details such as funk clubs, police, drugs sales points, alleys, staircases, small bars etc. The colours are strong and vibrant, the constructions are unusual and unique, and the vegetation is integrated with the "bonsais" wisdom.
    • Miniature vehicles and motorcycles fill out the streets. In the interiors of the residences you can see beds, dressing tables and closets. All the details show the creative imagination of the guys that constructed the Morrinho. They drew streets, built support walls to contain hillsides, distributed light posts etc. Their plastic universe reveals the aesthetic fullness of the favela, often portrayed by international artists, photographers and film directors. The trip includes transport and a donation to charity.
    • In the evening there is the chance to don an outrageous outfit and head 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, there are incredible photo opportunities and some unforgettable 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 Carnaval 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 2011 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 reveller.

    Day 6 - Rio de Janeiro

    • This morning you will take a tour exploring Rio's colonial history and architecture.
    • This tour will give you an insight into another side of Rio from the one you'll see along the beaches and at the main tourist sites. Accompanied by your local guide you will travel in both private bus and on foot through the Cultural Corridor of Rio de Janeiro, visiting colonial buildings, centenary churches and Cultural Centres and discovering the heritage of Rio de Janeiro earlier days as a Portuguese colony.
    • You will visit the area of Santa Teresa, the colourful Escadaria Selaron before heading to downtown Rio to view its stunning churches, cobbled street and wonderful architecture, both modern and historical. Cost includes entrances, transport by private bus, guide services.
    • In late afternoon you will head out on to the waters of Guanabarra Bay for a sunset boat cruise.
    • As the afternoon begins to draw to a close you will walk down to the marina and board one of the beautiful schooners moored in the Gloria Harbour. You will spend about three hours cruising around Guanabara Bay, viewing the city from yet another angle giving you the chance to see the landmarks of Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountain once again, along with Oscar Niemeyer's spaceship style building that houses the Contemporary Art Museum.
    • If the weather is kind to you there may be a chance for a swim and also great sunset views. This is a great way to end Carnaval in Rio, a final chance to say goodbye to old travelling companions, meet new friends and enjoy a drink or two.

    Day 7 - Rio de Janeiro

    • The carnival package will come to an end after breakfast and the rest of the day is yours to explore, relax or just say goodbye to Rio.
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • Colonial Tour
    • Historical Samba Tour
    • Morrinho Project Tour
    • Sambadrome Ticket
    • Sunset Cruise on Guanabara Bay
    • Visit Pao de Azucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain)
    • Visit to Corcovado

    Not Included

    • Arrival & Departure transfer
    • No meals included
    • Visas
    • Tips
  • Map Itinerary

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Trip Code PSRC
Start City: Rio de Janeiro
End City: Rio de Janeiro

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