When it's cold and snowy up north, scads of people from around the world are funneling into Brazil for the celebration of a lifetime. Rio de Janeiro, the South American country's capital city, is one of the best places to be for Carnival.
Carnival is a centuries-old party that evolved from the revelers of ancient Greece and Rome who were celebrating the rites of spring. By the mid-19th century, the celebration reached Rio and it was given a cultural makeover. If you're ready for South America travel, find out what to expect at Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
What does Carnival entail?
Parties in the street, intricate costumes and raucous parades are just a few examples of what makes up Rio's Carnival. However, it originated in Europe, where the aristocrats would throw fancy balls before Easter season began. The partying aspects of this celebration melded with the African and Amerindian cultures of Brazil to bring you one of the world's most involved parades.
When Carnival first took off in Rio, there was a focus on forgetting about social roles for a few days. Rich people would dress like poor people, men would dress like women and vice versa. Over time, the European musical and dance styles that traveled with the concept evolved into samba. Soon, competitions started forming as people added a variety of instruments and more ornate costumes. Samba music and dancing are a huge part of Rio's culture and form the basis for Carnival festivities.
Today, Carnival is centered on the Samba Parade. This competition between the region's best samba schools is held four days before Lent begins - Saturday through Tuesday - and is broadcast live around the world. According to Rio Carnival Services Travel and Tourism, each school has its own theme and song. People design several floats and craft costumes for everyone, while others compose the song and dance portions. Dance rehearsals start and the songs are recorded in December, months before Carnival begins. The source explained how the costumes take about eight months to be created, considering they're adorned with mirrors, beads and a collection of fabrics.
What else can you do in Rio?
This world-class city had a burst of attention during the 2014 World Cup, but its cultural beauty and richness have always been waiting.
When you're in Rio, it's necessary that you try out some of the beaches. These tropical beaches have been deemed some of the best in the world, with sparkling white sand and clear blue water. Prainha Beach was a TripAdvisor travellers' Choice Winner for 2014, and for good reason. Although it's a bit of a drive outside the city, it's a protected area surrounded by natural forests. Perfect for surfing, catching some rays and taking a dip, it's best to arrive early so there's still parking available.
One of the top attractions in Rio is the statue of Christ the Redeemer, which looks over the city from its mountainous perch. travellers can take a gondola ride up to the statue and see Rio like they never imagined. You can get another great view from Sugarloaf Mountain, another Rio must-see spot. Take the tram up the mountain and look out across Rio's diverse geography - from beaches and mountains to urban architecture and slums.
If you're interested in magnificent architecture, make sure to stop by Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro. It's a great place to see a show if you go outside of Carnival season, but you can take a tour to see the structure and learn the history regardless.