- Prepare for Carnival!
- Explore Rio’s street art scene
- Climb Sugarloaf Mountain – no cable car for us!
- Visit the Cristo Redentor monument.
There aren’t many events in the world that could legitimately put down the New Orleans Mardi Gras as “just a warmup event”.
Carnival in Rio De Janiero can.
Rio de Janiero is hot, steamy, sweaty, sexy, lascivious, and wild; these almost animal instincts are swept up and driven forward by the relentless samba beat of the Carnival. Upwards of two million people are driven by that beat during every day of Carnival. It is also, confrontingly for travellers who are unprepared, like many other developing cities – swinging wildly between extravagance and poverty, often jutting up beside one another.
The current, though, is all heading in favour of Rio and Brazil. Since being named as one of the BRIC nations, an annual growth rate of 5%+, and with (here’s a staggering fact) 195 million citizens powering it’s economy, Brazil looks to be confidently building it’s way into prosperity.
The rest of the world seems to agree – Brazil have landed the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016. For those living in the poverty and in the oppressive conditions of favelas, and for other minorities who are frequently put upon in the largely Catholic nation, the Carnival offers the chance each year for participation and tolerance.
So – after a long flight south from the USA, pleasantly broken up by a stop at Space Central, we’re in Rio de Janiero and we’re here to party with the masters.
Get your costume for Carnival. You’ll need a good one.
It’s important to get this straight up front – Carnival, for all its goodwill and fun-loving party vibe, is a fight.
The many different samba schools are in competition with each other throughout the Carnival schedule, contesting the prized position in the final Champion’s Parade in the Sambadrome. First up – it’s time to decide if we’re going to watch the parade from the grandstands in the Sambadome, or throw our dignity to the wind and join one of the samba schools as dancers.
If you’re not as foolish as us, make sure you get your Sambadome tickets (available here), but they’re not cheap!
Then again, neither are the costumes. With some samba schools spending up to $10,000 USD on the costumes for their lead dancers, this is like a fight in an antique shop – expensive for everyone involved.
Cheap Guide to Rio de Janiero?
Costumes and Carnival may be astonishingly expensive to see and participate in, but this NYTimes travel writer found a way to experience Rio for just $100 USD.
Then practice your dance moves. Again. I said again!
There are up to 90,000 spectators watching, so if you’re going to choose to join in, there will be plenty of support. But we feel it’s wise to practice our dance moves, just a little, beforehand. Just to bone up, you know, work out the kinks. Fortunately, the samba schools run rehearsal events during the night, with bands playing out of windows and the locals (Cariocas, as they call themselves) working on their moves long into the night.
Having run out of superlatives a couple of days ago during Mardi Gras in New Orleans, we’ll let the pictures do the talking.
Guide to Carnival:
Carnival has just as many rules and traditions as Mardi Gras in New Orleans – so be sure to check out this guide to Carnival to help figure our what everyone is up to!
The weekend is going to be about winding down and relaxing after the heat and sexiness of Carnival. We’re going to explore Rio’s famed street art, whilst also taking in the Jardim Botanico near Santa Theresa. There is a thriving, marvellously creative street art movement in Rio. The city itself is quite accepting of this pursuit, which in most other parts of the world is an illegal activity.
Rio de Janiero Street Art:
The beauty and inventiveness of this art is very well documented in these articles; one from Hyperallergic, the other an incredibly detailed long read from Untapped Cities. Both are well worth a read and make sure to check out the stunning street art photographs that they’ve captured.
Afterwards, we’re taking a leisurely walk up Pao de Acucar, or Sugarloaf Mountain. Local Guide Madson recommends you get off the cable car at Urca Hill and walk the rest of the way to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain – he can guide you himself on this 25 minute walk.
For the more adventurous and fit, you can start at the beginning for a three hour walk up Sugarload Mountain. The other must-see in Rio is Cristo Redentor, or Christ the Redeemer. This instantly recognisable, iconic statue watches over and embraces Rio de Janiero.
Yes, it’s touristic; but the really worthwhile, iconic places attract attention because they’re worth it.
Just watch the sun set in the evening, and try to argue.