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It is the biggest party in the world and one the highlights of Brazil's calendar of events, but what's the story behind the festivities and how can you experience the 2019 Rio Carnival for yourself? Find out everything you need to know below with our quick guide to the proceedings and discover our 6 night Rio carnival tour.

What is the Rio carnival and where did it come from? 

Although the idea of a carnival (in the form of a masquerade ball) is thought to date back to the 18th century, the Rio carnival as we know it began to take form around the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. This was when different neighbourhoods began to form groups and samba music was infused into proceedings. As so often in Brazilian culture, these changes were mainly accredited to the large African presence in the city - a legacy of slavery during colonial reign.

The groups soon began to perform street parades, full of colour and energy and a far greater sense of expression, individuality and competition grew and grew between the fledgling samba schools. When the Sambadrome was completed in the mid 1980's, the stage was set and the carnival now had an arena to host the greatest show on earth. Today the carnival is serious business; samba schools are large organisations, with individual flags and colours and with large followings akin to those enjoyed by football teams.

Rio Carnival 2019

When is the 2019 Rio carnival? 

The Rio Carnival is scheduled to run from Friday 1st March to Saturday 9th March 2019, culminating in the Champions Parade.

See our Carioca trip to experience the Rio Carnival in 2019.

Which are the best Sambadrome seats? 

We believe that the Sector 9 seats provide the best experience of the Rio Carnival. As well as providing allocated seat numbers, allowing you to move around with more freedom, they offer panoramic views of the action and give you a great view of the drummers as they pause to perform in front of the judges. 

We can of course secure other seats in different sectors, but these are on a first-come basis and so you will not have seats allocated to you. The advantage of these sectors could be that you are sat with locals instead of other visitors and so may find this a more enjoyable experience.

One other option is to watch the action unfold from your very own frisa. These open-air boxes are located at ground level and so give you a close up view of the parade. In each frisa there are six seats and you can either hire the entire box for a group, or we can purchase individual seats for smaller parties. Although more expensive, they are considered to be the best seats in the house.

What will I see in the Sambadrome? 

You will have a great vantage point in the 90,000 seat Sambadrome to watch a procession of samba schools parading for the judges. Each will pass-by to the sound of distinctive Brazilian samba and drumming, dressed in wonderful costumes and showing off their samba moves and immense floats - all based on different themes and a product of months of professional level preparation, choreography and practice. Each night the spectacle goes on til dawn and into the next morning, so you can stay up all night or head back to your hotel on private transport if you run out of steam. Beyond the visual spectacle and rhythmic drumming, you will also experience the extraordinary atmosphere of the carnival, a shared sense of excitement and drama seldom replicated by any other major event.

Rio Carnival 2019 floats stands 

What is it like visiting Rio during carnival?

As well as the parades in the Sambadrome, there are a huge number of free blocos which occur all day, throughout the city. These street parties, both large and small, attract locals and tourists alike and are a great way to experience the unique atmosphere of the Rio Carnival. Given the nature of Rio de Janeiro, although the population swells and the more well-known sights are busier than normal, there are plenty of quieter beaches to which you can escape to relax or lush coastal forest in which you can hike, away from the crowds. The seasons are reversed in Brazil, so February is a month of soaring temperatures in Rio and higher than usual rainfall.

Can I take part in the 2019 Rio Carnival?

Yes you can! And you don't need to be a professional samba dancer or a dab hand with a drum. We can arrange once-in-a-lifetime participatory experiences which will let you don a spectacular costume and take to the runway with thousands of Cariocas. Please enquire if you would like to find out more.

Where else can I see the carnival in Brazil? 

Although the Rio Carnival is definitely the biggest and most well-known, the celebrations can be experienced in many cities in Brazil, with their own unique take on it. Aside from Rio, perhaps the best place to see the carnival is Salvador de Bahia, where you can actually join in with the much more participatory celebrations and enjoy the city's distinctive Olodum drumming performances. Further north in the picturesque town of Olinda, near Recife, celebrations involve giant puppets and colourful troupes.

Where can I combine with the Rio Carnival in a Brazil holiday?

Whilst many prefer to concentrate solely on the Rio Carnival and spend a week in the Marvellous City, you might equally prefer to integrate the celebrations into a longer trip around Brazil and maybe even combine with neighbouring Argentina. The exotic Afro-Portuguese city of Salvador de Bahia, the thunderous Igussu Falls and the mysterious jungle wilderness of the Amazon are the most popular options.

Brazil is a vast country with many vibrant cities and pristine areas of nature, some rich in wildlife, so the best option is to talk through your options with one of our expert Travel Consultants.