Virtual Brazil: Carnival + Samba

Brazil’s Carnival may be the world’s most famous party: for four days (and then some!) the country stops to dance samba, watch dazzling dancers in fantastic costumes parade on wild floats, and take the party out to the streets.

Nothing characterizes the complex and beautiful spirit of Brazil more than this sensorial experience of spectacle and pure joy. The dates change every year depending on when Easter and Ash Wednesday take place, click here for a carnival calendar.

Carnival: The Greatest Party On Earth

Rio de Janeiro is home to the largest and most dazzling carnival celebration, where samba schools comprising thousands-drummers, dancers, singers, and community members from poor neighborhoods - favelas - prepare months ahead to compete for top prizes in the famous parade. To learn about the dizzying complexity of the parade, samba schools, masquerade balls, endless street parties, and more visit

If you’re looking for a wilder trip with less media coverage and celebrities, head to Salvador de Bahia, where carnival fills the narrow streets with non-stop singing, drinking and dancing. We recommend a visit to this insider’s guide to get the scoop on Carnival in Salvador.

Want to head even further from the beaten track? Then your destination is Olinda. During carnival in this historic city on Pernambuco’s gorgeous coast you won’t see floats (cars are prohibited in the festivities) or hear a note of samba. Here it’s all about northeastern music, like frevo and maracatu, two genres related but different from samba.

By the way, the most comprehensive site on carnival throughout Brazil is only in Portuguese.


Both modern Carnival and Samba started in the shantytowns around Rio and Salvador, born from the drums and rhythms used in religious rituals that slaves brought from Africa. From the 1920s, when carnival parades were illegal in Brazil’s racially divided society (remember that slavery was only abolished in 1886) to the popularization and acceptance of samba in the 40s with singers like Carmen Miranda, to the present day, a lot has changed. The whole story is as fascinating as the music. Click here to read more.

Samba’s captivating rhythms have spread around the globe. People from Sydney to Stockholm to San Francisco are learning to play cuicas and repiques, and shaking their hips to the frenetic beat. To find the samba community in your city, visit