Carnival is an annual celebration that embraces the entire country, even a business centre like São Paulo. The celebrations have far more impact on Brazil and its economy than the Christmas and New Year holidays. Most offices and businesses will close for the week of Carnival.

Carnival is a moveable feast that is tied to the Roman Catholic calendar. Carnival takes place from the Friday prior to Ash Wednesday and continues up to and including Ash Wednesday itself. In some cities and towns the celebrations take over the entire week and the following weekend.

Rio de Janeiro is the most famous and the largest of Brazil’s carnival celebrations, but there are equally impressive carnival activities in Salvador, Recife and Olinda. In Rio the focus is on samba and the parade of the samba schools organised by the League of Samba Schools on the Sunday and Monday evenings; in Salvador the focus is on the Trio Electricos and the Axé bands that parade through the city; while in Recife and Olinda the driving beat comes from frevo, maracatu and other traditional rhythms.

Wherever you stay in Brazil during carnival, you won’t be far from music and a carnival party. Tickets for most major carnival activities can be reserved in advance through the better tour operators.

Carnival is just one of the many celebrations and festivities that take place throughout the year in Brazil. Highlights include the Festa do Divino held just before Pentecost Sunday (late May or early June); the June festivals (Festa Junina) linked to the feasts of saints John, Anthony, and Peter; Nossa Senhora de Aparecida, on October 12, which is also a national holiday; October also sees the festival of Círio de Nazaré in the city of Belém, at the mouth of the Amazon. The Amazon also has its own carnival, the Boi Bumba, which takes place over the last weekend in June in Parintins, a town 250 miles (800 km) downstream from Manaus.

Another major spectacular is seeing in the New Year on Rio’s Copacabana Beach. You will be one of around 3 million people on the beach, the vast majority dressed in white. Hotel beachfront rooms are, not surprisingly, at a premium at this time. While Rio and the rest of Brazil are honouring Iemanjá, the Queen of the Sea, Salvador celebrates the festival of Bom Jesus dos Navegantes.

Up coming dates for Carnival in Brazil (Friday-Wednesday) are:

  • 2018: 9-14 February
  • 2019: 1-6 March
  • 2020: 21-26 February
  • 2021: 12-17-February
  • 2022: 25 February-2 March
  • 2023: 17-22 February
  • 2024: 9-14 February
  • 2025: 28 February-5 March

This amazing tilt shift video, The City of Samba by Keith Loutit and Jarbas Agnelli will give you a little taste of the Rio carnival parade, even in the rain, and the city itself.

For a full explanation of the Rio carnival parade CLICK HERE

Based on the results of the last eight carnivals (2010-2017), the League of Samba Schools (LIESA) ranks the top ten samba schools in Rio de Janeiro as:

  1. Unidos da Tijuca (110 points)
  2. Beija-Flor (95)
  3. Salgueiro (91)
  4. Portela (66)
  5. Mangueira (59)
  6. Grande Rio (59)
  7. Unidos de Vila Isabel (58)
  8. Imperatriz Leopoldinense (44)
  9. Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel (37)
  10. União da Ilha do Governador (20)

The results of Rio’s Carnival Parade in 2017 were:

  • Portela (269.9 points out of 270)
  • Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel (269.9 points out of 270)
  • Salgueiro (269.7)
  • Mangueira (269.6)
  • Grande Rio (269.4)
  • Beija-Flor (269.2)
  • Imperatriz Leopoldinense (268,5)
  • União da Ilha (267.8)
  • Vila Isabel (267.4)
  • São Clemente (267.4)
  • Unidos da Tijuca (266.8)
  • Paraíso do Tuiuti (264.6)

Portela, the winning school in 2017 along with Mocidade

and in 2016

  • Mangueira (269.8 points out of 270)
  • Unidos da Tijuca (269.7)
  • Portela (269.7)
  • Salgueiro (269.5)
  • Beija-Flor (269.3)
  • Imperatriz Leopoldinense (269.2)
  • Grande Rio (268.7)
  • Vila Isabel (267.9)
  • São Clemente (267.8)
  • Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel (266.5)
  • União da Ilha (265.8)
  • Estácio de Sá (265.0)
Mangueira, the winning school in 2016

Mangueira, the winning school in 2016

and in 2015:

  • Beija-Flor (269.9 points out of 270)
  • Salgueiro (269.5)
  • Grande Rio (269.0)
  • Portela (269.0)
  • Unidos da Tijuca (269.0)
  • Imperatriz Leopoldinense (268.9)
  • Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel (268.5)
  • São Clemente (268.4)
  • União da Ilha do Governador (267.2)
  • Mangueira (267.1)
  • Unidos de Vila Isabel (266.2)
  • Viradouro (263.7)
Beija flor 01

Beija Flor, the winning school in 2015

and in 2014…

  • Unidos da Tijuca (299.4 points out of 300)
  • Salgueiro (299.3)
  • Portela (299.0)
  • União da Ilha do Governador (298.4)
  • Imperatriz Leopoldinense (297.6)
  • Grande Rio (297.20)
  • Beija-Flor (296.4)
  • Mangueira (296.2)
  • Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel (296.0)
  • Unidos de Vila Isabel (295.9)
  • São Clemente (294.3)
  • Imperio da Tijuca (291.6)
Unidos da Tijuca, the winning school in 2014

Unidos da Tijuca, the winning school in 2014

The main parades of the Grupo Especial will next take place in 2018 on the nights of Sunday, 11 February and Monday, 12 February. The schools parading will be:

  • Beija-Flor
  • Grande Rio
  • Imperatriz Leopoldinense
  • Império Serrano
  • Mangueira
  • Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel
  • Paraíso do Tuiuti
  • Portela
  • Salgueiro
  • São Clemente
  • União da Ilha
  • Unidos da Tijuca
  • Vila Isabel

Six schools will parade on Sunday night and six on Monday and they will start at 22.00, 23.05, 00.10, 01.15, 02.20 and 03.25. One extra school will parade on one of the nights in 2018 after no school was relegated in 2017 and Império Serrano were promoted.

Vila Isabel, the winning samba school in 2013.

Vila Isabel, the winning samba school in 2013.


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Christopher Pickard – Brazil the Guide – Critical Divide
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