Carnaval, celebrated for 5 days before the start of Lent, is one of the many things Rio de Janeiro is famous for. This spectacular event draws hundreds of thousands of people to Rio and millions flock the to the streets. The street parties, or “blocos” are held throughout the day and night with hundreds of different blocos held simultaneously around the city.
We went back and forth on whether we would stay in Rio for Carnival. We originally wanted to; however, after researching accommodation prices we had second thoughts. Prices were three to five times higher than the previous week – dorm beds at hostels were going for 90$/night per person. We arrived a week before Carnival and were staying at an Air B&B – we had a private room in a penthouse apartment two blocks from the beach in Copacabana. We had access to the entire place including a large rooftop patio with a great view (Cristo looked great lit up at night). A couple days before we were supposed to check out, the group that had booked the entire penthouse (7 rooms) for Carnival canceled. Taking this as a sign, we extended our stay in Rio through to Carnival Monday – our private room price only increased slightly and was a much better deal than any of the hostels.
Tickets for the Sambodromo on Sunday/Monday – the premier nights for the parades – were hundreds of dollars and we opted to go on Friday night to see the second tier Samba schools. The parade was nothing short of amazing. The costumes, the floats, the energy, the people; nothing can describe it.
The city was packed all weekend. Streets closed for blocos, traffic jams everywhere, and the beaches crowded to the point where it was hard to find a place to sit. We had a fantastic time taking in all the energy and craziness and were very happy we decided to stay the extra five nights. The penthouse we were at filled up with some great people from around the globe and on Carnival Saturday (also happened to be Valentine’s Day back home) we had an Argentine Asado (BBQ) on the rooftop. Chicken, ribs, pork steak, and vegetables were slowly grilled over a coal-fired grill accompanied by plenty of Fernet/Coke and Mojitos. As is typical in South American, we started the grill around 8 and weren’t eating until after 10, drinking well into the night.