Last Updated on September 21, 2021 by

Samba music suddenly blasts through the speakers and the crowd goes wild.

On the Sambadrome’s runway, the Carnival king and queen appear in their shimmering diamond-studded costumes, dazzling the audience with their fast-as-lightning samba moves. Behind them are troupes of costumed dancers: young girls decked out in silver dresses, gym-pumped men adorning brown feather headdresses, sexy ladies dressed in glitzy rhinestone bikinis — all gyrating to the same rhythm.

Surrounded by a sea of dancing people, I find myself shaking my hips and singing along with the crowd. Indeed, I haven’t stopped moving for days – or nights. I’m drained from the partying around-the-clock and dancing to the beats of the Brazilian bandas, but I’m still not ready to stop. For it is not everyday that I get to be part of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, the world’s biggest carnival.

Carnaval in Brazil

Carnaval (known as Carnival in English) is a massive event in Brazil, and it is celebrated throughout the country – from the Amazon to the coast of the Bahia. While customs, celebrations and costumes vary by region and city, Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval is the biggest and flashiest.

Undoubtedly, the highlight of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro is the Sambadrome desfile (samba parade), otherwise known as “one of the biggest shows on Earth”. What originally started as a series of samba street parades is now a fierce competition among top samba schools from Brazil. These samba schools are huge social entities, with over 3,000 to 5,000 members, including some famous celebrities making special appearances.

This year’s samba parade began on 28th February and ended on Fat Tuesday, 4th March. I was fortunate enough to get last minute tickets for one evening and the show completely blew my mind with the sheer magnitude of the performance, the impalpable energy of its people and the infectious atmosphere. It was definitely the most impressive parade I’ve seen and – I believe – will ever see.

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To give you an idea of just how impressive the parade was,  here are some of my best photos from the night.

Samba dancers on a float - carnaval in rio

Beautiful samba dancers dressed in elaborate costumes perform on a float

A samba dancer on the Vila Isabel float - carnaval rio de janeiro

In the hands of a giant

Young girls decked out in white - brazil rio carnaval

Young girls also participate in the parade

A float - rio brazil carnival

Samba dancers are often decked out in high strappy heels, large headdresses and feathery wings

Fur is the theme here

In purple pursuit

Scantily clad dancers - rio de janeiro carnival

Some costumes can be pretty outrageous

Traditional Bahian wear

Women dancing in traditional Bahian wear

A modern take

Giving a modern twist to Carnival

Glitz and glamour

There are so much colors and glitter that I don’t know where to look

Glitzy dancers

The float with an African theme

A close up of a dancer

Gorgeous samba dancers

A famous celebrity

Performers include famous celebrities

Animal kingdom

Animal kingdom

One of the most impressive floats of the evening

This was one of the most impressive floats

The favela float

The samba school had ‘favela’ as their theme

Samba Parade in Rio de Janeiro: The World’s Biggest Carnival

This float unfortunately crashed into the photographers’ raised platform and the head fell off.

Embracing their African heritage

An animal-themed float