From the Road: Celebrating Carnaval in Brazil

Posted on February 25, 2014 by

Olá from Brazil! I’m currently writing to you from Rio de Janeiro, having spent the past week or so traveling around the country with G Adventures.

I’d long dreamt of visiting Brazil to explore its rugged jungles, see its endemic wildlife, and get lost in its colonial towns. On our four-month trip around South America in 2008, we had left Brazil out of the itinerary as we knew such a big and diverse country needed more time to explore just on its own. There really is no better time to see the country’s vibrant culture and spirit than during Carnaval, so I’m extremely stoked that I’ve made it here just in time to join in the world’s biggest street parties!

I’m traveling on the Wonders of Brazil trip with G Adventures, having started the journey at Rio de Janeiro before hopping over to Paraty, Iguassu Falls, Bonito and the Panatal. Here’s a glimpse of what I’ve been up to:

Wandering through the Colonial Town of Paraty

The colonial town of Paraty was my first stop – at just 125 miles from Rio de Janeiro, Paraty lies on Ilha Grande Bay, Brazil’s southeastern coast. Considered one of the world’s most important examples of Portuguese colonial architecture by UNESCO, the historic centre is a well-preserved national historic monument, and today has been closed to vehicles to preserve its laid-back colonial ambience. I loved strolling along its cobblestone streets and lounging around its Bohemian cafés, just taking the atmosphere in. Besides wandering around town, we also went island-hopping from beach to beach in the Ilha Grande Bay, snorkellng and visiting local farms, fazenda, to sample local cachaça.

ParatyWikipedia image by Lampiao3

Gushing at the Impressive Iguassu Falls

From Paraty, we headed up to nearby Sao Paulo for our flight to Iguassu Falls. This tri-border region is where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet at the junction of the Parana and Iguazu rivers, resulting in the formation of the magnificent Foz do Iguaçu, or Iguassu Falls. We’ve seen the falls from the Argentinean side (back in 2008), but this time round seeing it from the Brazilian side definitely gave me very different perspectives.

Iguassu Falls

Exploring the Underwater Caves of Bonito

Leaving Iguassu Falls behind, we arrived in Bonito after a long day of travel. Bonito, meaning ‘beautiful’ in Portuguese, is a hodgepodge of water world and jungle, with abundant marine life in the area’s crystalline rivers and endemic macaws nesting in the thick forests. There were so much to do: we ventured into underwater caves and swam in waterfalls, went rafting and snorkeling down the crystal clear Rio de la Prata.

Bonito underwater cavesFlickr image by Isabel Alexandre

Wildlife Watching in Pantanal

Then we made our way to the Pantanal, for a two-day wildlife excursion into the wilderness to fully appreciate the area’s beauty and bounty. This was the part of the trip that I most looked forward to and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

The Pantanal, a largely flat, wetland area about half the size of France, is still one of the best places in the continent for observing wildlife. This vast alluvial plain, seasonally flooded by the Paraguay River from October to March, is all that remains from an ancient inland sea which began to dry out 65 million years ago. Today, it is an area rich in wildlife such as macaw, howler monkeys, caiman, giant river otters, anacondas and anteaters.

Pantanal BrazilFlickr image by David Holt

Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

The last part of my trip brings me back to Rio de Janeiro, where the biggest Carnaval celebrations take place. I haven’t planned anything concrete but hopefully I’ll get tickets to the Sambadrome where all the samba schools put up their performance. I’ve heard that the best parties are on the streets of Lapa and Santa Teresa so I’ve booked an AirBnB apartment in the area and hopefully get to join in the fun! Of course I’ll also be exploring all the interesting spots in Rio – from the Sugarloaf Mountain to Copacabana Beach and the surrounding favelas.

Carnaval in RioFlickr photo by kingjn

If you’re in Brazil at the moment or have tips to share with me, please leave me a comment below! I’ll be back with more stories from Brazil, in the meantime, follow me on Twitter @WildJunket or like our Facebook page for live updates.


Disclaimer: This trip was made possible by G Adventures, but all opinions expressed are our own.

G Adventures South America Tours

About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

7 Responses to “From the Road: Celebrating Carnaval in Brazil”

  1. Eric February 25, 2014 4:12 pm #

    I'm a new travel blogger just getting started out and would love to meet up with you in Rio. I'm down here visiting friends and I've been a "Junketeer" for some time. Just finally made the leap of working from my laptop. Any chance of a meetup? I used instead of adding my personal email.

    • Nellie March 7, 2014 5:39 am #

      hey Eric, sorry I just saw your message! I left Brazil just a few days ago – ah such a pity! I would have loved to meet you. How are you enjoying Carnaval? Stay in touch.

  2. Andrea February 25, 2014 4:28 pm #

    How fun! I would love to see Carnivale!!

  3. Jen February 26, 2014 1:10 am #

    It looks like you are having a great time Nellie. Looking forward to reading about your experience at Carnival as I would love to go there one day.

  4. Susan Jones February 27, 2014 10:01 am #

    Brazil has always been famous for 2 things – The Amazon and the Rio Carnival. Rio Carnival has always attracted me to visit there. I have taken an initiative this year to plan a trip to Rio mostly for the Carnival and having an expedition to the Amazon Wildlife.

  5. Rebecca February 28, 2014 5:57 pm #

    Looks amazing! Such a big country – you'd need years to explore it properly. Can't wait to see Carnival photos.

  6. kristy March 9, 2014 11:23 pm #

    The underwater caves of Bonito is very interesting place to go and also the festival! I heard that Brazil is very famous for their colourful festivals.

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