If you’re keen to experience the true carnival atmosphere, then Rio de Janeiro’s is the biggest, most colourful and loudest party in the world. However, a closer, cheaper trip to Tenerife will also allow you to feel the rhythm of the music and let loose to the carnival spirit. Check when the carnivals are taking place in Rio and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and what attractions await you there during the 2023 carnival season.
When is the Rio Carnival?
The Rio de Janeiro Carnival Festival will take place from February 17-25.2023. The city will “dress up” in sequins and feathers and resound with the sounds of samba, singing, and celebration as almost a million people from around the world gather to have fun. But where did this event originate? Since 1840, when the Portuguese first organised the “Entrudo” masquerade – featuring polka and waltz instead of today’s samba – the carnival takes place a week before Ash Wednesday, heralding the beginning of Lent in the Catholic Church. The name “carnival” refers to this period and is derived from the words “carne” and “vale”, meaning goodbye to meat. The symbolic beginning of the carnival in Rio is the coronation of King Momo by the mayor of the city. This takes place on February 17 and plays host to numerous balls, parades and street parties. The most important parade of champions comprises the six best samba schools of the year and is scheduled for February 25.
What to see and do at the Rio Carnival
The epicenter of the Rio Carnival, with its extravagant and exuberant samba parade, is the Sambadrome. This large concrete structure is 700 metres long with viewing stands that run along both sides of Marquês de Sapucaí Avenue that can accommodate up to 90,000 people! Do you want to see the most colourful costumes and the best dancers strutting the samba to the rhythm of trumpets and drums? Hurry to buy your ticket in advance for this stunning spectacle. Tickets in 2023 cost from $24 for unnumbered and standing seats, to $794 for VIP area tickets. Remember that tickets for Sunday and Monday events sell out the fastest, however other days have no shortage of attractions and tend to be a bit calmer.
Brazilian Carnival 2023 – more than the Sambadrome…
Undoubtedly, the Rio Carnival is the biggest, most colourful, loudest and most joyful spectacle on Earth, as well as the most important event in the Brazilian cultural calendar. Although the Sambadrome parades are its main attraction, “el carnaval” is not just about admiring the dance at ticketed events. It is also an opportunity to have fun and test your dance moves at street parties during the festival. During his time, the city really does not sleep! Go to the many free street parties organised by dance schools and bands, known as blocos e bandas – there are over 300 of them! In the Cinelândia district, people dance to music from the 40s-60s. Meanwhile, Rio’s oldest street band, Cordão do Bola Preta, performs on Avenida Rio Branco. In Rio, the cult band Banda de Ipanema with their famous theme song Cidade Maravilhosa is also not to be missed. You will find it in the General Osorio Park, on Vieira Souto Avenue and Rua Visconde de Piraja.
Beyond the carnival – relaxing on the beach
Between Rio’s samba parades and street parties, you can recuperate on wonderful beaches with soft, white sand. Rio’s most beautiful beaches include the famous and entertaining Copacabana and neighboring Leme, but also Ipanema with its high waves attracting windsurfing enthusiasts. Barra da Tijuca Beach, or simply Barra, stretches for almost 18 kilometers! You can reach this phenomenal lagoon by car, bus, and subway. You will find peace and serenity without the gusty winds typical of this part of Brazil on Vermelha – called the red beach because of the pinkish shade of the sand.
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When is the Tenerife Carnival?
The Carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the second largest in the world – right behind Rio de Janeiro! Due to the friendly and safe atmosphere of its street parties and parades, it is also considered by many to be the best event of this type. Without a doubt, it is also the longest – in 2023, the first attractions will start on 20th January and will run until 26th February! If you don’t want to take a long vacation or spend a fortune on a ticket to Brazil, Tenerife is the perfect choice to feel the carnival spirit. On the first day of Tenerife’s carnival celebrations, an opening gala is held and the election of this year’s carnival queen begins across three age categories. However, the main events are planned a bit later. On February 15, the Queen’s Gala takes place; on February 17, the opening parade of the carnival and on February 21, the largest carnival parade in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the Coso de Carnaval or Coso Apotheosis. The last mentioned date is so important that in Tenerife this day was declared a public holiday.
What to see and experience during the Tenerife Carnival?
Tenerife’s carnival is the most “Brazilian” of all that are celebrated in Spain. This means that it is loud, joyful, colourful, and full of dance! As in Rio, participants of the various parades dress in feathers and shiny and eye-catching costumes. The theme of this year’s Tenerife Carnival is New York. Therefore, it can be expected that the parades will take the participants back to the 1920s and The Great Gatsby. So, how to celebrate with the local residents? On February 19, 25 and 26, you can join nearly 500,000 other people in the Sábado de Piñata parade. At night, dance at the Carnaval en la Calle street parties – make sure to wear a fun or shiny disguise. Another interesting event is the funeral of the sardine, which is the masquerade procession that takes place before Lent. Participants wear black as part of mourning for the poor sardine. In 2023, it is scheduled for February 22.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife – more than a carnival attraction
Tenerife is a perfect place to combine partying with rest in the sun, which Northern Europe will have to wait for a little longer. You can enjoy an active break here, trekking the Masca Gorge or the Teide volcano, the highest peak in Spain in the Teide National Park. There is also the option of surfing in the Las Americas area, along the beaches of Troya, Las Cuevitas, Del Bobo and Playa Honda. Can’t sit still? Take a day or two to explore the island’s old colonial towns, the famous Cave of the Wind and the cliffs of Los Gigantes and the unique, 800-year-old dragon dracaena tree. If you want some peace after a night of partying, you can spend your time lazing on one of the beaches in the Santa Cruz de Tenerife area, such as Las Teresitas with palm trees, Bollullo with black, volcanic sand or secluded Las Gaviotas. You can also taste local flavours in the bars and restaurants of Plaza de España. The daytime temperature here in February will be as high as 26 degrees, so you can certainly recharge your batteries before returning home.