Rio de Janeiro has a population of 6.5 million with a combined metropolitan area population of 12 million people (including Niterói which sits across the Guanabara Bay from Rio).
Carnival is special time of year in Brazil and especially for Cariocas (as the inhabitants of Rio are called).
Leblon beach, Rio de Janeiro
The Rio carnival features two main elements: the samba parades which take place in the sambadrome and the “bloco” street parties which run on a continuous cycle around the city.
My carnival concluded on the Tuesday afternoon with a tour of the various “bloco” parties which are local musical street events providing a more informal atmosphere. Many blocos are popular with single Cariocas and many are aimed at the city’s thriving gay community.
Blocos normally consist of a truck with singers and musicians on top playing samba or marchinhas (similar to polka music).
Final bloco party of carnival 2016 near the Ipanema/Leblon beaches, Rio de Janeiro
The bloco parties last for several hours before the participants disperse to continue elsewhere. I found the downloading the official Rio carnival app was really useful as it allows you to keep abreast of all the various blocos that are ongoing and spread out across Rio.
My final bloco party was in Ipanema/Leblon (the most exclusive beach area in Rio). As the sun set on Carnaval 2016, it was time to enormity of the world’s 3 greatest carnivals in 6 nights. It felt like a few weeks had gone by since I arrived in Salvador de Bahia for the beginning of carnival.
The samba parade in Rio de Janeiro is the most widely recognized element of the Brazilian carnival. For the 2016 extravaganza I participated in the Mangueira samba school on the Monday night of carnival. Mangueira is my favorite school although Beija-Flor comes a close second.
Calm before the carnival storm – behind the scenes before Mangueira enter the Sambadrome
Mangueira is one of the most famous samba schools of Rio and is based close to the Maracanã area of the city (which is also home to the famous Maracanã football stadium).
The samba schools compete in the sambadrome (“sambódromo”) with each school’s performance lasting for just over an hour on the Sunday and Monday nights of carnival (in reality Tuesday morning for most schools). The schools are judged on an array of criteria including, their costumes, music, choreography and drumming. Winning the competition is huge honor for the neighborhoods from which the schools hail.