To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, there’s nothing like the intimacy of a large party – and by large, we mean five days of city-wide, free-spirited revelry. The Rio Carnival is a pre-Lent spectacle that’s accompanied by a scintillating samba soundtrack. Though many cities around the globe throw these music and dance-filled festivities, nothing can compare to the glitz and glamour of the world’s biggest party.
Held over five nights in Brazil’s famed sun-kissed city, there’s no wonder Rio gets ‘the greatest show on earth’ so right; it’s been practising for nearly 300 years. The famed festa dates back to 1723 when the first Rio Carnival took place. The root of the word carnival comes from the Latin from the phrase ‘farewell to meat’ and marked a blow-out celebration before the lean times of the 40-day fast for Lent for the city’s Catholics.
Beloved by both tourists and cariocas (Rio’s residents), the focus of the celebration is the flying glitter, swaying hips and pounding drums of the parades that party around the 75,000-seater, Oscar Niemeyer-designed Sambódromo. Rio’s famed escolas de samba, or samba schools, spend a whole year preparing the songs, costumes, floats and dancing for their individual 70-minute performances on which they are judged, and on the final day, one school is crowned the year’s winner.
The merriment, or folia, continues outside the starchitect’s stadium at hundreds of inclusive and colourful street parties that centre around riotous street bands called blocos. One of the country’s most famous bands is Banda de Ipanema and plays in the renowned neighbourhood of the same name. And you’ll soon learn at a Rio street party; there’s no such thing as crashing the soiree during Carnival; it’s just a case of joining in. With one very exclusive exception...
Since 1924, the start of the raucous celebrations has been marked by an exquisite, celebrity-studded, strictly invitation-only party at the Copacabana Palace. Invites to this bash are undoubtedly the hottest tickets in town, but guests can join the party as a guest of A&K.
This eight-night spectacular itinerary offers guests the opportunity to enjoy the spectacle of Carnival in true style. Your base will be the Fasano Hotel Rio de Janeiro. Located in a prime spot where Arpoador and Ipanema beaches meet, the see-and-be-seen hotel is the epitome of Philippe Starck cool and understated luxury. From the Fasano Hotel, you’ll don your glitter and feathers to tour the various street parties or haute couture and rub shoulders with the continent’s elite and celebrities at the Copacabana Palace’s Magic Ball.
You’ll witness the proceedings in the Sambódromo from an exclusive VIP box. You’ll have an awareness of the hard work that’s gone into making the party look so effortless following a tour at one of Rio’s top samba schools. And for a more immersive experience, you can limber up to take part by taking a samba lesson with Rio’s most renowned movement teachers. If you dare, you can even join the parade with a samba school. A team of make-up artists and hairdressers will come to the Fasano to help you prepare for your moment amongst the dancers.
For a unique carnival perspective, you’ll take to the skies to swoop over the street parties and to watch the masses snaking through the city in parades that have spilt over from proceedings in the sambadrome. Be sure to tear your eyes from the Carnival to take in all of Rio’s beauty, including Christ the Redeemer, the Sugarloaf Mountain, Tijuca National Park and the city’s famed beaches.
While the iconic Carnival itself lasts for five nights, we recommend at least eight nights to ensure that you can enjoy your time in Brazil to the fullest. Before the parties start, you can delve under the city’s skin during a special dinner on a private estate in the exclusive, hilltop Santa Teresa neighbourhood and on a visit to a local NGO.
Favela Inc, which is Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy-backed, supports an ecosystem of local social entrepreneurs, growing empowering projects inside the favelas. Experience one of these: Vidigal Capoeira, which teaches children and adolescents the importance of discipline and teamwork through capoeira, music and other aspects of Afro-Brazilian culture.
Feeling inspired, you can escape the crowds to enjoy craft cocktails and fresh oysters on a private yacht tour of Guanabara Bay and the tropical islands dotted off the coastline around Rio. On a more active note, we offer a visit to the holiest of grounds (for football fans) on a private tour of Maracana Stadium, where you’ll have the opportunity to have a kick-about with a Brazilian professional footballer. On previous trips, guests have taken part in penalty shoot-outs with Cafu (the most internationally capped Brazilian player of all time).
Then once the carnival drums have quietened, decompress as you cruise by private yacht to the coastal resort of Hotel Fasano Angra dos Reis for two relaxing nights where you’ll enjoy facilities such as a sumptuous spa, private beach and 18-hole golf course.