February in Rio de Janeiro is usually filled with anticipation of sequins and samba with the arrival of Carnaval, but this year the streets of Rio will be a little less flamboyant. The city has decided to cancel the planned celebrations for this year’s Carnaval, and they’re not the only ones. Cancellations have occurred across Brazil in 48 cities for a variety of reasons. Some cities have voted to spend resources fighting dengue fever and the Zika virus that have been spreading throughout the country. Some cities were forced to cancel due to the economic consequences of what has been one of the worst recessions in Brazil’s history. For Rio, we can assume it’s a combination of the two with the added pressure of hosting the looming Summer Olympics.
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This news is extremely disappointing for tourists who planned to travel to Rio de Janeiro this year to experience the world famous Carnaval, but just because Rio is calling off the party doesn’t mean the rest of the country has. There are still many cities in Brazil where the show is going on. As a bonus, travelers will find festivities in these smaller cities to be less commercialized and more intimate.
Salvador: This capital city of the state of Bahia holds the world record for the biggest street party in the world. Salvador’s deeply colorful culture is a great place to enjoy all different genres of Brazilian music, a special Masquerade Ball, and the crowning of the Carnaval King.
Recife & Olinda: As Carnaval is a weeklong event, experiencing it in two neighboring cities known for their huge parties is highly recommended. In Recife, you can take part in one of the biggest celebrations in the country, complete with drummers and samba beats. In nearby smaller Olinda, you can watch the iconic puppets known as mamulengos take over the streets.
Manaus: Celebrating Carnaval in this Amazon city is a truly unique experience. Not only will you witness one of the only parades using traditional costumes going back to the early 20th century, you’ll also find a celebration that blends indigenous and Portuguese cultures.
Florianopolis: If you’re still missing the feel of Rio, Carnaval in Florianopolis is an exceptional alternative. Samba schools from around the city will dance in the city center for the main event and on Magic Island, a street party that openly welcomes the LGBTQ community will be going strong throughout the week.