With the World Cup less than four months away, Brazil is set to be the #1 destination for international travelers. Just take a look at its pre-party – AKA Carnaval. You might know about the Rio de Janeiro parade, but there are other cities that throw equally massive events in even more epically gorgeous beach settings. Bahia. Recife. You may not be able to pronounce the names ... but you’re still invited to the party!
Musical and tropical, the Northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia is kind of like Brazil’s version of Negril, Jamaica. Gorgeous coastline, heavy African influences, and everything operates on tropical time. The capital city, Salvador, has an annual Carnaval that rivals Rio’s, as far as Brazilians are concerned.
|Carnaval Salvador Drummers|
The Salvador parade is spicy and steamy Afro-Brazilian style, with Yoruba chanters, percussion groups and huge “blocks” of partiers dancing their way down the streets. The most famous block is the all-male “Filhos de Gandhy” – Sons of Gandhi. They don’t drink alcohol, but they do have lots of groupies.
|Recife Carnaval attendees|
Recife in the northeast is one of three cities that will host first-round U.S. soccer matches at the World Cup, with the city gearing up to unveil its new stadium – and perennially fun-loving lifestyle - to an international audience.
|Galo da Madrugada|
Recife has its own distinctive Carnaval symbol: the ginormous “Galo da Madrugada” (Rooster of Dawn.) Two million revelers follow this festive and folkloric Big Bird down Forte das Cinco Pontas to the harbor during the traditional Saturday morning parade, dancing to frevo, Recife’s regional Carnaval music (Never confuse frevo with samba around a native Brazilian.)
|Sao Paulo samba school|
Similar to Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo has a competition between different samba schools (not schools in the normal definition, but large, loosely knit neighborhood groups).
Sao Paulo’s samba schools face off at Anhembi Sambadromo.
|Rio de Janeiro Carnaval dancer|
Behold, one of the famous samba dancers of Rio de Janeiro. Brazil was booty-shaking way before twerk came around, and the girls there do it So. Much. Better. In feathers and sequined thongs.
|Trinidad & Tobago Carnival|
Elsewhere in the world, other places throw their own version of Carnival – not as huge as Brazil’s parties, perhaps, but still worth walking a mile or two in platforms and feathers to celebrate. The biggest in the Caribbean is in Trinidad. It features soca instead of samba -- and some fierce limbo competitions too.