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Private Journeys

Rio Carnival Holiday

9 days from £2,780pp



map marker Map

Day 1

Transfer from airport to hotel facing Copacabana beach.

Rio de Janeiro is the most beguiling, seductive, intriguing and beautiful city on the continent. But it is a multi-layered place: Brazil’s economic indicators show that the gulf between the rich and the poor is the greatest of all Latin American countries. Sumptuous apartments overlook the sparkling bays against a backdrop of half-built slum dwellings, favelas, which cling precariously to the hillsides. Rio enjoys a truly awesome location among towering jungle-clad granite mountains, fringed by white-to toffee coloured sandy beaches that swoop down into the Atlantic surf.


Day 2

Visit Corcovado Mountain and its statue of Christ the Redeemer.

Rio’s unmissable highlight, there is probably no better place to appreciate Rio’s magnificent cityscape, bays and beaches from atop the 710m high jungle clad Corcovado mountain, part of the urban Tijuca national park. Your guide and driver will collect you for the drive to Cosme Velho railway station at the foot of the mountain. The ascent is in itself memorable: the rack railway which goes almost to the summit has been here since the late 1800s, although since refurbished. Nowadays, an electric-powered cog-wheel train climbs steeply through the lush Tijuca rainforest, with its abundant flowers and fruit trees, to the steps (or elevators) below the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer. At 30m high, the statue was erected in the early 1930s, has since become part of Brazil’s cultural identity and been declared one of the new Wonders of the World. On clear and sunny days, Corcovado offers stunning views of the city of Rio, including the instantly recognisable Sugar Loaf mountain, Niteroi bridge, and the famous beaches. There’s plenty of time to take pictures but no amount of time is enough to totally take it all in. After exploring the viewpoints you’ll take the railway back down to the base before returning to your hotel. The excursion lasts 3-4 hours in all.


Day 3

Attend the Parade of Samba Schools in Rio’s Sambodromo.

During a few days of summer madness the city erupts into joyous abandon as cariocas don their costumes and indulge in a melée of processions, ear-splitting samba, themed parties and ever-flowing beer and cocktails. Some of the balls are held at private clubs to which access is somewhat restricted although some are open to foreign visitors. However the city streets are alive with free shows until dawn where anyone can join in the partying. The atmosphere is one of unsurpassed decadence and revelry.

Following a day getting more of the flavour of the city, you have a transfer from the hotel to the Sambodromo in the city centre. The venue consists of a long, broad concourse down which the samba schools desport themselves, with viewing area alongside. There are seats and boxes, but you will be sitting in the grandstand, with a good elevated view over the parade. You are sitting in the only section of the grandstand which has allocated numbered seats (area C).

The samba schools are divided into leagues, rather like football. The Premier League has 12 well-known schools and normally 6 parade on each of the two nights: you will see the first night’s show. The fun begins when the first school, with its extravagant floats and exotic costumes each conforming to the school’s theme for this year, sets off on its slow progress down the concourse, taking up to two hours to reach the further end. Each is accompanied by its own “bateria”, or drum band, playing out the school’s samba theme, over and over again. The spectators join in the singing and dancing with gusto. Various celebrities take part, and are welcomed with hysterical cheers by the onlookers.

It all kicks off at around 9pm and wind down at 5am. You may stay all night, but if your stamina flags you have a pre-paid transfer back to your hotel; vehicles depart on an hourly basis

Rio Carnival 2011

Day 4-5

At leisure in Rio.

At leisure in Rio. You may want a lie-in, but there are many optional excursions to keep you entertained in this fascinating city. We suggest you don’t miss a trip to Pão de Açucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain). Take the cable-car up the domed granite mountain that protrudes from the ocean. This is especially magical at sunset when the twinkling lights of the city are coming on and you can enjoy the magnificent views back over Copacabana beach, Botafogo Bay and into the lush mountains beyond. (Sugar Loaf Mountain can be reached by public bus, and you can even walk half way up on a clear shaded path, but a guided tour will supply you with additional interesting information). During Carnival we recommend an early morning visit to avoid queues and crowds.

Also within a short taxi ride from your hotel are the pleasant botanical gardens, where there is sometimes live music in summer. History buffs may head inland into the hills on an excursion or by public coach to Petropolis, the former imperial summer residence. If you still have the energy, you may choose to enjoy a lively samba show, or a dance in one of Rio’s many nightspots.

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Day 6

Transfer by road to beach resort Buzios.

You will have a private transfer down the coast to Buzios (driver only, no guide). It’s a pleasant three hour trip which involves travelling over the magnificent Niteroi Bridge, which spans Guanabara Bay.

Once a tiny fishing village, Armacão de Buzios is now one of Brazil’s most chic and lively beach resorts. But it is still low-key in a European style: there are no high-rise hotels here and many buildings built in a traditional colonial style fringe cobbled palm-lined streets and lanes, some pedestrianised. There are several small secluded beaches in craggy bays, and close-by tropical islands can be reached by schooners.

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Day 7-8

At leisure on the beach.

At leisure in Buzios. Explore the high-end boutiques and smart restaurants of the village, lay out in the sun on the beach, take a boat trip or go snorkelling.

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Day 9

Transfer to Rio airport for international flight home.

Transfer to Rio airport for international flight home.

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.


Your edit for Latin American inspiration

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

View Extraordinary Inspiration

Real Latin America Experts

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.

  • Lina Fuller
    Lina Fuller - Travel Expert

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba (Argentina) to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

  • Ben Line
    Ben Line - Travel Expert

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.

  • Evie Oswald
    Evie Oswald - Travel Expert

    It's hard to believe that Evie has had time to cram so much in to her life so far. Having lived as a child in the Americas and Europe she found herself immediately attracted to Latin America.

  • Chris Rendell Dunn
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Expert

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours sales team.

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