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5 PLACES TO GET WINTER SUN IN LATIN AMERICA

The nights are long, cold grey skies loom and the scarves and hats are been pulled out. Winter is here. But the cold weather in the northern hemisphere, means warmth in the south. It’s summer in Latin America and one of the best times to discover the continent’s mountains, beaches, culture and food. Here’s our 7 picks for the best spots to get some winter sun in Latin America

BAHIA, BRAZIL

The northern state of Bahia in Brazil is blessed with some of the best weather in Latin America. Year-round temperatures between 25°C and 30°C and over 250 hours of sunshine every month create the perfect winter getaway. But it’s not just the weather that makes this region such a great place to travel. Wild national parks, hundreds of miles of white sandy beaches fringed with palms trees, sleepy fishing villages, beautiful pastel-coloured colony architecture and UNESCO World Heritage sites and tasty cuisine that perfectly blends the Afro-Brazilian culture. Try visiting Salvador, the capital of Bahia, in February for a unique alternative to Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival. Flying time 12 hrs via Lisbon.

CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA

The colourful city of Cartagena lies on the northern coast of Colombia overlooking the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Between December and March, the city sees almost no rain and bright sunny days. There’s a wealth of boutique hotels. Many are within old colonial palaces. The city has its fair share of museums, galleries, music venues and restaurants to keep your entertained. For those who prefer to spend their holidays away from cities, there are miles and miles of coastline. Off the beaten track is the Tayrona National Park. Hikers can head inland to walk the challenging trails to the Lost City. The sun-drenched islands of Baru and Rosario are only a short boat trip from the city.

JOSÉ IGNACIO, URUGUAY

Bahia Vik, Jose Ignacio (copyright David Horwell)

Uruguay doesn’t spring to mind for your typical summer holiday. Yet the country is less crowded and has better beaches than neighbouring Argentina. On the coast lies the small fishing village of Jose Ignacio. The town grew around a 19th century lighthouse. Now favoured by jet-setters, the area has become an escape for the super-rich and celebrities. Ultra-modern hotels abound. During the summer months the area booms with pop up bars, concerts and parties. Spend lazy days sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the refreshing Atlantic. At night dine in one of the restaurants or beach-shack bars. Further down the coast there are some even less developed spots. At Cabo Polonio isolated wooden cabins fringe the edge of deserted beaches, the only sound being the crashing of waves.

TULUM, MEXICO

Cliffside Mayan Ruins at Tulum ca. 2002 Tulum, Mexico

Tulum lies along the Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula south of Cancun. Comfortable temperatures hover around 28°C and enjoy a light sea breeze during December to February. An excellent choice for a winter getaway. The area is best known for its Mayan temple overlooking the ocean. This idyllic region has vast stretches of white sandy ocean and boutique accommodation. Snorkellers and scuba divers can enjoy exotic marine life. Nearby waters offer swimming with whale sharks, the big gentle giants.

BOCAS DEL TORO, PANAMA

Copyright David Horwell

Bocas del Toro is an archipelago of lush islands. They lie off the northern coast of Panama, near Costa Rica. Winter is the sunniest time. The islands have a distinct laid-back Caribbean vibe. Secluded wooden over-the-water bungalows sit off the coast from the tiny islands. The islands are excellent for hiking and bird-watching. The turquoise waters are great for diving, snorkelling, kayaking, surfing and swimming. Dolphins often jump above the sea and huge shoals of exotic fish inhabit the underwater world. Chill-out on a hammock, relax on one of the deserted beaches and gorge on fresh lobsters.

CHILE EXPANDS PARKS OF PATAGONIA

Chile has hugely expanded its National Parks area by 631 thousand hectares. Thanks in part to the vision of the late Douglas Tompkins. In this remote area of northern Patagonia his Pumalín park is combined with Melimoyu and the parks Corcovado and Hornopirén, Now over 20% of the continental territory of Chile is protected. This is good news for the birdlife including Condors and the huemul, an Andean deer. The region is crossed by the ultimate road trip along the southern highway or Carretera Austral.
“For all our team, we are proud to have contributed with this management to the State of Chile, and the fact that Pumalín Park now bears the name of Douglas is a recognition of its vision regarding the public value of national parks, its love for Chile and commitment to conservation,” said Tompkins Conservation Chile executive director Carolina Morgado.

The American millionaire Douglas Tompkins, founder of the firm The North Face, began in 1992, the acquisition of large tracts of land in order to protect the temperate rain forest. In 2017, the foundation that bears his name donated 407,000 hectares to the Chilean State for the creation of the National Parks Network in Chilean Patagonia. His wife Kristine carries on the good work, which also includes part of Argentina. To visit this remote part of Chile, contact us.

Related: Wildlife Spotlight on the Andean Condor 

BEN BOX – BIRDWATCHING IN COLOMBIA

Glittering Starfrontlet – copyright Jim Lawrence

As anyone who watches birds will tell you, the best times of day to go out with your binoculars are dawn and dusk. This trip was no different and, on most days, it was a question of breakfast competing with an important bird or two. Take, for instance, the day we headed from Manizales to the Montezuma Rainforest Lodge in the buffer zone of the Parque Nacional Natural Tatamá in Colombia’s western Andean cordillera.

Tatamá – copyright Ben Box

We left Manizales very early and stopped at a small commercial centre on the outskirts of Pereira to pick up a group member. The little car park was, like every other stop, a chance to get out the binoculars and, lo and behold: a couple of macaws that should not have been there (out of their range; probably escaped from a private aviary). Next stop, also near Pereira, was Maracay. From the bus we walked into open grassland overlooking dry forest and the distant Río Cauca valley. In a new open-sided pavilion a fabulous picnic was laid out. So we ate and birded, adding to the tour’s bird list the endemic apical flycatcher, scarlet-fronted parakeet, spectacled parrotlet, bay-headed tanager, and migrant fork-tailed flycatcher and yellow-billed cuckoo.

Colombia Tatamá – Ben Box

Before too long we were on the road again, reaching the Montezuma Rainforest Lodge for lunch. The lodge’s feeders were alive with hummingbirds (I counted ten different species), saltators and tanagers, so we birded again while we ate. After lunch we moved uphill, but as the day wore on the clouds rolled in and by late afternoon the rain was so heavy, we called it a day. We did stop at a small bridge where our guide, Yesenia, put crumbs on the parapet and called “Olive Finch, Olive Finch”, but the bird was clearly sheltering from the rain too and never showed.

Next morning, the rain had moved away, and we loaded into the vehicles for the rough ride to the end of the road into the national park. Tatamá means grandfather of all the rivers and on the mountain sides across the gorge waterfalls tumbled and echoed from the ridges. Breakfast was snatched off the back of the pick-up because the hummingbirds up here were too good to miss: tourmaline sunangel, collared inca, dusky starfrontlet, velvet-purple coronet. accompanied by coffee and arepas we saw other colourful names, green-and-black fruiteater; purplish-mantled and golden-ringed tanagers; chestnut-bellied flowerpiercer, before descending slowly to the lodge as the rain rolled in again.

Footnotes:
Colombia is aiming to be the number one birding destination in the world, to match its status as the country with the most bird species in its territory (1,921 species). Many areas of the country that were out of bounds during the years of conflict are now open to tourists and birdwatching is increasing rapidly in popularity. The Colombian government is training guides and fostering bird-based tourism as a conservation and economic development tool. Five birdwatching routes are in development; two are open: The Northern Colombia Birding Trail and the Central Andes Birding Trail. This group travelled on much of the latter. Contact us for further details.

Ben was invited to join the birdwatching trip in Colombia by BirdLife International and guest of ProColombia.

PISCO MASTERCLASS

Bar Pachamama

In the interests of research, I attended a masterclass on the fiery Peruvian spirit Pisco. The Peruvian tourist board are keen to promote the ‘Pisco route’. The first thing I learnt is the Peruvian Pisco differs from its Chilean rival in being distilled by traditional artisan methods. The fermented grape juice or must has no additives by law, not even water. It is a great source of national pride. The methods date back to the Spanish colonization in the 16th century. The name comes from a small town on the Pacific coastal desert, near to one of the oases where the grapes are grown. Legend has it that pre-columbian cultures over a thousand years ago honoured local birds, the pisku (probably small waders that are found in large numbers like sanderlings). Pure Pisco is made from a single grape variety such as Quebranta, with raisin and apple taste or Mollar with a herbal, honey flavour or Uvina with a touch of olive or Moscatel with sweeter peachy overtones. A mixed ‘acholado’ Pisco can be made to make a more complex beverage. The drink is not aged in wood nor in any material that can impart a flavour so traditionally in ceramic jars (also these came to be named piscos) and now stainless steel.

The history too is fascinating. Originally produced by the Jesuits it was sent to all corners of the Spanish empire. Pisco was exported to California during the Gold rush days as all cargo from eastern North America had to go around Cape Horn, making it a cheaper option. In the 1950’s Lima was popular with Hollywood stars. Orson Wells and Ava Gardner stayed at the Grand Hotel Bolivar, John Wayne at the Hotel Maury. Wayne married a Peruvian who became his lifelong companion, but that is another story. The most famous cocktail at the time was the Pisco sour, a mixture of Pisco, lime, sugar, ice, egg white and bitters. I tried an alternative cocktail called ‘The Pisco Punch’, which dates to 19th century San Francisco. This has pineapple, lime juice, sugar, and secret ingredient gum arabic, that allegedly delays the effect of the alcohol, cheers.
For trips to Peru please contact us.

WISH LIST FOR 2019

This time of year is ideal to dream about places to go in 2019 or beyond. Here is our list to inspire you. From sailing around the Galapagos Islands or cruising in Antarctica. Other wildlife adventures are to be had in the Amazon, or the coral reefs of Belize. For impressive natural wonders, it is hard to beat Iguazú Falls. To visit colourful indigenous people and their ancient past, our two top places would be Peru and Guatemala. Finally, for the best barbeques in the world washed down with Argentine Malbec you can’t do better than Mendoza.

CRUISE THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Galapagos is the dream trip for anyone interested in wildlife. Have your own Darwin moment discovering flightless cormorants and swimming iguanas. The joy is that most of the strange creatures are fearless of humans, so you get up-close and personal to albatrosses, giant tortoises and the iconic dancing blue-footed booby. Snorkel with sealion pups and the only tropical penguin not to mention unique fish, turtles and whales.

EXPLORE ANTARCTICA

You won’t forget the first giant iceberg that comes into view as you head across the Southern Ocean to Antarctica. Follow in the footsteps of the great explorers, but on a comfortable expedition cruise ship. Our expert scientists on board will help identify the wildlife and fill-in on the history of the Great White Continent. Have fun with penguins, fur seals and keep a watchful eye on the huge elephant seals

INTO THE MYSTIC MACHU PICCHU

Peru, Machu Picchu Copyright David Horwell

The ‘lost’ city of the Incas can be reached on foot or luxury train down through the Andes. This iconic World Heritage Site will live up to all the brochure photos you’ve seen on first sight. New regulations have been introduced at Machu Picchu to limit visitor impact, but we can still organize a second visit on your own if you wish to experience the ruins and meditate without being rushed.

FEEL THE POWER OF IGUAZÚ FALLS

The hundreds of cascades that make up Iguazú falls lie between Argentina and Brazil. We recommend visiting both sides. On the Brazil side you will get a spectacular panoramic view. Walk down to the base of the biggest drop and feel the power of the spray and marvel at rainbows created. You will get wet! On the Argentine side, explore trails into the jungle, with tropical birds, butterflies and a small train to the top of the Devil’s Throat.

DIVE INTO BELIZE’S CORAL REEF

Belize has the second longest coral reef in the World. Here you can snorkel or Scuba dive into another world. Get eyeball to eyeball with turtles, reef sharks and giant mantas. Spot multi-coloured tropical fish teeming around coral formations. You can even explore wrecks. If you tire of the underwater world head into the jungles and find hidden Mayan ruins.

RUB NOSES WITH EASTER ISLAND STATUES

Esater Isalnd Moai copyright David Horwell

Easter Island or RapaNui, as locals call it, lies thousands of miles out into the Pacific from Chile. This is surely a real trip of a lifetime. You will be rewarded by the hundreds of Moai or giant statues hewn from the volcanic rock. Explore the fascinating quarry where many statues lay abandoned, the ceremonial centre of Orongo or the caves where natives sought refuge. The best part is meeting the local people, we can arrange homestays, fishing trips or traditional stone cooking or visit during the annual Tapati festival.

DISCOVER THE AMAZON

The greatest rainforest in the world covers seven countries. For animal and bird-watching we suggest the upper amazon tributaries in Ecuador or Peru. Here there are accessible lodges or luxury small cruise boats. In Brazil the distances are far greater and the rivers much wider, but for the real wildlife enthusiast you get deep into the forest at Cristalino or Uakari lodges or take a cruise from Manaus, once the centre of the rubber boom.

WINE-TASTING IN MENDOZA

Mendoza’s relaxed atmosphere and fine dining make it an excellent choice to visit for rest and relaxation. A cycle in the afternoon sun around the many vineyards dotted just outside the city is a must, and of course a great way to try some of these top-notch wines. The hot days and cool nights of the region are the secret to the success of Mendoza’s wine region. If you’re not a city person why not stay at one of the many bodegas, learning more about the process of wine making and, in the harvesting season help collect the grapes: a lovely way to while away a few hours.

GUATEMALA A PHOTOGRAPHER’S PARADISE

Tikal – Guatemala

Guatemala is a country busting at the seams with a mix of colonial architecture, rich indigenous history and spectacular volcanic and tropical jungle scenery. Meander through the colourful local markets bartering with stall holders. Get lost in the lively festivals or spontaneous live music that bursts onto the streets and plazas. Delve deep in the steamy rainforest to discover vast Mayan cities, hop on your bike to cycle around shimmering lakes and towering volcanoes. Out of all the Latin American countries, this one has got to be one of our favourites

Autumn in Galapagos Islands

Galapagos sealion cruise

I recently returned to the Galapagos for a wonderful week’s cruise. I was a bit worried that October is not an ideal time to go but was pleasantly surprised. It was low season, so we hardly saw any other boats and often were the only passengers to land on an island. The boat was not full, so it felt more exclusive. The weather was fantastic with an average temperature of 22-25C and placid seas. It meant that it was neither too hot shore visits nor too cold for swimming. The sunrises through the morning mist were a bonus. Evenings aboard the boat were warm enough for star-gazing. We also had fun spotting sharks that swam around the boat at night attracted by the lights.

Galapagos_tortoise
The northern Autumn months are excellent for wildlife. Giant tortoises on Santa Cruz island congregate in the highlands to breed. We were tripping over them like in Darwin’s day. Blue-footed boobies were looking after chicks, but some still doing their famous dance. The Albatross breeding season is in full-swing with huge bundles of downy chicks. We saw migrant shorebirds like sanderlings and plovers and got close to flamingos. They obliged by doing a fly-past. Everywhere young sea lions were playing on land and in the water.

Sealions galapagos
One of the highlights was snorkelling in crystal clear waters with penguins, sharks, rays and thousands of fish. Luckily, we had a fish expert on hand Dr. Jack Grove to identify and entertain with his anecdotes. Sea lion pups often joined the group doing aqua-aerobics.

Galapagos Penguin
I was on board the stylish Origin motor yacht designed to showcase the very best of this wondrous archipelago in comfort. Contact us to book your trip.

Guest Blog Brazil: A hard nut to crack or just a big pussycat?!

David and his team have been organising our trips to South America for nearly 20 years now. We have previously described them as ‘masterpieces’; each one excelling in the chosen area of travel. A big challenge faces them every time we book another holiday.
So, with the bar set high, could they reach it for Brazil?

Our first stay at Cordilheira, Caiman Ecological Refuge, brought us a sighting of Fera, a ‘re-wilded’ orphaned jaguar cub. Having watched a David Attenborough programme shortly before departure, ‘Jaguars in Brazil’, featuring this very same cub, it was like being in our own wildlife documentary. The afternoon we saw her, we watched her return to, and finish off, a previous kill of a giant anteater. We then tracked her in the hope that she might return to her two young cubs. As darkness fell we saw an armadillo scamper across the grass in the light of our guides torch. So too did Fera and, with mixed feelings, we watched as she caught and devoured her dessert! By the time she had finished it was too dark to continue tracking her, so we didn’t get to see the cubs, but we have heard they are doing well. During our stay however, we did encounter roadblocks, ‘jaguar style’, as a mating pair frequently chose to ‘rest’ on the highway through the park. One day, by the river bank, we found deep paw prints in the mud of an ‘unknown’ jaguar. Our guide made plaster casts as a memento of our trip, which we hope to eventually turn into bronze casts.

Jaguar paw print Pantanal

At Araras Lodge we saw Caiman at close quarters but kept a respectful distance having been told that a Japanese tourist once thought that because they were lying so still they weren’t alive. Upon kicking one, and losing three toes, he was very much proved wrong! This was a destination of the unexpected; a giant anteater in the swimming pool and nearly being capsized in our canoe by a Tapir. Not your everyday encounters!

Caiman Pantanal Brazil

Staying on a ‘Flotel’ out of Porto Jofre sounded like sheer luxury and indulgence, and it was. Not least of all because we were the only passengers on a 16-berth boat; our own captain, chef, maid, boatman and guide! Surreal, and all credit to them for not cancelling our booking due to the low occupancy. Our motorboat trips out brought sightings of 10 different jaguars, in varying locations and situations; with a cub, swimming in the river, retrieving a dead caiman and climbing up a tree, to name but a few. It would be unfair to focus on just the jaguars however and not mention all the other wonderful wildlife we saw; giant otters playing or eating fish, Caiman, Capybara, Howler monkeys, Capuchin monkeys, Jabiru stork and a wealth of birdlife. My only ‘reservation’ was the day I needed a ‘comfort stop’. The boatman pulled in by the shore. There, in the sand, was a jaguar paw print. A few feet away lay a Caiman – definitely alive! My bladder capacity increased almost instantaneously as I decided to wait for a more suitable/acceptable location for my needs.

Jabiru Storks Pantanal Brazil

At Cristalino Lodge we enjoyed the diversity of wildlife, walking through the forests, up the watch towers and boating along the river. More surprises waited for us here as we watched a pair of sun bitterns on the river bank. Suddenly an ornate hawk eagle shot swiftly out from the bush, took one of the sun bitterns in its talons, circled round behind us and back into the bush. For a few moments I think we were all in shock and I don’t think any of us could quite take on board what had happened. It was however quite incredible to witness such a snapshot of nature.

Giant anteater, Pantanal, Brazil

Ibitipoca was almost beyond description. If there is a Paradise here on earth, then this is most definitely a contender. A peaceful, tranquil location where just wandering around in the environs of the lodge you are engulfed by the most stunning scenery. There are sheltered spots where you can sit or lie and just absorb the ambience that surrounds you. Everything has been done so tastefully whilst embracing the eco environment and the regeneration of the area. On one of our excursions we even had the good fortune to have a rare sighting of a maned wolf. Walking up to the plateau and encountering the family of seven magnificent human metal sculptures, by Karen Cusolito, looking down the valley, is breath-taking. It is a very special place indeed.

Reserva do Ibitipoca_Tamarin

Our journey ended in Paraty, a delightful old colonial town with a fascinating history and the infrastructure of a bygone era still standing and inhabited to this day. Our stay at Casa Cairucu, on the shore looking out over the bay, provided us with an opportunity to relax and reflect on an incredible adventure. Another masterpiece if ever there was.

Paraty, Brazil

Gillian & Phil Moss

If you want us to create your own bespoke trip to Brazil, do get in touch.

Related: The Difference Between Paraty & Buzios

San Miguel de Allende best small city in the world 2018

Mexico

San Miguel de Allende in Mexico is acclaimed as the ‘Best Small City in the World for 2018’ at the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. San Miguel is the only Latin American city in the top-ten cities alongside places like Salzburg, Florence and Edinburgh. The city boasts colourful streets, quality handicraft markets, colonial churches and vibrant nightlife. It’s a great place to explore street food. There is also a lush tropical park, Parque Juarez, right in the centre of the city. Further out is El Charco cactus park on the edge of town. My favourite activity was people watching in El Jardin, the main square.

San Miguel de Allende was also named the ‘American Culture Capital for 2019’. From January 2019, San Miguel will promote its cultural, artistic and foody offerings along with its rich history. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008 for its architecture, but also for its role in Mexican Independence. The city has a cosmopolitan vibe due to the large number of foreign residents. It is a popular place for folks to retire due to the pleasant climate and low cost of living.

Select Latin America can design a self-drive or chauffeur-driven Colonial Cities itinerary. Start in Mexico City – including San Miguel de Allende and other colonial jewels.

Related: Interesting Facts about Mexico

Tierra del Fuego – Take a Cruise Around the Horn

There’s not been a better time to visit the spectacular fjords of Tierra del Fuego than since the recent launch of the Ventus Australis ship. The 210-passenger vessel, whose name translates to “Southern Wind”, offers guests one of the more comfortable and luxurious ways to explore the southern tip of Latin America. Plus, her unique design has been custom built for the narrow waterways bringing guests to spots never thought possible before.

So, what does a cruise on board the Ventus Australis look like. Here’s our day by day itinerary beginning in Punta Arenas.

Day 1 – Punta Arenas

Today, you will check in on board in the afternoon and at 6pm the ship departs. As she cruises away from the port, you can enjoy an introduction about the upcoming experience from the captain and crew accompanied by a welcome drink. The rest of the evening is free to relax.

As you sleep in your comfortable cabin, the newly built ship will silently cross the Strait of Magellan and criss-cross the narrow passageways and channels towards the extreme south of Patagonian. You’ll pass between Darwin Island and Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, the Land of Fire.

Day 2 – Ainsworth Bay and Tuckers Islets

When you wake up in the morning, the shop will be cruising through the Admiralty Sound. After breakfast on board, you can head up to the top deck to catch a glimpse of the spectacular snow-capped peaks of the Karukinka Natural Park and the bays of the Alberto de Agostini National Park.

Your first stop is at Ainsworth Bay. Hop aboard zodiacs and make a dry landing to get up close to nesting sea birds and a noisy colony of southern elephant seals. Your guide will take you on a walk inland along the banks of a stream where you can see beavers before a more challenging hike up the crest of a glacial moraine. Along each walk, you can take in magnificent views of the Darwin Mountains and the Marinelli Glacier.

Set sail again and cruise through sounds towards Tucket Islets. After lunch on board, you’ll jump back on to zodiacs to get up close to more than 4,000 Magellan penguins. You’ll also spot oystercatchers, Chilean skuas, eagles, king cormorants and circling Andean condors. Return back to the Ventus Australis for a relaxed evening.

Day 3 – Pia Glacier and Glacier Alley

During the night, you would have cruised around western edge of Tierra del Fuego along the narrow Gabrial Channel. As you wake up, you’ll be sailing through the beautiful Pia Fjord. Accompany the views with breakfast before heading to shore on board zodiacs.

Your guide will take you on a hike which reveals views over a spectacular glacier which tumbles down a mountainside towards the sea. There’s also the opportunity for a longer trek up a lateral moraine on the Pia Glacier.

Return to the ship for a relaxed evening and enjoy several tidewater glaciers that flow down the Darwin Mountains and Darwin Ice Sheet, many of which have been named after European countries.

Day 4 – Cape Horn and Wulaia Bay

During the morning, you will cruise along Nassau Bay towards one of the most remote archipelagos in Patagonia and the Cape Horn National Park. If the weather permits, you will be heading ashore at the iconic Cape Horn. It was first discovered in the early 17th century and was declared to as the “End of the Earth”. Today, the site has been designated as a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

During the afternoon you’ll navigate along the Murray Channel and drop anchor at the historic Wulaia Bay. It was once the last settlement of the Yamana tribe and was detailed by Charles Darwin during his 1830’s voyage on the HMS Beagle. You’ll take a visit to the small museum housed in an old radio station which has exhibits on the human history. Be sure to leave a letter in the old mailing barrel.

Afterwards, there are several challenging hikes to choose from which will take you along a winding trail which passes enchanting Magellan forests and views over the bay. Return to the vessel for your last evening on board.

Day 5 – Ushuaia

After a comfortable night’s sleep, you’ll arrive back in Ushuaia, the world’s most southernly city and disembark after breakfast.

RELATED: Patagonia Argentina’s Wild Atlantic Coast

Ready to start planning your cruise in Tierra del Fuego? Call one of our experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

10 Things to Know About Rio Carnival

Rio Carnival, the largest outdoor street party in the world, might not be until February, but if you’re looking to visit, now’s the time to book. Even if you’re not looking to get tickets for the Sambodromo, the accommodation gets nabbed months in advance. If you’re a carnival newbie, here’s out list of 10 things you should know before you visit.

Should I get tickets for the Rio carnival?

That completely depends on how you’d like to experience the carnival and how large your budget is. You only need to buy tickets if you’d like to enter the iconic Sambodromo where you can catch a glimpse of the colourful parades. Tickets can be as cheap as US $70 and reach over US $1000 depending on where your positioned. Don’t worry if it’s too late, the real party happens on the streets where colourful blocos erupt across the city and are full of dance, food and fun.

Where should I stay during the Rio Carnival?

The short answer is wherever you can get a room. Guestrooms in hotels, hostels and private rentals get booked out well in advance. If you’re feeling flush and you want to party, try one of the beachfront hotels along Ipenema or Copacabana. Alternatively, splurge on one of the private rentals or villas up in Santa Teresa where you’ll be close enough to the action, but far enough you can escape if it all gets too much. If you haven’t already booked your Rio Carnival accommodation for 2019 and you want to visit, get in quick to avoid disappointment. It’s worth remembering that all accommodation, whether it’s a hotel or hostel, puts up their prices by around double over the carnival.

What should I bring to the Rio Carnival?

The simple answer is as little as possible. Of course, you’re going to need your wallet and phone, though you should keep them both in plastic to avoid them getting wet when the crowds get soaked. Bring your camera at your own risk. If you do, try to keep it in a waterproof cover. Other than that, try to leave anything else at home. While it might be tempting to get dressed up for the occasion, leaving your jewellery, watch and things like iPads at home is a wise choice.

Will I be safe at the Rio Carnival?

Rio Carnival is perfectly safe, and the chances of any violent crime is very small. That said, you may encounter opportunistic pickpocketing, so keep anything you bring in a zipped pocket if possible. Other than that, just go with the flow. It will be busy, noisy and a riot of colour, but that’s part of the fun.

How to get to the Rio Carnival?

Getting around during the Carnival isn’t always the easiest. If you’ve found yourself a beachfront hotel, you can simply walk back through the crowds. Those staying further afield will need to make use of the metro or one of the buses, both of which cost less than a pound. It’s worth keeping in mind that there are lots of people moving around the city, so the public transport will be very full all day and you may have to wait for a spot.

What currency should I pay in?

If possible, pay for everything in Brazilian real, but you will find bars, shops and street vendors excepting euros, dollars and even pounds. Expect to pay a terrible exchange rate.

How to I last the full 5 days of Rio Carnival?

Even the most well-partied of individuals might find it hard to keep up with locals over 5 days of celebrations that start in the morning and push through until the wee hours. To last the distance, try to drink plenty of fluids, pace your caipirinha drinking and take advantage of the great street food on offer. Make sure to use plenty of sun-screen, so you don’t get burnt on day one and wear the most comfortable shoes you own because you’ll be on your feet a lot. If you do make it to the end, the city clears out surprisingly fast leaving you plenty of beach space to lie out on and recover.

What’s banned at the Rio Carnival?

There are several things you just won’t find at the Carnival, some obvious, others not so much. Drinks are always served in plastic – glass is never a good idea at a street party. While firecrackers and fireworks might sound fun, they are completely banned. No one wants to get hurt during the celebrations. Though you will see people relieving themselves in the street, you can get into some serious trouble if you follow suit. If might be a pain to find one of the public toilets and queue, but you don’t won’t want to get slapped with a big fine.

How do I enjoy Rio Carnival?

Simply go with the flow and an open mind. If you try to plan, you’ll find yourself disappointed.

RELATED: Top 5 holidays in Brazil

Ready to start planning your trip to Rio Carnival? Call one of our experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

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