Day 1: Rio, samba lesson & Cidade do samba. This entire day is dedicated to the discovery of the famous samba. This music, resulting from a fabulous mix of influences, draws its deepest roots from the African musical tradition, imported to Brazil by the millions of black slaves torn from their birth land to provide unskilled labor in the sugar cane, cafe or cacao plantations, which, for a long time, were the only resources of Brazil.
At 09:00 am, our English-speaking guide meet us, in our hotel, of a private, we heads to the Centro Cultural Carioca for a 2 hours lesson of samba. English-speaking, samba instructor. For 2 hours, he progressively initiates us to the rapid steps of the different samba dances (samba no pé, samba de gafieira, jongo), and teaches us to recognize between cuica, agogo and pandeiro, the rhythm to follow to move our body in harmony with the music. After lunch, we leave for the visit to the "cidade do samba", the town of samba, with our English-speaking guide. This large complex (10 times the size of a soccer field) was inaugurated in 2006 with a double objective.
First of all to bring together, under the same roof, the 13 best schools (the ones which participate in the principal parade of the carnival of Rio) in a place offering better conditions for the confection of the costumes, the construction of the allegoric floats and the fabrication of the instruments used during the carnival. Until then, every school possessed its own structure, its "baracão", most often semi-clandestine warehouses spread out through the whole city. And for this month long preparation, some of them only had the city bridges to shelter their enormous platforms used during the parade.
This modern tool is also used to show visitors the backstage of the samba schools. We can visit the different workshops using a network of metallic bridges linking the huge buildings. Each warehouse is equipped with an interior balcony allowing us to witness, from a height of 5 meters, the work of the craftsmen. We are also invited to visit, at ground level, a "general" workshop, where we can observe costumes and instrument makers, and where every two hours a mini samba show is performed with a few musicians and a few "passistas", the best samba dancers.
Evening cidade do samba /Thursday evenings only. We remain on stage to assist the performance of fifty "passistas" (best dancers from the samba schools) and a compact bloc of musicians offer us a first quality show. After about forty minutes, we are invited to join the dancers for a re-enactment of a carnival parade. Costume’s accessories are given to us; all we have to do is dress and dive in the heart of this explosion of joy and fantasy. Our guide takes us back to the hotel before 01:00. Samba lesson, entrance to the cidade do samba included. Lunch nor included. Diner and Brazilian cocktails (snacks and salgados) and drinks included.
Day 2: Rio, Corcovado & Santa Teresa & sugar loaf. Our English-speaking guide meets us at the hotel at 09:00 am for the visit of town. Climb to the Corcovado, universally known symbol of the town of Rio. By car, we climb to an elevation of 700 meters above sea level. Once on the summit, we take the time to appreciate the unique and enchanting panoramic view of the “cidade maravilhosa” (magnificent city). Rio spreads under our feet, majestic and languid. This advantageous viewpoint gives us a better understanding of the physical and “social” topography of the town.
We descend via Santa Teresa, which used to be one of the wealthiest residential neighborhoods of Rio, at the time when the town was the capital of Brazil and all the principal powers where located there. Surrounded by the agglomeration, the neighborhood has lost its exclusive character, and the wealth of the area has moved to the Southwest of Rio, to Barra da Tijuca. Santa Teresa shelters today an unconventional population, constituting the bohemian quarter of modern Rio. We stroll through this neighborhood to get a taste of its quaint and dated atmosphere. Along its narrow and winding streets, we can admire some splendid houses dating from the 19th century and catch a glimpse of the soul of a Rio from another time.
The best way to realize this nostalgic trip is to take the bondinho, a little wooden tramway, a miraculous vestige from the start of the 20thcentury, and the most famous symbol of Santa Teresa. During the descent to Lapa, we visit the colored staircase or "Escadaria do Convento da Santa Teresa", decorated by Jorge Selarón. This autodidactic Chilean artist is one of the best-known personalities of this neighborhood. After exhibiting his paintings around the world, he settled in Brazil in 1983 and spontaneously decided to decorate this staircase with a multicolored mosaic in perpetual evolution.
His ambition is to link the neighborhoods of Lapa and Santa Teresa, by covering the staircases with thousands of azulejos (ceramic tilework). We might have the opportunity to see him at work. We, later, reach the cable cart taking us to the summit of the Sugarloaf the symbol of Rio, marking the entrance of the Bay of Guanabara. Return to our hotel at 17:00. Entrance fee to Corcovado and Sugarloaf included. Meals not included. Night in hotel. Option: Helicopter flight of a few minutes from the mirador of Dona Marta.
Day 3: Rio, the favelas & the center. Departure from the hotel at 09:00 am by minibus (group service, 4 to 9 person max). A specialized guide takes us on an "off-the-beaten-path" visit: the favelas. These incursions of a few hours in a different reality of Rio, gives us a complete and realistic vision of life in Carioca, far from the images of violence or of poverty that are the only ones transmitted by a media lacking originality. At the heart of these popular and "lawless" neighborhoods (the favelas are originally illegal land occupations), Brazilians organize themselves and live in a dignified and solitary manner.
In the afternoon, visit of Rio’s city center, where in a few minutes we pass from a colossal avenue framed by imposing glass buildings to quaint, small streets and their little affordable shops. Many styles, one frame of mind, this is the best definition to describe the architectural cocktail of the center, where past and modernism coexist in harmony. Among the possible visits (to be coordinated with the guide depending on opening times, of your centers of interest, of eventual manifestations organized that day): Imperial Municipal (replicate of the Opera Garnier in France), foundation Banco do Brasil, casa da França (old custom house), national History museum, largo da Carioca, convento Santo Antônio, metropolitan cathedral, plaza Tiradentes.
And if you feel like it, go for a cold beer at Luis’ bar where the decor seems to not have changed since its construction at the beginning of the 19th century. Return to the hotel at 17:00. Entrance to museums and monuments included. Meals not included. Night in hotel. Note 1: an association founded by people originally from the favelas organizes the visits to the favelas. This association donates a significant part of their income to the inhabitants of the neighborhood by financing development or social projects. In 2007, their contribution reached close to $ 22,000 US. Note 2: For the visit of the center, avoid Sundays and holidays.
Day 4: Rio, carnival off the beaten path. In the middle of the day, our English-speaking guide meets us at the hotel and takes us to the discovery of a different aspect of Rio’s carnival: its street carnival. From Copacabana to Ipanema via Flamengo and Santa Teresa, we explore town in search of spontaneous neighborhood parades, totally unbridled and 100 % popular. The itinerary will be defined in accordance with the guide, in function of the “official” program. It can be modified at any time depending on unforeseeable circumstances, unannounced events, spontaneous inspiration, or invitations that we may receive during the day. An opportunity to let ourselves be carried away by the sweet madness of the carnival. Return to the hotel at the end of the day. Meals open. Night in hotel.
Day 5: Rio, carnival at sambodrome. Day open to witness the Carnival in the streets. The parade leaves from the Sambodrome starting at 21:00, and goes on until 05:00 am. Entrance to the Sambodrome included. Meals open. Night in hotel Round-trip transportation to the hotel not included. Note: possibility of switching day 1 and 2 of the Carnival (Sambodrome the 02.03 and street carnival the 02.04).
Day 6: Rio open. Free day.
Day 7: Rio departure. Departure from the hotel in private transportation 3 hours before the take off and transfer to the airport. International flight.
Also see tour packages in:
South America Brazil Local Culture Festival Tours Dance, Music and Opera
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