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Samba fantasy - carnival in Rio

See, breathe, feel, live: the four basic principles behind enjoying carnival in Rio de Janeiro. This is the ultimate in festive fun, brimming with dance, music, costumes, parades and laughter. It's also the best known symbol of a country overflowing with joy that can only really be appreciated in person. For the moment, though, enjoy our colourful Rio carnival gallery.

Rio de Janeiro may not be capital of Brazil, but it's certainly the international capital of carnival, known around the planet for its beauty, its vivacity and its unmistakable sense of rhythm. The well-earned reputation is based on this popular festival whose origins are closely associated with African and Amerindian customs, a wild celebration that the people of Rio have taken to their hearts and made their own. It centres on the brilliantly colourful parades of the city's samba schools in the Sambadrome. The fantasy costumes, the imaginative floats, the unstoppable beat of the music and the tropical warmth and welcome combine to produce one of the greatest shows on earth. With Mardi Gras – 'Fat Tuesday' – falling on February 21st this year, the Rio carnival programme kicks off this weekend, and the city is already rocking.

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Rio Carnival
The Sambadrome, site of the incredible Samba Parade, was designed by world famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and inaugurated in 1984 / © Brazil Tourism 

Rio Carnival
The Rio Carnival is the result of months of preparation. It opens with the coronation of the Carnival King (Momo) who is presented with the keys of the city by the mayor / © Brazil Tourism 

Rio Carnival
The samba schools parades, comprising musicians, dancers and characters from the worlds of entertainment, sports and politics, offer a spectacle of light, sound and colour with their gigantic floats, costumes and catchy batucada samba music / © Brazil Tourism 

Rio Carnival
The Sambadrome, which hosts the parade of samba schools during the carnival festivities, has been remodelled and expanded and in 2016 it will host some of the Rio Olympic Games / © Brazil Tourism 

Rio Carnival
Rio carnival attracts enthusiastic audiences from all over the planet to witness the celebrations; no one goes only to watch, though, as the entire city gives itself up to the party spirit and everyone is encouraged to join in the fun / © Brazil Tourism 

Rio Carnival
The mega-festival is a spectacle of grand costumes, dazzling creations of colour, and magnificent allegorical floats, all moving to the samba beat / © Brazil Tourism 

Rio Carnival
If you get a chance to visit Rio for Mardi Gras, be ready for fun on a big scale: a spirit of  vibrant joy, magic and mayhem is felt everywhere – in the streets, on the beaches and, of course, at the parades / © Brazil Tourism 

Rio Carnival
The beauty and energy of the women of Rio is clearly in evidence during the carnival celebrations / © Brazil Tourism 

Rio Carnival
Rio carnival wouldn't be complete without the samba, with different types of drum and percussion instrument keeping the beat for song and dance / © Brazil Tourism 

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