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Carnaval Canceled in Rio? Here’s What to Do Instead

Just because Rio is calling off Carnaval, doesn’t mean the rest of the country has.

February in Rio de Janeiro is usually filled with anticipation of sequins and samba with the arrival of Carnaval, but this year the streets of Rio will be a little less flamboyant. The city has decided to cancel the planned celebrations for this year’s Carnaval, and they’re not the only ones. Cancellations have occurred across Brazil in 48 cities for a variety of reasons. Some cities have voted to spend resources fighting dengue fever and the Zika virus that have been spreading throughout the country. Some cities were forced to cancel due to the economic consequences of what has been one of the worst recessions in Brazil’s history. For Rio, we can assume it’s a combination of the two with the added pressure of hosting the looming Summer Olympics.

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This news is extremely disappointing for tourists who planned to travel to Rio de Janeiro this year to experience the world famous Carnaval, but just because Rio is calling off the party doesn’t mean the rest of the country has. There are still many cities in Brazil where the show is going on. As a bonus, travelers will find festivities in these smaller cities to be less commercialized and more intimate.

Salvador: This capital city of the state of Bahia holds the world record for the biggest street party in the world. Salvador’s deeply colorful culture is a great place to enjoy all different genres of Brazilian music, a special Masquerade Ball, and the crowning of the Carnaval King.

Recife & Olinda: As Carnaval is a weeklong event, experiencing it in two neighboring cities known for their huge parties is highly recommended. In Recife, you can take part in one of the biggest celebrations in the country, complete with drummers and samba beats. In nearby smaller Olinda, you can watch the iconic puppets known as mamulengos take over the streets.

Manaus: Celebrating Carnaval in this Amazon city is a truly unique experience. Not only will you witness one of the only parades using traditional costumes going back to the early 20th century, you’ll also find a celebration that blends indigenous and Portuguese cultures.

Florianopolis: If you’re still missing the feel of Rio, Carnaval in Florianopolis is an exceptional alternative. Samba schools from around the city will dance in the city center for the main event and on Magic Island, a street party that openly welcomes the LGBTQ community will be going strong throughout the week.

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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer who is always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

(Photo: Thinkstock/Zoonar)

By Jamie Ditaranto

Jamie Ditaranto is a traveler in a love triangle with writing and photography. Follow the drama on Twitter @jamieditaranto and Instagram @jamieditaranto.

Ditaranto joined SmarterTravel in 2015. She loves ecotourism, cities with history, and discovering local hangouts. Though she likes all the continents equally, she holds a special place in her heart for rainy little islands.

Her work has also appeared online at USA Today, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and other publications. You can check out her photography on her website.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "My instant camera comes in handy for giving instant gifts to new friends."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Befriending penguins in Antarctica."

Travel Motto: "You have to get the hard places out of the way first."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "On short flights, the window. For long flights, the aisle."

Email Jamie at editor@smartertravel.com.