Ilha Grande – otherwise known as the Big Island – is a picturesque retreat just off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state. The island has no cars and is known for its soft, white beaches, wild forest treks and the surrounding blue sea. Even though it’s a popular retreat during Carnival, the island has too few hotels and bed and breakfasts to get super crowded and while there may be a few parties, it’s easy to find your haven by heading towards a forest trail or finding a secluded beach.
A vast national park is one easy way to escape the heaving parades. Head to Chapada dos Guimarães for a quiet nature retreat and surround yourself with waterfalls, far-reaching canyons and wildlife such as manned wolves and anteaters. Don’t miss exploring the caves to find the ancient cave paintings that date back thousands of years.
How about a hike to the summit of a two-billion-year-old flat-top mountain to escape the Carnival parades? Mount Roraima swallows up the border of Venezuela and stretches out into Brazil and Guyana and its mighty stature comprises sheer cliffs and tumbling waterfalls. The challenging hikes are exhausting but the views are out of this world.
One of Brazil’s most incredible natural spectacles will take your mind off Carnival. Bonito lives up to its name with crystal clear rivers teeming with tropical freshwater fish, underwater caves with towering stalagmites, and a deep cavern home to hundreds of bright red macaws.
If you’re in Rio de Janeiro, you will find it almost impossible to escape Carnival – even if you stay in your hotel room, you will probably hear the parades and street parties at some point. The quickest escape is to head to Petropólis, a colonial town north of Rio de Janeiro that takes just an hour by car to get there. Enjoy leisurely strolls through well-groomed gardens, marvel at the emperor’s former summer palace, and check out the house of Santos Dumont, the man who reputedly invented the airplane.
The deafening sound of these colossal waterfalls will drown out the noise of any parades. Foz do Iguaçu will have some small parties for Carnival but a short bus ride takes you to the Foz do Iguaçu falls, some of the largest waterfalls in the world made up of hundreds of cascades. Walk the wooden decking to peer over the edge of the Devil’s Throat fall or take a boat trip right through the mist and spray from the waterfalls.
Surely one of the largest cities in the world has an equally large Carnival? Surprisingly it doesn’t and while the street parties are growing in size year after year, the Carnival in São Paulo has a long way to go before it is on scale with Rio de Janeiro or Salvador. This means that it’s relatively easy to enjoy some of Carnival there if you want before retreating back to quietly enjoy São Paulo’s culture, gastronomy and nightlife.
A protected tropical island that limits its tourist intake per year is one of the best places in Brazil to escape Carnival. Practically paradise itself, Fernando de Noronha is a collection of islands made up of rocky peaks, pristine beaches and turquoise seas that are a fertile breeding ground for reef sharks, dolphins, turtles and tropical fish.
Seek peaceful solitude and a moment of reflection at Chapada dos Veadeiros, an immense national park in Goais. Visit the unusual quartz rock formations that have twisted and bent over thousands of years, swim in natural pools at the bottom of mighty waterfalls, and keep your eyes peeled for incredible wildlife such as armadillos and jaguars.
Poço de Caldas is a tiny town in Minas Gerais and although it will have some Carnival celebrations – even the smallest Brazilian towns have the Carnival street parties – it is relatively easy to avoid them by taking quiet walks through the rich gardens or escaping to the forest to visit the Japanese garden complete with native plants and Japanese gazebos.
Curitiba is a large city, though during Carnival it actually becomes empty as residents head to other cities such as São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro to embrace the larger celebrations. This makes February a good time to explore Curitiba and visit its pleasant Botanical Garden, eat and drink in Curitiba’s many bars and restaurants, or take your time discovering Brazilian architecture at the Oscar Niemeyer Museum.