Carnival is officially one week, yet celebrations last much longer as the festive fever creeps in early and stubbornly lingers after. If you’re in Brazil this February, then it’ll be hard to avoid the Carnival madness. But if partying is not your thing, fear not: there are some peaceful spots to seek out refuge that will show you a less explored part of Brazil. If you’re not at Carnival this February, here are some great places to go to instead.
Ilha de Marajó
Occupying an area the size of Switzerland, Ilha de Marajó sits at the mouth of the Amazon river and is regarded as the world’s biggest river island. There are three small towns on the island, which don’t have much going on, yet the star attraction is the vast wetlands that are home to an extraordinary collection of birds, animals, and plants. The most famous residents at Ilha de Marajó are the water buffaloes that have come to provide locals with food and an alternative method of transport – look out for the police officers riding buffalos rather than horses.
The two billion year old Mount Roraima straddles the borders of Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana and is one of the world’s oldest geographical rock formations. The area receives rain almost every day which contributes to the mighty waterfalls that cascade off the sheer edges of the mountain all year round. The tabletop summit spans at area of 31 square kilometers (12 square miles) and takes several days to reach the top and go back down.
The tiny town of Caraiva, over 700 kilometers (435 miles) from Salvador in Bahia, sits at the point where the river meets the sea and is a fine example of how man and nature can coexist peacefully. It’s a world apart from Carnival hungry Salvador, the state’s capital, with no cars and little electricity and where wildlife thrives in the region’s fertile waters. The lazily meandering river and the empty beaches demand a slow-paced travel experience with leisurely canoe rides, wildlife spotting, or days of simply taking in the quiet surroundings.
Fernando de Noronha
If the idea of leaving Carnival totally behind by escaping to a tropical paradise off the coast of Brazil sounds appealing, then take a trip to Recife and fly over to Fernando de Noronha, a dazzling island defined by warm turquoise seas, silver-white sand, and a backdrop of charcoal-grey rocky peaks. The island is a nature reserve and plays an important role in marine conservation, a fact that legally limits the number of tourists per year in order to preserve the natural environment. For diving, there are few better places in Brazil than Fernando de Noronha where divers can swim among sharks, turtles, rays, and dolphins.
While the nature is wonderful in Brazil, where do you go during Carnival if you’re a city-dweller at heart? Although most of the major cities across the country will come to a grinding halt to allow for non-stop street celebrations, one large city remains unusually Carnival-free in February. Curitiba is in the south of Brazil and finds itself relatively empty when Carnival comes as its residents travel elsewhere for a livelier scene. Plan a culture-themed break by visiting the city’s many theaters, parks, squares, and museums, most of which will be empty and free to enjoy at a leisurely pace.
Vale dos Vinhedos
Carnival often involves days of excessive drinking, but take a more moderate approach to indulging by visiting the Vale dos Vinhedos in the south of Brazil, the country’s most famous region for national wine. Although Brazilian wine is hardly known in the global wine scene, there are several vineyards that are producing excellent wines that are slowly breaking into the market. The best wine in the south is the sparkling whites which are perfect for Brazil’s hot summer days. Take a few days to explore the region on bike and drop by the vineyards for local wine and cheese tastings.
The 25,000 square kilometers (9,653 square miles) of Presidente Figueiredo lie in the Brazilian state Amazonas and are a vast natural area supporting a population of 34,000 people. Much of the land there is conservation area, strictly protected from deforestation and other environmentally destructive activities. As a result, the area is a rich den of biodiversity and is one of the only places in the Amazon that tourists can enter by car. The tourism in the area helps sustain the local economy which in turn helps maintain the conservation areas. Tourists can enjoy the dozens of waterfalls in the region in addition to jungle-trekking, canoeing, and river rafting.