Travelling around Brazil for months, I found myself in Rio de Janeiro as the Carnival festival was getting closer. Everything was lining up for the big party when I came across a few Cariocas (Rio De Janeiro locals) who informed me that if I wanted to experience the most real and authentic Carnival, I should go to Olinda. So off I went…
Olinda is a small jewel of a town with beautiful colonial architecture, sitting on the coast close to Recife, in the north eastern state of Pernambuco. A UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site since 1982, Olinda offers a unique experience that travellers are not likely to forget. For me, even after 30 years, I still vividly remember its Carnival.
Preparing for Carnival!
The Carnival in Olinda, like its neighbour, Recife, is organized by the locals with the objective of everyone joining in to experience the Carnival spirit. The city has a style of its own where much of the fun and frivolity takes place on the streets and small squares. The Carnival gets going two weeks before the official beginning, followed by a full week of official Carnival celebrations. Every day the streets fill up with revellers heading for the historic centre before lunch time. It then turns into a giant party by the end of the day.
All the streets have their own bloco or Carnival street band, with each retaining its own unique style. No matter what time of the day or night, the music is pumping. Energetic crowds dance to the rhythms of drums and horns in an array of the most creative and hilarious costumes. Olinda is an excellent choice if you want to celebrate the Carnival with a truly native Brazilian feel. My friends from Rio de Janeiro were right.
I was lucky enough to also go next door to Recife, to experience their special way of having fun and celebrating Carnival. Their most unique day is the Desfile do Galo da Madrugada (Parade of the Rooster of the Dawn) setting off the largest Carnival in the world. You can join the crowd of over 2 million people along the four-kilometre route around the centre of Recife. Here you party until the sun comes up! You have to be prepared for this one! Should you need a break in the midst of craziness and fun, be ready to walk around 2 blocks full of people on every side just to get a little bit of fresh air!
Olinda’s charm and colonial treasures
But Olinda is not only about Carnival. If you have had enough of the music and the dance, you can go to relax on the magnificent beaches or visit beautiful historic places. Olinda’s famous sloping streets comprised of historical sites. There are beautiful churches, such as the Rosário dos Homens Pretos Church (built in the 17th century) and the Nosso Senhor Salvador do Mundo Church (the first church built in Brazil). There are also baroque buildings, mansions, museums and, studios around Ribeira market. Ribeira market was a former slave market, now transformed into a painting workshop and craft shops.
Take a full day tour to visit the stunning beaches of Gaibu and Porto de Galinhas. Thirty years ago, Porto de Galinhas (Port of Chickens) was a small fishing village at the end of a dirt road, with palm-fringed, bright-water beaches and, a few holiday homes. Today it retains the same beauty and relaxed feel, despite being a booming beach destination, with several beautiful resort hotels.
Olinda really has everything you need for a fantastic holiday in this iconic part of Brazil – get to know its locals, its beaches, its music, its history and its Carnival
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