With carnival processions and general partying about to explode on the horizon, why not head for the sun and join in the spectacular laid back celebrations in the carnival capital, Brazil? If you’re looking for something slightly different, but still like the idea of sand, sea and samba, opt for the country’s original capital, Recife in the north-east, where carnival is one of the finest and one of the few that is completely free to the public. It also has the largest Carnival street band in the world, the Galo da Madrugada, attracting 1.5 million revelers.
The city, originally prosperous thanks to its sugar cane, dates back to 1537 and gets its name from the reef barrier that protects its 7 kilometer-long Boa Viagem beach. It's now a fabulous mix of modern skyscrapers and broad avenues on the one hand and impressive colonial buildings and narrow streets on the other. Visit the beautiful old churches and buildings of its historic centre, which lies on three small islands between the Beberibe and Capibaribe rivers, the UNESCO World Heritage site colourful colonial town of Olinda, just 7 kilometres from the centre and shop in the markets and small stores that fill the city.
The town’s Dutch heritage (Recife was under Dutch rule for 24 years), can be seen in its canals which have given the city the nickname ‘the Venice of the New World’. Clever conversions of some colonial buildings into stylish bars and restaurants, the housing of the City Museum in old Fort Cinco Pontas and converting the former prison into a shopping centre, all add to the lively atmosphere of this vibrant town.
One of the cheapest flights to Recife is with Iberia via Madrid from London Heathrow, thanks to their recent merger with British Airways. TAP also fly to Recife via Lisbon from London Gatwick.