When Elizabeth Dalby, Marketing Manager at Princess Cruises, won an all-expenses paid trip, at last summer's MAD//Fest, to any carnival in the world, unsurprisingly, she choose to fly to Rio de Janeiro.

Day 1: Arrival in Rio de Janeiro

After a long flight, we arrived in Rio de Janeiro, excited for the upcoming carnival celebrations. We checked into our hotel in Ipanema, dropped off our bags and went for a stroll on the beach to take in the beautiful views of the coastline. Later in the evening, we met up with some locals and fellow travellers who showed us the best blocos (street party) and bars in town. We danced the night away, enjoying the lively atmosphere and meeting new people from all over the world.

Day 2: Sugarloaf & Bloco (Banda de Ipanema)

We rode the cable car to the top and were treated to panoramic views of Rio de Janeiro and its stunning coastline. The fresh air and clear skies were invigorating, and we spent hours taking in the breathtaking scenery. As the sun began to set, we headed to Banda de Ipanema, a lively street party with live music, colourful costumes, and dancing in the streets. It was an incredible display of Rio's vibrant culture and a perfect way to end a day full of natural beauty and cultural immersion.

Not a bad vista. (Certainly beats the view of London from Crystal Palace...)

Day 3: Yacht tour & Sambadrone 

We set sail along the coastline of Rio enjoying the warm sun and we got to see some of the city's most famous landmarks from a unique perspective, including Sugarloaf Mountain and Forte de Copacabana.

We headed to Sambadrone, the heart of the carnival festivities. We were blown away by the colourful floats, intricate costumes, and vibrant music that went on until 7am! Six Samba schools each night of finals were competing to be be named winner. This was by far the most intense and mesmerising tournament set of the trip! If you ever get the chance to go, take it ! There is nothing else on earth quite as spectacular.

Day 4: Botanical gardens & Sunset at Arpoador

The sheer variety of plants and trees at Rio Botanical Gardens  was breathtaking. Although unsuccessful in our hunt to spot toucans we got to see numerous varieties of monkeys. The orchid house and the giant Amazon water lilies were also a highlight, with their impressive size!

In the early evening we headed to Arpoador, a rocky outcropping located between Copacabana and Ipanema beaches (and right behind our hotel!) 

We were  joined by lots of revellers ready for the beautiful sighy and everyone claps and cheers as the sun goes down.

Day 5: Rainforest jeep tour + hike & bar crawl in Lapa

An adventure-packed day exploring the Tijuca Rainforest on a Jeep tour. We hiked to breathtaking waterfalls and cooling off in the crystal-clear pools below. It was a refreshing respite from the hot and humid weather. As the sun began to set, we got glittered up again and  headed to Lapa for a pub and Bloco crawl . We sipped on refreshing caipirinhas and got taught some basic samba moves ready to dance the night away to live music.

Day 6: Paragliding

Where better to paraglide than over Rio? We had already seen the launch pad from the ground on our way to rainforest Monday, so we knew we were in for a treat. We harnessed up and ran off a cliff, soaring high above the city with an experienced guide. We had panoramic views of the coastline, the rainforest, and the cityscape, and felt the thrill of soaring through the sky . It was an exhilarating and unforgettable experience, and one of the highlights of our trip to Rio.

The Carnival in full-swing!

Day 7: Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião, Selarón Steps & Food & Drink Tour 

Today was a day filled with exploration and indulgence as we visited some of Rio's most iconic landmarks and went on a food and drink tour. We started by visiting the Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião, a modern and impressive cathedral that left us in awe with its unique architecture and design. Next, we headed to the Selarón Steps, a colorful and quirky set of steps covered in beautiful mosaics. We snapped some pictures and admired the creativity and passion that went into creating this art piece.

After our sightseeing, we joined a food and drink tour, where we sampled delicious Brazilian cuisine and local drinks. We visited a churrascaria and indulged in perfectly grilled meats, tried a variety of street foods, and sampled some of Brazil's famous caipirinhas.

Day 8: Christ the Redemeer & Percussion Bloco 

We headed to Christ the Redeemer, one of the most iconic attractions in Rio. We took a train to the top of Corcovado Mountain, where the statue stands, and were awed by the breathtaking views of the city below. 

In the evening we were lucky enough to attend a community lead Percussion Bloco. There was lots of dancing and music which we enjoyed with friends.

Day 9: Feira Nordestina São Cristóvão & Sambadrone

The vibrant colors, smells, and sounds of this fair were overwhelming in the best possible way. We saw traditional Northeastern Brazilian crafts, clothing, and cuisine, all with a unique and authentic flair. The music was lively, and we danced along to the beats of forró and other traditional rhythms. It was a refreshing break from the more touristy attractions of Rio and a chance to see and experience the true essence of Brazilian culture.

Today, we returned to Sambadrone for one last day of carnival festivities. We celebrated as the winning samba schools paraded through the venue dancing and singing a long. The champions parade is a far more relaxed celebratory evening than the finals of Sunday and Monday, and a particular favourite of the samba schools. It was a fitting end to our carnival experience in Rio.

Day 10: Ipanema Hippie Market & home 

Today was our last day in Rio de Janeiro, and we spent it exploring the Ipanema Hippie Market. The market was bustling with vendors selling a variety of artisanal crafts, jewelry, clothing, and artwork. We found some beautiful souvenirs to take back home as reminders of this amazing trip. Later, we headed back to the hotel to relax by the rooftop pool and soak up the last bit of Rio's sunshine. The views were breathtaking, and it was the perfect way to wind down before our flight back.

We felt grateful for the incredible experiences we had over the past 10 days, from the high-energy carnival celebrations to the peaceful moments in nature - Rio is truly magical and we can’t thank MAD//Fest & AppsFlyer enough! 

We will be releasing information about what you can win this year at MAD//Fest very soon. Watch this space!