Carnaval, February or March
Semana Santa, April or May
Bumba Meu Boi, June
Following the excitement of New Year’s Eve, Brazil starts off the year in high gear, with steamy beach days and the buzz of pre-Carnaval revelry.
Lavagem do Bonfim
In Salvador, on the second Thursday in January, this equal-parts Catholic and Candomblé fest features a ritual washing of the church steps followed by all-night music and dancing.
Blumenau’s German-themed Oktoberfest is so popular that the city throws another version of it mid-summer. Expect cheery crowds fueled by microbrews and hearty servings of bratwurst.
High season is in full swing, with people-packed beaches, sold-out hotel rooms and the unbridled revelry of Carnaval. It's a festive and pricey time to travel, and advance planning is essential.
In February or early March, for the five days preceding Ash Wednesday, the famous bacchanalian event takes place nationwide. It's liveliest in Rio, Salvador, Olinda and Corumbá, with parades, costumes and round-the-clock merrymaking.
Festa de Iemanjá
On Praia Rio Vermelho in Salvador, Candomblé groups pay homage to the orixá Iemanjá, goddess of the sea and fertility on 2 February, and afterwards take part in a lively street party.
It's still high season in much of Brazil, with steamy weather and jacked-up hotel prices. Things begin to calm down in the last half of March with fewer crowds and lower prices.
São Paulo Restaurant Week
South America's culinary powerhouse is well worth visiting during São Paulo Restaurant Week, when more than 100 top restaurants offer special menus and promotions. Dates vary, though it's held twice a year (usually late March or April, then again in late September and October).
After Carnaval, prices dip, the intense heat subsides and the crowds dissipate, particularly in the north and northeast (when heavy rains continue through June). In Minas Gerais, however, Holy Week festivals keep things lively.
In Ouro Preto, Holy Week (the week before Easter) is a colorful event of processions and streets ‘painted’ with flowers. São João del Rei's Holy Week features parades accompanied by fabulous traditional orchestras. Other well-known Holy Weeks happen in Congonhas and Cidade de Goiás.
Festa do Divino Espírito Santo
Popularly known as Cavalhadas, this old-fashioned folk festival in Pirenópolis comprises medieval tournaments, dances and festivities, including mock battles between Moors and Christians. It takes place over three weeks around Pentecost, 50 days after Easter (May or June).
Comida di Buteco
If you're around Belo Horizonte from mid-April to mid-May be sure to sample the creative cooking at the city's countless bars; all compete to earn top honors at this annual culinary festival.
May is a quiet time for tourism with cooler temperatures beginning to arrive (particularly in the south) and heavy rains still falling in the Amazon.
Festival Intenacional de Balonismo
The far southern beach town of Torres springs to life for five days in early May or late April when it hosts a colorful hot-air balloon festival. Concerts, extreme sports, films and a country-style fair are among the attractions.
One of the best times to visit São Paulo is during this 24-hour cultural fest. It happens all across town and features concerts, film screenings, art exhibitions and other events.
In the south, winter arrives (with cold weather the norm through August). Tourism-related activities remain curtailed (also through winter) in the north, south and northeast, though it's a good time to visit the Pantanal.
São Paulo Pride
It’s official, São Paulo throws the largest gay pride parade on earth in early June, attracting more than three million people to this massive parade.
Rio das Ostras Jazz & Blues Festival
Located 170km east of Rio, in early June, Rio das Ostras boasts one of Brazil’s best jazz and blues festivals (www.riodasostrasjazzeblues.com) amid a lovely tropical beach setting.
Bumba Meu Boi
Maranhão’s magnificent mythic bull festival has African, Indian and Portuguese roots and features singing, dancing, poetry and countless ox costumes. Held from 13 to 30 June.
In Parintins in the Amazon, this popular traditional folk festival on the last weekend of June recounts the death and resurrection of an ox, with music and dancing.
Festival Internacional de Pesca
The world's largest fishing festival happens in Cáceres, Mato Grosso, each year, bringing an estimated 300,000 anglers for sport (catch-and-release) fishing. Dance troupes add to the festive air.
Festa de São João
In the Northeast, Aracaju celebrates São João with abandon at this month-long party. You can expect lots of dancing at big concerts on both the waterfront (on the Orla de Atalaia) and in town (on the Praça Hilton Lopes).
Spanning the month of June, the feast days of various saints mark some of the most important folkloric festivals in Brazil. Expect concerts, food stands, fireworks and bonfires. Bahia is one of the best places to be.
Festival Folclórico do Amazonas
A celebration of regional folklore, with performances and a magnificent riverboat parade along the Rio São Pedro to honor the patron saint of fishers.
After months of rain, the dry season arrives in the Amazon, making it a good time to visit. The weather is mild (cold in the far south), but Brazilians travel during July, which is a school-holiday month.
Festival Nacional de Forró
Music lovers wanting to get off the beaten track should make their way up to the pretty beach town of Itaúnas, which hosts 10 days of concerts and dancing (to forró music of course).
Italians have made many cultural contributions to the south, including this vibrant Blumenau fest featuring a week of wine, pasta and music in mid-July.
The tail end of winter is a quiet time in Brazil, with fewer tourists (and limited services) in the south and north. Temperatures are pleasant in the tropics and cold in the south.
Festival de Gramado
The European-style town of Gramado hosts an important film festival each year, running for nine days in August. This long-running fest (around since 1973) is a showcase for Brazilian and other Latin American films.
Olinda’s highly recommended fest celebrates music and folklore from across the Northeast in late August.
Festival Literária Internacional de Parati
This important literary festival in mid-July brings together celebrated authors from around the world. It also includes film screenings, exhibitions and musical performances.
It's a good time for wildlife watching with dry skies in both the Amazon and the Pantanal. The weather is mild from Rio north, but remains cool in the south.
The tourist masses and high-season prices haven't yet arrived, though the weather is beginning to warm and cities are already livening up for the following year's Carnaval.
Círio de Nazaré
Belém’s enormous annual event on the second Sunday in October brings one million to the streets to take part in the procession of one of Brazil’s most important icons.
Bienal de São Paulo
This major art event occurs in even-numbered years (next in 2020 and 2022) between October and December and showcases the work of over 120 artists from around the globe.
Rio International Film Festival
Rio’s international film festival – Latin America’s biggest – features more than 200 films from all over the world, shown at some 35 theaters over several weeks in October or Novmber.
This beer-drinking extravaganza in Blumenau is the best place to connect to southern Brazil’s German roots. Held mid-October.
This late spring month can be a great time to visit, as the crowds are generally small and you can often score good off-season deals (flights, accommodations).
Maceió’s biggest bash of the year is much like Carnaval, with street parades, outlandish costumes, bars that are open 24 hours and a general joie de vivre among the populace, only it's held in the third week of November. At this time, the locals head to the beaches.
Summer marks the beginning of Brazil's most festive season (through February), with hot temperatures and ideal beach days. The crowds are growing and prices are rising (but typically rise even more in January and February).
The country’s biggest ‘off-season Carnaval’ is this Salvador-style festival held in Natal in the first week of December. It features raucous street parties and pumping trios elétricos (bands playing atop mobile speaker-trucks).
Some two million revelers, dressed in white, pack the sands of Copacabana Beach in Rio on 31 December, where music concerts and fireworks ring in the New Year.