February´s carnival in South America is, essentially, a huge street party. Brazil has South America´s most famous carnival, however carnival is celebrated all over South America. Each country offers a different take on carnival celebrations.
Brazil´s carnival is undoubtedly the most famous. At the end of Brazil´s summer, the local population use it for a huge four day non stop party. Carnival in Brazil is overtly in your face - inhibition is unheard of and dirty dancing in the street is the norm - it is not the type of festival you would feel comfortable witnessing along with your Granny. Amazing costumes and parades give it a glamourous edge, but it is in essence a inhibitionless monster party. Rio de Janeiro has the most famous carnival - hotels quadruple in price and many locals flee the city in search of a more genuine, less touristy, carnival experience. Rio´s carnival has become a tourist spectacle now - it´s name has overtaken it, and the carnival has become a tourist carnival. For a more genuine Brazilian carnival experience, try Salvador in North East brazil, or even better is the carnival in Olinda (next to Recife) in Northern Brazil.
Colombia´s best carnival is in Barranquilla, home of pop star Shakira, which is on the Caribbean coast. Carnival in Barranquilla is kind of similar to Brazil´s carnival, but the music here is salsa rather than samba.
Venezuela is also a great place to celebrate carnival for those looking for a party. The coastal towns and cities see the best of the action. Costumes are flamboyant, and drumming rythms last for days. Devil costumes are the norm - the number of horns singifying the number of sins in the past year.
Ecuador´s carnival is often celebrated with water fights. Much of the population heads to the coast, leaving cities such as Quito seemingly dead and devoid of people. Guaranda and Ambato see the most traditional of Ecuador´s carnivals, where parades and costumes are very colourful. Those simply seeking to party with the locals should consider heading to Atacames on the coast.
Trinidad and Tobago´s carnival is a very big event for the country. In Trinidad and Tobago, carnival´s routes are more West African in nature. Calypso music is the norm, and there are numerous music competitions. Costumes are extravegantly caribbean, and tourists and locals alike participate in the parades.
Bolivia´s carnival is more religious in nature. The carnival in Oruro is the most famous, and is characterized by devil dances, monstrous costumes, Inca traditions and dances round bonfires.