It may be wintry outside, but somewhere in the world right now there’s a carnival stirring. Traditionally during the run up to Easter, Christians celebrate lavishly ahead of lent (aka. The 40 days of giving up your guilty pleasures). Today, however, that tradition has extended to the masses, who all want to be a part of the party. What originally started off as a religious festival has now infected the world with full-on fiestas, all-night music, dancing, feasting and parades galore.
If you’re looking for a holiday that will offer you opportunities to indulge your senses in the madness of Carnival then look no further. Here are the top 10 Carnivals in the world for 2017.
10. Carnival of Oruro
During Carnival season the isolated town of Oruro, located in the Altiplano region of Bolivia, comes to life. The usually sleepy town is awoken once a year before lent with a festival of masks that is truly out of this world.
When is it? Every year on Saturday before ash Wednesday (on the 25th February in 2017)
How many people attend? 400,000+
Why visit? The Oruro Carnival has been running for over two decades and in that time it has built a solid reputation for amazingly intricate masks, vibrant music, dances and extravagant costumes. Make sure to look out for the Diablada masks, cuecas and the fraternidades.
9. Cadiz Carnival
Located on the western coast of Spain, is the port city of Cadiz, which annually hosts one of the biggest and most loved Carnivals in the country – and is also said to be the third largest in the world!
When is it? The 10 days leading up to Shrove Tuesday (this year between 23rd February and 5th March)
How many people attend? Hundreds of thousands
Why visit? The Carnival draws in people from across the world for its unparalleled mix of music and comedy. You’ll find quirky costumes, delicious tapas and the infamous ‘
The Carnival draws in people from across the world for its unparalleled mix of music and comedy. You’ll find quirky costumes, delicious tapas and the infamous ‘chirigotas’; where groups of musicians play satirical songs that target everything from politics to celebrities.
8. Carnival of Viareggio
One of Italy’s finest Carnivals is the ‘Carnivale de Viareggio’. Located in the town of Viareggio in Tuscany, it’s origins date back all the way to the 19th Century.
When is it? A month long celebration that peaks annually on the four weekends leading up to Fat Tuesday (This year it falls on the 12th/18th/26th/28th of February and 5th March)
How many people attend? Thousands
Why visit? Viareggio has one of the best parades, with a mammoth selection of floats, artwork and costumed dancers. Look out for the Carnival’s official mascot (the Burlamacco) the giant papier-mâché floats and of course, the undeniable Carnival spirit.
7. Cologne Festival
The town of Cologne becomes one giant fancy dress party in the lead up to lent. The streets are filled with costume-clad jecken (people who participate in the Carnival) and the wrappings of tons of tiny sweets or kamelle, which are ceremoniously thrown into the crowd during the parade.
When is it? The Thursday before the beginning of lent (in 2017 the Carnival runs from 25th – 28th February)
How many people attend? Over 1 million people
Why visit? Apart from the joyous satirical floats on show at the main parade, you’ll also find some pretty crazy customs including on the ‘Women’s Day’ where women go around kissing men on the cheek and cutting off their ties. Not to be missed is the Rosenmontagszug on Rose Monday and the three symbolic rulers who preside over the carnival (the prince, the peasant and the virgin).
6. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival
This small Caribbean island is bursting with life in the days before lent officially commences. The festival has been a tradition, since Catholicism was brought to the country, where followers use the Carnival as an opportunity to prepare for a whole month and a half of abstaining from meat (and other debaucherous activities!).
When is it? The Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday every year (27th and 28th February in 2017)
How many people attend? 300,000+
Why visit? Known locally as Carnevale, which literally means ‘
Known locally as Carnevale, which literally means ‘to put the meat away’, the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival hosted in the capital, Port of Spain, is now world famed for it’s colourful costumes and irresistible Caribbean beats. You can’t miss the free soundtrack to the carnival provided by the catchy soca (soul of Calypso) rhythms and the distinctive steelpan bands which you can find all over the town. Try and make it down to Maracas Beach for some “shark and bake” and the Panorama steelpan competition is out of this world!
5. Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife
The Canary Islands annually host the biggest Carnival in Spain, on the island of Tenerife. The Carnival has been celebrated here since the 18th Century and is extremely popular amongst the local Tenerifstas. You can expect all-night parties, delicious feasts, dancing on the calles and of course, plenty of live music.
When is it? The week before Ash Wednesday (22nd February – 5th March 2017)
How many people attend? 250,000+ participants
Why visit? Every year the Carnival picks a different theme, making each experience just as exhilarating as the last – this year’s theme is the Caribbean. The island of Tenerife typically enjoys
Every year the Carnival picks a different theme, making each experience just as exhilarating as the last – this year’s theme is the Caribbean. The island of Tenerife typically enjoys glorious spring weather and with temperatures ranging from 72℉, you can expect to get a tan whilst joining the festivities. Essential viewing during the Carnival includes the election of the Carnival Queen on day 1 and the comical ‘Funeral of the Sardine’ held on day 8 of the celebrations!
4. Notting Hill Carnival
Unlike the other Carnival’s on this list, Notting Hill’s takes place in August, during the peak of summer in the UK. The Carnival dates back to the 60’s and is recognised as one of London’s biggest street parties – it’s also the second biggest globally after Rio. The entire festival is a celebration of diversity and the distinctive influences of British West Indian culture.
When is it? During the last weekend in August annually (27th and 28th August 2017)
How many people attend? Up to 2 million people
Why visit? During Notting Hill Carnival you’ll experience a plethora of live music from Salsa and Reggae to the more modern Dub Step, all whilst walking through historic parts of West London. There are over 40 static sound systems, hundreds of masquerade-clad bands and some tantalising food stalls showcasing the best of fusion British West Indian cuisine – and the finest jerk chicken and rice this side of the Caribbean!
3. Mardis Gras
Mardi Gras, which literally means ‘fat Tuesday’, dates back to Medieval Europe and arrived in South Louisiana when a French-Canadian explorer landed there during the start of lent. Today the festival is known across the globe as the home of partying and debauchery and is held in New Orleans, aka. Big Easy.
When is it? The 2 weeks leading up to ‘Fat Tuesday’ (the day before Ash Wednesday)
How many people attend? 750,000+
Why visit? Apart from the eye-popping costumes and masquerades, you will find across the daily parades, whilst watching you’ll also have the opportunity to get bathed in everything from gold, purple and green beaded necklaces, doubloons, moon pies, decorated plastic cups and small toys! Each parade is organised by a krewe (social club) and each and every krewe brings its own unique flavour, and theme, to the Mardi Gras madness. It may seem overwhelming but it’s one heck of an experience and definitely one to add to your bucket list!
2. Carnival of Venice
Number two on our list is the Carnival of Venice. Although regarded as slightly ‘tamer’ in nature than other carnivals, the ancient city definitely doesn’t disappoint. Every year before lent, Venice hosts what is arguably the ‘king’ of all masquerade events.
When is it? The 2 weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday (11th – 28th February 2017)
How many people attend? Thousands
Why visit? The magical city of Venice is transformed by the Carnival. Everywhere you look you’ll find the iconic Venetian masks decorating even more extravagant and bizarre outfits. You can explore the city’s offering via its narrow streets or sail down the grand canal in a traditional Galleon – and you can guarantee that you’ll be passing a sea of Venetian masks on the way. For the ultimate exuberant experience of the Carnival head to the Valentine’s Grand Masquerade Ball, but be prepared to spend a decent amount as prices range in the hundred of Euros (per person). To take in all the amazing sights and sounds of the authentic Venetian Carnivale head to St. Mark’s Square where you’ll find enough and more photo ops alongside the winner’s of the best dressed competition.
1. Rio de Janeiro
Of course our list would not be complete without including the Carnival capital of the world, Rio de Janeiro. The out-of-this-world 5-day celebration will make even the biggest party animals feel faint. Prepare for thousands of half-naked dancers clad only in body paint, glitter, giant feathers and sequins shaking vigorously to extremely upbeat music.
When is it? The festivities commence 40 days before Easter and last for 5 straight days (24th February – Fat Tuesday)
How many people attend? 2 million people every day!!!
Why visit? The former Portuguese colony is bursting with cultural diversity, from Africa, South America and Europe, and this is reflected in the range of music, dances and food on offer at the carnival. You can always reach the heart of the carnival by following one of the many bandas (moving street parties) that trail through the city’s streets led by drummers, exotic dancers and singers. Make sure to buy tickets ahead and if you want to rub shoulders with Rio’s creme de la creme, attend one of the glitzy Carnival Balls. Not to be missed is the Samba parade held in the Sambadrome, where the carnival climaxes into a mix of insatiable beats and the best Samba dancers in the country.
If you’ve got Carnival fever and are thinking of planning your next party-cation remember to book ahead – prices will surge during the run up to Easter and Carnivals are extremely popular. We also recommend bringing along your Tep portable wifi device with you on your travels. Not only will you save money on ridiculously expensive data roaming charges, but you’ll also be able to capture all of the Carnival madness from your mobile phone and share instantly. The device is only $9.95 per day for unlimited data usage, plus, you and your friends (or loved ones) can all share one device (up to 5 gadgets can connect at a time). Tep’s portable device is Carnival-friendly too, it will slip into a handbag, pocket or rucksack, and could save you from losing your friends in the chaos, as the internet will always be at your fingertips. To find out more or to buy/rent a device click here.