The worlds greatest Carnivals & Festivals
Throughout the year nearly every country in the world celebrates their own carnival / festival so the good news is that you can be sure a party is going on every month somewhere in the world. If you’re traveling this year or, just want to find out about one of the amazing carnivals near you, here is a list of some of the best. We have also included some basic travel safety tips and additional key points to consider. Lets get the Carnival season started! This year the dates to keep in your diary for the biggest European carnivals are between the 2nd - 20th of February.
The Best Carnivals Across Europe
ITALY - Viareggio Carnival : 7th Feb - 5th March 2016
Think huge floats that rival even the best of the Brazailians, add huge paper-mache models of politicians and celebrities, a huge fireworks display, and thousands of revelers in thousands of different costumi carnevale and you have yourself a real party. The Viareggio Carnevale is served over 5 courses of party filled days in 2013, so if you are heading over to Italy make sure to keep early February free for a party like no other.
ITALY - Venice Carnival : 23rd Jan - 9th Feb 2016
Dating all the way back to 1162, and long before Las Vegas became Sin City, there was Venice and it's notorious carnival. If you needed another reason to see this beautiful city, the "carnevale " will ensure a hedonistic visual feast. Think fireworks, excess and debauchery all under the annomity of the classic Venitian masks, or as the Italians call them "maschere di carnevale" which spent almost the entirety of the 15C outlawed for their ability to create pure unrestrained hedonism and mayhem - the good news is they are back and this carnival wouldn't be the same without them and the 200,000+ tourist who visit the event..
Check out the full list of unmissable Italian Carnival's for 2016:
Verona Carnevale: Italy's oldest carnival, with a huge party featuring 500+ Floats and 15,000 kg of sweets thrown to the huge crowd.
Ivrea Orange Throwing Carnevale: Huge Parades, a giant bonfire and the world's biggest orange fight make visiting this carnival a no brainer.
Pont St. Martin - Roman Carnevale: Burning effigy of the devil, chariot races and a crowd decked out in nyph and toga costumes make this a carnival you will never forget.
Sardinia Carnevale: In Oristano, Sardina carnival is celebrated with horse racing, medieval jousting and a huge parade.
Livigno Carnevale: Just by the Alps and the Swiss border this carnival is celebrated with a procession on the slopes and a fancy dress ball.
Calabria Carnevale: Huge parade, fantastic costumes and Royalty, the perfect Italian carnival experience in a stunning region of the country.
FRANCE - Nice Carnival : 13th Feb - 28th Feb 2016
The theme for the 2013 Nice Carnival is "King of the five continents", how classically French! At this festival the there is a huge parade, where music is abundant from every street corner. The french dress in deguisement (fancy dress) and the carnival is one of the biggest in the world with a festive atmosphere that can rival the best of the Brazilian festivals. Large paper mâché characters with giant heads parade through the city; some on floats, some literally amongst the crowds on the streets. Grab your masque and head down to Nice for some frivilous festive fun at the "carnaval."
Paris Carnevale 7th February 2016
The traditional Mardi Gras celebration takes place in the stunning city of Paris to mark the end of lent. The Carnival features a fantastic array of flower-covered floats and revelers decked out in traditional costumes de carnaval. A fantastic show not to be missed by anyone who finds themselves in Paris during February, 2013.
SPAIN - Benidorm Fiesta, 11th - 17th November 2016
With their unofficial British Fancy Dress day set for Thursday 13th, the Benidorm Fiesta acts as host to a huge body of UK holidaymakers and street revellers, with its prominent focus on British sunsoaked custom and family feel. Check out this video showing some of the recent costumes on show at the event:
SPAIN - Sitges Carnival, Barcelona 2nd - 10th February 2016
Acknowleged by the Spanish as Spains wildest party revelers turn up from all over Western Europe and the rest of the world dressed in a wide variety of disfraz or disfraces para carnaval (drag or fun carnival fancy drress). Barcelona is a non stop party city year round but throw 250,000 party goers dressed in drag, and other outrageous costumes all under the annomity of máscara "masks" and what you have is one of Europes biggest and most wild carnival nights in a city that really comes to life. Enjoy the Fiesta!
Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 3rd - 14th February 2016
With the exception of maybe the Rio carnival you will struggle to find a bigger party any where else in the world than the Carnival of Santa Cruz held annually in Tenerife. There is a strong empasis on beauty pagents and scantily clad men in women wearing a collection of stunning disfraces para carnaval (carnival costumes). The celebrtation consumes nearly the entire city and the festival is one of joy and release. A great event not to be missed if you get the chance to take part in it.
Cadiz Carnival, 4th - 14th February 2016
Cadiz is an old Spanish port town, which often traded with the Italians, from whom they picked up the tradition of carnival from. The carnival is famous for it's outlandish and fantastic characters and for it's light hearted party theme, but what it is best known for is Music. Almost around every corner in Cadiz during carnival you will find a plethora of live music acts serenading the night away. For music fans this is a feast that could rival even the best of the Summer festivals held in the UK.
GERMANY - Karneval Season (Carnival), 4th - 9th February 2016
The celebrations kick off with "Women’s Carnival" on Thursday before Ash Wednesday. This is a day when ladies can kiss any guy that they want as long as you cut off his tie! Rose Monday comes next and what you can expect here are a collection of marching bands, dancers, and huge floats parading down the streets, throwing confetti, sweets, and toys. Thousands of Germans and tourist create an ultimate spectacle to the event by turning up in Kostüm, or more precisesly, Faschingkostueme. The event is the German answer to Mardi Gras with huge Faschingskostüme balls marking Shrove Tuesday as the pinacle to a fantastic karnival season.
BELGIUM - Carnaval de Binche 7th - 9th February 2016
Despite being one of the oldest surviving carnivals in Europe the carnaval de Blinche remains one of the best. The two days of festivites see the public mixing with thosands of revelers in costumes de fêtes and masque all waling to the beat of the drum. The carnival runs each year during the three days that precede lent, and is full of all kinds of caractères, from pesants and dancers to Harelequins and the show stealing focus of the carnival Gilles. This festival is one that you don't want to miss.
Carnival in Malmedy - 06th - 09th February 2016
The four days preceeding Mardi Gras see numerous balls, parades and festivals in the Belgium town of Malmedy. The festival is known as Cwarme, which runs for four days of classy carnival celebration before the huge parties of Mardis Gras.
PORTUGAL - Carnaval 9th February 2016
Carnival is all about fantasy and the Portugese take extraordinary steps to ensure this. After all, any country that taught the Brazilians how to have a party, is not going to dissapoint. You will find huge floats that typically are satirical of politicians and celebrities, fireworks, never ending samba lines and a huge variety of fantasias de carnaval and fatos de carnaval (fancy dress). The best cities to hit for one of the worlds premier carnaval seasons are Ovar, Loures, Podence, Loulé, Sesimbra, Torres Vedras. The whole season is about making yourself into something else and someone else and this is all possible with the magic of some pretty outlandish and insane costumes.
NETHERLANDS - Carnival Season: 7th - 9th February 2016
Exactly 40 days before Easter (not including Sundays) is 'karnaval' in Holland. The carnival is also known as 'Vastenavond, or 'Vastelvond'where. Tradition has it that normal everyday law is bent to the humerous whims of the Carnival Committee, who dress in verkleedkleren and ensure everyone is having a rioutos time. Original satirical songs are created and aimed at dignitries, politicians and celebrities as are giant papier-mache floats. Carnivals happen in cities and towns across the Netherlands. Each city attempts to top its neighbour with outrageous carnavalskleding (carnival costumes) or kostuum the crazier and more fun the better. Brass bands blasting oompah music create huge lines of inebrieated Kostuum karnavalies doing the conga. It is one of the younger carnivals only dating back to after WWII, but no one can deny the Dutch know how to throw a party.
DENMARK - Fastelavn 7th February 2016
Fastelavn is the name for the Carnival season in Denmark which kicks off on the Monday before Ash Wednesday. This carnival originally a catholic celebration, altered over time as Denmark became protestant but it still retains some of its paegan roots. The carnival now resembles the Denmark version of Halloween with the young running around with kostumer and udklædning (fancy dress) getting treats, a superstitious ceremonial process of party goers beating barrels full of black cats (now filled with treats, rather than the cats) and temafester or masquerade parties where revelers come dressed to the nines in traditional maske.
POLAND - 4th of February 2016
As opposed to the English in Poland the run up to lent doesn’t include pancakes, but rather on “Fat Thursday” it’s all about consuming doughnuts or “paczki.” The big party for karnawalowe (carnival) is called Ostaki, which is the last day before lent starts. It is a season of excess where the young dress in kostium or stroje karnawalowe and maska which gives the carnival season in Poland a similar look and feel to Halloween.
SWEDEN – Fettisdagen - 9th February 2016
The pinnacle of karneval (carnival) in Sweden is known as Fettisdagen (Fat Tuesday). It is a day of excess before the lent season starts. Typically people consume a lot of semlor and there are street processions featuring maskeraddräkter (fancy dress costumes) with various forms of fun, unique and traditional masks.
NORWAY – Maastricht Carnival – 7th - 9th February 2016
Huge floats, puppets, maske, music, speeches, and comical acts with thousands in kostymer or utkledning (costumes) bring the karneval season to life in Norway. There are three full days of madness before the festive season gives way to Lent giving everyone the necessary time to repent a fantastic time. A carnival that is as rich in tradition as it is in parties.
FINLAND - Vappu - May 1st 2016
Finland starts festivities a little later in the year with the carnival Vappu. Vappu marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring where the sheets of ice melt away and the dark winter days are replaced when the sun returns to the Baltic. The celebrations start at 6 p.m on April 30th and each year the thousands of Fins gather on Esplanadi street when the symbolic cap (ylioppilaslakki) is placed onto the statue of Havis Amanda. This honour is carried out each year by different Finnish universities who host a series of plays usually involving various stages of intoxication. For the next two days the city comes to life with a wide range of outdoor celebrations that see everyone dressed in a wide array of naamiaispuku that highlight an amazing two days.
MALTA Carnival 5th - 9th February 2016
The Maltese carnival has been around since the 15th century and much like the Italian it has been subject to varying levels of change throughout the centuries. In 1639 the Grand Master (or party pooper) believed the festivities had gotten out of hand and prohibited women from wearing masks or attending masquerade balls, if they transgressed these laws they would be whipped in public. Luckily, now themes have reverted back to their roots and now there are risqué cross dressing, costumes, masks and no more public whippings. The Grand Master in the 17th century changed his tune and the tone of the season by inventing the game Kukkanja; which is essentially a free for all where locals are allowed to gather and take any ham, sausages and animals hidden in leafy branches.
Top 10 Carnival Destinations
1) Rio De Janeiro - Brazil World Famous Carnival
2) Binche Belgium - Oldest Surviving Street Carnival in Europe
3) Oktoberfest - A German Carnival Which Boast The Worlds Biggest Fair
4) Sumfest - Jamaica Famous Reggae Festival
5) Kumbha Mela India - The Biggest Gathering of Humans in the World
6) Fantasy Fest - Florida Keys Very Own Carnival
7) Las Valencia - Spain Throws One of The Best Parties in Europe
8) Glastonbury Festival - One of The Best Music Festivals In The World
9) Ati Atihan - The Philippines Traditional and Modern
10) Festa do Sao Joao - Portugal- A Street Party Like No Other
1) Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. :Start Date: February Currency: Real (reis) - Back to top
Perhaps the most famous carnival in the world is held in the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro. The carnival is known for it's outrageous festivity and music where partygoers dress in stunning costumes to celebrate the night away.This carnival attracts thousands of people from around the world which includes a huge local community who invest months of preparation in this yearly event. While at the carnival don't forget to try the most popular soft drink in Brazil, “Guarana” made from a plant which grows in the Amazon, “Caipirirnlia” is also a must try - made from lemon, sugar and rum just what you need to get you in the Carnival mood.
Other places of interest: Tijuca Forest - The largest urban forest in Rio for those of you who are interested is the natural beauty of Brazil - Corcovado – A statue of Christ blessing the city with open arms, this picture is on many postcards and worthy of a visit - Sugarloaf Mountain - A cable car ride that provides stunning views of Rio and it's beaches taking you a breathtaking 1299ft above sea level for some stunning views.
2) Location: Binche Belgium : Start Date: February/March – Currency - Euros - Back to top
This carnival celebrated in the town of Binche is over 400 years in age making it one of the oldest surviving street carnivals in Europe.The main feature of the carnival is the fantastic march of the Giles, which consist of over 600 men dressed in strange Kostuum in the style of Napoleon III. Armed with blood red oranges, which are hurled passionately at whoever is within range (including the crowd, so beware!!) Belgium is also known for their huge selection of beers which are provided through an array of outdoor stalls and gigantic beer tents, these will have you drinking late into the night.The carnival is made up of a mixture of local residents, tourist and neighboring countrymen who arrive eagerly to enjoy the festivities and always leave in high spirits.
Other places of interest: City Hall and Church-This is over 600yrs old and is situated on a beautiful grounds which also contain the ruins of an old castle. Local Museum – A exciting mask and carnival museum that explains the history of carnival
3) Location: Munich Germany: Start Date: Sept /October – Currency: Euros - Back to top
Over five million people attend the Oktoberfest festival, it is after all, the world’s largest beer festival and runs for sixteen hangover inducing days.The first oktoberfest was held in the 19th century and was to celebrate the marriage of Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese.The first weekend is the best time to visit Oktoberfest where you will see a huge variety of different parades and bear witness to some phenominal drinking displays - which of course is at the heart of the fesival. Many people come from far and wide to join in the festivities and to get a glimpse of horse drawn carriages, beautifully decorated floats and loud brass bands.
Other places of interest Deutsches Museum – One of the largest science and technology museums in the world: Barerstrasse – Art galleries, which boast famous paintings by Rembrandt and da Vinc
4) Location: Montego Bay Jamaica: Start Date: April/May – Currency:Jamaican Dollar (JD) - Back to top
The beautiful island of Jamaica is home to the famous Reggae Sumfest.This party extravaganza is said to be the best Reggae music festival in the world. Top of the line of international reggae and R&B stars perform throughout the night. Expect deafening sound systems, live steel bands and sizzling beach parties, where you will be able to get merry on the famous red strip beer and other worldly Jamaican rum. People from all around the Caribbean and the rest of the world descend on this little piece of paradise to party hard and experience a carnival that is said to be amongst the best in the Caribbean. "Alllriiiggghttt Mon."
Other places of Interest : Nine Miles – The birth place and resting place of the late reggae superstar, Bob Marley Dunn’s River Falls – Beautiful waterfalls made famous by the movie the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail. Dolphin Cove – Leading maritime attraction in the Caribbean with a selection of Dolphins, and rare tropical fish.
5) Location: India: Start Date: Every 12 Years – Currency: Rupee (INR) - Back to top
India has more mass religious festivals than anywhere else on the planet, but Kumbh Mela is by far the biggest. It is estmated that around 70 million people turned up to to the last event in 2007 making this the largest gathering of humans ever recorded in one place.The belief is that this holy festival which takes place four times every twelve years at a different location each time is said to wash away the sins of 88 previous generations through plunging onesself in the river waters. This is also believed to open the doors for their journey to heaven. It is without a doubt one of the most spiritual and amazing gatherings on the face of the earth where everyone irregardless of social standing can share in this glorious holy festival.
Other places of interest: River Ganges – See this magnificent river which stretches over 1500mi Taj Mahal – One of the 7 wonders of the world - constructed between 1631 -1653. Wildlife Parks –There are a total of 93 wildlife parks for your to check out - each holding a huge selection of animals which include rare endangered species.
6) Location: Key west USA: Start Date: October – Currency: Dollars - Back to Top
Fantasy Fest is a 10 day event that comprises of a drink fueled marathon, pumping live bands and climaxes in a huge themed costume extravaganza.This combined with the almost tropical conditions of the Florida Keys makes for a truly amazing carnival experience.
Other places of interest: Coral Reef Park – America’s first undersea park which includes snorkeling and glass bottom boat tours Indian Key Park – Paddle out to Indian state park and get a feel of how the Indians traveled to this island in their canoes. Diving Museum – A museum dedicated to the art of diving includes rare books, artifacts, and treasures from the deep seas.
7) Location:Valencia, Spain: Start Date: March – Currency: Euros -Back to Top
Las Fallas is one of Spain's biggest carnivals and has a ferocious reputation for being both wild and traditional. The festival dates back to 1497 making it one of the oldest still around. Best known for it’s huge figures made out of paper mache it is an event that needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.The festival flows through a maze of narrow streets, closed off to all traffic except buses and taxis making it easy to get around and enjoy the city.Their are a plethora of events to keep you entertained including live music, bonfires and complex firework displays which add to this spectacular event - enjoyed by over 2 million people from all around Europe.
Other places of interest: Museum of the Science – This unique interactive museum let’s you be a part of the experiments which are conducted almost daily. La Concha – This is said to be one of the best beaches in Europe never mind Spain - well worth a visit.
8) Location:Glastonbury, England: Start Date: June – Currency: Pound - Back to Top
Glastonbury has been recognized as the best music festival in the world and a must for the serious music lover. If you appreciate the great outdoors, campfires and muddy fields all with a never ending soundtrack by the best in the business Glastonbury is the festival for you.This festival runs for three days from the Friday through to the Sunday.Getting there early is a must to secure a decent pitch for your tent - as leaving it too late will see you walking for hours to find a spare patch of grass.The basics you will need to take are a tent, ground matt and a sleeping bag, but more extensively you should have blankets, toilet roll, gas cylinders and food of course. Another great aspect of Glastonbury besides the live bands is the huge choice of additional entertainment from bungee jumping to theatre performances to even trying your hand at playing the bongos - is all part and parcel of Glastonbury experience.
Other places of interest :Glastonbury Abbey – This old ancient ruin is steeped in history and legend, and it’s believed to be the burial place of King Arthur. Cheddar Gorge – The gorge is the site of the Cheddar Caves, where Britain's oldest complete human skeleton, Cheddar Man, estimated to be 9,000 years old, was found in 1903. Footpaths & Walks – Beautiful parklands and walkways provides stunning scenery which is ideal for a peaceful walks deep into the lush country side.
9) Location: Panay Island , Philippines: Start Date: January Currency: Piso - Back to Top
Ati Atihan is one of the biggest festivals in Asia, and has origins that can be traced back as far back as 1210.You’ll find all the elements that make up a spectacular carnival including glorious decorated floats, lavishly made costumes and authentic native music. Even though this event is a 2 week long affair, it's the remaining 3 days which are deemed the most important, and a time when locals get dressed up in exotic looking costumes and hit the streets in a spontaneous burst of partying. expect music and street dancing. Don't think that you can watch safely from the side lines as the chances that you'll be hauled into this massive party festival are very high. Expect to be offered ludicrous quantities of rum and beer untill at least sunrise, a party not to be missed.
Other places of interest: Puerto Galera – Excellent for scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing and many other water sports.Boracay Island– Beautiful golden sand beaches make this some of the best beaches in the world
10) Location: Porto, Portugal: Start Date: June Currency: Euros - Back to Top
The Festa do Sao Joao (Feast of St. John’s Eve) is a magnificent carnival and street party with colourful, loud fireworks displays, red hot bonfires and with every available outdoor space used for a full night of eating, drinking and dancing. No matter your financial standing, age, or race, the residents of Porto come out as equals to create an ambience that explodes in the city’s streets. The favourite food of the festival is sardines, grilled to perfection and washed down with a couple of glasses of wine.There is also a strange tradition of hitting each other on the head with plastic hammers, so be warned. Many free concerts and street dancing continues into the early hours in various parts of the city to create a vibrant, warm atmosphere that can be enjoyed by everyone.
Other places of interest: Lisbon – The Jerónimos Monastery founded in 1501 by King Manuel and said to be haunted. Porto – The original home of the famous port wine, where you can take a boat trip and see how the wine is produced. Coimbra Has the 2nd oldest university in the world which and has numerous historical landmarks and is rich in history.
10 Tips to keep you safe during Carnival - Back To Top
1) Don’t flash your cash, avoid wearing gold, expensive looking jewelry and watches.
2) Keep items of value in the hotel safe, or the safe provided in your room.
3) If required carry a copy of your passport and not the original which should be in your hotel safe.
4) Don’t carry more cash than is needed as most places take credit cards.
5) Walk with confidence, if you look like a victim you could end up becoming one.
6) Avoided deserted, dark areas and be aware of your surroundings.
7) Don’t accept drinks from strangers which may contain strong sleeping powder.
8) Keep expensive cameras and video recording equipment safely hidden. Avoid dangling your camera which make it easy to be snatched.
9) Make sure to carry the name, number and address of the hotel you are staying in.
10) Don’t under any circumstances offer to courier packages of any sort as it’s very likely to be drugs.These offences carry the death penalty, so avoid at all cost.
Please consider the following key points when traveling abroad -Back To Top
- Take out comprehensive travel insurance before traveling
- Visit the travel advice section of the FCO website www.fco.gov.uk for destination information
- Understand local laws and customs before you travel
- Check out medical requirements with your GP at least six weeks before you travel
- Record key information before you go understand what consular staff can and can’t do for travellers
A Brief History Carnival
Did you know that the humble beginnings of carnival started hundreds of years ago in Italy with a costume festival called “carnevale” which means to put away the meat.This festival would be held every year before the start of lent - a catholic festival where meat is not consumed (hence the name carnevale) From here it grew more popular and over the years has spread to other countries, eventually evolving into what we know carnival to be today.
Almost every country in the world now has now adopted a carnival festival of some sort.So if your lucky enough to be attending a carnival this year and are stuck for some ideas on what to wear, let us show you some suggestion to make it a little easier. Below is a selection of fun carnival costumes which are bound to get you into the carnival mood.