If you love to travel and enjoy a good old knees up then this carnival bucket list is for you. Most countries in the world have their own unique way of throwing a party, each with a different cultural twist and often outlandish costumes. Get your passport at the ready, here’s a list of our favourites.
1. Rio Carnival - Brazil
The world’s biggest carnival, over 2 million attend this wild, five-day celebration every year. It is the carnival benchmark and quite simply the mother of all parties. Whether you’re partying away in the Sambadrome watching the flamboyant samba schools compete, or dancing in the streets at a block party, you’re guaranteed to have an epic time.
2. Holi Colour Festival - India
Best known for the raucous affair of revellers chasing each other around the streets throwing masses of coloured powder (or gulal) at each other, this celebration is certainly vibrant. A traditional Hindu festival, the party marks the start of spring, good overcoming evil, fertility, colour and love.
3. Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife - Spain
Considered the second most popular carnival, this celebration attracts people from all over the world to the Canary Islands every February. There are vibrant parades, elaborate costumes and all night partying. From flower power to Bollywood and horror films to pirates, every year has a different theme.
4. Notting Hill Carnival - England
Lead by the British West Indian community, this lively annual August event is iconic in England. If you like Caribbean food, jerk chicken, goat curry and fried plantain are the dishes of the weekend. Masquerades, dancing and live music ranging from reggae and dub to salsa, create a vivid spectacle celebrating the capital of England’s multicultural past and present.
5. Mardi Gras - USA
This long-standing carnival is the biggest event on the New Orleans calendar and is referred to locally as “the greatest free show on earth”. The celebrations take place in the form of live music, colourful parades, delicious food and lots of excitement. Thousands of trinkets and beads are also thrown to the cheering crowds from the passing floats.
6. Carnival of Venice - Italy
This wintertime festival is magical, hugely traditional and lots of fun. World famous for its elaborate masks, there is a contest for the most beautiful one, judged by a prestigious panel of international costume and fashion designers. Party-goers posing and philandering in extraordinary costumes billowing out under voluminous cloaks are truly a surreal sight.
7. J’ouvert - Carnival Grenada
At first glimpse, the costumes involved in one of the Caribbean's most popular annual events can appear rather scary. Recalling a history of slavery, carnival goers smear their skin in black grease and adorn horns, tails, chains and shackles. But it’s two days of revelry and debauchery that should not be missed.
8. Day of the dead - Mexico
Despite the name of this festival indicating quite a morbid event, this Mexican holiday is just the opposite and is thought to bring good luck. It’s a time for people to honour their dead by providing offerings and celebrating their lives. Many people hold their parties in cemeteries around the graves of their loved ones.
9. Songkran Water Festival - Thailand
This traditional Thai New Year celebration takes place over 3 days every April, during which pretty much the whole country shuts down for a massive water fight. It’s the hottest month of the year, so everyone rejoices in being drenched from head to foot. Get your super soakers at the ready.
10. Oruro Carnival - Bolivia
A blend of Catholic and Indian rituals, thanks is given to ‘Pachamama’ or mother earth, and ‘El Tio’, the god of the underworld is honoured. Elaborate street performances regale traditional folk law of good versus evil. There’s folk dancing, live music, extravagant costumes, beautiful crafts and 20 hours of non-stop partying.
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