Carnival is not just a cruise line that takes you around the Caribbean. It’s a festival season that marks the beginning of lent featuring parties, parades, masquerades, balls, and for lots of people, a refreshing beach vacation. This year, most countries celebrate Carnival during the second and third weeks of February. So pack your bags and head out to some of the best destinations to celebrate Carnival and enjoy life.
Brazil is the number 1 Carnival destination in the world. The Carnival in Brazil dates back to the 1720’s when Portuguese immigrants arrived from the islands of Azores and Cabo Verde. Today, the Brazilian carnival is celebrated with parades featuring samba schools composed of thousands of members who create unique themes for their floats. The main parade in Brazil takes place at the Sambodromo, a parade route in Rio de Janeiro complete with bleachers on both sides. Other places in Brazil such as Salvador, Bahia and Recife also feature big parades and musicians playing local genres like the samba-reggae. And if the Carnival of Rio is not enough, Brazil offers incredible beaches where the party never ends.
Trinidad and Tobago
In Trinidad & Tobago, Carnival is a holiday season that lasts over a month and culminates in large celebrations in Port of Spain, capital of Trinidad, on the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago features costumes, dance, music, competitions, rum, and partying (also referred to as fete-ing). During Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the Calypso monarch is chosen, Kings and Queens are crowned and mass bands and parades cover the streets. Wednesday the day when people flock to the beautiful beaches of Trinidad and Tobago.
Carnival in Ecuador lasts a couple of weeks and is usually celebrated with water balloons, crazy string, flowers, fruit and more water. People in the coastal regions tend to celebrate Carnival by going to the beach and throwing water balloons to friends and sometimes unsuspecting victims. Don’t be surprised if a water balloon hits you. Don’t feel offended, it’s just a game. Ecuador is a country full of surprises! In the highlands, especially in cities like Ambato and Guaranda, Carnival is celebrated with parades featuring floats made up of all kinds of flowers and fruit. Because Ecuador is one of the major producers of roses in the world, some of their floats feature all kinds of unique and colorful roses.
In Mexico, the biggest Carnival festivities occur in Veracruz and Mazatlan where parades, costumes, music and dancing take place. The Mexican Carnival starts with the burning of effigies (Quema del Mal Humor) that symbolizes the burning of ill humor and marks the beginning of carefree days. In Veracruz, parades, dancing, music and fireworks illuminate the streets and the sky. Other places such as Cozumel and Playa del Carmen also feature some Carnival festivities and are ideal for those looking for some rest and relaxation on the beautiful beaches of the Mayan Riviera.
Mardi Gras is known around the world as one of the most exciting festivities in the US. The Carnival in New Orleans starts the weekend before Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) with parades, beads, parties, balls, hurricanes (the drinks, not the weather phenomenon) and more beads. The French Quarter becomes a big party center with people tossing beads left and right. The main streets become the destination for parade watchers who stand there to admire the beautifully crafted floats and receive beads in return. Parties, balls and masquerades abound around the city during those days.