Towns and cities across the Caribbean passionately celebrate their traditional annual carnivals around this time of year, packing these festive days with activities, sun, and a party atmosphere that both locals and visitors alike enjoy.
These world-famous carnivals mark the start of the Catholic Lent, roughly four to five days of endless celebrations, including spectacular Caribbean-style parades with dancers in extravagant multicolored costumes.
The carnival parades are also filled with floats decorated with the main theme of each region, which make their way along the parade route so that the thousands of festival-goers can see these stunning creations in all their splendor. Music is must-have at any carnival, providing the rhythm for the non-stop dancers as they show off their best moves.
An interesting fact is that the word carnival comes from the medieval Latin “carnelevarium”, which means to take away or remove meat, referring to the religious prohibition of eating meat during the forty days of Lent leading up to Easter Week.
There are several destinations that have earned a reputation for putting on some of the best carnivals in the world, attracting tourists from every corner of the globe. To name a few:
- Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
One of the most famous carnivals in the world is unquestionably the one in Rio de Janeiro, the largest carnival in the world and one of the greatest expressions of Rio’s culture.
Samba music, dancers, bright colors and magnificently decorated floats flood the city streets in a week-long celebration. The highlight of this massive party is the spectacular samba school parade celebrated in the world-famous Sambadrome.
- Carnival in Aruba.
The first Carnival on this island –a small series of street festivals– was in 1954, but it wasn’t until the Tivoli Club, Aruba’s oldest private social club, that the island had a maravillosa pre-Lent delebration in Oranjestad.
Both locals and visitors are the stars of a Carnival celebration that lasts for weeks. Traditional Carnival Queen elections, musical competitions, floats, flamboyant costumes and much more characterize the Grand Parade of Oranjestad, which is celebrated on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday.
- Carnival in Oruro, Bolivia.
This festival is considered one of Latin America’s biggest and most colorful religious celebrations, declared Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
The carnival here began as a Christian festival dedicated to the Virgen del Socavón (Our Lady of the Tunnels) and is known for the dancers’ brightly colored costumes and use of traditional masks from each region, which give the celebration a distinct Bolivian style.
- Carnival in Corrientes, Argentina.
Corrientes is synonymous with Carnival, where the event is a cultural experience that has transcended provincial limits to make way for a major festival considered one of the most opulent in the world.
The theatrical flair, complex sets, costume design, choreography and music now characterize the Correntino Carnival, an open-air, brightly colored celebration.
- Carnival in Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The major cities in the Mexican Caribbean state of Quintana Roo, including Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen, Cancun, Tulum and Chetumal, come together every year to celebrate their maravillosos Carnivals.
Outdoor activities with national and international guest artists add a special flavor to the celebration. Apart from the traditional parade with its costumes and street parties, festival-goers will find every kind of food stalls, drinks and souvenirs imaginable; an authentic traditional celebration that has to be experienced to be believed.
- Carnival in the Dominican Republic.
Highly popular in the breathtaking Dominican Republic, the festival is considered one of the most traditional celebrations, the local inhabitants participating in an event with a single purpose and with great enthusiasm and joy.
Carnival is also celebrated before Lent here and shares a holiday with the country’s National Independence Day. With multicolored costumes, uniforms, masks and parade floats, the Dominican Republic celebrates its independence alongside Carnival, incorporating different Caribbean traditions from the country’s different regions.
- Carnival in Curacao
This Carnival is a festive tradition that has been celebrated on the island since the 19th century, when the parties and parades were limited to private clubs. It is currently one of the largest and longest-running Carnivals in the entire Caribbean.
What characterizes this massive spectacle are the main parades with floats, costumes and carnival music bands, who parade along with the Carnival royalty, elected in large-scale beauty contests.
- Carnival in the Bahamas
Hundreds of people invade the streets of Nassau, in the Bahamas, every year during Carnival to dance to the African rhythms known as junkanoo and see the parade’s flamboyant costumes decorated with feathers and sequins.
The carnival also features a cultural village, which brings together over 100 stands for local crafts and food. A peculiar characteristic is the celebration of the Junkanoo Carnival, an expression of the cultural identity of the Bahamian people.
We invite you to enjoy this wild, intense celebration during your next vacation at the ETC Hotels in the maravilloso Caribbean in Mexico at Catalonia Royal Tulum, Catalonia Privileged Maroma and Catalonia Riviera Maya; and in the Dominican Republic at Catalonia Punta Cana, Catalonia Royal Bávaro, Catalonia Gran Dominicus and Catalonia Royal La Romana.