If you love to party, are a little hedonistic or just want to strut your stuff, this round-up of festivals and carnivals is for you. We highlight twelve exuberant reasons to put on your glad rags – or hire outrageous costumes – and join the fun. So what are you waiting for?
When: February 11 to 25 2017
Where: Nice, France
Nice Carnival is the biggest in France. The capital of the Côte d’Azur will be awash with colours in February, as noisy as a carnival can be with women wearing outrageous costumes and headgear. The procession will see 17 floats work their way up to a crescendo of gigantic celebrations on the Place Masséna.
This year, the theme will be the King of Energy. Visitors are encouraged to open their minds to various perspectives of their imagination. Giant, colourful parades take place day and night, with entertainment provided by over 1,000 musicians and dancers from across the world.
Top Tip: You may get to leave with a bunch of flowers as every year extravagantly dressed characters throw out beautiful mimosas, gerberas and lillies.
When: February 24 – 28 2017
Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
You will be one of 500,000 people who will be visiting Rio for the Rio Carnival and then there are the Cariocas, the locals. Yet there are only 90,000 seats in Sambadromo – the stadium of samba – designed by the modernist architect, Oscar Niemeyer. Tickets are expensive starting at $60 and you get to see the shows of the various samba schools who paricipate. But even if you get to go to the Sambadromo, the streets outside are wild with fun and frolics.
The street parties are free for everyone and there are plenty of floats, music and dancing and the main one takes place outside the stadium. Alternatively head for the the largest organized street dance on Cinelândia Square in Rio’s Centro. It generally continues for five days straight with music by talented and even famous orchestras, bands and popular singers who play samba music.
Top tip: Everyone samba’s. If you have no idea how to do it smile at someone who does who will be happy to teach your. Or just do your own thing.
When: February 19 to March 5 2017
Where: Santa Cruz and a variety of other places in Tenerife, Spain
Tenerife’s Carnival is to take on a Caribbean theme in 2017. Buccaneer hats, feathered parrots, eyepatches and any pirate related items will all be welcome as the Canary Island pays tribute to all things Caribbean.
The Santa Cruz Carnival attracts hundreds of thousands of people to Tenerife’s capital every year. Considered the world’s second largest carnival after Rio, crowded street parties fill the squares and streets of the city to the spectacularly put together parades, which are all free for visitors.
Bear in mind that anything goes and so do all inhibitions as the Latino vibe heats up. Every day there are a series of masked balls and events and during the procession you get to see the elected Carnival Queens and their entourages as they ride on elaborately- decorated parade floats, costumes so heavy and huge they need to be lifted onto the floats.
Top Tip: There are several fantastic events, but if dancing is your passion get there on February 25 for the Ritmo y Armonia Comparas Competition. The comparsas are dancing groups, each with their own unique style
4Trinidad and Tobago
When: February 21 to March 3 2017
Where: Port of Spain, capital of Trinidad
The Trinidad Carnival is world-famous for its sheer scale and exuberance. It’s not just a religious festival, and it’s not just a celebration; it’s a pure spectacle showing off the island’s music, culture and tumultuous history. It is the biggest event in the island’s calendar and it’s said that when the islanders aren’t celebrating at the carnival, they’re busy preparing for it. Experience the sea, the sun and the ‘soca’ music (a unique blend of traditional Caribbean music with Indian influences), before the island cools down and starts preparing for next year.
Top Tip: You are going to need Trinidad and Tobago dollars but get them at the airport – Piarco International on arrival. Banks work wierd hours and in any case you can expect long queues while thousands of visitors looking for cash.
5Jamaica Bacchanal Carnival
When: Events take place in April 15, 19, 21, 23, 2017
Where: Kingston, Negril and Monetgo Bay, Jamaica
Jamaicans love to party — so much so that their famous Bacchanal Carnival lasts for eight weeks. That’s 56 days of high-energy events and vibrant street parades known as J’ouverts featuring dancers and performers in bejewelled and daring outfits. Carnival events happen all over the island, including Kingston and Montego Bay. Expect plenty of soca and samba music, as well as exhilarating performances from professional dancers and musicians.
Top Tip: Choose the festes and mas bands wisely. There so many bands and parties that it’s unlikely you will get much sleep.
6Berlin Carnival of Cultures
When: May 13 to 16
Where: Berlin, Germany
The Carnival of Cultures was established in the German capital in 1996. Celebrating the diversity of its cultures, Berlin’s spring festival offers the best way to experience as many as 80 different traditions of the city’s inhabitants. Visitors can try international cuisines, listen to traditional music, enjoy dance shows and participate in countless other activities which make up for this truly multicultural festival.
Top tip: If you’d like to relax after a busy day, try Swing and Wine Avenue on Zossener Straße, Kreuzberg. It’s located in a secluded, green area with lots of chillout spaces and smaller stages. Listen to some good music and enjoy your wine!
7Barbados Crop Over Festival
When: May through to August.
Where: All over Barbados – The big Parade day – Kadooment – is on August 7 (1st Monday in August)
For something a little different from the usual pre-Lenten carnival, get to Barbados in May, June, July or August to join for the Crop Over Carnival festivities. This is the island’s world famous summer festival that’s been going (and growing) since the 16th century. It started out as a celebration of a successful sugar cane harvest, but over the years it’s transformed into a four-month-long explosion of colour and energy. Today it’s not just about the harvest; it’s about island life, culture, history, music and dance. It all starts off with the cavalcades, concerts featuring a variety of local and international bands and musicians. Crop Over has deep historical routes and these are honoured by a variety of heritage lectures and bus tours reveal more about the island’s history. The Calypso rhythms climax at Cahobblopot on the first Sunday in August, when the Tune of the Crop is announced. It all culminates in August with a grand finale – the Grand Kadooment, a street parade attracting vast numbers of spectators and performers wearing elaborate costumes and parading on impressive floats.
Top Tip: The rythms of Crop Over rhythms will make you sway, so there is only one thing for it and that is to “wuk up,” the Barbadian form of dancing to soca music. Here’s how to do it: move your hips in a circular motion with someone else moving in front or behind you in the same manner. Don’t be shy, everyone will be doing it.
When: Jun 21 – Jun 25, 2017
Where: Somerset, England
Every year more than 175 000 music lovers flock to a stretch of farm land in Somerset for the most exciting music event of the year. Inaugurated in 1970, Glastonbury Festival is today the largest field festival in the world. This year James Blake, ELO, Earth Wind and Fire, Ellie Goulding and Cindi Lauper are part of an extensive, star-studded lineup. But Glastonbury is so much more than a contemporary pop and rock music event – the festival hosts many art forms, including dance, theatre, circus and cabaret.
Top tip: Arrive as early as possible to get the best camping spot. Pick a place behind the family fields – you’ll get least traffic and cleanest toilets. And remember to pitch your tent on a gentle slope – you don’t want to experience one of the famous Glastonbury downpours while camping on a flat or low-lying place.
Glastonbury is extremely popular and may already be sold out. If that is the case there is always next year.
9Running of the Bulls
When: July 14 2017
Where: Pamplona, Spain
Pamplona, a small city, hemmed into the north-east corner of Spain and the capital of the Navarre region was author Ernest Hemingway’s first obsession. He visited nine times for San Fermín, the city’s famed fiesta of bullfighting, drink and song. Popularly called Sanfermin the tradition dates back to the 14th century when bulls were transported from nearby fields into the city’s bullring. On the way, youngsters would join the run, showing off their courage and bravado – and that’s how the tradition of encierro (the Spanish word for the event meaning confinement) was born.
Bull running starts at 8am every day of the festival and anyone who wants to enjoy the adrenaline rush can join in.
Top tip: Runners are meant to guide the herd with their bodies, any interference with the herd that might cause a bull to separate from the pack is considered by the locals a great offence, not to mention a great danger.
When: August 30 2017
Where: Valencia, Spain
La Tomatina dubbed the world’s largest food fight, is held in Buñol in the Valencia region. Participants throw tomatoes at each other just for fun. Interestingly, the festival was inaugurated in 1945 when a group of young people headed down to the town square to watch the Gigantes y cabezudos parade. Causing a slight commotion, the group would never imagine that their tomato fight would start a tradition enjoyed by more than just the locals. In 2015, the festival made use of an estimated 145 000 kg of tomatoes!
Top tip: If you’re considering entering this peculiar vegetable fight, make sure to buy your ticket early – for safety reasons, only a limited number of participants are allowed to take part in the event.
When: September 16 to October 3 2017
Where: Munich, Germany
Easily the world’s largest festival, Oktoberfest is a two-week celebration of beer held in the heart of Bavaria. Every year, more than six million people come to participate in the general revelry, drinking litres of beer and eating countless traditional pork sausages.
Known locally as the Wiesn (nickname for the Theresienwiese – fairground) you get to try a huge variety of beers (expect to pay around 10 euros a beer) in 14 different tents while traditional German folk music plays in the background. On the festival Sunday the parade event takes place with 8000 participants dressed in historic festival costumes such as dirndles and lederhosen, followed by rifle clubs, decorated carriages, and marching bands, it makes for quite a sight.
Top tip: Unless you have a seat in a tent you will not get served so consider booking a table. You may not need to book one in advance but you run the risk of having to stand around for a while. When a table becomes free there will be a minimum spend. If you do book at table at one of the tents, be aware that most tables seat 6-10 people and cost about 300 euros. Avoid booking seats with online agencies that charge ridiculous amounts of money – hosts might cancel such reservations and you’ll be left standing outside the tent with no seats at all.
12San Francisco Carnival
When: May 27-28, 2017 (10am to 6pm)
Where: San Francisco, California, USA
The San Francisco Carnival transforms Harrison Street in the Mission District into a family friendly wonderland for two days. The event celebrates the city’s true international status, and the theme The theme is El Corazón de San Pancho/The Heart of San Francisco refers to the essence of what it means to identify with and to love what the city has to offer..
Defying tradition, the festival begins not before Lent, but in mid spring, at the end of May. It’s a festival to celebrate life and new beginnings for every culture, every religion and every individual. Thousands of artists prepare for this unique event throughout the year by creating spectacular costumes, floats, performances and dance routines. As a result of the carnival, the Californian city is now a hub for Latin American musicians and dancers, with many new Samba schools popping up along the bay. It’s well worth a visit.
Top Tip: The main stage is at the corner of 17th and Harrison. This is where you will find the most popular performers during the festival.