There’s more to carnival season than brightly colored King Cake and lively krewes in New Orleans. From Rio de Janeiro to Goa, it’s one of the planet’s biggest parties celebrated with fireworks, parades and wild dancing in the streets.
India’s famous party destination celebrates its Portuguese roots with a 36-hour bacchanal of music, dancing, and parades.
NEW ORLEANS, U.S.A.
In the two-week lead-up to Fat Tuesday, New Orleans’ krewes (pronounced “crew”), with names like Chaos and Shangri-La, will hold more than 50 parades for bead-flinging, breast-flashing revelers.
To detox after Apokries, the nonstop, all-night costume dance parties (think: Halloween for nearly two weeks), rollicking Greeks head to the mountains on Katheri Deftera (“Clean Monday”) to fly kites and sober up for Lent.
More than a million visitors turn up for the South of France’s big fest, kicking off with the King of Carnaval’s raucous arrival at Nice’s Place Masséna. During the party king’s two-week reign expect bobblehead-esque parades of “big head” papier-mâché caricatures, fireworks, and loads of bubbly.
PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD
On the island of the steel pan drum and calypso, this Bedazzled affair makes it the Rio of the Caribbean. Things get messy on J’Ouvert Monday when locals don old clothes covered in oil, paint, or mud (similar to Cabbage Night) and then everyone cleans up for Tuesday’s sparkly transformation: Starting at 8 a.m. sharp, decked-out masqueraders and bands take over the streets.
Viennese ball season or “fasching” officially starts on New Year’s Eve beginning what feels like a prom every night for almost three months (Leading up to Lent, it ends March 8). The gown-and-tuxe-clad denizens host more than 300 balls, ranging from formal to clubby, including the uber-exclusive Philharmonic Ball at the Musikverein (Jan. 20).
Carnevale di Venezia
Revived in the 1970s, Venice’s famous carnival is marked by its over-the-top opulent costumes and masks. Pick up traditional painted glass Bauta masks and velvet Zorro-esque Moretta masks crafted by local mascherari.
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
Pretty much no party on earth can complete with samba-fueled “Carnival Capital of the World.” Get your glittered-up headdress on and head to the Samba Parade and Sambodromo to join locals and some 500,000 visitors dancing to the Afro-Brazilian beat till dawn.
Carnaval de Barranquilla
In the four days before Ash Wednesday, this entire Colombian city gets down, dancing the Spanish paloteo, the African congo and local mico y micas in the streets. Dating back to the 19th century, it’s such a big to-do even the UNESCO people put it on the list naming it a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2003.
Flip through photographer Marcelo Bendahán’s “Carnivals of the World” (Maestro Books) for a 177-page coffee-table tour of everything from under-the-radar fests to world-renowned celebrations.