Special Report

The Most Popular Carnivals in the World

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1. Rio de Janeiro Carnival
> Location: Brazil
> Dates: March 1 – March 9, 2019

Spanning the five days before Lent and hosting over 2 million tourists, Rio de Janeiro’s carnival is known as the biggest party in the world. It features hundreds of street parties, or “blocos,” many of which have their own Samba band. The carnival’s highlight is the spectacular Samba parade, a competition of social clubs called Samba Schools that represent various neighborhoods. Each club tells a unique story through an hour-long performance composed of costumed singers, dancers, and multiple floats.

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2. Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife
> Location: Spain
> Dates: February 27 – March 10, 2019

Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, hosts the Carnival of Santa Cruz. Each year over 200,000 people attend this pre-Lent celebration, which features the yearly election of a wildly costumed Carnival Queen, elaborately masked partiers, and a grand parade. The finale, the Burial of the Sardine, features a 30-foot papier-mâché fish being mourned by widows, and represents the end of excess and the beginning of fasting for Lent.

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3. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival
> Location: Trinidad
> Dates: March 4 – 5, 2019

Known as the biggest carnival in the Caribbean, the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival hosts around 800,000 people. Attendants can walk along a six mile parade route and watch a steel drum band competition or a Carnival King and Queen competition. The highlight of this party is J’ouvert, french for daybreak, when at 2 AM parade-goers cover themselves in colorful paint and dance in the streets until well into the next day. Carnival costumes are often so large and elaborate that they need scaffolding and wheels to support them.

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4. Notting Hill Carnival
> Location: London
> Dates: August 24 – 26, 2019

Stemming from the Trinidadian tradition, Notting Hill Carnival in London is the second largest carnival in the world and the largest street festival in Europe, with 2 million attendees. This party features 70 performance stages, 10 steel bands, and a costume troupe masquerade. The troupes, called mas bands, can contain between 80 and 300 people who spend all year preparing and who often hire Trinidadian designers to create their costumes.

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5. Venice Carnival
> Location: Italy
> Dates: February 16 – March 5, 2019

Carnival season in Venice runs for two weeks before Ash Wednesday and sees millions of visitors. It kicks off with a boat parade and light show on the Rio di Cannaregio canal. The next big event is a beauty pageant whose champion wins a zipline ride into the center of festivities, St. Mark’s Square, in what is known as the Flight of the Angel. In Venetian tradition, attendees wear masks and can attend many masquerade balls, some with expensive entry fees and strict dress codes requiring period costumes.

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