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The Greatest Carnivals on Earth

The carnival has been around for hundreds of years. We have looked far and wide to find you 5 vibrant, fun-filled and iconic carnivals in the world today. Get your costumes ready!

1. Rio de Janeiro Carnival, Brazil

The Rio de Janeiro Carnival has been described by many as the greatest show on Earth. The celebrations lasts for four days in February or March (in 2014 it is 28th February to 4th March) and over 2 million people take part in the world’s largest party on each day.

Visitors can expect to see large masquerade balls, street parades, flamboyant floats and decorations all over the streets as the entire city celebrates this national holiday.

The pinnacle of the event is the Samba Parade – where Samba Schools from all over Brazil compete on the best displays – held in Rio’s purpose built Sambadrome. Samba Schools train all year to be judged on their floats, costumes, dancing and music, all to be crowned champions at the annual carnival. www.rcvb.com.br

2. Quebec Winter Carnival, Canada

The Carnaval de Québec, celebrated since 1894, is one of the most traditional carnival festivals in the modern world. It takes place in February and lasts for the first three weekends of the month. In 2014 it will be held from 31st January to 16th February.

The carnival is filled with activities including ice slides, skiing, ice climbing and the famous snow tubing. A must see is the famous canoe race, which has been held since the very first carnival. 

Visitors will also be able to immerse themselves in the Québécois culture by enjoying traditional snacks and foods whilst learning or perfecting their French. The carnival boasts a tremendous nightlife – Bonhomme’s Ice Palace becomes a high-end nightclub with a large dance floor and an array of DJs. If that isn’t enough, the surrounding clubs and bars will also be filled to the brim! carnaval.qc.ca

3. Trinidad & Tobago Carnival, Trinidad & Tobago

The whole of the Caribbean actively takes part in carnival celebrations, however Trinidad & Tobago is home to the first and largest carnival in the region. Roughly 350,000 people, wearing brightly coloured costumes, hit the streets to dance and party with locals and visitors alike on the Monday and Tuesday before Lent every year (3rd March to 4th March in 2014).

The music is something everyone will love – locals use resident woods to create different drums that are played on the streets by the most talented of percussionists. Not to be missed!

Carnival in Trinidad & Tobago is used as a way to unite all members of the community here. It can be described as the glue that binds immigrants from Europe, Africa, China and India to give them a collective Caribbean identity. So what are you waiting for? gotrinidadandtobago.com

4. Carnevale di Venezia, Venice, Italy

The Venice Carnival is an internationally celebrated masked festival and one of the oldest in the world. People come from around the globe to see and be part of this magical carnival, set against the backdrop of picturesque Venice itself.

The carnival happens every year approximately two weeks before Ash Wednesday and finishes on Shrove Tuesday (also known as Martedì Grasso - Fat Tuesday). For 2014 the dates are from 15th February to 4th March.

Carnevale began here back in the 15th Century but fell into decline by the end of 18th Century. It took until 1979 for it to rise from the ashes and once again become one of the best carnivals on earth.

The masked procession of the official opening happens on the first Saturday of the event each year, which goes from Piazza San Marco. A highlight of the revelries is the Gran Ballo delle Maschere (Grand Masked Ball), held in a different Venetian palace each year. All you need to go is an elaborate costume, mask and suitable dance steps! www.carnevale.venezia.it

5. Mardi Gras, New Orleans, USA

The colourful and extravagant carnival season draws over three quarters of a million people a year to New Orleans. It is a time for fun, which including music, the parades, crazy costumes, amazing floats and all adds up to a big holiday for everyone here.

Purple, green and gold are the traditional Mardi Gras colours and spectators wear the colourful beads traditionally thrown from the floats as they go by. 

It started back in the 19th Century, when a group of businessmen formalised the Mardi Gras carnival parade, devising a secret group, which became New Orleans’ first ‘krewe’ known as the Mystick Krewe of Comus.

Since then it has grown to have many social organisations, which organise elaborate parades each year. This is one huge street festival and everyone is welcome! The next Mardi Gras day (the main day of the festivities) is on 4th March. www.mardigrasneworleans.com

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