There’s nothing like colourful, cheerful carnivals to set the mood – think parades, vibrant costumes, wild dancing, imaginative floats and you’ve got a street party to remember for life!

Carnival season occurs before the season of Lent, and the peak season for carnivals is typically during February or early March. Each carnival is a celebration so check out our list of ten of the best carnivals around the world. These are definitely bucket list-worthy!

1. Quebec Winter Carnival

The most famous attractions of the Quebec Winter Carnival involve a masquerade ball, winter sports (like snow boarding, sleigh racing, canoe racing), interactive illumination at Snow Sculptures, an ice bar and ice skating. The official Ice Palace also hosts dance parties! Anyone up for  snow bathing?

When: January 27- February 12, 2017

Where: Quebec City, Canada. Sites: Place de l’Assemblée-Nationale, the parc de l’Esplanade, the parc de la Francophonie, the parc de l’Amérique-Française and the Grande Allée

best carnivals quebec winter carnival

Photo: Jeangagnon via Wikimedia Commons

quebec winter carnival

Photo: Jamie McCaffrey via Flickr

2. Nice Carnival

Every year, a special theme is chosen, and artists create floats and other figurines from papier-mâché for the colorful parade. 17 spectacular floats make up the carnival procession on the Place Masséna and a thousand musicians and dancers will make this a party to remember. The parades take place day and night, and over 100,000 flowers are elegantly thrown from floats to the crowd.

When: February 11- February 25

Where: Nice, France

Carnaval de Nice

Photo: Zil via Wikimedia Commons

3. Carnevale di Venezia

The Carnival in Venice is an alluring masquerade affair. For about two weeks it’s all about capturing centuries-old refined social customs while wearing a mask and an elaborate costume and dancing in extravagant palazzos. Expect to find many masquerade balls, candle-lit parade of boats, concerts, and street performances. At the Venice carnival, it’s all about romance, style and imagination!

When: February 11-February 28

Where: Venice, Italy 

venice carnival

Photo: Wanblee via WikimediaCommons

venice carnival

Photo: wanblee via Wikimedia Commons

4. The Rio de Janeiro Carnival

One of the most well-known carnival celebrations in the world attracting a million people, this carnival features features more than 100 block parades (which include many of the students of the city’s samba schools). Famous groups include Banda de Ipanema, Carmelitas, Cordao do Bola Preta and Suvaco do Cristo. Even every neighborhood in the city has its own street band, with more than 300 bands participating in the revelry. The Brazilians sure know how to throw a party!

When: February 24-March 4

Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio carnival

Photo: Nicolas de Camaret via WikimediaCommons

The Rio de Janeiro Carnival

Photo: Sergio Luiz via Flickr

The Rio de Janeiro Carnival

Photo:  Alan Betensley via Wikimedia Commons

5. Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

The Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, held in the capital of the largest of the Canary Islands, attracts people from all over the world for its flamboyant display. It begins with a huge opening parade, where thousands of people in fancy dresses dance all night long. There is an official carnival which has more than a hundred groups, including murgas, comparsas, rondallas and other musical groups, and a street carnival which involves many people celebrating on the streets dressed according to tradition, and the festivities continue on,  night after night.

The strangest ritual has to be the Burial of the Sardine: the giant sardine (not a real one!), symbolising the spirit of Carnival, is carried through the streets on a funeral bier and set on fire to the despair of the entourage of “grief-stricken” widows, widowers and mourners. They can’t sardine during Lent, after all!

When: February 22-March 5

Where: Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Tenerife

Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Photo: Philippe Teuwen via Flickr

6. Cologne Carnival

The festivities involved at the Cologne Carnival have become so important, that people in Germany regard this time as the “fifth season.”Giant papier-mâché caricatures of politicians (German and international) walk down the parade, and even candy is thrown in the air much to the delight of the children at the carnival! The highlight of the carnival is Rose Monday with the march of Cologne’s Triumvirate – the Prince, the Peasant and the Maiden – in the Rosenmontag procession that takes over the city.

When: February 23-March 1

Where: Cologne, Germany

cologne carnival

Photo: RuckSackKruemel via Flickr

cologne carnival

Photo: RuckSackKruemel via Flickr

7. Goa Carnival

The carnival in Goa celebrates the culture and cuisine of Goa on a grand scale every year. Expect to find huge floats, parades, live music, bright lights, costumes, and dancers out in the streets all night long!  Most of the streets are decorated with attractive lighting and grand balls.

When: February 25-February 28

Where: Panaji, India

Goa Carnival

Photo: Viva Carnival via Flickr

8. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival 

Known as the biggest street party in the world, the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival opens with revellers parading through the streets immersed in paint, grease and mud until sunrise. Also expect to see thousands of masqueraders on the streets throughout the islands in a blaze of colourful costumes, dancing through the parade routes to the sounds of soca, steelpan and calypso music.

When: February 27-February 28

Where: Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago carnival

Photo: Go Trinidad and Tobago

trinidad and tobago carnival

Photo: Michel Tissot via WikimediaCommons

9. Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is all about music, parades, picnics, floats and excitement! Revelers are seen dressed in crazy costumes and adorned in purple, green, and gold, as well as long beads. Some traditions include throwing beads and other trinkets, wearing masks, and eating King Cake!

When: February 28

Where: New Orleans, USA

mardi gras

Photo via Pixabay

Photo: Craig Stanfill via Flickr

10. Notting Hill Carnival 

The annual Notting Hill Carnival is a chance for the Afro-Caribbean communities to celebrate their cultures and traditions, and typically features parades, steel bands, flamboyant dress, and stalls selling Caribbean food like jerk chicken, patties, curries and fried plantains.

When: August 26-August 28

Where: London, UK

Notting Hill Carnival

Photo: Andrew Porter via Flickr

Notting Hill Carnival

Photo: Massimo Usai via Flickr

Notting Hill Carnival

Photo: Massimo Usai via Flickr

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For more unique traditions and festivals, why not check out our culture stories?

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