1. New Orleans
Mardi Gras is one of most popular carnival celebrations with over two weeks of parades and parties before and through Fat Tuesday. Jazz music and colorful costumes dominate the city as the decorated floats roll through the streets, throwing out one of the most sought-after things at the carnival – beads. And as many as possible.
What you really need to know: The authorities now strongly advise women against using their “natural talents” to get their hands on more beads – apart from in the major tourist areas.
2. Veracruz Carnival
Without a doubt the best carnival in Central America, it’s also known as the “happiest festival in the world“ because of the “burning of bad mood ceremony”. In order to do this, an effigy of a disliked famous person, either Mexican or foreign, is symbolically burned and celebrated with an impressive firework display.
What you really need to know: A feel for rhythm and a hell of a lot of stamina is needed for this one as you dance through miles of coastal streets.
3. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival
Heat, Caribbean calypso sounds and scantily clad festivalgoers are a staple of this festival. Join the many musicians along the streets of the island as they play out tunes on steel drums or test your limbo skills with the locals.
What you really need to know: While this may be a festival of celebration, the music competitions make up a large part of the festival, and these can get very competitive – as can the dancing.
4. Cologne Carnival
Europe also has its fair share of carnivals, with one of the best located in Cologne. The carnival is the 2nd largest event in Germany after Munich’s Octoberfest, and it is just as crazy as well. Five days of celebrations, music and Kölsch (a famous local beer) make for an unforgettable experience.
What you really need to know: If someone says “Bützen” to you, then they want a kiss!
5. Carnival of Venice
One of most traditional, elegant and mysterious carnivals in the world. It was born out of the traditions of the 13th century, when the upper class hid themselves behind masks to be able to mix with the common folk. It was put on hiatus by Napoleon, who feared the threat of enemies using the masks as a covert to conspire against him. Thankfully, those days are long gone, and the private parties and the marvellous spectacle on the Piazza San Marco let you relive the wonder of days gone by.
What you really need to know: Don’t forget your mask – and we don’t mean your Zorro, Batman or Guy Fawkes outfit.
6. Notting Hill Carnival
The Notting Hill Carnival is one of the rare carnivals that doesn’t take place in the common carnival season around Lent, but in August. The first official event took place in 1966 to encourage cultural unity, and it has continued to do so to this day with two days of multicultural fun and celebrations with a Caribbean flair.
What you really need to know: Patience is needed as you make your way through the masses, and don’t forget your sunscreen - it takes place in August.