9 Fabulous “Carnival” Celebrations You Must Experience in 2016
~ Frying Pans, Food Fights, and a Frenzy of Finger Painting ~
Whether you call it Carnival or Mardi Gras, some of the world’s best parties take place as winter is drawing to a close. In the strictest sense, these decadent festivals have historically signified one last excess before the austerity of the Christian Lenten period that leads into Easter. Carnevale in Venice is world-renowned for its elegant masks, and everyone knows about those famous beads at New Orleans’ Mardi Gras or the dedicated samba clubs in Rio. But if you’re looking for something more unusual, Booking.com has scoured the globe for some alternative hidden gems and fantastically unique celebrations that will inspire you to take to the streets and leave your inhibitions behind...
QUÉBEC CITY, CANADA
Party Details: Taking place over two weeks each year in Québec City, unlike other Carnival festivities around the world, the Québec Winter Carnival is a celebration of everything frozen. Featuring numerous events and parades showcasing the festival’s friendly snowman mascot Bonhomme, revellers can wander gleefully through the Ice Palace, admire ice sculptures created on site by artists from around the world, or simply enjoy a wide range of winter sport events, including snowshoe and dogsled races. Keeping toasty in the frigid conditions is no problem, as long as you’ve got a bit of “caribou”, a uniquely Canadian blend of warmed red wine, sweetened with maple sugar and fortified with a healthy shot of whisky.
When to Go: This year’s Winter Carnival takes place from January 29 to February 14, so there’s plenty of time to take advantage of all the frozen fun!
Where to Stay: As the most photographed hotel in the world and the crown jewel of North America’s only fortified city, a stay at the historic Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is an indulgent treat for your frozen Canadian getaway, especially if you plan to attend the exclusive masquerade ball held in the grand ballroom.
Party Details: With more than 80 miles of coastline and a reputation for being one of the world’s premiere party destinations, Goa packs a real punch with not one, but two fabulous festivals that are worth travelling for in the early part of the year. The first noteworthy party of the season, the Goa Carnival, is a curried mix of diverse traditions and religious ceremonies that culminates in a large parade featuring fantastical floats, dancing and a wide range of music on par with its counterparts in South America. For an exclusively Indian experience, stick around until March for the second not-to-be-missed party, the iconic and colourful Holi Festival. On the day after the first full moon in the month of March, the “festival of colours” is a wet and wild free-for-all that has to be experienced to be believed. Starting in the early hours of the morning, people of all ages drench each other in brightly coloured water and fling large amounts of powdered dyes everywhere and at everyone. The joyous multi-coloured chaos usually tapers off as evening approaches, but is by far one of the most exuberant and memorable ways to welcome the changing of the seasons.
When to Go: In 2016, the Goa Carnival starts on Saturday 6 February and finishes up on Tuesday 9 February. To indulge in some wanton finger painting, stick around for the Holi Festival in Goa which takes place this year on 23 March.
Where to Stay: Located right on Miramar Beach in the bustling centre of Goa’s capital, Panaji, the Goa Marriott Resort & Spa is an ideal choice for taking advantage of all the partying, culture, and pampering that India’s smallest state has to offer.
Party Details: What began as a local gay rights march in Sydney in 1978 has exploded into one of the most popular and beloved tourist events in Australia. Featuring a packed calendar of GLBT-themed events, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is one of the largest gay pride festivals in the world and now attracts enormous crowds to its decadent and eccentric parade. Think dykes on bikes and hordes of drag queens in glittering gowns partying it up on the same blocks of Oxford Street alongside families with children. With something for everyone, the Sydney Mardi Gras is by far Down Under’s most impressive street party!
When to Go: The big parade takes place on 5 March this year, but additional special events leading up to the massive celebration start weeks in advance.
Where to Stay: For the ultimate Sydney experience, nurse your post-Mardi Gras hangover at the casual and cool Bondi Beach House, just steps from the city’s most iconic stretch of golden sand.
Party Details: During the epic six-day “Carnaval baiano”, you’ll be bouncing like “pipoca” (literally popcorn) to the beats pumped out by dozens of bands and artists strategically stationed throughout this massive street party, so come prepared to mingle with the masses! The annual celebrations in Salvador—rumoured to be Brazil’s most beloved—welcome an estimated 2 million+ party goers to the city. You can’t samba your way through the streets without sampling Brazil’s national cocktail, the caipirinha. Cupfuls of this intoxicating concoction of sugarcane liquor (“cachaça”) muddled with sugar and lime will keep you dancing till dawn...
When to Go: The official party gets started in Salvador on Thursday 4 February 2016 and runs until the 10th, but don’t be surprised if people are dancing in the streets well before and after these dates.
Where to Stay: With stunning ocean views in the heart of one of Salvador’s most colourful neighbourhoods, the Pousada Casa Vila Bella is the perfect place for some authentic local hospitality and a little R&R between rounds of reckless abandon.
Party Details: Grab a protective helmet and jump into the fray as a “rebel” in one of the world’s most famous food fights! Although the origins of “The Battle of the Oranges” in Ivrea remain somewhat disputed, legend dictates that a young peasant girl refused to give in to the advances of a tyrannical lord on her wedding night and instead, defiantly decapitated him, spurning a local rebellion. Although arrows have been exchanged for citrus fruit, the re-enactment of this epic battle is no less intense and is the highlight of carnival celebrations in Ivrea, with thousands of inhabitants dividing into nine teams, intent on beating the “pulp” out of each other. Have no fear—for those who just want to observe the juicy battle, protective nets are set up near the perimeter of the mock battlefield to protect spectators from any friendly fire.
When to Go: Around 500,000 kilos of oranges will be hurled around Ivrea from 6 February to 9 February 2016.
Where to Stay: Tend to your battle wounds in the rustic charm of a 16th-century house turned B&B, nestled in the hills just outside Ivrea. You can rest up for the next round of celebrations in the picturesque surroundings of B&B Cascina Moncrava, enjoying the personalised service and delicious breakfast that has guests gushing.
Party Details: As the former seat of power for the Inca Empire, the Peruvian city of Cusco delivers a truly unique Carnaval celebration that pays homage to both its Spanish colonial history and indigenous traditions. Dressed in local costumes bedecked with colourful streamers, locals flock to the regional capital for a week of festivities. Prepare yourself to get soaked, as the celebrations also include playful water fights in the streets near the central Plaza de Armas, as well as a large public feast, serving local specialties such as “t’impu” and “puchero” (traditional stews prepared with alpaca or llama and a variety of vegetables and fruits, including sweet potatoes, corn and yucca). The lively party also includes rounds of ritualised dancing around an enormous “yunza” tree loaded with presents and gifts. Couples take turns trying to hack down the tree, with the couple striking the final blow being tasked with sorting out the yunza tree for the following year!
When to Go: The week-long series of Carnaval celebrations in Cusco will take place during the week of 6 February in 2016, so make sure you’re there in plenty of time to take in all of the festivities!
Where to Stay: Located right in the historic centre of Cusco and within striking distance of all the city has to offer, you’ll be treated just like Incan royalty at the Palacio del Inka, but with all the modern comforts, of course!
PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD
Party Details: Discovered by Christopher Columbus in his third voyage to the New World in 1498, the island of Trinidad, just off the northern coast of Venezuela, hosts one of the most spirited carnival celebrations in the Western Hemisphere. Scantily-clad dancers sporting massive headdresses in every colour of the rainbow gyrate along the parade route to the sounds of “soca”, a unique, local type of Calypso, while music trucks and groups of “panmen”, keeping time on an improvised mix of frying pans, oil drums, and rubbish bin lids, keep the party hopping!
When to Go: Trinidad’s carnival kicks off on the Monday before Ash Wednesday, so to catch all the festivities, make sure you’re in Port of Spain from 8 to 9 February, 2016.
Where to Stay: The Hilton Trinidad & Conference Centre, located near the Queen’s Park and the Botanical Gardens, promises amazing views of the island and a lush retreat for weary party goers.
Party Details: Boasting the largest carnival celebration in Switzerland, the Basel Fasnacht is a 3-day, around-the-clock blowout that begins the Monday after Ash Wednesday. Satirically dressed revellers march through the streets in “cliques”, piping on their piccolos and beating on drums as they wind their way through the centre of the city. Featuring endless rounds of parading brass bands, fantastical floats, and sarcastic singers, revellers should be on the lookout for spontaneous attacks from the infamous “Waggis”, known for showering spectators without official Fasnacht Badges with handfuls of colourful confetti.
When to Go: With reliable Swiss precision, the Basel Fasnacht lasts for exactly three days, beginning at 4:00am on Monday 15 February, 2016 and finishing up at 4:00am on Thursday 18 February, 2016.
Where to Stay: Situated just steps from Basel’s historic centre and the train station, MadibApartments L8 is the perfect crash pad to soak up the carnival scene in Basel. It’s close enough to the action for you to secretly and conveniently escape the crowds for a quick power nap to recharge for the next round of masked mayhem.
Party Details: With a carnival tradition dating back to the 14th century and officially listed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, the pre-Lenten bash in the medieval walled town of Binche is hailed as the best in all of Belgium. Nearly a thousand wax-masked clowns (known as ‘Gilles’) roam the streets starting at dawn on Ash Tuesday, dancing to the beat of drums in wooden shoes and beating sticks to ward off evil spirits. Later on, the Gilles don fanciful hats bedecked with ostrich feathers and toss oranges to (and sometimes at) the assembled crowds as they march through the town. If you’re lucky enough to be pelted with an orange, don’t submit to the temptation to throw one back—it’s considered a massive insult!
When to Go: The official festivities begin on Shrove Sunday, 7 February 2016 and culminate on Ash Tuesday, 9 February. However, celebrations start as early as seven weeks prior with music, street performers, public displays and marching on the preceding Sundays.
Where to Stay: Just a short drive north of Binche, the Aparthotel Le Manoir Du Capitaine
offers secluded and comfortable digs in a renovated 19th-century brewery in the heart of Wallonia. It’s the perfect launching point to explore the surrounding countryside, including the famous battleground of Waterloo.