The best, most flamboyant carnivals to visit the world over, from romantic Italy to exotic Bali.
Carnivals are pure magic. Like festivals, they can go on for days and remove social barriers, making it easier to meet new friends and connect with the community they’re born out of. But instead of a Barbour coat and some muddy Hunter wellies, you’re more likely to don sequins and feathers – and what’s not to love about that?
A fusion of music, dance and culture, a carnival is an incredible way to see a new place at its most charismatic and offers a completely different experience than your run-of-the-mill tourist trip.
2020’s carnivals are kicking off this Saturday with Venice Carnival on 8 February. If making it over to Italy by the weekend sounds like an unlikely dream, why not use it as inspiration instead, to make sure you don’t miss the next glittering carnival that catches your eye.
We’ve round up five colourful, exuberant carnival experiences from all over the world – and amazing places to stay while you visit them – so that next time, you don’t miss out.
Rome Carnival, Italy
What is it: before Lent, Rome prepares for this sacred time with a carnival-like extended party. You’ll see street performers dressed as traditional jovial and satirical figures and the roads are covered in tiny paper dots and spirals, as wedding-style confetti is tossed around in good-spirited street battles.
Where to stay: Sina Bernini Bristol is an iconic five star hotel with over 140 years of history – very fitting for a city like Rome. Positioned facing the stunning Piazza Barberini, located at the beginning of Via Veneto and a few steps from the Trevi Fountain, this hotel has one of the best spots in the Eternal City. Plus, its Flair Rooftop Restaurant by Sicilian executive chef Alessandro Caputo offers fresh, exciting and sophisticated cuisine with panoramic views of the Roman sky from every corner.
Mardi Gras, New Orleans
What is it: this ancient cluster of parades can be traced to medieval Europe and has managed to keep up its momentum year after year since its beginning in the late 1830s. Today, it’s known as one of the greatest free shows on earth, with numerous parades, parties, floats, costumes, music, food, drinks, and more.
Where to stay: The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans is just one block away from all the excitement and makes for a luxurious place to put your feet up after a day of partying. An antebellum mansion, it is known for its live music at The Davenport Lounge, an award-winning spa, innovative culinary experiences and 527 modern accommodations.
Nyepi Day, Bali
What is it: on 25 March, the whole island of Bali celebrates their most iconic holiday, Nyepi Day which means ‘The Day of Silence’. The island shuts down — there are no cars on the roads, no people can roam the streets, and there is no artificial lighting after sunset, plus the airport is closed for 24 hours. The day of reflection signifies the end of the old year and the start of a new one, and the night before is celebrated with loud noise, parties and parades.
Where to stay: The Mulia is an ultra-luxe Nusa Dua hideaway and is inviting guests to take part in silent spa treatments and resort-wide yoga. Travellers are recommended to arrive two to three days prior to Nyepi Day to join the community in the “ogoh-ogoh” parade, and then fully immerse themselves with the resort activities to experience this unique and annual tradition. After sundown, pathways are lit by candle light and guests encouraged to look up to the starry night sky without the light pollution and reflect on the year.
Antigua Carnival, Caribbean
What is it: Antigua Carnival is a ten day summer festival that is held from 23 July to 4 August, moving through the streets in the capital city, St. John’s. Antigua’s Carnival provides a colourful insight into the culture of the country, which intensifies as Carnival Monday and Tuesday approach and party lovers embrace the lively music and costumed parades throughout the day and night.
Where to stay: located on the southern tip of Antigua in the Leeward Islands, Curtain Bluff encompasses 20 acres of tropical gardens, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Following a £5 million renovation in 2017, Curtain Bluff is one of the Caribbean’s finest luxury tennis and spa resorts with two beaches and a selection of restaurants. It also boasts the Caribbean’s largest wine cellar.
Notting Hill Carnival, London
What is it: what would this list be without London’s biggest street party? Watch as elaborate floats and costumed performers wind their way through the streets of Notting Hill to the sound of calypso music. Notting Hill Carnival happens every year on the last weekend of August.
Where to stay: stroll from the parade across Hyde Park to 11 Cadogan Gardens, just behind the buzz of Sloane Square in West London. This hidden boutique hotel can be found in four elegant townhouses in the heart of Chelsea. It provides the ultimate city escape with plush, luxurious suites, a theatrical cocktail bar, relaxing library and famous Alice in Wonderland-esque mirror room.