5 spectacular places to celebrate Carnival

From the blue devils in Trinidad and Tobago to the elaborate masks in Venice, here’s what to see where.

This story appears in the February 2020 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Trinidad and Tobago

Festivities get fierce in this island nation as the Jab Molassie take to the streets. These pitchfork-toting devils—just one type of the many Carnival characters—cover themselves with molasses or grease and paint, often blue. Be prepared to give them a Trinidadian dollar (about 15 cents U.S.), or they’ll smear you with paint too. The mountain hamlet of Paramin holds an especially wild display. (Hear the sounds of Trinidad.)

Venice, Italy

What is the art behind the mask? Craftspeople press layers of wet paper onto a mold. Once the paper dries, they hand-paint the masks and add gold leaf, gems, or feathers.

Bulgaria

For perhaps 4,000 years the costumed Kukeri have been scaring off evil spirits and calling for bountiful harvests. Top spots to see their processions include the town of Pernik and the village of Shiroka Laka. (See surreal pictures of Bulgaria’s masked dancers.)

New Orleans, Louisiana

Mardi Gras parades come with a price: tons of discarded plastic beads. But now there are more sustainable options, such as recycled-paper necklaces by Atlas Handmade Beads.

Oruro, Bolivia

In this arid, high-altitude city, performers don horned masks for the Carnival’s Diablada, a dance influenced by both indigenous and Spanish traditions.

Read This Next

The most ancient galaxies in the universe are coming into view
‘Microclots’ could help solve the long COVID puzzle
How Spain’s lust for gold doomed the Inca Empire

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet