• Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany: Bavaria’s famous celebration of beer is almost 200 years old and is a huge fair. Around six million people visit the 16-day event every year, drinking five million litres of beer.

September 22-October 7, 2012: www.oktoberfest.de/en/

Oktoberfest fun – photo © A Kupka/City of Munich Tourist Office


Calgary Stampede, Alberta, Canada: Over one million revellers join in 10 days of rodeo and Western fun as the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” hits Cowtown. This year is the event’s centenary. See it with Trek America (www.trekamerica.com).

July 6-15, 2012: www.calgarystampede.com

Calgary Stampede, Alberta, Canada - © Peter Ellegard


Notting Hill Carnival, London: Originally started as an offshoot of the Trinidad Carnival in 1964, Notting Hill’s annual street party over two days of August Bank Holiday is now an extravaganza of Masquerade bands, elaborate costumes, dancing and food, attended by around one million people each year.

August 26-27, 2012: www.nottinghill-carnival.co.uk

Colourful costume at Notting Hill Carnival – photo © Visit London


Junkanoo, Bahamas: The spectacular annual Junkanoo parade kicks off at 2am on Boxing Day with thousands of participants wearing dazzling crepe paper and cardboard costumes dancing their way through the streets on Nassau and other towns to the rhythms of drums, cowbells, whistles and horns until around 10am.  

December 26, 2012: www.bahamas.co.uk/about-the-bahamas/junkanoo

 Junkanoo participant – photo © Bahamas Tourist Office


Venice Carnival, Italy: Intricate and colourful Venetian masks form the centrepiece of the city’s pre-Lent celebrations, when up to 30,000 visitors come to watch the spectacle. Events include shows, concerts, recitals and a grand competition for the best masks.

February 4-21, 2012: www.carnivalofvenice.com

Venice Carnival masks – photo © ENIT


Carnival, Dominican Republic: With origins dating back to 1520, Dominican Carnival is a tradition inherited from Spanish forefathers and each city has a unique celebration with parades every Sunday during February. A variety of carnival masks is on display, including the grotesque Diablo Cojuelos, who come out onto the streets swinging their weapons and cracking their whips.

February 5-27, 2012: www.godominicanrepublic.com

Diablo Cojuelos masks during Carnival in the Dominican Republic – photo © Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism


Up Helly Aa, Shetlands mainland, Scotland: Shetland’s biggest fire festival, Up Helly Aa, celebrates Shetland’s history with a series of re-enactments and marches, culminating in a torch-lit procession and Viking galley burning. There is no postponement for weather; despite being held in mid-winter on the same latitude as southern Greenland, Up Helly Aa has never been cancelled.

January 31, 2013: www.scotlandsislands.com/festivals-events/info/434/up-helly-aa

Burning the Viking galley: the climax of Up Helly Aa – photo © Scotland’s Islands


August Festival, British Virgin Islands: Nowhere is the British Virgin Islands’ diverse culture more evident than during the August Festival on Tortola. Also known as Emancipation Festival Days, it celebrates the BVI’s African-Caribbean heritage and the abolition of slavery in 1834 and is a colourful display of dancing troupes, calypso and steelpan bands, pageant queens, donkey races, fishing contests, street vendors, elaborate costumes and electrifying Mocko Jumbies on stilts.  

July 27-August 12, 2012: www.bvitourism.com

British Virgin Islands’ festival dancer – photo © BVI Tourism


Dominica Carnival, Dominica: Considered by many as one of the most authentic experiences in the Caribbean, Dominica’s Carnival, or The Real Mas, is a feast of sights and sounds and the most festive season on the island. It is a unique mix of calypso, shows and two exciting days of street jump-up with thousands of locals and visitors taking to the streets of Roseau.

February 21-22, 2012: www.discoverdominica.com

Carnival time on Dominica – photo © Discover Dominica Authority


Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto, Canada: Every summer, Toronto blazes with the excitement of calypso, steelpan and elaborate masquerade costumes during the annual Caribbean carnival formerly known as Caribana, which celebrates its 45th anniversary in 2012. Thousands of brilliantly-costumed masqueraders and dozens of trucks carrying live soca, calypso, steelpan, reggae and salsa artists jam the 1.5 km parade route all day.

July 10-August 12, 2012 (parade is on August 4): www.torontocaribbeancarnival.com

Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto – photo © Toronto CVB


Do you agree with our choices? Or do you have any suggestions for other carnivals or fiestas? Let us know by responding on our Facebook page, or by emailing us on editor@tlm-magazine.co.uk. If you have a picture of the carnival or festival in question, you can also send it to us.

Please put the following in the Subject box: 10 of the Best Carnivals and Festivals.

Then for any digital photographs you are sending, let us know what they are of and where they were taken alongside the photo file name, like this:

1234.jpg – Dancers at Junkanoo, Bahamas.

1235.jpg – Notting Hill Carnival, London.

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