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Mexican Carnival Destinations

Where to celebrate Carnaval in Mexico

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Carnaval (or Carnival) is a time for wanton revelry before the abstinence of Lent. It is celebrated in many destinations throughout Mexico. In some places festivities are comparable to celebrations for Carnaval in Rio or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, whereas some towns have completely unique ways of celebrating. The largest fiestas take place in Mazatlan and Veracruz.

Carnaval takes place the week before Ash Wednesday (dates vary from year to year). Find out the dates for Carnival in Mexico.

Mazatlan

Photo courtesy Carnaval de Mazatlan

Mazatlan is a beach resort town and busy seaport located on Mexico's northern Pacific coast in the state of Sinaloa. Carnaval celebrations in Mazatlan include costume parades, music, food, fireworks, art exhibits, beauty pageants and more. The event began over 100 years ago and is now one of the world's largest Mardi Gras celebrations, attracting hundreds of thousands of revelers.
Official Website: Carnaval de Mazatlan
Mazatlan City Guide

Veracruz

Photo courtesy of the Comite del Carnaval de Veracruz

Veracruz, on Mexico's Gulf coast is a bustling tropical port city with a rich history and a strong Afro-Caribbean feel. During Carnaval, the city comes to life with music, parades, dancing, food, and fireworks. This year's celebrations will include performances by big name musical artists such as: Paulina Rubio, Cristian Castro and Enrique Iglesias.
Official Website: Carnaval de Veracruz
See photos of Carnival in Veracruz.

Merida

Photo courtesy of Merida's Comite del Carnaval

Merida, the capital of the state of Yucatan, is located in the northwest part of the state. It's a charming city with elegant colonial buildings and a vibrant cultural life. Merida's Carnaval is a week-long party featuring parades, music and dancing. This is a good place for families to celebrate Carnaval because there are activities for all ages.
Official Website: Carnaval de Merida
Merida City Guide

Cozumel

Cozumel Carnaval
Photo by Bob Rockefeller, Creative Commons

The island of Cozumel is located east of the Yucatan Peninsula on top of the age-old structures of the Mayan coral reef. It's one of Mexico's top scuba diving destinations, but is also home to one of the most popular Carnaval celebrations in the Mexican Caribbean. During Carnaval, Cozumel springs to life in an exciting explosion of color and music. Cozumel's unique celebration includes a variety of costumed characters, such as Harlequins, rumba dancers, Spaniards, gypsy women, fairies, princesses and bullfighters.
Official Website: Carnaval de Cozumel
Cozumel Destination Guide

Campeche

Campeche Carnaval
Photo by ojotes, Creative Commons

This port city was walled to prevent attacks by pirates in the late 17th Century. Now it's one of Mexico's best preserved colonial cities, and a World Heritage Site. Campeche hosts the country's oldest Carnival celebrations and the city offers some of the most traditional fanfare associated with Carnival.
Official Website: Carnaval de Campeche
Campeche Destination Guide

Ensenada

Ensenada Carnaval
Photo by José Ramirez, Creative Commons

Ensenada, in Baja California, just south (70 miles) of Tijuana, hosts Mexico's northernmost Carnival celebration. Ensenada's Carnival festivities include masquerade parties, carnival games, grand balls, street dancing, and parades.
Official Website: Carnaval de Ensenada

San Juan Chamula

In San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, you can see a very different Carnival celebration. Here Carnival is given a pre-hispanic connotation - these days are associated with the five "lost" days of the Mesoamerican calendar - the solar calendar cycle had 360 named days and five days which had no name. During the festivities revelers run through the streets with flaming branches, re-enact Chiapan military battles and perform traditional dances.

Huejotzingo

Carnival in Huejotzingo
Creative Commons photo by Thelmadatter
This small town in the state of Puebla has been hosting a unique carnival celebration since the 1800s. Participants dress up in elaborate costumes and reenact a few traditional events that play an important role in local history, including the first marriage performed by Catholic rite and the battle of 1862 between French and Mexican troops that took place in Puebla (also commemorated each year on Cinco de Mayo).
Read more about the Carnaval de Huejotzingo from All About Puebla: Celebrate Carnival With a Bang in Huejotzingo

Tlaxcala

Tlaxcala Carnival Mask
Courtesy Tlaxcala Secretary of Tourism
Tlaxcala's carnival tradition dates from the seventeenth century. At that time the state's agricultural farms were owned by people of Spanish origin who held large parties to which the workers were not invited. In response, the workers held their own celebrations in which they dressed up like Europeans and mocked their costumes and dances.
Read more about Carnival in Tlaxcala.

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