The 10 Best Places to Celebrate Carnival in Africa

Cities all over Africa have perfected their own unique way to celebrate carnival. We take a look at some of the best and most colourful carnival celebrations in Africa.
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    ▷ Calabar Carnival, Nigeria

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    Where is Calabar Carnival?

    Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria, West Africa.

    What is carnival in Nigeria?

    Nigeria is home to the Calabar Carnival which takes place in Cross River State of Nigeria. Calabar Carnival is famous for being “Africa’s biggest street party.” Calabar Carnival takes place annually for the entire month of December.

    Calabar Carnival is the largest carnival celebration in Africa and attracts over two million visitors every year. Calabar Carnival is all about showcasing African culture and heritage. The Calabar Carnival features amazing parades, street parties, sports competitions, a tree lighting ceremony and lots of music concerts with big international music guests like Nelly or Fat Joe.

    The Calabar Carnival Band Procession is one of the main events of carnival. It features 5 major competing carnival bands each with around 10,000 participants. The costumes are sparkly and colourful, and they dance along the parade route amongst steel bands, DJs, floats and musicians. The event is broadcast to a national audience of over 50 million.

    Find out more: Read our essential guide to the Calabar Carnival 

    ▷ Luanda Carnival, Angola

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    Where is Luanda Carnival?

    Luanda , Angola, south-central Africa.

    What is carnival in Angola?

    Angola Carnival takes its inspiration from Brazilian Carnival and holds a Brazilian-style carnival all throughout Angola. However, it is the carnival that is thrown in the country’s capital city Luanda which is the biggest and the best. Luanda Carnival has been occurring ever since 1857.

    Carnival in Angola begins on the Thursday prior to Lent and ends on Shrove Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday is an official public holiday in the country and when most of the carnival action occurs. Semba and Samba music are a key part of carnival. Samba music is actually derived from Angolan Semba music. The word semba comes from the Kimbundu language and means to invoke spirits.

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    African Slaves captured from the Angolan region and transported to Brazil back in the colonial times brought their religion, music and dance with them, which is how semba/samba music became a part of Brazilian life.

    Luanda Carnival sees amazing colourful street processions filled with amazing sparkly colourful costumes with beautiful headdresses worn during the carnival parades. Participants compete against each other dancing to the samba and semba tunes.

    Angola is trying to overtake the Calabar Carnival and become THE African carnival destination. Luanda Carnival is spending millions of dollars a year to try and become a big tourist destination.

    ▷ Bijagós Carnival, Guinea-Bissau

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    Where is Bijagos Carnival?

    Bubaque Island, Guinea Bissau, West Africa.

    What is carnival in Guinea-Bissau?

    Guinea-Bissau only has a tiny Catholic population as most of the country is Muslim. Regardless of this there are several carnival celebrations across the country in many cities and regions.

    However, the most famous is the Bijagós Carnival which occurs on Bubaque island. Carnival is unique here because the carnival costumes are not what you would expect, instead of wearing fancy dress the locals dress in their traditional attire of their ethnicity.

    ▷ Mindelo Carnival, Cape Verde

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    Where is Mindelo Carnival?

    Mindelo, Cape Verde, Central Atlantic Ocean, Africa.

    What is carnival in Cape Verde?

    Cape Verde celebrates carnival on three of their islands; Santiago Island, Sao Vicente and São Nicolau. The carnival celebration on Santiago Island is pretty tiny compared to the other two. All the carnival celebrations have parades and street parties. There is a local saying that São Vicente Carnival has the show and São Nicolau Carnival has the heart.

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    The Mindelo Carnival occurs in Sao Vicente is a huge spectacle that transforms the streets of Mindelo into a wild party. Mindelo Carnival has been called the most dazzling carnival in all of Africa and preparations start months in advance. The Sao Vicente locals take carnival very seriously and there are amazing costumes, incredible parades and lots of rhythmic drumming music.

    ▷ Quelimane Carnival, Mozambique

    Where is Quelimane Carnival?

    Quelimane, Mozambique, Southeast Africa.

    What is carnival in Mozambique?

    Quelimane Carnival calls itself the carnival capital of Africa! Quelimane Carnival attracts more than 50,000 people from all over the country. It hosts a more traditional carnival celebration that has an African twist. The area where carnival takes place is called Little Brazil.

    The City of Quinhamel also hosts the Carnival of the People also known as the carnival of animals. In this carnival celebration people wear their traditional attire as carnival costumes as well as huge animal head costumes of tigers, roosters, rabbits and mice.

    ▷ Carnaval International de Victoria or Festival Kreol, Seychelles

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    Where is the Festival Kreol?

    Mahé, Republic of Seychelles, Indian Ocean, Africa.

    What is carnival in Seychelles?

    Most of the carnival celebrations in Africa are held in former Portuguese colonies but some have been created to attract tourists, as is the case with Seychelles. Carnaval International de Victoria was created to attract tourists and has been such a success that it has even seen top international stars perform at its carnival.

    Carnaval International de Victoria is a vibrant and colourful carnival that features incredible costumes like the ones you would see in Brazil as well as lots of hip shaking dancing. It is a fun and exciting spectacle that is full of energy. This carnival isn’t held before Lent but occurs in April each year

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    ▷ Cape Town Carnival, South Africa

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    Where is Cape Town Carnival?

    Cape Town, South Africa.

    What is carnival in South Africa?

    Carnival in South Africa was created the same as Seychelles not because of anything to do with Lent but instead as a tourism draw. South Africa has three carnivals including carnival in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and in Gauteng.

    Cape Town Carnival is a baby having only begun back in 2010. The first carnival attracted about 11,000 participants but has continued to grow so popular that today it attracts about 50,000 people. According to the carnival organisation, Cape Town Carnival is all about growing the economy and creating jobs in costume, float design and production.

    Cape Town Carnival features an impressive procession with incredibly colourful costumes and elaborately decorated floats.

    Find out more: Here is our ultimate guide to the Cape Town Carnival

    ▷ Harare International Carnival, Zimbabwe

     10 africa carnivals

    When is Harare International Carnival?

    *This Carnival has been temporarily suspended due to crippling economic conditions

    Where is the Harare International Carnival?

    Harare, Zimbabwe, the Republic of Zimbabwe.

    What is carnival in Zimbabwe?

    The Harare International Carnival in Zimbabwe is a relatively new comer to the carnival scene and was also created to boost the economy and bring new employment opportunities into the city. Harare international Carnival has also taken its inspiration from Brazil and hosts a Brazilian style carnival full of colourful costumes and rhythmic music.

    Find out more: Find out more about the Harare International Carnival

    ▷ Maputo Carnival, Mozambique

    Where is Maputo Carnival?

    Maputo, Republic of Mozambique, South East Africa.

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    What is carnival in Mozambique?

    In Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, carnival consists of a series of public parades while carnival parties occur at all the bars and clubs in private events. Still Carnaval de Maputo attracts about 9,000 people to the parades and features around 3,000 dancers from local high schools.

    ▷ The Takoradi Street Carnival, Ghana

    10 africa carnivals

    Where is Takoradi Carnival?

    Takoradi, West Africa.

    What is carnival in Ghana?

    The Takoradi Street Carnival is a colourful Christmas carnival celebration that takes place in Takoradi, Ghana and occurs annually from the 24th – 26th  December. It is a popular tourist attraction and sees carnival groups displaying their skills and arts through dance.

    It is the most anticipated event of the year and features various masquerade groups wearing amazing costumes and masks and parading through the main streets of the city. Crowds of thousands come out to watch the popular street carnival.


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