The Ultimate Guide to La Ceiba Carnival Honduras

La Ceiba Carnival is the biggest party in Central America! Over half a million people come to Honduras to celebrate carnival!

Saturday, May 9th 2020

Saturday, May 23rd 2020

 

Days to start

What is La Ceiba Carnival?

ceiba carnival

La Ceiba Carnival which is also known as the Gran Carnaval Internacional de La Ceiba, or Feria la Isidra, is an annual carnival that is held in La Ceiba, Honduras. It occurs at the end of May every year and pays tribute to the Catholic Patron Saint, Isidore the Laborer.

La Ceiba Carnival is Honduras’ best party! In fact, La Ceiba Carnival is regarded as the largest party in Central America, attracting over 500,000 tourists! During carnival the population of La Ceiba triples in size with people coming from all over Honduras and Central America to join in. Expect a uniquely Latin American celebration!

For a whole week, La Ceiba is in party mode! Every night of the week is a party! The streets are filled with people dancing, singing, playing games, live music and there is a general air of celebration. The carnival culminates on Saturday with the Grand Parade. Following the parade is another all-night party that lasts long into the night. It is a do not miss event!

One of the best descriptions of what La Ceiba Carnival means to the locals is by renowned local songwriter Guillermo Anderson who sang “Ella se Alegra Cuando Viene el Carnaval”, describing the happiness and joy that this carnival brings to the whole community.

When is La Ceiba Carnival?

The 2020 La Ceiba Carnival begins on Saturday May 9th and ends on Saturday May 23rd, 2020.

La Ceiba Carnival is a celebration that is held to honor St. Isidore the Labourer, who is the patron saint of La Ceiba and celebrates his day on 15th May, which is an official public holiday.

The carnival of La Ceiba is two weeks of celebrations that culminate on Saturday with the great parade. The first 8 days of La Ceiba Carnival is a series of smaller ‘carnivals’ that take place in the various neighbourhoods of La Ceiba that is celebrated with religious, sports, musical, gastronomic, cultural, commercial and livestock activities.

The last 7 days of carnival are characterised by the ‘night parties’, where the neighbourhoods will organise small carnivals full of good music, food and concerts. These parties go all night.

The celebrations are in augurated on Saturday at 12:00 in the morning with the tour of the Carnival Queens. In the afternoon is the election of the Carnival and Fair Queen and carnival ends with the Gran International  

The Grand International Carnival of Friendship is on the 23rd May, 2020. 

Where is La Ceiba Carnival?

ceiba carnival

La Ceiba is a coastal Caribbean port city located in northern Honduras, Central America. It is the gateway city to the Bay Islands of Útila, Guanaja and Roatán which is a popular destination with tourists.

In the lead up to the parade the carnival party takes place in a different neighbourhood throughout La Ceiba. The main parade and after party take place along Avenida San Isidro and surrounding area.

La Ceiba Carnival is often called the Honduras Mardi Gras as its frequently compared to the New Orleans Mardi Gras. Interestingly, La Ceiba and New Orleans are sister cities! There used to be an important shipping route between the cities and in fact New Orleans is home to the largest number of Honduran immigrants in the US.

What is the history of La Ceiba Carnival?

La Ceiba Carnival goes back to 1917 when La Ceiba held its first fair known as “Feria la Isidra” to honor its patron saint. During this event the city picked the first Queen of the Fair! The celebration became an official municipal decree on March 15th, 1929.

The first parade was held in 1967 and had only 5 floats. The first ‘carnavalito’ was held in Barrio Mejia, one of the local neighborhoods. The celebrations grew with every passing year and what once started out as a small fair has grown into a major carnival celebration.

How do they celebrate La Ceiba Carnival?

ceiba carnival

La Ceiba Carnival has the whole city celebrating! This carnival is essentially one big public party! There are no private parties occurring, all the action takes place out on the streets! The celebration is filled with parades, pageantry, parties as well as cultural, sporting, music, gastronomic, commercial, religious and agricultural activities.

The parade begins on Saturday with a Tour of the Queens, and in the afternoon is the election of the Carnival Queen.

In the lead up to the parade, there are a series of “carnavalitos” or ‘mini carnivals’ that are celebrated in different neighbourhoods of La Ceiba. These are filled with entertainment, food and music and the parties last all night long!

The Isidra Fair celebrations all lead up to the Great Parade, which is held in the early afternoon. The parade is the highlight of the celebration and brings out the biggest crowds. After the parade a huge street party occurs that lasts until morning.

La Ceiba – Carnavalitos

ceiba carnival

The Carnavalitos are one of the big draws of La Ceiba Carnival. Each night a different neighbourhood hosts a carnavalito or mini carnival. In fact, each neighbourhood competes with each other to see who can outdo each other and host the best party!

These carnavalitos don’t start until around 10:00pm and run until early the next morning. They are wild public street parties that attract hundreds of thousands each night. They are filled with stages that host live entertainment, bands and musicians. There is also lots of dancing, drinking, feasting and games.

The La Ceiba neighborhoods that host a carnavalito are:

  • Barrio La Isla
  • Barrio Ingles
  • Barrio Mejia
  • Barrio El Iman
  • Colonia El Sauce
  • Barrio Solares Nuevos
  • Mall Mega Plaza
  • Plaza Premiere

La Ceiba Grand Carnival Parade (Grand Carnival de La Amistad)

ceiba carnival

Carnival culminates in the Great Parade which is called the ‘Grand Carnival de La Amistad’ and kicks off in the early afternoon, around 2pm. The parade usually begins on the southern end of Avenida San Isidro and runs down the entire length of the road, ending at the beach. Huge crowds of spectators line the streets and the atmosphere is electric!

The parade lasts for hours and features loads of floats and local, national and international comparsas, which are carnival groups filled with dancers, singers and musicians that are popular in Latin American and Spanish festivities. The parade starts with an incredible display of horses and

Honduran horse riders performing tricks and finishes with a float parade.

You will also see the Gairfuna perform, who are an ethnic group in the country. There are motorcycle stunt drivers performing tricks, as well as the most colourfully dressed dancers, awesome live music, and floats of all sizes and shapes. And just like New Orleans you can collect some colourful beads which are handed out through the parade.

La Ceiba Carnival Parade – Night Party

After the parade, as day turns to night, the party kicks off! San Isidro Avenue, the Malecon Turistico,

Zona Viva, and the Paseo de los Ceibenos become venues for Central America’s biggest and best party!

Street vendors flood the streets, music fills the air, and crowds of hundreds of thousands of people fill the streets. It is a fun and chaotic celebration that gives you a glimpse into life in Central America.

La Ceiba – Music

Music and dancing are an important part of La Ceiba Carnival. Every night the carnavalitos will have a couple of stages set up hosting live music concerts. You can obviously expect a lot of Latin and Caribbean like soca or reggaeton, because of its location.

During the night you will hear more variety of music, with plenty of techno, classic rock and pop songs played. There are lots of bands, DJs and international singers who will put on shows throughout carnival. One music show that you should look out for are the drums of the Garifuna people!  

La Ceiba – Food & Drinks

You must try the local food! Street stalls are everywhere along the parade route, selling mouth-watering Honduran food and drinks! Not only is the cuisine delicious but it is incredibly affordable.

We highly recommend you look out for the baleadas stands, which are soft handmade tortillas stuffed with cheese, refried beans and your choice of extras. But there are lots of food options like meat skewers, grilled chicken, chips, beans and rice!  

You must try the local drinks! Local beers like Salva Vida are sold in numerous vendors. Also try guaro, which is a liquor made from sugar cane! We recommend you look out for the Tito Aguacate truck selling calambres, which is a drink invented in one of the oldest bars in Tegucigalpa! Drinking in public is allowed.

La Ceiba – Street Vendors

Besides the food and drink vendors there are loads of market stalls set up during carnival selling all sorts of things.  In fact, you may have trouble getting around because the streets are so full of street vendors’ selling costumes, farm products, handmade clothing, shoes, t-shirts, cheeses, jewellery, souvenirs and other typical Honduran items. Honestly it is quite a sight you won’t see much else like it!

La Ceiba – Games

Yes, that is right! You can indulge in a lot of games during carnival. All the carnavalitos will have a range of games that have been set. Try knocking down cans, or firing a gun at a target, or even some gambling games like a roulette-style game where you bet money on picking what colour the wheel will land on.

La Ceiba – Safety

La Ceiba is relatively safe for Honduras but you should be aware that Honduras doesn’t have the best reputation for safety. However, during carnival there is a huge police presence all along the route making sure that people are not acting too crazy.

Many tourists report feeling safe during carnival, but it is important that you use caution, stick with the crowds and you should have little issues.

However, pickpocketing is very common! So just be aware of your belongings and leave anything valuable like your passport and credit cards back in your hotel. In fact, we recommend that you just bring some cash out with you.

Tips for La Ceiba Carnival

ceiba carnival

  • The parade is an absolute must! However, there are huge crowds, so you need to get there early to get a good spot!
  • Do not rock up to the city without having your accommodation pre-booked because you will find it nearly impossible to find a place to sleep!
  • La Ceiba has a tropical climate and is one of the wettest cities in Central America! It is incredibly hot and humid with temperatures ranging from around 16-36°C.
  • Leave your valuables back in the hotel just bring cash. And you don’t need to bring that much cash about $50US will buy a lot of stuff
  • Buy your meals from the street vendors as they are so affordable and delicious!
  • Water and bottled drinks are sold everywhere!
  • Be aware when it comes to using the bathroom, some public restaurants won’t allow you to use the bathroom unless you are a customer, others are more relaxed but may require a small fee, so be sure that you carry some small change or be prepared to buy something at the establishment. Of course, if your hotel is close to the celebrations, then you may just want to run back.

How to get to La Ceiba?

You can fly to La Ceiba as there is an airport located on the western side of the city, Golosón International Airport, also known as La Ceiba Airport. The airport has domestic flights going to most major Honduran cities, as well as international flights to George Town in the Cayman Islands, and Montreal. To get a quote for a flight click here.

Alternatively, you can take a bus from San Pedro Sula, which takes about 3-4 hours.

How to get around La Ceiba?

ceiba carnival

It is very easy to get around La Ceiba, as well as cheap! The city has numerous taxis. There are standard taxi rates so make sure you understand the fare before you jump in the cab. Also, don’t be surprised if your driver stops to pick up other passengers. Because it is a small town it is most likely that your driver will know the name of your destination. Get a quote for a rental car here

There are also plenty of buses in La Ceiba, just stand on the side of the road and flag one down when you see it coming. If it doesn’t stop to pick you up it means the bus has reached capacity. Buses cost around fifty US cents to catch. To rent a bike or a scooter get a quote here.

Where to stay in La Ceiba?

Accommodation in La Ceiba during carnival is scarce so you must book ahead! It is a small city, but we recommend staying close to the parade route as it is convenient to escape the action, or even so you can use your own bathroom and avoid long lines.

There are some upmarket hotel options in La Ceiba which include, La Quinta, the Aurora, Quinta Real, Hotel Paris, and further out of down, the Coco Pando. Some decent mid-range options include Iberia. Some safe budget hotels include the Lastenia and the Catracho. Some locals will rent out rooms and there are numerous guest house options. There is a lack of hostels in this region which may disappoint backpackers.

You can check out some accommodation deals here. 

What to do and see in La Ceiba?

ceiba carnival

La Ceiba is a wonderful city filled with friendly and hospitable people. It has beautiful beaches, great hotels, cheerful bars. There are plenty of activities that will keep you busy around La Ceiba throughout the day. La Ceiba is emerging as a popular ecotourism destination.

You could hike in nearby Pico Bonito National Park, go zip lining, snorkelling or white-water rafting. You could also pop over to the nearby Bay Islands for some scuba diving. The night life is one of the cities main attractions and has one of the best drinking scenes in the entire country. If you are an animal lover visit the Cuero and Salado Wildlife Refuge to see wild animals.

For more information about tours, things to do, sightseeing tours, day trips and more click here. For a longer vacation check out Tour Radar for some cool trips.

Is La Ceiba Safe?

La Ceiba is safe enough town but just follow normal precautions. However, be aware during carnival when there are big crowds it is easier to get your stuff stolen. So be aware of your valuables at all times or even leave them back at your hotel and only bring some cash with you. Or check out Amazon and invest in one of these travel safety accessories, like a fanny pack hidden under your clothing to store your essentials in. If you have to take your phone out with you, don’t have it on show for long.

Before you go!

We can’t stress enough the importance of travel insurance! Never travel without coverage! Being protected on your travels gives you an irreplaceable peace of mind. Don’t learn the hard way about the importance of travel insurance. Get a quote through our recommended insurance provider, World Nomads!

What is the Festival of the Virgin of La Tirana?

festival of the virgin of la tirana

Fiesta de la Tirana is an annual celebration that takes place in La Tirana, which is located in the Tarapaca Region of northern Chile. This celebration occurs to honor the Virgen del Carmen. This celebration is the biggest localized religious event in Chile and attracts around 250,000 visitors to this tiny village of 1500 inhabitants.

The visitors come to dance, hear music, pray and pay homage to the Virgen del Carmen, who is the national patron saint of Chile. Over 207 religious brotherhoods from Arica to Copiapó,  participate in this event. This is a beautiful celebration that attracts visitors from not just all over Chile, but from all over the world!

Because this celebration is so large, and the town only has 1500 inhabitants, during the celebration, community-based systems of commerce, housing and healthcare are put in place. Law enforcement is brought in from surrounding areas. Furthermore there is a mandatory dry law on during the celebration, with alcohol checkpoints at every entrance, to avoid public drunkenness.

When is the Festival of the Virgin of La Tirana?

The celebration begins on July 10th at 10pm and finishes on July 19th. There are 10 days of celebration. The dance celebrations are organised around the feast day of the Virgen del Carmen,

Where is the Festival of the Virgin of La Tirana?

The celebration takes place in La Tirana, Chile. La Tirana is located in the Tarapaca Region in Northern Chile, and is about 45 miles from Iquique, a coastal town on the pacific.

What is the history of Fiesta de La Tirana?

festival of the virgin of la tirana

The story about the origin of The Festival of La Tirana dates back to 1540, when an expedition led by the discoverer of Chile – Diego de Almagro, arrived in the area. It was there that they met an Incaican Princess named Huillac Humu, who due to her hostile attitude towards the Spaniards was known as La Tirana or the tyrant in English

But La Tirana ended up falling in love with one of her Spanish captives named Almeyda. She was so in love with him that she even wanted to marry him and become a Christian. Her community was so outraged that they killed both the princess and her lover.

Around 1650 Antonio Rondon built a hermitage next to the cross of her grave. In the 18th century a little town and church was created in that location. Today there is a Museum – Museo de La Tirana located in front of the church. The lovers remain buried in the place where the festival is celebrated.

While today La Tirana Festival is a celebration that is done in the name of the Virgen del Carmen, it still has many traditions that stretch back centuries to the indigenous Andean people. The masks, costumes, music and dance all have historical significance. Descendants of these indigenous persons still travel to the festival to make promises to the saint and to receive blessings.

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How do they celebrate La Tirana Festival?

festival of the virgin of la tirana

La Tirana Festival is celebrated with lots of religious ceremonies, local instrumental music performances, dance performances and parades. The celebrators dress in colorful traditional clothing and the events are an incredible combination of European, Mestizos, Creoles and Indian culture.

The festival has about 250,000 visitors who come to make offerings, promises, give thanks and pray to the Virgen del Carmen and receive blessings. She is the protector of Chile and believed to be the guardian of the armed forces, navy and police. Believers make their promise to her and are obliged to complete their promises.

Dancing for the Virgin

festival of the virgin of la tirana

Dancing plays a major role in the celebration of Fiesta de La Tirana. Dance groups known as bailes come to dance before the Virgen del Carmen, who is located in the sanctuary at La Tirana. Dancing before the Virgin is a very emotional experience. There are about 200 official dance groups from all over the country, who come to announce they have returned to fulfil their promise to her.

With so many dance groups, the performances run for days, and are scheduled around the clock. Every different dance group is assigned a specific entry time to see the Virgin, and they have 20 minutes to dance before her. The temple doors officially open on July 10th, and the bailes and pilgrims dance before the Virgin from July 11th until Jul 14th.

But before visiting her they must first dance at the plaza located at the entrance to the town, then in front of the statue of Cruz del Calvario (Calvary Cross), where a priest formally welcomes them and blesses the group. It is a sensory mosaic filled with lots of color, sound, energy and movement. The atmosphere and energy is electric and the central plaza is filled with thousands of dancers.

The dancers are dressed in the most beautiful costumes with lots of glitter and color. They enter the temple accompanied by their band and banner. Romantic melodies of vintage ballads, boleros and waltzes fill the air and where the songs of one dance group ends, another begins. The dancers offer their blood, sweat and tears to the Virgin.

Dancing for the Devil

festival of the virgin of la tirana

One of the most important parts of the festival is the Danza de los Diablos, which in English means the Dance of the Devils. This was brought to Chile by Bolivian salt miners.

Throughout the festival you will see many people wearing fearsome costumes and masks, which are done to chase the demons away. The demon masks have bulging eyes, curling horns and bright colours.

The Feast Day of Virgen Del Carmen

festival of the virgin of la tirana

You could say that the eve and feast day of the Virgen del Carmen, is like New Year’s. The eve of the feast is a special time. In the morning, the bishop celebrates Mass for the representatives of he armed forces. By 9pm at night, the square has filled up with large crowds who eagerly await midnight and the official start of the feast of the Virgen del Carmen.

At midnight the celebrations begin with people waving balloons and lights, orange lanterns float into the sky, the band plays music and firework displays surround the city. The dance groups take turn dancing and singing, and everywhere you look people are socializing and in good spirits. People stay up all night and dance groups continue performing in the square well after sunrise.

At 9am a major event takes place in the square. The statue of the Virgin, a smaller one from the temple, is lowered into the square. Hundreds of colored ribbons are attached to the base of her pedestal which are thrown to the audience, who hold them and sing while she is lowered. This is then followed by Mass.

At 2:30pm, a procession of the image of the Virgin parades its way through the streets, followed by statues of St Joseph who is her husband, and of Jesus. At each block, dance groups have the opportunity to sing to the Virgin, walking backwards, in front of her, so that they don’t turn their back to her.

Big crowds line the streets and follow the procession throwing confetti and shouting “Viva La Virgen”. The procession goes on for about seven hours, before it returns back to the temple. Inside the sanctuary some associations have been given the honor to sing before the larger statue of the Virgin.

Saying goodbye to the Virgin

festival of the virgin of la tirana

While the dance groups don’t leave La Tirana until July 19th, the farewell song and dance to the Virgin, begins midnight after the 16th July. The goodbye dances can be even more emotional than the entrance dances, you will often see dancers crying. They are done in the same order as the entry dance and continue for 24 hours a day until the 19th July, except during Mass.

One week after the groups have departed La Tirana, they gather together in their home cities for a fiesta chica. This is a follow-up dance to La Tirana. Its purpose is to bring the devotion and joy of La Tirana, back to their own streets.

How to get to La Tirana?

The majority of people will travel to La Tirana from the coastal city of Iquique which is about 45 miles from La Tirana. You can fly to Iquique from Santiago in about 2.5 hours, and then take a taxi to La Tirana, which will take around 40 minutes. You can also reach La Tirana by road from the northern cities of Calama, Arica and Antofagasta.

Accommodation for the Festival of La Tirana

It is super important that you book your accommodation well in advance because there are limited hotels. There are also some private accommodation rental options and many locals will open their houses for the celebration. A lot of temporary housing is installed during the celebration for many of the dance groups.

Check out some accommodation options here.

For more information about tours, things to do, sightseeing tours, day trips and more click here.

Before you go!
 
We can’t stress the enough the importance of travel insurance being protected on your travels is an irreplaceable peace of mind. Don’t learn the hard way about the importance of travel insurance. Never travel without coverage.
 
Get a quote through our recommended insurance provider, World Nomads.

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