Among the most unique festivities, the Havana Carnival is one of the most important on the island of Cuba. A party that manages to highlight the festive potential that characterizes the Caribbean islands, which is also curiously celebrated during the month of August, a very particular feature as far as a Carnival is concerned.
During this season, Havana presents a sample of its traditions with different activities among which we will find food fairs, amazing parades, floats and lots of music and dances. We will tell you everything that awaits you on this important date below.
When is the Havana Carnival 2023?
Havana Carnival has been celebrated for centuries. The carnival was held in memory of the slaves who would recreate the songs and dances of their homeland on the feat of CorpusChrist, which is annually celebrated on the 6th January. It was historically one of the few holidays that the Spanish masters allowed their slaves to take.
Over time, the dates of the carnival changed with the celebration now taking place in the summertime so that it coincides with other dates of historic importance that relate to the triumph of the country’s revolution.
When is Havana Carnival? The Havana Carnival is celebrated every weekend during July and August.
Where is the Havana Carnival?
Cuba is one of the 13 countries that make up the so-called Lesser Antilles, being an island that we can find in the Caribbean Sea. Here we will arrive in Havana, home of our Carnival respectively.
Havana is recognized as the capital of Cuba, being its smallest province, and at the same time of the largest population, with an approximate of 2,1350,000 inhabitants. Here is where the Havana Carnival is held, where we will enjoy a tropical and somewhat temperate climate, which is due to the warm sea currents.
What is the Havana Carnival?
The Havana Carnival is recognized as one of the most valuable events in Cuban culture and tradition. Consisting of only two weekends, is a party that delights the whole Havana with a large number of activities, including dances and concerts that enhance the musical diversity of the island.
A parade full of colorful troupes, including comparsas with a trajectory that has been recognized throughout Carnival, immortalizing some of them with the names Los Guaracheros de Regla, El Alacrán, Federación Estudiantil, etc. Other activities are added here, such as the Kids’ Carnival, parades of all kinds and, of course, the full-throated celebration of the Carnival.
How is Carnival celebrated in Havana?
The first thing that the Havana Carnival will offer us is a large number of concerts and dances full of local samples of salsa, conga, timba and also urban dances. These will be the first events announcing the beginning of Carnival, which will consequently bring us the Kids’ Carnival.
In the Kids Carnival we will observe different comparsas, which highlight the conceptual proposals that the little ones represent. Meanwhile, the streets of Havana are filled with different “Quioscos” -a small market in the street- and tents where we can find different handicraft products along with different recipes of typical Cuban food.
The parade of floats, in particular, also plays a very important role in the celebration. This is a contest in which we will enjoy the variety of nuances and artistic proposals that will be qualified by a group of professionals.
Last but not least of the elements of the Havana Carnival is the party on Havana’s Malecon – a long wall overlooking the sea that surrounds a set of avenues – where the biggest of celebrations will take place with all the ingredients of Carnival: dances, music, floats, comparsas and a marching crowd in the parade.
Origins of the Havana Carnival
There are different versions about the beginning of carnivals in Havana. On the one hand, it is said that the first Carnival was held in 1550, after the arrival of enslaved people from Africa to the island. Other sources state that this festivity would have its beginnings in 1585.
At that time, the carnival format enjoyed smaller resources, being mostly private celebrations. Most of the festivities were carried out in honor of religious reasons, where the participants would wear their costumes and different particular accessories.
Despite these differences, these celebrations were recognized from the beginning as Carnival, taking place just days before Ash Wednesday. The African ethnic groups and also the so-called mulattos would become part of these celebrations in the 17th century, which is why many of their characteristics can be seen in the floats of today’s Carnival.
By the 18th century, an increase in street celebrations would be observed, thus involving a greater number of people to take part in the Carnival. Years later, in the 19th century, music became part of the elements of the Havana Carnival, transforming its essence forever.
As the 20th century progressed, the Carnival would experience ups and downs, but finally, it would manage to establish itself as one of the most important celebrations for this province, becoming a representation, not only of the Cubans, but of all those towns that are represented today in this festivity.
How to get to Havana?
To enjoy the Havana Carnival, we must consider certain means of transportation, as it is an island destination respectively. In this sense, we can make use of the following methods to get to Havana.
- By plane: Destinations by plane will have only one point to reach. Nothing more and nothing less than the José Martí International Airport, a place where Cuba receives hundreds of international flights. Air Europa is an airline from which we can travel to Havana.
- By ship: In this case, our destination would be the Sierra Maestra Cruise Terminal, Cuba. We can find different cruises to Cuba, not only from Spain, but also from Latin America or North America. However, the best of the options will be, both for time and comfort, by plane.
Where to stay in Havana?
There are plenty of great accommodation options in Havana to suit all types of budgets and levels of comfort.
Check out Booking.com for some great accommodation deals in Havana.
Book your Hotel and Flight for the Havana Carnival
What to do and see in Havana Carnival?
During our stay in Havana, we can find different options to entertain us and make our stay a unique experience. While we enjoy the Havana Carnival, we can:
- Know Havana and its past: If there is something that keeps this province is a strong history rooted in its architecture. We can enjoy an extensive landscape of buildings with a lot of history to discover. We will find guided tours so as not to miss any detail of this historical spectacle.
- A stroll along the Malecon: This area is perhaps one of the most popular, not only in Havana, but in Cuba in general. It is an extremely extensive wall, perhaps a little more than 7 kilometers long, which offers us a wide view of the sea, where we can enjoy long walks, and of course, a unique view.
Is Havana a safe city?
Havana is a place that has never lost its tourist attraction, something that would allow us to deduce certain points about its security. During our visit, it will not be a bad idea to keep our eyes open with respect to our belongings and uninhabited spaces. It is not necessarily a dangerous place, but we suggest to maintaining the necessary caution.
What to eat in Havana?
Havana presents us with some very attractive gastronomic options. This may be one of the most interesting points for those who have already traveled to this province once in their lives. Let’s find out why with the following suggestions:
- Tasajo a la cubana: The most important and at the same time most peculiar ingredient in this dish is its meat, which is nothing more and nothing less than horse meat. This will be placed in the sun after being salted to acquire the perfect touch. It is usually accompanied by fried plantains and salads.
- Ropa vieja: Another of the most typical dishes, not only in Havana, but also in all of Cuba. It is a dish of shredded meat with fried plantains and rice. A very simple menu, but of great charm.
- Moros y cristianos: It is a somewhat dense combination, but no less delicious for that. Rice and beans are the main combination that we will find in this recipe, which will be accompanied by a sauce of oregano, onion and garlic, offering a unique taste from the first bite.