Carnival in Mexico features some of the most exuberant celebrations anywhere in the world. Carnival is a vibrant, uninhibited and colourful celebration, it is an opportunity to express joy, have fun, get wild, let loose and eat and drink in excess amounts.
There are over 200 carnivals in Mexico each year with carnivals celebrated in almost every town and village. The two most famous carnivals in Mexico are Veracruz and Mazatlán. In very indigenous communities, carnival takes on a completely different meaning with the festivities including a combination of Christian and pre-Hispanic rituals.
Here are fifteen incredible places to celebrate carnival in Mexico.
What is carnival in Mazatlán?
Mazatlán Carnival is one of the world’s biggest carnivals. It claims to be the third largest carnival in the world after Rio and New Orleans attracting millions of people from all over Mexico who come to the city to celebrate. Mazatlán Carnival features two huge parades, that run down the Malecon as well as lots of parties, carnival royalty competitions, art and poetry competitions.
This carnival is often called the Brass Band Carnival because of the huge abundance of brass bands that feature during carnival. The bands line the boardwalk and every few meters is a new band playing live. Everyone is out on the streets drinking, socialising, dancing, enjoying the music and eating tacos.
It also features an impressive Naval Combat Battle Fireworks show. This is essentially a re-enactment of an event that occurred in 1864 when a French Naval Ship tried to invade Mazatlán and the town managed to ward
Read our ultimate guide to Mazatlan Carnival here.
What is carnival in Veracruz?
This Mexican coastal city is host to one of the most important carnivals and most famous carnivals in Mexico. The carnival celebrations in Veracruz are very folkloric. Music is a key part of carnival in Veracruz. Veracruz is a coastal city and sits on the Mexican Gulf Coast. Veracruz has a strong Afro-Caribbean community which has heavily influenced the celebrations.
This bustling port city comes to life every year for carnival and the celebrations are filled with music, dancing, parades, street parties, food, drinks and fireworks. There are actually six major parades that draw big crowds because of their amazing floats, costumes and choreography. Live music is a big part of carnival and big stars will come to play including Enrique Iglesias.
Veracruz has some unique traditions. Carnival starts with the burning of the bad mood which is represented by a puppet and finishes with the burial of Juan Carnival which is another effigy that has a mock funeral. There are also lots of popular competitions like the coronation of the Carnival Queen and her court.
Read our ultimate guide to Veracruz Carnival here.
What is carnival in Cozumel?
The island of Cozumel is located in the east Yucatan Peninsula. It is a popular tourist destination because of its beautiful beaches, Mayan Coral Reef and close location to Cancun. It is also home to one of the most popular carnival celebrations in Mexico.
During carnival Cozumel comes to life and is full of colour and music. It is a unique celebration that features traditional carnival characters like the Harlequin, Spaniards, gypsy women or fairies.
Read our ultimate guide to Cozumel Carnival here.
What is carnival in Campeche?
Campeche is a port city that is one of Mexico’s best-preserved colonial cities. A huge wall was built late in the 17th century to prevent attacks by pirates. Campeche actually hosts one of Mexico’s oldest carnival celebrations.
Carnival begins with the burning of the bad mood which just like Veracruz Carnival is a giant puppet that represents negative emotions and is all about purifying the town. Following this a parade filled with floats, costumes and traditional dances.
What is carnival in Merida?
Merida which is located in the capital state of Yucatan is actually located in the Northwest of the city. It is a gorgeous colonial city that has a French feel. From Merida it was actually easier to reach New Orleans by sea than Mexico City. Carnival in Merida is a well long celebration of parades, parties, music, feasting, drinking and dancing.
Merida Carnival is a very family friendly carnival and is actually considered a family affair with themed parades, a king and queen. The carnival heavily features salsa, mambo and cumbia music and dance. The carnival also features a famous Battle of the Flowers which occurs with lush tropical blossoms. Merida also has ancient Mayan pyramids outside of the city.
What is carnival in Baja?
Ensenada in Baja California is located south of Tijuana. Ensenada’s Carnival is full of parades, masquerade parties, carnival competitions, carnival games, street parties, dancing and grand balls and parties. Ensenada carnival attracts over 300,000 visitors.
What is carnival in Tlaxcala?
Tlaxcala carnival is a very traditional celebration that has been occurring ever since the seventeenth century. When the carnival first began in the states, agricultural farms were owned by Spanish people who used to hold massive parties in which the workers were not allowed to attend.
The workers then dressed up like the Europeans and mocked them in their own costumes and dances. The celebrations combined over the centuries becoming a mixture of both traditions.
What is carnival in Huejotzingo?
Carnival in the tiny town of Huejotzingo, located in the Mexican state of Puebla. This town has been hosting a very unique carnival that has been celebrated ever since the 1800s.
Huejotzingo Carnival sees the locals dress up in very elaborate costumes and take part in historic reenactments of local history. This includes the first marriage that was performed by the Catholic rite and a battle that occurred in 1862 between French and Mexican troops.
San Juan Chamula Carnival
What is carnival in San Juan?
Carnival in San Juan is a very unique and different carnival celebration. Carnival has more pre-Hispanic rituals dating back to the days that is preoccupied with the five lost days of the Mesoamerican calendar.
The Mesoamerican calendar is the solar calendar cycle which has 369 named days and gives days with no names. The carnival celebrations here see revellers run through the streets with burning tree branches and re-enact Chiapan military battles and perform very traditional dances.
What is carnival in Chapala?
Carnival takes place in the charming city of Chapala which is filled with Victorian architecture. Chapala carnival celebrations occur in the park along the pier. Chapala Carnival includes rodeo events, parades, music, dancing, carnival rides and more.
A unique tradition is a masked male dancer who are called Sayacos. They wear wide hats and have long bears, while others dress in drag wearing women’s clothing. The Sayacos actually are carnival characters that far pre-date the Spanish conquest of 1520.
What is carnival in Autlan?
The gorgeous town in the Mexican state of Jalisco celebrates carnival in a huge way. Birthplace of guitarist Carlos Santana, its festivities attract thousands of tourists and centre on the bullfights, held in a special arena, while the music, dancing and fun continue in the streets. At night there are bull dogs and concerts featuring national music stars.
La Paz Carnival
What is carnival in La Paz?
La Paz is located in Baja California Sur. It is a ten-day party that occurs in the streets of the city and features three main gala parades. The parades occur in the final three nights of carnival.
The coronation of the King of Happiness and a myriad of musical events that are all about merrymaking. There are lots of food booths, street vendors, games and cultural events.
What is carnival in Tepoztlan?
Tepoztlan is a city that is located near Mexico City. It is an ancient town that is actually considered to be the centre of energy from the universe. It is home to lots of mystics and UFO sightings. Tepoztlan Carnival is one of the cultural highlights of Mexico. During carnival season the place transforms into a tourist magnet and attracts thousands from all over Mexico.
During the carnival, masked Chinelo dancers perform traditional dances to music created by flutes and drums. The dances occur in the streets supported by lots of bands. There are food vendors set up everywhere, with amazing Mexican food available for everyone to eat.
What is carnival in Hidalgo?
Carnival in Hidalgo is located in Calnali, in the La Huasteca Region. This carnival consists of dancing on the streets in costumes and features traditional folkloric bands who play wind instruments.
The four main districts of the city compete against each other in dance competitions as well as best costume competitions. People will often dress up in dark costumes representing death, devils or monkeys.
Pinotepa de Don Luis Carnival
What is carnival in Pinotepa de Don Luis?
Pinotepa is located in Oaxaca and is notable for its use of satire especially related to matrimony as well as divorce. They do this by performing a dance called Tejorenes. Costumes work with various masks which depict animals like tigers. There are lots of parades, parties, feasting, drinking and dancing at this carnival.