🇲🇽 Veracruz Carnival

Mexican Carnivals are some of the best in the world and Veracruz Carnival is said to be Mexico’s best carnival! You must travel here to experience first hand one of the best carnivals north of Rio!

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    Your Essential Guide to Veracruz Carnival

    This guide will help you plan your trip to one of the world’s best free parties! It includes everything you need to know before attending carnival including dates, events, parades, history and more!

    Carnivaland recommends tours, events and accommodation based on our extensive experience and knowledge of them. We may earn affiliate commission from affiliate links in this article. Read more about our policy.

    When is Veracruz Carnival?

    Veracruz Carnival is always held in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of lent, a period of 40 days before Easter. The dates of carnival are not always the same because it depends on the dates of Easter, which is based on the lunar calendar. Good Friday corresponds to the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. In 2022, the Veracruz Carnival was moved to summer due to COVID postponing the carnival. However, going forward it has been decided that the carnival festivities will continue to take place in the summer.

    The dates for the 2023 Veracruz Carnival will take place on from Thursday June 29 to Wednesday July 5, 2023

    What is Carnival in Veracruz?

    How is the Veracruz Carnival celebrated? Mexican Carnivals are without a doubt some of the most exuberant celebrations that you’ll find anywhere in the world! And Veracruz hosts one of Mexico’s biggest and best carnival celebrations! Veracruz Carnival is considered “El más Alegre del Mundo”, which in English translates to “The world’s most cheerful carnival”!

    Veracruz Carnival is undoubtedly one of the most famous carnivals in Mexico! It is also one of the most ancient, with its celebrations having begun back in the early eighteenth century. The people of Veracruz are called Jarochos and are known for their cheerful disposition and easy-going nature. Their exuberant nature and Afro-Caribbean roots mean that Jarochos love to party! The atmosphere in this port city is one of music, laughter and leisure all year round! 

    Carnival in Veracruz attracts nearly one million people! The city of Veracruz practically shuts down during carnival as hundreds of thousands of visitors from all throughout Mexico descend here to join the carnival celebrations. Veracruz Carnival is an uninhibited and colorful celebration filled with amazing parties, parades and live music. It is a celebration that unites everyone regardless of class or ethnic background and gives them an opportunity to enjoy life, have fun, eat and drink in excess, and party until the break of dawn! The streets are packed and those without hotel rooms just live in their cars during carnival.

    veracruz carnival

    Where is Veracruz Carnival?

    Veracruz, officially known as Heroica Veracruz, is a municipality on the Gulf of Mexico in the Mexican state of Veracruz, in east-central Mexico. This major port city is home to a blend of different cultures, mainly indigenous, ethnic Spanish and Afro-Cuban.

    The Zocalo is where many of the official carnival activities take place. Including the live entertainment, the opening and closing of carnival, and where the Indians who’ve walked a day’s journey from their villages, sell their handicrafts on blankets on the sidewalks.

    veracruz carnival

    How do they Celebrate Carnival in Veracruz?

    The people of Veracruz, who are known as ‘Jarochos’, love to party! With their Afro-Caribbean roots and exuberant nature, it should then come as no surprise that the city of Veracruz hosts one of the best carnivals in the world that can easily be placed alongside Rio de Janeiro, Venice or New Orleans! The Carnival of Veracruz is one of the two largest carnivals in Mexico, the other being Mazatlan Carnival.

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    Carnival begins with the “Burning of Bad Mood” (Quema del Mal Humor). This is where an effigy of an unpopular political figure is burnt to symbolically represent the people leaving behind their everyday worries and concerns, so that the merriment can begin.

    Large parades, dances and parties are thrown throughout the duration of carnival. Veracruz Carnival hosts extravagant parades that wind through the city, where you can admire the intricate costumes, masks, colorful floats, musicians and dancing groups. Revelers come out in hoards to watch and wear creative and funny carnival costumes.

    A highly anticipated event of carnival is the coronation of the Carnival Queen and King, who will preside over the festivities.  The Carnival Queen is generally the local representative of beauty while the King is usually a gross representation of the Roman deity of mockery and craziness and mockery, Momo. Together, they are in charge of transmitting happiness to their subjects! After the coronation there is one of the biggest dancing parties to ever be held in Mexico!

    Harps, marimbas, guitars and jaranas are found all over the city playing danzon, salsa and samba music. Traditional comparsas, floats, batoneras (baton twirlers), batucadas (drum groups) and dance groups meet in the city’s square and other areas around the city, putting on amazing performances that are all about bringing the people joy. More than any other carnival activity, visitors to Veracruz Carnival should not miss the dance party held at the zocalo. Couples come together and dance danzon.

    In addition to the parades, dances and parties, there are loads of artistic, cultural and sports activities being held. Throw in some fireworks, handicrafts, carnival rides, carnival games, folklore shows, live entertainment, lots of drinking, great food, children’s parades and street parties and Veracruz Carnival adds up to be one of Mexico’s greatest fiestas!

    Carnival finishes with the ‘Burial of Juan Carnaval’. The spirit of this carnival is personified by a figure called “Juan Carnaval” who is buried at the end of carnival, which marks the end of numerous exhausting days of celebrations!

    veracruz carnival

    The Main Events of Veracruz Carnival

    • Before Carnival: Preludio de Carnaval
    • Day 1 – The Burning of the Bad Mood
    • Day 2 – Coronation of the Children
    • Day 2 – Coronation of Reyes de la Alegría
    • Day 3 – 6 – The Carnival Parades
    • Day 7 – The Burial of Juan Carnival

    The Veracruz Carnival Dates 2023

    • June 29, 2023 – Burning of the bad humor in the Zocalo
    • June 30, 2023 – Children’s Coronation and the Coronation of the Royal Court in the Macroplaza del Malecon
    • July 1 to 4, 2023 – Traditional Paseo (parades on Blvd. Manuel Avila Camacho) and the Nautical Parade
    • June 5, 2023 – Burial of Juan Carnival

    veracruz carnival

    Veracruz Carnival Parades

    The parades are a main highlight of Veracruz Carnival. Every year carnival hosts six major parades on different days, including a children’s parade. Each parade features at least 50 floats, marching bands, dance troupes, folk groups, colorful costumes and masks, musicians, percussionists, carnival characters and so much more. The parades are cheered on by thousands of spectators who cheer all along the parade route, creating an electric atmosphere in the city.

    They take place along a 4km parade route that runs along Manuel Ávila Camacho Boulevard. Two parades are held in the morning on Saturday and Tuesday, and there are four parades held every evening, Saturday through to Tuesday. For the most part, the parades don’t change too much, all the parades feature beautiful, scantily clad women dancing to Latin music on some extremely impressive floats. It is not unusual to see costumed drag queens, parading alongside the women in sparkling dresses. The floats which are known as carros alegóricos or allegorical cars, are decorated in true Mexican flair! They are bright, colorful and feature lots of decorations.

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    It is highly recommended that you watch at least one of the four incredible night parades! There is such an electric energy that occurs with interaction between the crowd and performers. The Sunday night of carnival hosts the most lavish and large carnival parades. The parades on the other evenings are generally scaled down versions of this one!

    Zocalo

    The Zocalo, which is the City Center in Veracruz, is the central location of carnival. Jarochos have a reputation for being extremely friendly and are very proud of their home. The soul of these people and this city can be best felt at the Zocalo during carnival, where there is always an electric and heightened atmosphere during carnival. The Zocalo and all the bars, clubs and restaurants in the area are filled with people throughout carnival, who party until dawn. for the duration of carnival.

    A large stage has been set up in the Zocalo during carnival that features free live entertainment, musical concerts, dancing troupes, jarocho shows and performances. Entertainment starts around midday daily. Surrounding the Zocalo perimeter and the official entertainment are numerous street performers and musicians putting on impromptu shows. Top international musicians perform at the Veracruz Carnival like Enrique Iglesias or Nicky Jam.

    The Zocalo is also the location for the two events that open and close the Veracruz Carnival – the Burning of the Bad Mood, and the Burial of Juan Carnaval. There are lots of street vendors set up here selling everything from food, drinks and crafts. Many Indians will travel by foot for several days from surrounding villages to sell their beautiful handmade arts and handicrafts, laid out on blankets on all the sidewalks.

    The Burning of the Bad Mood

    The first celebration of carnival is the Burning of the Bad Mood! This event takes place in the Zocalo. The Bad Mood is represented by a puppet who will portray some famous disliked figure – either Mexican or Foreign. It could be a politician, celebrity, criminal or even represent an abstract idea like war, economic crisis, or even the seven deadly sins.

    The puppet is burned during a ceremonial performance and it is a symbolic representation of people letting go of their displeasure, stresses and anxieties, to enjoy carnival. From this moment on, carnival has officially begun, and the city welcomes in the carnival celebration.

    veracruz carnival

    The Burial of Juan Carnaval

    Carnival in Veracruz ends with the Burial of Juan Carnaval. This is a parody funeral for Juan Carnaval, who is accompanied by his Royal Court. Everyone pretends to mourn him and cry, while dressed in mourning clothes. This procession of mourner’s bids farewell to carnival and closes the festivities of that year.

    During the Burial of Juan Carnaval, which takes place in the Zócalo, the character’s will be read out. The will is filled with ironic and sarcastic jokes, about political and social affairs in Veracruz and Mexico. This is a way that the people can express their unhappiness and disagreement with the political and economic situation through humor.

    Danzón

    Salsa, cumbia, reggae, and marimba music are extremely popular genres of music that you will hear at the Veracruz Carnival, but the Jarochos hold a special place in their hearts for the music and dance known as Danzón, which is synonymous with Veracruz Carnival.

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    Danzón is a romantic dance that originated from European ballrooms that evolved when it reached Haiti and Cuba in the 1880s where it became a Creole dance. Danzón is distinguished, subtle and sensual. Each step that is taken, draws a picture on the floor to the rhythm of the orchestra music. 

    Women wear beautiful dresses with frills and lace. They wear heels, colored ribbons, necklaces and hold fans in their hands. The men wear equally impeccable outfits with guayaberas and fine hats. Together the men and women partner and dance this elegant and romantic dance with a natural cadence that speaks volumes about the local Culture.

    Fun Fact: Danzón gave birth to “La Bamba” and in 1992 erected a museum to the great pre-World War II musician Agustín Lara, who wrote a song called “Veracruz” which is a sentimental anthem of the city. 

    Where to Stay During Veracruz Carnival?

    One of the best places to stay during carnival is the Historic Center. This is because it is the closest to all the carnival celebrations, the city’s monuments and the port, which give it a vibrant dynamism which invites you to get familiar with the city and its lively nightlife.

    The Zócalo de Veracruz, the main square for carnival activities is located here. The square is also surrounded by bars and restaurants, street vendors, musicians making it a very special area to be in.

    The historic center is also home to many of the city’s best attractions like the Assumption Cathedral, the Plaza Mayor, The Muncipal palace, the Reformation Theater and the Venustiano Carranza Lighthouse.

    It is one of the best areas to stay in Veracruz for nightlife with places like Los Porales, a place where locals come together to drink and enjoy the typical cuisine. The Historic Centre is also recommended because it has bus lines to move to other places. There are a great range of hotels that promise an unforgettable stay.

    Some great accommodations in the Historic Centre include Emporio Veracruz (US $240 per night), Fiesta Inn Veracruz Malecon (US $154), Hotel Veracruz Centro Historico (US $60), Hotel Trianon Veracruz (US $60), Hotel Imperial Veracruz (US $53), Hotel Plaza Centro Historico (US $26) and Hotel Acapulco (US $29).

    Another great place to stay is the Malecon de Veracruz which is the Seafront Promenade. Many carnival activities also occur around here and during carnival it is always buzzing with people enjoying life!

    This is a must visit destination in Veracruz, it is a promenade that stretches from the city centre to the beach. Nights on the Malecon are spectacular because of the amazing views that are obtained when the buildings are lit up.  In addition to the boardwalk, the Regatta beach is a great place to visit with fresh crystal waters and the city’s best seafood restaurants!

    There are some really great hotel options here too. The hotels on the Malecon are closets to most of the carnival celebrations include DoubleTree by Hilton Veracruz (US $71) and Múcara Hotel (US $60), Hotel Mar y Tierra (US $34).

    Check out Booking.com for some great accommodation deals in Veracruz here.

    veracruz carnival

    What is the History of Veracruz Carnival?

    The roots of Veracruz carnival extend back to colonial times and was first held in 1866, when the country was ruled by Emperor Maximiliano. It was a period of celebration before the onset of Lent. Carnival was seen as the last chance to let loose so that one can be ready for the sobriety and temperance that characterizes Lent.

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    The celebrations at that time were European traditions and were mainly “Fiesta de Mascaras”, masquerade balls and parties that were held in private. However, permission was granted so that the city’s popular classes could gather for wild outdoor street celebrations.

    Residents living in neighborhoods that were located outside of the city wall, forged new forms of dance and music that were drawn from African, European and Indigenous traditions. And in the late 18th-century, carnival revelers in the port started to wear colorful costumes and dance to African-derived chuchumbé.

    When French Emperor Napoleon III sent an occupying army to Mexico in 1861, the carnival had grown to include several public parades and dances. But the war between the republican and French forces took a turn in the late 1866 and many regulations were placed on carnival, limiting it from two weeks of partying, down to three days with many strict regulations.

    The post-revolutionary coalition in 1925 embraced carnival as an inclusive revolutionary ideal of “Mexico for the Mexicans,” and worked to re-establish the event in the city. Organizers hoped Carnival would provide Veracruz with an opportunity to celebrate after years of social strife and unite people of different classes and ethnic backgrounds!

    What To Do and See in Veracruz?

    Veracruz is an amazing place to visit! It has a reputation for its warm welcoming atmosphere, vibrant mix of melted-down cultures, it has a long and interesting history, great food, great beaches, colonial architecture, the sea as the horizon and the air is filled with the marimba beats.

    This is Mexico’s oldest European settlement that was conceived in 1519. From strolling the Malecón to visiting nearby UNESCO World Heritage sites and ruins, you’ll find plenty to do and see in this port city.

    Some of our top recommendations include listening to music in the Zocalo. Jarochos are very friendly and their deep attraction for their alluring yet intangible city soul can best be felt at the zocalo. All year round, people sit in the many cafes drinking coffee, chatting for hours all while listening to the haunting strains of marimba music with echoes off the historic buildings and tall trees. Most evenings, there are dancers dancing the danzón here that you can watch.

    You must stroll the Malecon! The Veracruz boardwalk is a relaxing place to stroll where you can enjoy the beautiful views and glimpse at the workings of Mexico’s largest port as you pass by cargo and military ships. There are also amazing street vendors and shops along the way where you can purchase beautiful handicrafts and enjoy the many street performers, entertaining people.

    Visit el Baluarte de Santiago which was in 1635 and is now the only visible remnant of the defensive wall that once surrounded the port city. Inside the museum you can visit the “Las Joyas del Pescador” (the Jewels of the Fisherman), an exhibit of pre-Hispanic jewelery and weapons.

    Also visit San Juan de Ulua, this fortress is one of Veracruz’s most important landmarks. Located on Isla Gallega, a small harbor island, it protected the city against pirates. Construction began in the mid-1500s and for hundreds of years it served as the primary military stronghold of the Spanish Empire in the Americas.

    Visit the Acuario de Veracruz, one of Veracruz‘ biggest attractions and is said to be the best of its kind in all of Latin America! This aquarium does an awesome job of showcasing the denizens of the Gulf of Mexico. Situated 2km south of the city center, on the waterfront it is filled with tiger, reef and nurse sharks, eagle rays, and barracudas. Visitors participate in shark feedings all year round!

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    While Veracruz is not Mexico’s most popular beach destination, the beaches are very beautiful and offer a great way to find relief from the tropical heat. The Villa del Mar beach is within walking distance from the aquarium, another close beach is in Boca del Río. Further away, you can also visit the beaches at Punta Mocambo or Punta Antón Lizardo, which is a great spot to explore the Veracruz Reef System.

    Take a Day Trip to Tlacotalpan. This UNESCO heritage city has stunning colonial-period architecture and a relaxing pace. It is only about two hours from Veracruz and a must visit. Or visit the Cempoala Archaeological Site located 27 miles north of Veracruz. This was the capital of the Totonac civilization, who inhabited the lands when the Spanish Arrived.

    Check out Viator’s Top Veracruz Tours

    veracruz carnival

    How to Get to Veracruz?

    • By Plane: Veracruz has a small international airport – General Heriberto Jara International Airport. Flights come in from many Mexican cities, including Mexico City and there are direct flights from Houston and Texas.
    • By Bus: The ADO bus station is located only a short distance from the city center and a bus trip to Veracruz from Mexico City takes about 5.5 hours. From Puebla a bus trip takes 3-4 hours.
    • By Car: Veracruz is approximately a 5.5-hour drive from Mexico City.

    veracruz carnival

    What is the weather like during Veracruz Carnival?

    Veracruz City is hot and humid, especially during the rainy season (June to August). The average temperature in Veracruz during carnival would range from a high of 85°F (30°C), to a low of 78°F (25°C). Many describe the weather as pleasant, even if it is muggy.

    How to Get Around During Veracruz Carnival?

    Taxis are very inexpensive, and they are plentiful. A journey costs between US$2.50- $5.00 depending on the zone your destination is located in. Passengers are advised to negotiate on the cost before entering a taxi.

    You can take the Bus “Boca del Rio”, as its path almost goes across the Boulevard of the City to the downtown of “Boca del Rio”, a city joined with Veracruz. Most of the other public buses are not recommended for tourists as they are old, in bad condition, crowded and hard for tourists to navigate.

    veracruz carnival

    Is Veracruz Carnival Safe?

    Veracruz is generally considered to be pretty safe especially in the more touristy areas. The main issue is petty crime like pickpocketing due to large crowds. The city has a strong police presence to protect tourists and this is amplified during carnival. As long as you are smart and stay aware of your surroundings you will be fine. Leave your valuables like jewellery, passport etc. back at your hotel. Also choose a hotel with a safe, where you can lock up your valuables and only bring some cash out with you. If you must take your phone out with you, don’t have it on show for long.

    Also, you may be interested in Mazatlán Carnival, which is Mexico’s other huge carnival celebration!

    veracruz carnival

    Carnivaland recommends tours, events and accommodation based on our extensive experience and knowledge of them. We may earn affiliate commission from affiliate links in this article. Read more about our policy.

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