Carnival on the Islands: Where to explore the best party on earth

Often called the greatest show on earth, with thousands of revelers shuffling and dancing in time resulting in a mesmerising sea of shifting colour. The music, played by bands sitting on 20-foot stacks of speakers loaded on lorries, is incredibly loud, and intense. People dance for days. Carnival is an explosive joy, a massive Caribbean blow-out and it is well worth attending if you happen to be on island at the time, or even worth making a special trip for. It is one of the great Caribbean experiences.

However, the best thing about Caribbean carnivals, those in the British islands at least, is that you can join in. You turn up ahead of time, buy your T-shirt or costume and you can join the parade. The dancing is not difficult, mainly the “chip”, a sort of flex-kneed left and right shuffle, but it is certainly saucy.

Carnival in Grenada is held every year for 10 days in August. Originally, the festivities were held a few days beforethe start of Lent, just like Mardi Grasbut recently it moved to August to celebrate their emancipation. Being the hottest month of the year doesn’t seem to dampen the spirits either. The colourful costumes, music, dance, parades, food and plenty of rum has influenced other Caribbean carnivals.

Celebrations on other Islands

Carnival, or “The Real Mas”as it’s known in Dominica, is a pre-Lenten festival, and usually falls in February or March each year and spans a month of activities. The Queen Contestants, Calypsonians, Princess Show Contestants, the most popular bands, people in sensay costumes, the ‘Blackies’, stilt walkers (moko jumbies), cheerleaders and many more people parade through the streets in a kaleidoscope of colours, encouraged by a huge and very noisy crowd of onlookers.

For the history of the Antiguan Carnival, you have to step back in time to 1st August 1834 when slavery was abolished. People immediately celebrated by taking to the streets to celebrate their freedom and express their joy and happiness. Over the years there was a return to this informal celebration, until 1957 when the first official Antiguan Carnival was organised. Since then the festival has developed into 10 days of music, dance and partying, with street marches, jump-ups and formal evening shows — calypso, pan, and Carnival Queen pageants — always around the last week in July to the first week in August.

There’s no better way to enjoy St. Kitts over the holidays than by attending the St. Kitts & Nevis carnival. Carnival begins in mid- December and spans three fun-filled weeks of pageants, parades and bacchanalian splendour, culminating with the Grand Carnival Parade on New Year’s Day. The Carnival is the only one in the Caribbean that blends the spirit of Christmas with the colourful display of the nation’s culture and African heritage.


FIONA SAWERS is a Partner at Move to Dominica, a relocation specialist, Editor of 100+ Things To Do in Dominica and a volunteer at St Luke’s Primary School, Pointe Michel.