Trinidad is the birthplace of Carnival, preceding even Rio’s. So if you want to have the wildest party, and enjoy the most brightly coloured costumes and floats, you’ll need to take a trip to this Caribbean idyll. We’re here to give you the low down on how to make the most out of this extraordinary festival, and to teach you how to party like a Trinidadian.
In the shortest, darkest, bleakest days of English winter, Trinidad comes to life in a sea of colour and sound. In 2016, the Carnival takes place on the 8th and 9th February but this changes on a yearly basis depending on when Ash Wednesday falls, as it takes places on the two days prior to this.
Whilst these are the only two official days of Carnival, the party does not start there – from Boxing day onwards celebrations get underway meaning that the months of January and February always have a jubilant and joyful atmosphere across the island.
What’s the plan of action?
Even before the Carnival celebrations begin early on the Monday morning there is one hell of a party. J’ouvert, meaning day open, starts pre-dawn at 4am on the Monday and is a hedonistic celebration with dancers smothered in paint, chocolate and mud representing devils.
If you’re looking for something a little more family friendly, you don’t have to wait long with the official Carnival starting later on that very morning. The Monday brings in costumed dancers and an inclusive vibe with thousands joining the dance.
Whilst Monday is fun and exciting, Tuesday is the day which truly embodies everything that Carnival is about. Starting at 8am this is the day to dress to impress, with the people in the most flamboyant costumes vying for the attention of the cameras. The parade has a general theme each year with each band within that being given a specific part of the story. This is a competition, and so the floats really are incredible – winning the Masquerade Band of the Year is the ultimate goal.
Where To Stay
The majority of the celebrations take place in the old colonial town of Port of Spain, and so staying nearby (whilst more expensive) is definitely the best way to make the most out of the festivities. That way you can be up bright and early, or out late without worrying about how you’re going to get back to your hotel. The hotels nearby tend to book up quickly so start looking to book now!
The origins of Carnival in Trinidad are unclear with a thousand different stories swimming around in competition with one another. However, there is one underlying theme across all of these stories – the Carnival is the result of a collision of cultures. It’s argued that the different bands reflect the different histories brought to the fore.
How to eat like a local
Any Carnival is just as much about the food as it is the music, and Trinidad is no exception here. You need energy for all that dancing, don’t you know?! To truly experience a Trinidadian meal, opt for a delicious crab curry, doubles (sandwiches made with fried bread and crammed full of chickpeas) – or perhaps most famously, corn soup.
After all that fun and frivolity, Trinidad couldn’t be a much better place to recover from a hangover: all that soft white sand and clear turquoise waters can be awfully relaxing!