Top Travel Destinations to Celebrate Carnival February 14, 2015 By Cait Hartwyk Leave a Comment Particpants play a variety of musical instruments in this parade in Aachen Germany Courtesy of Franz & P on Flickr As we pass Valentine’s Day, we near the beginning of Lent, a six week period before Easter during which many Christians prepare for the Easter season with fasting, reflection, and prayer. Before the more serious Lenten season, there are festivals across the world to celebrate the beginning of this time of prayer, fasting, and atonement. Carnival, also known as Mardi Gras, dates back to pre-Christian times. Many of the best known and still common traditions, however, began later in medieval Italy, and the first modern Carnival parade was held in 1823 in the Rhineland of Germany. Many other regions developed similar festivals around the same time period. Colonial domains, like Brazil and Haiti, inherited their own versions of the festivities from a combination of local customs and those brought by the ruling government. Throughout the world, almost all nations and regions celebrate their own variants of these festivals. This post reviews a few of the most interesting and popular festivals as they are surely good reasons to take an international vacation! Seychelles This island nation is a recent addition to the list of destinations that celebrate Carnival extensively. Started in 2011, the Seychelles Carnival is a three day festival which starts with a grand opening day, a parade day, and a massive closing ceremony to end the party. Each year, people from all corners of the globe travel to the Seychelles to participate in the festivities. If you are traveling to the Seychelles, the Centers for Disease Control recommends receiving hepatitis A and typhoid vaccinations, and hepatitis B may be recommended for some travelers as well. Yellow fever is not endemic to the country, but a vaccination is required if you are arriving from a country with a risk of the virus. Croatia Throughout Croatia, a variety of Carnival celebrations take place. The largest is in Rijeka, and this celebration is marked by processions including a masked parade on the final Sunday. Before the festivities end, a man-like doll, called a “Jure Piskanac,” is burned and blamed for all the strife and trouble in the community. Croatia is a fairly well developed country and requires little in terms of travel medicine. Routine vaccinations and hepatitis A are generally recommended, however, so be sure you are up to date on all of these vaccines if you plan to travel to Croatia. If traveling to Croatia this Lenten season, a flu shot is highly recommended as the region is experiencing a severe influenza outbreak. Haiti Many Caribbean nations have extensive Carnival festivities, but few are equal to what Haiti offers its people and visitors. The days of Carnival feature ‘Rara parades’ which feature individuals dressed in colorful costumes and creative masks, amazing foods, and various types of music. Part of what makes Haiti unique is its Rara festival on Ash Wednesday; participation is considered religious work! If you are unable to make it to the island, many cities in the United States and Canada have Haitian communities where smaller versions of these celebrations take place as well. Haiti is a hotspot for malaria as well as chikungunya, meaning mosquito repellents and antimalarials are a must for travel to Haiti. Though street food is considered an important part of the celebrations, partake with extreme caution (if at all), and be sure to receive a hepatitis A and typhoid vaccination before traveling to Haiti. Brazil Carnival in Brazil is one of the oldest and most spectacular celebrations in the world. The streets of Rio de Janeiro fill with dancers and visitors. A variety of parades and parties occur throughout the city and provide huge amounts of entertainment. But be warned: not all festivities are child-friendly, so use your judgement if you plan on bringing children to Brazil during this time. Yellow fever and malaria can be risks when going to Brazil, so be sure to consult a Passport Health travel specialist before departure to Brazil. As usual, hepatitis A and typhoid vaccinations are suggested as well as hepatitis B, depending on the specific locales that are part of your travel plans. For more information on any of these countries and which vaccines and medications you may need for safe and healthy travel, visit Passport Health’s destination advice webpages. We would also love to hear from you! Have you traveled internationally and seen one of these events? Tell us about it below or on the Passport Health Facebook page! We would love to hear from you.