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Goa Carnival Festival – A Guide to the most popular carnival in India

Planning a trip to Goa? Well if you haven’t decided on your dates yet, then may we suggest going in March this year during the first week. Why? Well, that’s when the historic, lively and captivating Goa Carnival Festival takes place. The Goan spirit comes alive and the residents make all the arrangements to have a great time. Celebrated every year, with lots of fervour both locals and tourists look forward to the four-day-long festival.

What is the Goa Carnival?

The Goa carnival is one of the smallest festivals in the world, however, it is the largest carnival in India and the only one that happens in Asia. The carnival is the most well-known festival in the Goa and has been celebrated since the Portuguese introduced it in the 18th-century. Unique to Goa, this Carnaval as the Portuguese called it, sees four days of eating, dancing and having fun.

Goa Carnival (a.k.a CARNAVAL)

The Goa fete marks the festivities before the month of Lent, which means fasting or self-denial from meat. Lent culminates into Easter and is significant for the Christians. But the carnival is a celebration that also revers the pagan values going back to banquets of Apollo in Greece and the Roman Saturnalia. The Carnival has become a major tourist attraction enticing millions of tourists over the country and the Goa Tourism Board promotes it too.

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Goa Carnival Dates

This year the carnival begins on Saturday 2nd March and ends on Tuesday 5th March.

Entry Charges at the Goa Carnival

The Goa carnival is open to people of all ages and is free.

Things to do at the Goa Carnival

Saturday Parade

The Carnival begins in the evening with a massive parade that King Momo leads surrounded by dancers, bands of musicians kitted out up as fortune tellers, vendors, women, and older men in comical clothes. Dancers, fire-eaters, acrobats, clowns, brass bands, jesters, brass bands, and others follow the king during the procession down the main street of Panaji, Mapusa, Margao, and Vasco.

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Participate in the Red and Black Dance

If you love dancing and don’t mind the crowds, then dress up in your finest red and black outfits and with your masks on dance the night away with various bands, fire eaters and other revelers that are a part of the colourful procession that Clube Nacional holds in Panjim. Crowning of King Momo and the Red and Black Ball are huge draws at the Goa carnival festival. The revelry is marked with drinking, dancing, and lots of music till late into the night before the dawn of Ash Wednesday, which is the start of Lent.

The Read and Black Ball
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The speciality of Goa Carnival

The one-act folk plays known as Khell or Fell are the speciality of the carnival. It is held during the carnival in Chandor where walking-actors go about the village singing Intruzachim Geetam or Fella-Gitam accompanied by musical instruments. The sound of drums, violins, ghumats -a Goan percussion instrument and cymbals soak the air. The Fell is known for its acerbic and sardonic censure meant to correct human foolishness and are typically amusing.
The dholak is the director of the one-act, interspersing the story, while the whistle of the producer(mestri) serves as the curtain raiser. A few hotels in Goa organize special celebrations for their guests during the Goa carnival.

One example Khell.
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Other activities

You can enjoy the colourfully decorated floats, cheer or participate in the various sports competitions, gorge on authentic Goan cuisine especially seafood and try the Goan drink Feni -made from cashews. Don’t miss out on the Fashion shows organized, DJ Nights, short plays etc. The Goa Carnival is where most youngsters in Goa confess their love for each other. Traditionally bistros and other cafeterias prepare their finest fish and meat dishes on the Carnival days. People visiting Goa for this festival also play with colours these days instead of using eggs, fruits and flowers like before.

Floats at the Goa Carnival
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Tips to Remember

  • It is Goa’s peak season for tourists, so most hotels, bed and breakfast, and resorts will be full, and the prices will touch the sky. So, book your hotel stay in advance. Alternatively, check Skyscanner for hotel deals
  • The streets of Goa will be crowded what with the parade, floats and people around. So, if you plan on visiting other places in Goa during the carnival check with the hotel staff about it first lest you get stuck in traffic.
  • Make sure you keep your possessions safe, there may be pickpockets loitering about.

How to reach Goa

Reaching Goa is easy, you can take a direct flight, opt to travel by train or get on board a luxury bus. However, there is a new option you must try –the Mumbai-Goa Angriya cruise. The newly introduced cruise offers several amenities from luxurious accommodation to suit every budget to spas, lounge, restaurants, infinity pool and an open deck.

Take a cruise to reach Goa

The best thing is you get a cruise liner experience if you haven’t been on one before. Departing at 4 pm from Mumbai, the cruise reaches Goa at 9 am the next morning. If you planning to come back via cruise the time of departure is 4 pm from Goa. To know more about this new option click here.

To book flight tickets and hotels

Use Skyscanner’s monthly view to find the best dates if you don’t mind travelling any day or the everywhere search to give you an idea about flights to various destinations. You can find hotel deals, hire a car, or get familiar with the city and its culture using the handy Skyscanner App.   

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