Antigua Carnival 2017 - Carnival in Antigua

Celebrating Carnival in Antigua: A Beginner’s Guide

This August I had the opportunity to go to Antigua for Carnival. It wasn’t my first Carnival (I’ve been to Notting Hill Carnival several times) but it was certainly my first Carnival in the Caribbean, where it originates from.

Carnival goes on for ten days in Antigua – it involves drinking and partying non-stop from morning till night. The main event takes place on the Monday and the Tuesday, culminating in The Parade of the Bands, but there are also lots of events leading up to those days. Beauty pageants, live Soca competitions and steel band performances are just some of the things you can expect to experience during this festival. It’s fun, it’s crazy and it’s a great way to experience the culture and spirit of the Caribbean.

Antigua Carnival 60th Anniversary

What’s awesome about Carnival is that people seem completely comfortable with their bodies. People of all shapes and sizes don revealing outfits – it doesn’t matter whether you’re tall, short, big or small – carnival is about displaying your body with pride. This year it was the 60th anniversary, so the celebrations were bigger than ever before.

Myst Carnival

Myst Camp

We had a behind-the-scenes tour of the Myst Carnival camp, where saw people collecting their costumes the day before the big parade. Costumes can cost up to $1500 and many of them are incredibly elaborate, with colourful feathers and jewels. Some people save up for the entire year just to be able to afford their costume and place in the parade.

The girls and guys in the Myst troupe get two outfits – one for the Monday and one for the Tuesday. They also get amenity packs which includes things like like safety razors, tampons and hangover medicine. Basically anything you would need to prepare for (and survive) Carnival.

As I learnt more and more about Myst I couldn’t help think that this must be a great money making business to be in. Yes it’s seasonal, but the owners have taken this concept to Carnivals all over the world.

Carnival Monday

The Monday was my favourite day of the event. We set our alarm clocks for 4am so we could go to see the j’ouvert parade, where people were already drinking, dancing and partying to the sound of steel drums. Throw in some paint and a giant hose of water, and the atmosphere was pretty wild. It was cool to see the sun come up in the streets of St. Johns, even if I was still half asleep and longing for my bed.

J'ouvert - Antigua Carnival

After a long nap and rest at the hotel, we then went to join the Myst troupe at their rest stop before joining in the evening parade. Alcohol is free flowing from the Carnival floats, so you’re never left thirsty. All you have to do is take along your fluorescent green plastic cup and they’ll fill it up with whatever alcohol you like.

Antigua Carnival Monday

I have to say I felt incredibly overdressed – the girls wear thongs or bikini bottoms, cover themselves with glitter and cut up their tops to make themselves stand out from the crowd. In Antigua it doesn’t matter what you look like and people don’t seem to be as body conscious as they are in the UK, which is refreshing.

Antigua Carnival Monday

Carnival Tuesday

The Tuesday parade is when everyone gets dressed up in their colourful, feathered outfits. We were just bystanders on this day, so I spent most of my time capturing photos of the beautiful costumes! It was incredibly hot and humid, so I don’t know how some of them do it marching for all those hours…some of them even do it in heels! Here are some of my favourite costumes of the day:

Disclosure: I was a guest of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority – all opinions expressed here are my own.

Victoria Brewood

Hi I'm Victoria, a British girl from Manchester. After graduating from university I decided there was more to life than the hours between 9 and 5, so I packed my journalism degree into my suitcase to travel the world and find a way to make money at the same time. I now call London home, although I still travel whenever I can. I hope to inspire you to be your own boss, live life and see the world.

  • Zascha
    Posted at 20:16h, 19 August Reply

    Nice post! Sounds like an amazing carnival especially since there’s partying not stop and people feel that they can express themselves freely, not sure if it is my kind of scene but I would definitely give it a try!

  • Kanika Bakshi
    Posted at 07:31h, 25 November Reply

    Never visited the West Indies but this festival sure seems a lot of fun. Such vibrant colors everywhere, this is how a carnival should be. Nicely captured moments through your lens makes this article even more attractive. Great photos, this carnival is on my bucket list for sure. Thanks Victoria, Keep sharing.

  • Suraj Patel
    Posted at 03:11h, 06 August Reply

    Nice post.

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