Starting this weekend, Carnival celebrations will liven up Algarve towns with plenty of music, dancing and parades of revellers donning funny costumes
After two years of cancellations due to the pandemic, the Algarve is preparing to fully celebrate Carnival (or ‘Carnaval’ in Portuguese) once again.
With celebration kicking off this weekend, towns all over Portugal will be holding big parties with street parades and masquerades, with the Algarve hosting some of the largest and oldest festivities in Portugal.
Carnival is celebrated all over the world before the Lent season in Roman Catholic countries, and usually involves a variety of street parades, dancing and people dressing up in eclectic costumes. Satire plays a big role in Portugal, with almost no topic being off-limits.
The region’s best-known Carnival parties are held in Loulé, where three major parades are due to take place between Sunday and Tuesday, February 19 to 21.
The theme will be the Algarvensis Geopark, which brings together Loulé, Silves and Albufeira and is aspiring to join the official network of UNESCO Geoparks.
Fourteen floats, nine entertainment groups, three samba schools and more than 600 people will be taking part to put on a huge show for all visitors.
The ‘king’ of the parade will be the Metoposaurus algarvensis, an extinct amphibian similar to a giant salamander which lived in the Algarve around 227 million years ago and which inspired the bid to become a UNESCO Geopark.
Loulé Mayor Vítor Aleixo is expecting visitor numbers to exceed the usual 60,000-80,000 mark after the two-year break which has likely left people more excited than ever about the return of the town’s hugely popular ‘Carnaval’ fun.
“Thousands of tourists visit Loulé for its Carnival, which is known internationally. Restaurants, hotels and rent-a-cars companies can expect a busy time, which will certainly have a positive impact on our local economy,” he said.
The parades will take place between 3pm and 5.30pm at Avenida José da Costa Mealha. Tickets cost €2 per person with 50% of proceeds going to charity and the remainder going to the participating associations.
The village of Alte in Loulé, which describes its Carnival festivities as “the most traditional in the Algarve,” has also unveiled a programme featuring parades throughout the village at 3pm and ‘bailes’ at Casa do Povo de Alte at 9pm on Sunday and Tuesday.
While Loulé’s Carnival festivities are often described as one of the oldest in Portugal – and rightly so, given that this will be the 117th edition – there is another town in the Algarve where the tradition dates back 124 years.
The Moncarapacho Carnival has been taking place since 1899 and is returning on Sunday and Tuesday, expecting around 20,000 visitors.
As usual, there is no specific theme to follow, with floats being decorated with paper flowers, which are created with the help of the local community.
This tradition gives the Carnival of Moncarapacho the nickname “Battle of the Flowers”, which distinguishes the floats with the most eye-catching decoration.
Twelve floats and 14 entertainment groups are taking to the streets of Moncarapacho at 3pm, mobilising some 500 revellers to join the parade. Admission is free.
Meanwhile, from Friday to Tuesday, the Casa do Povo de Moncarapacho is organising traditional masquerade balls, starting at 9pm.
In Albufeira, the municipality’s Carnival festivities are also returning, with organisers promising “double the fun”.
The town’s traditional Carnival ‘Baile’ (dance) takes place at the Espaço Multiusos de Albufeira (EMA) between Saturday and Tuesday.
The party will be held between 9pm and 3am on the first three days, encouraging visitors to dress up and dance the night away. A matinée is planned for the final day between 2pm and 8pm, and will include a costume contest for children aged 12 and under.
Carnival will also be celebrated in Paderne and Ferreiras, each town hosting their own unique parades between Sunday and Tuesday.
Over 200 people will take part in the festivities in Paderne, where the borough’s most traditional Carnival party is held. From 2pm to 6pm, dozens of floats will parade through the town before the crowning of the King and Queen of Paderne Carnival.
In Ferreiras, the parades will be held between 2pm and 5pm on Avenida 12 de Julho from Rua da Estação all the way to the municipal market.
Portimão is another major destination in the Algarve for Carnival festivities.
The entire municipality will be included in the parades, which will begin at 3.30pm on Sunday and Tuesday with the 14 floats departing the Figueira and Mexilhoeira Grande multisports pavilion and making their way to the Portimão riverside. They will then return to their point of origin, visiting Alvor along the way.
The borough also has a long list of ‘bailes’ (dances) and costume contests planned, with the full programme available online at www.vivaportimao.pt
Nearby in the municipality of Lagos, Odiáxere is also gearing up for the return of its Carnival celebrations.
Due to be held for the 27th year, the ‘Carnaval de Odiáxere’ will begin on Sunday with a children’s parade at 3pm at Largo do Moinho, while the main event is planned for Tuesday with the usual parades and musical performances beginning at 3pm. Tickets cost €2.50 while admission is free for children aged under 12.
There will also be a series of ‘bailes’ (dances) taking place at 10pm on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday (February 20, 21 and 23) at Clube Desportivo de Odiáxere.
Further east, Vila Real de Santo António and Tavira have revealed their programmes for ‘Carnaval’.
Around 1,500 local children, teachers and school staff will be leading a parade on Friday at 10am between Praça da República and Jardim do Coreto, while a series of ‘bailes’ are planned for Saturday, Sunday and Monday at Mercado da Ribeira, starting at 9.30pm.
Children will also be the star of VRSA’s parade, which will take place at 10am at the municipality’s three parishes. There will also be ‘bailes’ being held across the borough, with all information on schedules and locations available at www.cm-vrsa.pt.
The Algarvian capital of Faro will also be a part of the fun, having organised a children’s parade on Friday between 10am and 12 noon which will start on Rua de Santo António and end at Praça da Pontinha.
And in the neighbouring borough of São Brás de Alportel, the main festivities will be preceded by a children’s parade on Friday at 5pm at Avenida da Liberdade, followed by the main parade on Sunday at 3pm – all completely free for visitors to enjoy, the local council stresses. The full programme can be found at www.cm-sbras.pt
So, this Carnival, make sure you are part of the fun!