Travel Picks: Top 10 places to celebrate Carnival

Fri Feb 17, 2012 6:07am EST
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fat Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday. Mardi Gras. No matter what you call it, the last day before Lent's 40 days of repentance (between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday) brings out a wild side in populations around the world.

As the party season of carnival nears its end, events heat up and online travel adviser Cheapflights offers its top 10 list of places to enjoy a last fling with hedonism before it's over for 2012. Reuters has not endorsed this list:

1. Mardi Gras - New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Thousands of tourists flood The Big Easy annually for Mardi Gras in New Orleans, deemed "the biggest free party on earth." The entire city loosens its (already loose) reins, and douses itself with endless strings of beads, colorful floats and costumes to celebrate the naughtiest time of year. Floats of all sizes roll through the streets in spectacular parades for two weeks prior to Mardi Gras. Endymion (Saturday), Bacchus (Sunday), Orpheus (Monday), Zulu (Tuesday morning) and Rex (Tuesday night) are the most famous of the parades, drawing rowdy attendees to partake in song and dance free of inhibition.

2. Carnival of Binche - Binche, Belgium

It's an honor for a man from Binche to be picked to join the Gilles on Shrove Tuesday. Gilles are clown-like performers - dressed in fanciful costumes, wax masks and plumed hats - who dance throughout the city starting in the wee hours and lasting through the night. The 1,000-plus men are the centerpiece of Binche's carnival, named a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

3. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival - Trinidad and Tobago

Its vibrant history and French roots set the tone for Trinidad and Tobago's most significant celebration each year: Carnival. The Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday draw the Caribbean destination's population to the streets to show off elaborate costumes that groups take months to create. Bands compete against one another for the title of Band of the Year as individuals vie to become Calypso Monarch, one of the greatest honors in the country.

4. Carnival of Brazil - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil   Continued...

A reveller smiles as he travels up and down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter as people celebrate Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans, Louisiana March 8, 2011. REUTERS/Sean Gardner