Every year on the four days leading up to Ash Wednesday,
the Panama Carnival takes place. Though not an official
holiday, it is the most celebrated Panama
festival, and should you have the chance to experience
it, you'll take away a lifetime of memories. The
Panama Mardi Gras might not get as much attention as that
Orleans, and when you mention Carnival, most people
think first of Rio
de Janeiro. The Panama Carnival celebration in Panama
City is one of the biggest in the world, however,
and as more and more people visit this culturally-rich
country, it's sure to only grow in popularity. Should
you spend a Carnival day in Panama, you'll want
to book your accommodations in advance if possible, especially
where the celebrations are at their best.
The Panama Carnival, has been celebrated since the early part of the 1900"s, and though it officially runs the course of four days, festivities are known to start before that. While Panama City is one of the best places to experience this fun-filled holiday, the town of Las Tablas is often the aim of many. According to some, it is the absolute best place to experience the Panamanian Carnival, due largely in part to the inter-town rivalry. The "High Street"(Calle Arriba) and "Low Street"(Calle Abajo) factions here compete with each other to see whose floats and costumes are best, and as such, witnesses are treated to some of the most creative entries found anywhere. Each group offers up their own Carnival Queen, besides arranging their own parades and side activities. Live concerts, food booths, games and fireworks are standard on each side, and does it ever get lively. It's common to get soaked during the Panamanian Carnival, as large trucks are known to hit the streets spraying refreshingly clean water on all they pass. "Cuelcos", which are outdoor dance parties, typically involve getting sprayed quite a bit. Las Tablas is located in Panama's Los Santos Province, and is about a 3-hour drive from Panama City.
Of course, the capital and largest city of Panama, Panama City, is also a top spot to enjoy the Panama Carnival. Vía Espana, which is the main avenue in Panama City, is where the bulk of the parades and festivities take place. On the Friday before Ash Wednesday, which falls in February, the groundwork is laid for the upcoming four days of revelry. The Carnival Queen is first selected, as are here accompanying attendants. The new Queen is featured in the day's parade, as well as all pertinent activities. Some of the nicer Panama City hotels are known to sponsor side events that center around food and dancing, thus adding to the overall festive atmosphere. Another parade is held on Saturday, and the streets fill with people and music. Dancing at some point is almost a requisite, and should you imbibe enough spirits, you're likely to pull a few more moves than you may have planned. All the better. The Panama Carnival is all about fun, and so you might as well grab on and go with it. Besides the water trucks that spray party-goers, people are known to also get drenched by water balloons and buckets, so you might keep an eye out, or at least arm yourself.
The Panama Mardis Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is when Panama
City's party is at its biggest. The parade on the
main Carnival day in Panama City easily outdoes those
of the previous days, and it attracts people of all kinds.
If you're not careful, you're bound to enjoy
the Panama Mardis Gras well into the wee hours of the
next morning, which is just find by most. For an interesting
and unique Panama Carnival experience, you might look
to stay at a local family's house in the city or
town where you are visiting. This helps add to the overall
experience, especially if you learn a little Spanish before
you go. Should you combine a Carnival day in Panama with
a tour of the Panama Canal and a few days on one of the stellar Panama
beaches, you'll enjoy some of the very best
that Panama has to offer. If you like to party and can't
figure out exactly when to go
to Panama, you might as well start planning for next
February. The Panamanian Carnival definitely has you covered.