Mostly celebrated in the continents of Europe and America, carnivals take on a very different atmosphere depending on the city they are in. In London, the Notting Hill carnival, in August, adds a touch of the Caribbean to the British capital. Exotic dances and techno music stir the pastel-coloured streets of this iconic neighbourhood.
A change of atmosphere now in San Francisco where the city's countless communities parade in their traditional costumes to the applause of the crowds. Every year, on the last weekend of May, the city celebrates its diversity, to the delight of visitors.
Going back much further in time, the Venice carnival is an absolute must. La Serenissima celebrates traditions going back to the 10th century in real style with a festival of masks, sumptuous costumes and street shows.
On the other side of the globe, the walls of Rio de Janeiro throb to the rhythm of samba dancers. For four days in February or March, the event attracts almost six million party-goers from home and abroad. It is the most-visited festival in the world.
A more quirky affair is Nice carnival, the biggest in France. In the depths of winter, floats parade through the city carrying huge caricature statues of celebrities, provoking smiles and laughter all round.