All you need to know about the Limassol (Cyprus) Carnival

Limassol Carnival - The clowns
By Valya Kolesnyk
Published on 13 Feb 2018, viewed 4235 times
Category: Travel Insights
Share this article:

People always talk about the Venetian and Brazilian carnivals, but have you ever heard of the Cyprus carnival? Did you know that the island is the home of the craziest and funniest carnival out there? If not, then let us tell you about the Limassol Carnival, and we guarantee that you will want to see it after reading this article!

So what is this Limassol Carnival? Well, it is a 10-day experience that everyone should attend at least once in their lives. Even though it is called Limassol Carnival, the festivities roll over the whole island. People in Cyprus hold the Carnival every year just before Christian Lent starts, which means that Green Monday serves as a segue from colourful festivities of the Carnival to the calm 40-day period until Easter.

Origins of the carnival

Limassol Carnival - The dragon - Andreas Vryonides

The Limassol Carnival draws inspiration from different times and cultures. It is said that the carnival used to be an old custom that could be traced to pagan rituals. At the same time, most people believe that it has Hellenistic roots that date back to pre-Christian times. They think that it is a distant relative of the Greek festival that has once honoured the god of fun and wine Dionysus.

It seems like the Carnival on Venice might have had some influence on the Limassol Carnival as well, as Venetians ruled over Cyprus in 15-16th centuries. However, while the former is a very serious affair, the latter is much more goofy and fun. All things considered, there is nothing quite like the Limassol Carnival anywhere else in the world!

Main themes and events

While the Carnival lasts for 10 days, various events, such as exhibition openings, often precede it. You can usually see the traditional carnival masks or check out the photos from previous carnivals.

The carnival itself always begins on a Thursday with festivities starting as early as 11 a.m. This day is known as ‘Smelly Thursday’, or Tsiknopempti, because, as it is the last week for eating meat before Lent, the streets are filled with aromas of cooked meat. In the evening, the King and Queen of the carnival enter the city and set off the parade across town. This means that the Carnival has officially started.

For the next few days, the city will be buzzing with excitement, as the next big thing is the Children’s Carnival Parade on the first Sunday of the carnival. Kids get a chance to express themselves and become a part of a large and colourful crowd of brightly dressed happy children. The second week of the festival is cheese week, or Tyrini, so if you love cheese, this is the thing for you! Throughout the week, you can also see (and hear) serenaders at various Limassol neighbourhoods.

The main attraction, the Grand Carnival Parade, happens on the last Sunday before Lent and right before Green Monday. During the Parade, hundreds of people dress up in silly costumes and mount ridiculous floats to walk (or drive) through the high street of Limassol. The event unites people of all ages and backgrounds, and is truly the sight to see.

Limassol Carnival 2019

Tsiknopemti, marked the beginning of the Carnival with tasty and smokey aroma covering Limassol. The air in all towns, villages and neighborhoods of Cyprus is filled  with the fragrance and smoke of grilled meat. ‘Tsikna’ from Greek is smoke and 'Pemti' is Thursday.

Residents and guests of Cyprus are able to enjoy the many festivities, delicious foods, good music and colourful costumes during this festive time. 

If you have missed the Children’s Carnival Parade, you still have some time until the main event — the Grand Carnival Parade. Usually it starts at the Ayios Nikolaos Round About at around 1 p.m. and march all the way up to the Polemidia Traffic Lights.

The Carnival closes with a grand party at the Old Port Square in the evening. There, people can also take part in the costume competition. So make sure you are wearing your most amazing outfit if you want to win! If you are ever in Cyprus this time of year, Limassol Carnival should definitely be among your top 5 things to experience. It is vibrant, playful and silly, and everyone who attends can get a chance to let loose and have some fun. But do not worry if you cannot make it this time, as there is always next year!