You don’t have to travel five thousand miles to get some carnival action this spring – hop on a plane and hit the Canaries this week and you’ll find yourself in the midst of a frenetic and thoroughly fabulous celebration on the island of Tenerife. There are carnival festivities going on throughout the many resorts and inland towns here until the 9th March, but possibly the biggest and boldest takes places in the island’s capital: Santa Cruz de Tenerife. In fact, it’s frequently claimed as the biggest carnival in the world after Rio de Janeiro in Brazil!
So if you fancy swapping the rain for a dose of sunshine and fiesta, here’s a look at some of the events and crazy costumes you can look forward to on cheap breaks to Tenerife…
Where to pick for your carnival holiday?
The first thing you’ll need to decide is which carnival destination to choose! Smaller celebrations spread far and wide across Tenerife’s volcanic peaks, valleys and villages, with notable festivities in towns like Puerto de la Cruz hosting their unique ‘Men’s Marathon’ (in which all the men dress up in drag costume and high heels to run through the streets!) There’s also a particularly good coso – or closing parade – in Puerto, in which everyone sends off the celebrations for another year.
Second city La Laguna always has a fun, youngish vibe so their carnival is equally exuberant, and residents here also practice the famous ‘Burial of the Sardine’ ritual performed in the capital, parading a papier mache fish down to the harbour in mock-ceremonial fashion.
But it’s in Santa Cruz de Tenerife where you’ll find the loudest singers, the most outrageous floats and ten solid days of partying ‘til you drop! So what can you expect from the island’s largest extravaganza?
Santa Cruz Carnival: the lowdown
As with carnivals around the world, the traditional celebration in Santa Cruz de Tenerife has its roots in the Catholic faith, being held as a kind of last-chance party before Lent begins. In the 20th century, the carnival revelries were banned for a time under General Franco, so that when today’s islanders celebrate, there’s still a note of good-humoured satire and criticism of those in charge. Pop bands known as murgas disguise themselves as clowns and sing irreverent songs throughout the carnival period as part of this.
Though the election of the Carnival Queen and her parades take place at the beginning of the celebrations, you can still catch later events right up until the 9th March this year, with the ‘Burial of the Sardine’ traditionally on Ash Wednesday and plenty of street parties, dance acts and fireworks to round off the carnival on the closing weekend. This weekend is also known as ‘Piñata weekend’, with special children’s carnivals and events like a vintage car parade also taking place.
If you needed any more persuading to get over to the Canary Islands and join in the fun, Holiday Hypermarket are still offering holidays to Tenerife this March. But don’t worry if you miss out on the most infamous carnival in Europe this time – from folk music to chestnut festivals, there are plenty of other exciting events going on in the Canary Islands throughout the year!