Carnival Time in Tenerife

Arts & Culture

This vibrant spectacular of costumes, colour and 'cachondeo' dates back from the 18th century.

No one celebrates quite like the Spanish. Fact. Whether it’s Semana Santa in Seville, Fallas in Valencia or La Tomatina in Bunyol this is one country that knows how to party in style. Forget displays of revelled out tourists in Magaluf, turn your attention instead to scenes of jovial locals, fireworks and fancy dress - people of all ages dancing and singing, filling the streets with a revelry so infectious it’s even entered the record books…

Step forward the Tenerife Carnival, a real highlight of the Tenerife events calendar. This vibrant spectacular of costumes, colour and ‘cachondeo’ dates back from the 18th century and entered the Guinness Book of Records in 1987 for attracting the biggest crowd of people (250,000) to an outdoor concert. No mean feet. It is today the second most popular carnival in the world (after Rio) and has even been twinned with the Brazilian hot-spot, cementing it’s position further, as one of the world’s stand out events.

Tenerife Carnival Queen. Credit: Secret Tenerife (Flickr)Tenerife Carnival Queen. Credit: Secret Tenerife (Flickr)Tenerife Carnival. Credit: Maduroman (Flickr)Tenerife Carnival. Credit: Maduroman (Flickr)

For around three weeks between the 27th of February to the 13th of March the island is swathed in merriment with colourful street parties, dancing, live music and of course the election of the Carnival Queen on the 2nd of March. Amazing costumes reaching up high into the sky are adorned with sequins, feathers, plastic and paper and colourful fabrics. With most weighing up to 150 kilograms floats are needed to parade the creations through the streets. Voted for by important local figures and celebrities, the Carnival Queen is a prestigious accolade - and as she’ll be expected to represent the Canary Islands at tourist fairs throughout the year it involves more than simply looking good in an elaborate outfit (though I’m sure that can’t hurt…)

Tenerife CarnivalTenerife Carnival

Tenerife’s capital Santa Cruz is where the largest gatherings are found. Days are filled with Murgas, comparsas and rondallas amusing the crowds with musical groups putting on performances, costumed artists acting out pantomime style shows and of course, those elaborate parades – with the opening street parade being held on March the 4th. Come evening and the party starts with the street carnival lighting up the capital where music and dancing engulfs the crowd of revellers dressed as anything from nuns, Marilyn Monroe or pirates to Disney characters, cows or exotic dancers. Thousands come from all round the world to join the fun donning disguises and strutting their stuff to the Latin and Caribbean rhythms.

Another iconic part of the Tenerife Carnival is the burial of the Sardine. Held on the first day of Lent (9th of March in 2011) people take to the streets dressed in black while a papier-mâché sardine is paraded through the streets followed by sobbing widows (not solely confined to women…) before the sardine is burnt and fireworks are fired into the sky (trust us, another thing they know how to do in Tenerife is put on a firework display).

Tenerife Carnival Queen. Credit: Secret Tenerife (Flickr)Tenerife Carnival Queen. Credit: Secret Tenerife (Flickr)

Tenerife is a great place to visit any time of the year, with well-established holiday resorts offering fun-in-the-sun beach getaways and the rugged volcanic landscape providing a real get-away-from-it-all escape. However, come during Carnival and you’ll see a completely different side to the island. A side where you are not just an onlooker but you are part of the event…