Inside Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival
Here in Ireland, the Spanish island of Tenerife is well-known as a blissful holiday destination, complete with gold-dusted shores, scenic mountain peaks and a near-tropical climate. But, what you might not know about this largest of the Canary Islands, is that it’s also home to one of the biggest annual celebrations in the world. Every year around Shrove Tuesday, the port city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is transformed into a riot of colour, festivities and fire as the Carnival gets underway.
If you’re hoping to join the thousands of revellers heading to the Canaries for Carnival this year, here’s our guide to what to expect from one of the best parties on the planet…
Carnival Tenerife: what to see and when to go
The Carnival period officially falls between February 28th and March 9th, though the biggest and most vibrant performances are usually planned for Shrove Tuesday – this year falling on March 4th. In fact, there are events going on for around two or three weeks during the run-up, so heading over any time in late February or early March is recommended to grab a taste of the action!
There are costume competitions – for both children and adults – local music concerts, and float parades, not to mention the all-important election of the Carnival Queen the weekend before Shrove Tuesday. Some of the spectacular frilled and sequinned costumes worn by prospective queens can weigh up to a hundred kilogrammes!
Spotlight: ‘Fat’ Tuesday
The focal point of the festivities is always Shrove Tuesday, sometimes called Mardi Gras or ‘Fat Tuesday’, in reference to the Catholic origins of the Carnival. Traditionally, it’s the last chance to go wild, eat, drink and be merry before the abstinence of Lent kicks in.
Today, there’s an irreverence attached to Mardi Gras, with party-goers dressing up as nuns and priests and local pop groups putting on clown outfits and singing satirical songs. The next day sees the ‘Burial of the Sardine’, a strange ritual in which a large papier mache fish is taken down to the port and set alight, accompanied by fireworks and mock ‘mourning’.
But the show’s not over until the following weekend, when the parades, bonfires and street parties come to an enthusiastic climax.
Party all over the island
Anyone in Tenerife during Carnival season is not limited to the capital either – both La Laguna and La Orotava also host their own Carnivals and the celebrations in historic Puerto de la Cruz are the handiest options for holidaymakers staying in the north of the island. In addition, there’s a later Carnival held for visitors in Los Cristianos between 21st and 31st March.
With this much party action going on in Tenerife, early spring really is a great time to visit the balmy Mediterranean island. So if you have a last-minute break to the Canaries in mind, check our late deals section on the main Falcon website.
Images by Philippe Teuwen, used under Creative Commons licence