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Carnaval in Tenerife: The Most Colourful Festival in the Canary Islands

Article by GVI


Posted: April 30, 2023

Get ready to experience the ultimate celebration of culture, music, and colour! Every year, the Tenerife Carnaval beckons thousands of enthusiastic visitors from all corners of the globe to indulge in its lively festivities. This vibrant event takes place on the largest of the Canary Islands, and is renowned as one of the most spectacular carnivals worldwide. To ensure you don’t miss a beat, we’ve put together an extensive guide that delves into the festival’s fascinating history and offers insights into the must-see events and highlights.

The History of Carnaval in Tenerife

The history of Carnaval in Tenerife is a tale of tradition, cultural fusion, and evolution. Its roots can be traced back centuries, but it has evolved over time to become the spectacle that it is today.

Origins and Influences

The origins of Carnaval in Tenerife can be traced back to the island’s indigenous Guanches, who celebrated the end of the harvest season with bonfires and music. After the Spanish conquest of the Canary Islands, Catholicism was imposed, and the pre-Lenten festival was adapted to Christian traditions. Throughout the centuries, Carnaval in Tenerife has been influenced by various cultures, including those of African, South American and Caribbean origin, due to the island’s position as a trading hub. The music, costumes, and dances of these cultures have been incorporated into the festivities, resulting in the vibrant and diverse celebration seen today. In addition, the influence of Brazil’s Carnaval can be seen in the elaborate floats and samba-inspired music that are now an integral part of Tenerife’s Carnaval.

Evolution of the Festival

Carnaval in Tenerife has evolved significantly over the years. Originally a simple harvest festival, it developed into a pre-Lenten festival with Catholic influences. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it became more elaborate with costumes, parades, and music. The festival declined in the mid-20th century but was revived in the 1970s and is now one of Spain’s most significant cultural events. Today, it features elaborate costumes, music, and traditional elements such as the crowning of a Carnaval Queen, parades, and the burial of the sardine. The festival has also incorporated new additions such as street parties and electronic music events.

Preparing for Your Carnaval Experience

Before you embark on your Carnaval adventure in Tenerife, it’s important to plan and prepare for your trip. Factors such as when to go, where to stay, and what to wear can greatly impact your overall carnival experience.

When to Go

Carnaval in Tenerife typically takes place in February or March, depending on the date of Easter. The festivities usually last for about two weeks, with the most important events occurring during the final week. It’s recommended to check the official Carnaval program and dates ahead of time, as these can vary slightly each year.

Where to Stay

Looking for a place to stay during Carnaval in Tenerife? Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the ultimate spot, with plenty of hotels and apartments in the city centre for easy access to the festivities. However, keep in mind that prices can be steep and availability limited. If you prefer a quieter vibe, consider staying in smaller towns like Puerto de la Cruz or Adeje. You can also try vacation rentals like Airbnb for more affordable options and a chance to experience local life. Book early, though, as places fill up fast!

What to Wear

Carnaval in Tenerife is a colorful and energetic event, which means that your attire should match the lively atmosphere. Wearing a costume is highly encouraged, and you’ll find that many participants go all out with elaborate and creative outfits. If you’d prefer a more low-key approach, simply wearing bright colours or fun accessories can help you blend in and enjoy the celebration. Comfortable shoes are also essential, as you’ll likely be on your feet for extended periods of time.

silhouettes of people walking at sunset festival

Key Events and Highlights of Carnaval

There are plenty of events to enjoy throughout the two-week celebration, which cater to a wide range of interests and activity levels. Some of the most popular and iconic events include the Opening Parade, the Election of the Carnaval Queen, the Burial of the Sardine, and the Daytime Carnaval.

The Opening Parade

The Opening Parade, or Cabalgata, is the event that officially kicks off the Carnaval festivities. This spectacular procession features a dazzling array of floats, colourful costumes, and live music. The energy and enthusiasm of the performers and spectators alike make this a must-see event for any Carnaval-goer.

The Election of the Carnaval Queen

One of the most anticipated events of Tenerife’s Carnaval is the Election of the Carnaval Queen. This glamorous evening event showcases a lineup of talented and beautifully dressed contestants, who compete for the coveted title. The Queen’s election is followed by an extravagant gala, providing a perfect opportunity to enjoy the glitz and glamour of Carnaval.

The Burial of the Sardine

The Burial of the Sardine, or Entierro de la Sardina, is a quirky and unusual event that symbolises the end of Carnaval. Participants dress in black and mourn the “death” of the sardine by parading a giant paper-mache sardine through the streets. This satirical and tongue-in-cheek event adds a dose of humour to the festivities and offers a unique experience that you won’t want to miss.

The Daytime Carnaval

For those who prefer to experience the colorful and lively atmosphere of Carnaval during daylight hours, the Daytime Carnaval is the perfect event. This family-friendly celebration features street performances, live music, and plenty of food and drink vendors. This event provides an opportunity for everyone to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of Carnaval in a more relaxed and accessible setting.

Exploring the Different Carnaval Zones

Tenerife is home to several Carnaval hotspots, each offering its own unique atmosphere and events. Some popular Carnaval zones include Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Puerto de la Cruz and Los Cristianos.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the island’s capital, hosts the largest and most extravagant Carnaval celebrations. This is the epicentre of the festivities and features a variety of events, from glamorous galas and parades to lively street parties. This area offers an energetic and immersive Carnaval experience, making it perfect for those looking to truly embrace the celebrations.

Puerto de la Cruz

Puerto de la Cruz, a coastal city in the north of the island, offers a more intimate and family-friendly Carnaval experience. The city’s celebrations are still lively and engaging, but on a smaller scale than those in Santa Cruz. This makes Puerto de la Cruz an excellent option for those seeking a more relaxed atmosphere.

Los Cristianos

Located in the south of Tenerife, Los Cristianos is another popular destination for Carnaval celebrations. This area is known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife, making it an ideal location for those looking to combine their Carnaval experience with some sun and relaxation. The local Carnaval events here are also known for their creativity and colour, providing a unique and enjoyable experience for all.

Tips for Enjoying Carnaval to the Fullest

To make the most of your Carnaval experience in Tenerife, consider these helpful tips for navigating the crowds, staying safe and healthy, and embracing the local culture.

Navigating the Crowds

Large crowds are a common feature of the Carnaval experience, so it’s important to be prepared for them. Consider arriving at popular events early to secure a good viewing spot, and keep a close eye on your belongings to prevent any theft or loss. Additionally, patience and a go-with-the-flow attitude will go a long way in helping you navigate the busy streets and fully enjoy your Carnaval experience.

Staying Safe and Healthy

It’s crucial to prioritise your safety and health during the festivities. Stay hydrated, wear sun protection, and ensure you eat well and get enough rest. Be mindful of your alcohol consumption, and always ensure you have a safe way to get home or back to your accommodation at the end of the night.

Embracing the Local Culture

One of the best ways to truly enjoy Carnaval in Tenerife is by embracing the local culture and traditions. Engage with the locals, join in the various event activities, and don’t be afraid to let your hair down and fully immerse yourself in the Carnaval spirit!

With this comprehensive guide to Tenerife’s Carnaval, you’ll have all the information and inspiration you need to make the most of this incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience. So grab your costume, pack your bags, and get ready to dance the night away at one of the world’s most colourful and exciting festivals!

Want to make the most of your time in Tenerife? Join a GVI marine conservation volunteer program! Help protect the ocean and its creatures while enjoying the beautiful island vibes. It’s a win-win!

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