The Canary Islands carnival is one of the best in the world and one of the most vibrant spectacles in Europe. That’s why you really have to experience it at least once in a lifetime. And if you can visit every year, even better. Because anyone who experiences carnival in the islands always wants to come back for more.
The Canary Islands carnival is colour, joy, floats, singing groups, spectacular parades and more. And all to the beat of salsa and batucada. It is a unique carnival, not just because it transforms the streets into a huge party, but because of the safe, fun and relaxed atmosphere, and—why not—because of the climate. The mild Canary Islands temperatures let us experience it outdoors without worrying about the cold, even though it takes place in February and March. Each island experiences carnival in its own way and each has its peculiarities. They are all special.
The Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival is considered one of the best in the world. In fact, it has been declared of ‘International Tourist Interest’. A massive party that turns Santa Cruz into a special place and transforms its streets into a full-on show overflowing with joy, rhythm and dancing. It is always best to dress up and paint your face, whether you go during the day or at night.
The Carnival Queen Gala is one of the most widely anticipated events due to the spectacular outfits the candidates wear in the parade. Pure fantasy and creativity, with thousands of feathers and sequins on dresses that can measure more than three metres in height and weigh up to 400 kg.
Two key days for carnival-goers are the day of the ‘coso apoteosis’, a thrilling parade of floats and groups that move along to the contagious rhythm of the ‘comparsas’, carnival groups, and the traditional ‘burial of the sardine’, which is on Ash Wednesday. A relaxed and irreverent spectacle that is great fun, where widows wail because the end of the festivities is drawing nigh, although we still have the daytime carnival and ‘piñata’ weekend to look forward to, which ends the celebrations until the following year.
Gran Canaria Carnival
The Gran Canaria Carnival is one of the most spectacular in all of Spain. A huge, open, happy party that takes to the streets of the capital city, from Las Canteras Beach, where you can see one of the most charismatic parades in broad sunlight, to the beautiful neighbourhood of Vegueta. Not forgetting that the centre of the city is still the domain of the crowds of people in fancy dress who don’t want to see the party end.
In addition to the Carnival Queen Gala and the competitions to select the best carnival group, which are called ‘murgas’ and ‘comparsas’, another of the Gran Canaria Carnival’s most popular and international events is the Drag Queen Gala, where carnival’s drag queen is chosen, a title competed for by candidates on dizzying platforms, on which they perform impossible choreographies full of creativity and provocation.
And for anyone who wants to experience carnival right on the beach, the International Carnival of Maspalomas is the perfect event for enjoying the festivities at a temperature of 22 °C next to some incredible dunes.
La Palma Carnival
Carnival on the island of La Palma is different to on the other islands and one of the most unique in all of Spain. The difference is the ‘Fiesta de los Indianos’, a celebration inspired by islanders who emigrated to Cuba, where the streets are coated in the talcum powder thrown by thousands and thousands of people dressed in white on Carnival Monday every year, as they pass along Calle Real to the Plaza de España. And they are dressed up to the nines—the boys wear ‘guayaberas’ (light shirts) and the girls wear picture hats and old-fashioned dresses—as the move along to the beat of ‘guarachas’ and ‘guajiras’ that sound all day long in Santa Cruz de La Palma, a pretty, colonial city that is well worth a visit.
Lanzarote Carnival is one of the oldest in the Canary Islands, although it is not as well-known as the others. The most noteworthy event takes place in the island’s capital city, Arrecife, where the ‘parrandas marineras de los buches’ (music) and the floats, ‘comparsas’ (carnival bands) and batucada music fill the streets with rhythm, joy and lots of colour. Just as much partying goes on around the rest of the island, especially in Teguise, which retains a tradition known as the ‘diabletes’ of Teguise, with people dressed up as devils.
If there’s something in particular about the Canary Islands, it’s all of the contrast. In Fuerteventura, the stars of the carnival are the ‘arretrancos’ and the ‘achipencos’. The first are fun four-wheeled vehicles made by hand and the second are curious floating devices used for the most extravagant, fun regattas you’ll ever see, which take place in Puerto del Rosario, the island’s capital city. Laughter and great moods are guaranteed!
In addition to these two events, anyone who visits Fuerteventura during carnival will also be able to enjoy the partying and revelry in the streets, the Carnival Queen Gala held in many municipalities and the contest of the carnival bands, the ‘murgas’ and ‘comparsas’, to entertain us.
La Gomera Carnival
La Gomera Carnival is a quiet one, without big crowds. It mostly takes place in San Sebastián, the capital city of the island, and one of the most popular and anticipated events is the ‘Día de los Polvos de Talco y Añil’, which is on Carnival Monday. Carnival-goers, all dressed in white, are covered in a blanket of talcum powder amid partying, fun and orchestra music.
El Hierro Carnival
No less peculiar is the carnival on the island of El Hierro, a real celebration where the ‘Fiesta de los Carneros’, or ‘Los Carneros de Tidagay’, brings together hundreds of youths dressed in sheepskins in Frontera to continue a tradition that was almost lost but fortunately was not forgotten and is still alive today to the delight of anyone who gets the chance to enjoy it.