For me, one of the most exciting aspects of going on holiday is having the chance to soak up the local culture. So, I think there’s no better time to visit your chosen destination than when it has some kind of mass celebration in full swing – for example, a great time to explore Tenerife is during the vibrant Carnaval de Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
When and where?
The Carnaval de Santa Cruz de Tenerife takes place for a few weeks in February (this year from 6th to 17th), around Shrove Tuesday – or Mardis Gras, as it’s referred to locally. While the city of Santa Cruz is definitely where the most spectacular, vibrant and exciting festivities take place, Carnaval is actually celebrated in towns and villages across the island.
If you are travelling to Tenerife solely for the purpose of experiencing all the action, Santa Cruz is definitely the place to focus your attention on – but if you fancy a change or feel like escaping the frenetic atmosphere for an afternoon, you can always pop to one of the smaller towns to see what’s going on.
What to expect
Expect bright colours, dazzling costumes and seemingly endless music and dancing. In fact, the atmosphere here is so electric and locals from all over their island throw themselves into it to such an extent that this Carnaval is said to rival the world-famous festival in Rio de Janeiro. If that doesn’t make you want to experience it for yourself, I don’t know what will!
Each year, the event has a different theme. For example, 2013’s is Bollywood. Despite the changing themes, the Carnaval has a pretty consistent structure from one year to the next. So, I’ll just give you a quick run through some of the key moments.
• The election of the Carnaval Queen (February 6th 2013): One of the most important parts of the festival, the election of the Carnaval Queen precedes the festivities kicking off in earnest. The process begins with a huge gala, usually held on the Wednesday of the first week of the Carnaval, in which the contestants don fantastic costumes and parade on a 1,200 sq m stage. Some of these costumes weigh more than 100 kg, so expect them to be pretty spectacular!
Following the election of the queen, a huge parade officially opening the Carnaval takes place on the Friday. Over the next few days the streets come alive with music, as bands of all kinds compete to win various titles – and just to entertain the jubilant crowd.
• El Coso (February 12th 2013): The next big date is the climax of the festival. El Coso is the main parade, usually starting around 16:00 local time. If you think everything you’ve seen and experienced up until now has been unbelievable, just wait until you see this! It’s nigh on impossible to stand on the sidelines and not get involved in some serious shimmying and singing.
• Funeral of the Sardine (February 13th 2013): Yes, you did read correctly – this next key event is the Funeral of the Sardine. You see, the sardine represents the spirit of the festival and, on this day, it is carried through the streets and burned, symbolising the end of the Carnaval. Never fear, though, because there are actually a good few days of revelry left! The Pinata Chica is held at the weekend, which sees the arrival of yet more parades, dances and singing.
Just as a final quick tip, Carnaval is a massively popular event, so make sure you book your accommodation as soon as possible – you can find some decent hotels at http://www.sovereign.com/destinations/Spain/Tenerife. In fact, if you can’t make this year’s festivities, it’s not too early to start planning your trip for next year – so get cracking!