Usually January is considered a time to tighten up the budget and the post-holiday buns and to settle in for the less festive side of winter; but as most of Spain is packing up their poinsettias and nibbling on the last crumbs of turrón and Roscón de Reyes, Santa Cruz de Tenerife is just warming up for the real party…
There are few festivities that strike up the same enthusiasm amongst Chicharreros (Santa Cruz locals) than this beloved bacchanal of extravagant costumes, Latin and Caribbean rhythms, flamboyant parades and general debauchery in the streets until the wee hours of the morning noon the next day. After all, as any Chicharrero will tell you, Carnaval in Santa Cruz is second only to the world-famous celebrations of Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro.
For 15 days, the capital of Tenerife transforms from a small and serene seaside city to an explosion of vibrant colors, upbeat tempos and above all: glitter. I spent two unforgettable Carnaval seasons getting down and dirty in Santa Cruz (and the last one in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria!), and I guarantee you that it’s truly something you have to see to believe, but undoubtedly something you won’t ever forget.
2018 Carnaval Theme: Fantasy
Every year, the Chicharreros choose a theme, and in 2018 it will be Fantasy (La Fantasía). While it’s not necessary to stick to the theme when choosing your costume (in fact, most Santa Cruz locals don’t), I’m predicting we’ll see plenty of fairies, avatars and enough ‘Mothers of Dragons‘ to beat an entire army of white walkers.
When to Book Your Trip
The dates of Carnaval change annually based on Easter and the start of lent, typically falling between late January to late February. Though some Carnaval traditions begin as in January this year (murga competitions, queen galas, etc.), the dressing-up, DJs and debauchery begin the weekend before Ash Wednesday.
In 2018, the best time to visit Tenerife for Carnaval de Santa Cruz is from
Friday, Feb 9, 2018 to Sunday, February 18, 2018
Be sure to book your trip for at least one of the two weekends! And if your schedule permits, the Entierro de la Sardina on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 is by far the strangest, and in my book, the best night of the event.
2018 Main Events
Wednesday, 31st January, 2018: Election of the Carnaval Queen (Gale Reina Adulta)
Festival Weekend One
Friday, 9th February, 2018 – Carnaval Opening Parade
(La Cabalgata Anunciadora)
Saturday, 10th February, 2018 – Paaaartaaay (evening)
Sunday, 11th February, 2018: Daytime Carnaval
(Carnaval del Día, 13:00)
Tuesday, 13th February, 2018: Grand Parade 16:00
(Coso Apoteosis del Carnaval)
Wed, 14th February, 2018: Burial of the Sardine**
(Entierro de la Sardina 20:00)
Festival Weekend Two: “Piñata Chica”
Saturday, 17th February, 2018 – Daytime Carnaval (Carnaval del Día)
Sunday, 18th February, 2018 – Last Day! Fireworks 🎆🎆 (Exhibición pirotécnica)
What to Pack
Unless you have a costume that you’ve planned and prepared beforehand, I suggest picking something up when you arrive. All of the “Chino” shops and bazaars are full to the brim with tutus, wigs, leotards, props, and the prepackaged sort of costume sets that we typically associate with Halloween. Buying your costume on arrival will lighten your luggage and help to stimulate the local economy 😉!
You will, however, want to pack a pair of shoes that you won’t mind getting wet, dirty, and (let’s be honest) pretty disgusting. Days on end of partying leaves the streets murky at best, and most Carnaval-goers tend to be practical with their footwear, choosing comfort and practicality over perfect costume coordination.
Day to Day Gear
In terms of day to day packing, layers are key. Winter in the Canaries is mild, and compared to most of Europe the weather will be better, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be warm. February temperatures are unpredictable and can mean anything from bikini beach sunbathing to cool, windy, coat weather – and believe it or not – sometimes even rain.
Pack a stash of long and short sleeves for layering, a jacket or coat and shoes you wouldn’t mind wearing in the rain. Winter evenings are typically cool, but the calor humano from the hordes of merrymakers will keep you warm while dancing in the wee hours.
Oh. And lots of Paracetemol.
Where to Stay
If you haven’t booked your accommodation yet, now is definitely the time! The festivities are spread out throughout the small city, so booking anywhere within Santa Cruz will be convenient enough. If you’re looking for a good night’s sleep, steer clear of anything near Weyler, Teatro Guimera and Calle Anaga. There are plenty of Airbnb options in the city, but prices for both Airbnb and hotels will be on the rise this time a year.
If you can’t find anything available in Santa Cruz, consider staying up the hill in the nearby UNESCO World Heritage city of La Laguna. La Laguna is about 40 minutes away by tram or 10 minutes by taxi. It’s charming, well-connected to Santa Cruz and worth exploring while you’re in the area. The only downside here is that Tenerife’s crazy micro climates mean that La Laguna is way cooler than the coastal capital so you’ll want to pack some warmer gear if staying here.
Like this post? Click here for My “Dos & Don’ts of Carnival in Santa Cruz” and find out: What’s a murga? Where’s the best place to watch the parades? How does the Queen get around in a 100kg gown? And why do I insist you stay for a late night Wednesday to watch a papier mâché sardine go up in smoke?
Love & Light, Erica 💙
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