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’ve spent the last two Carnaval seasons getting down and dirty in Santa Cruz, and I guarantee you that it’s truly something you have to see to believe, but undoubtedly something you won’t ever forget.
Every year, the Chicharreros choose a different theme, and in 2017 it will be The Caribbean (El Caribe). While it’s not necessary to stick to the theme when choosing your costumes (in fact, most locals don’t), I’m predicting we’ll see quite a bit of both reggae and buccaneer inspired costumes – plenty of pirates, wenches, Captain Jack Sparrows, rastas (dreadlocks) and rastafarians.
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 early as the beginning of February this year (murga competitions, queen galas, etc.), the dressing-up, DJs and debauchery begin the weekend before Ash Wednesday.
In 2017, the best time to visit Tenerife for Carnaval de Santa Cruz is from
Friday, 24th February to Sunday, 5th March.
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 the 1st March is by far the strangest, and in my book, the best night of the event.
The Main Events – 2017
Wednesday, 22nd February, 2017: Election of the Carnaval Queen (Gale Reina Adulta)
Friday, 24th February, 2017 – Carnaval Opening Parade (La Cabalgata Anunciadora) 20:00Saturday, 25th February, 2017 – Street Party Continued (evening)
Sunday, 26th February, 2017: Daytime Carnaval (Carnaval del Día) 13:00
Tuesday, 28th February, 2017: Grand Parade (Coso Apoteosis del Carnaval) 16:00
Wednesday, 1st March, 2017: Burial of the Sardine (Entierro de la Sardina) 20:00**
“Piñata Chica” (Second Weekend)
Saturday, 4th March, 2017 – Daytime Carnaval (Carnaval del Día)
Sunday, March 5th, 2017 – 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, which is always a bonus!
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.
In terms of day to day packing, layers are key. Winter in the Canaries is mild, and compared to most places in Europe the weather at Carnaval 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 – even showers. I suggest a mixture of long and short sleeves for layering, as well as 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.
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 central Santa Cruz will be convenient. If you’re looking for a good night’s sleep, avoid anything near Weyler, Teatro Guimera and Calle Anaga, as the weekend revelry is pretty much non-stop. There are a good number of Airbnb options in the city, though prices for both Airbnb and hotels will be higher 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 a charming city, well-connected to Santa Cruz and well worth sightseeing while you’re in the area. Keep in mind that due to micro climates in Tenerife, La Laguna is quite a bit cooler than the coastal capital and 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? All that and more up next!
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