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Celebrating Carnival 2021
in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
The Biggest Bash in the
January is usually 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 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-renowned 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 two 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.
2021 Carnaval Theme:
The Chicharreros choose a unique theme every year, and last year the 2019 Carnival theme in Santa Cruz de Tenerife was The Deep Sea (Las profundidades marinas). While it’s not necessary to stick to the theme when choosing your costume (in fact, most Santa Cruz locals don’t), we saw plenty of jelly fish, sailors and enough mermaids to lure the entire royal navy to the depths of the Atlantic.
When to Book Your Trip
Carnaval dates change annually based on Easter and the start of lent, typically falling between somewhere between late January to early March. Though some Carnaval traditions begin early (murga competitions, queen galas, etc.), the dressing-up, DJs and general debauchery begin the weekend before Ash Wednesday.
In 2021, the best time to visit Tenerife for Carnaval de Santa Cruz is from
Friday, 12th February, 2021 to
Sunday, 21st February, 2021
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, 17 February, 2021 is by far the strangest, and in my book, the best night of the event.
2021 Main Events
Festival Weekend One
Friday, 12th February, 2021 – Carnival Opening Parade
(Carnaval Cabalgata Anunciadora)
Saturday, 13th February, 2021 – Paaaartaaay (evening)
Sunday, 14th February, 2021: Daytime Carnival
(Carnaval del Día, 13:00)
Tuesday, 16th February, 2021 Carnival Grand Parade
(Coso Apoteosis del Carnaval, 16:00)
Wed, 17th February, 2021: Burial of the Sardine**
(Entierro de la Sardina 20:00)
Festival Weekend Two: “Piñata Chica”
Saturday, 20th February, 2021 – Daytime Carnival (Carnaval del Día)
Sunday, 21st February, 2021 – Last Day! Fireworks 🎆🎆 (Exhibición pirotécnica)
What to Pack for Carnival in Santa Cruz
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
Layers are key in February and early March. Winter in the Canaries is very mild, 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 every now and then, some rain.
Pack a stash of long and short sleeves for layering, and a water resistant jacket and shoes. 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 in Tenerife
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. Be warned though – Tenerife has crazy micro climates and La Laguna is waaay cooler than the coastal capital, so you’ll want to pack some warmer gear if staying here.
Can’t Wait for Santa Cruz Carnival?
Me neither! This year will be my third year celebrating in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria but I´m thinking of popping over to Tenerife for an extra cheeky weekend of celebration.
Before you pack your bags, take a peek at 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?