Carnaval de Santa Cruz de Tenerife: The Biggest Bash in the Canary Islands

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Carnaval Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Celebrating Carnival 2019
in Santa Cruz de Tenerife

The Biggest Bash in the
Canary Islands

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…

Carnaval 🎭

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.

Carnaval Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival

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.

2019 Carnaval Theme:
The Deep Sea

Carnaval del Día. Vegueta, Las Palmas. 2-2017 (7)

The Chicharreros choose a unique theme every year, and the 2019 Carnival theme in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is 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), I’m predicting we’ll see 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

2-2015 Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain Carnaval (62) WM
Calle Clavel. Carnaval del Día Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

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 2019, the best time to visit Tenerife for Carnaval de Santa Cruz is from

Friday, 1st March, 2019 to Sunday, 10th March, 2019

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, 6 March, 2019 is by far the strangest, and in my book, the best night of the event.

2019 Main Events

Festival Weekend One

Friday, 1st March, 2019 – Carnival Opening Parade Carnaval Santa Cruz de Tenerife
(Carnaval Cabalgata Anunciadora)

Saturday, 2nd March, 2019 – Paaaartaaay (evening)

Sunday, 3rd March, 2019: Daytime Carnival
(Carnaval del Día, 13:00)

Tuesday, 5th March, 2019: Carnival Grand Parade
(Coso Apoteosis del Carnaval, 16:00)

Wed, 6th March, 2019: Burial of the Sardine**
(Entierro de la Sardina 20:00)

Festival Weekend Two: “Piñata Chica”

Saturday, 9th March, 2019 – Daytime Carnival (Carnaval del Día)

Sunday, 10th March, 2019 – Last Day! Fireworks 🎆🎆 (Exhibición pirotécnica)

Click here for a full list of events at the 2019 Carnaval de Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Carnaval Santa Cruz de Tenerife
“Pick the apple, bite the apple, throw the apple away…”

What to Pack for Carnival in Santa Cruz

The Costume

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 😉

Carnaval Santa Cruz de Tenerife
This is why you don’t pack your favorite shoes…

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

Carnaval Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Calle Anaga, Dancin’ the night away

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.

If you’re new to AirBnb, feel free to use my referral link and receive a €25 travel credit for your first stay!

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#yaescarnaval #carnaval2017

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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?

Party on!
Erica 💙

CARNAVAL SANTA CRUZ PINTEREST copy

103 Comments Add yours

  1. Alexander Popkov says:

    Hahaha! Party time! Love the atmosphere there. I have seen to many blogs with generic landcapes, but they miss the point. Traveling is also about party hard.

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Especially cultural parties that are so ingrained in a country an their history. I think it really helps you to get to know the country when you see everyone living it up!

      Like

  2. What a great post! I’d love to visit anywhere for Carnival/Carnaval. Sounds and looks like so much fun and positive energy! Thanks or sharing. 🙂

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      I hope you make it someday!

      Like

  3. alison netzer says:

    Why have I never heard of this? This looks like so much fun in a small dose. I can imagine the smells though after a couple of days, per your picture. I would stick to dressing up for the theme.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      They do a good job of cleaning up every morning, but with that kind of crowd it definitely gets a bit messy!

      Like

  4. J David Garnett says:

    It looks like a great event for those that like to party, I am far too old for that these days. 🙂

    Like

  5. Lisa says:

    This looks like such a fun carnival! I’ve never heard of this one in Tenerife, but the Big Sea sounds like a great theme. Good tips on what to wear too; old and comfortable shoes for sure!

    Like

  6. Nina says:

    I’ve always thought that carnival is a thing of the past. Amazing to see that it’s still alive and giving a lot of fun!

    Like

  7. Saniya puri says:

    This is so much fun, I can’t wait to visit. Thanks for sharing the fun.

    Like

  8. Su Bha Sun says:

    Wow! It looks so much fun. I have never been to such festival but can feel the spirit of fun here. Lucky you attended such huge festivals twice.

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Twice in Santa Cruz and twice in Las Palmas… and once in Cadiz years ago 😂 This year will be my sixth Carnival!

      Like

  9. Bailey Mills says:

    I love going to festivals around the world when I travel, what a great one to check out! I haven’t been to the Canary Islands yet but I definitely want to now!

    Like

  10. Jess says:

    I love carnaval! I´ve always wanted to experience Carnival in Spain, and I´ve heard that Tenerife is the biggest one. This is definitely an experience I will have to have once in my life. Pinning for later!

    Like

  11. Kyle says:

    I just booked flights for this year. We love to party but we also need good sleep. Do you think it better to stay in l laguna than Santa Cruz so we can rest up?

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      If you stay in Santa Cruz, you definitely want to steer clear of anything in the center, especially anything around Calle Anaga, Plaza Weyler, Calle Clavel and Plaza de España. If sleep is truly near and dear to you, La Laguna is a good bet and is only a 10-15 minute taxi away.

      Like

  12. Dang!! this is one solid event! good job on suggesting what to wear! I remember having my white chuck taylor turned to thrash after attending an event closely similar to this in the Philippines. #rookiemistake

    Like

  13. nicole wall says:

    Wow! Looks like so much fun. I’m sure you need to book rooms early for this event. Love all your photos. Thanks for sharing

    Like

  14. amber says:

    This is amazing party scene. I really want to head to Carnaval in Santa Cruz in the future. I am so intrigued by the sardine festival day – Sounds a right laugh! Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  15. This looks like a great time! I can’t wait to see what costumes come out for the “Under the Sea” theme! Good tips on how to dress for the different climates!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. candy says:

    It really does look like a fun carnival! You have some really good tips on wardrobe. I was wondering if it’s better to bring one or buy one. And another great tip was the footwear. I will be sure to wear something I don’t mind possibly tossing out later 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I love learning about all these fiestas! I knew each village on Fuerteventura had their own festival celebrating their village but I had no idea there were so many carnavals y fiestas en todas las islas! Totally laughing at loads of paracetamol!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Yessss, the Spanish love a good party 🙂 I´m not sure how big Carnival is in Fuerteventura, but it´s absolutely massiva in Tenerife, Gran Canaria and La Palma. When are you planning your next visit to Fuerteventura? Will you be back this summer?

      Like

  18. Angela Essing says:

    Sounds like a festival you’ll never forget for sure! I would love to just sit somewhere and people watch, the costumes look so colorful and creative. Even though it’s second behind Brazil, I never read about it before!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      It´s such a blast for people watching! People really go all out for their costumes – some of my local friends have 5 or 6 costumes every Carnival that they wear for different events! Last year a friend went home to change costumes between the daytime and evening festivities because he could´t decide which costume he preferred 😂

      Like

  19. Amy says:

    I love a destination that is so vibrant and so open to such enthusiastic and passionate celebration! I love that there is an annual theme to enhance the camaraderie with complete strangers! And I think it is a great time of year to have something exciting to loo forward to, just long enough after the Christmas holidays, but not during the peak late-march travel season.

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Exactly! When I lived in the states, the months after Christmas were always such a downer for me… all the fun festivities were over and there was nothing but cold. One thing I love about living in the Canaries is that as soon as the Christmas holidays are over (which isn´t until 6 January), you´ve already got Carnival on the horizon to look forward to!

      Like

  20. Anja says:

    I was never really a carnival enthusiast (never really understood what all the fuss was about) and it doesn’t exist in my city, so that added to the fact that I never really attended a real one. Last year I visited a Sicilian island of Marettimo that has a strong tradition of carnival, and that’s when I realized that it means a lot to some people- it is their social event of the year, and they truly enjoy it. We were there in summer, but the locals still talked a lot about it (showing us photos etc.). Anyhow, I love the theme of this year’s Santa Cruz’s carnival, I can imagine all the genius costumes and given that Spanish do party hard, I wouldn’t mind attending it. Have fun!

    Like

  21. Anja says:

    I was never really a carnival enthusiast, and it doesn’t exist in my city, so that added to the fact that I never really attended a real one. Last year I visited a Sicilian island of Marettimo that has a strong tradition of a carnival, and that’s when I realized that it means a lot to some people- it is their social event of the year, and they truly enjoy it. We were there in summer, but the locals still talked a lot about it (showing us photos etc.). Anyhow, I love the theme of this year’s Santa Cruz’s carnival, I can imagine all the genius costumes and given that Spanish do party hard, I wouldn’t mind attending it. Have fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Exactly! I love a good party, but you can find those anywhere. What´s really striking about Carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is that it´s such a deeply ingrained part of the local culture. People honestly look forward to the ¨Carnaval holidays¨ above the Christmas holidays which is saying a lot. Many of my friends have already started putting together their elaborate under the sea costumes for 2019 🙂

      Like

  22. Melody says:

    OMG this looks like so much fun! I’ve recently added the Canary Islands to my travels for 2019 but unfortunately it won’t be in time for this big shindig. What a blast though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Fantastic! Which island(s) and when are you planning on heading out?? I´d love to give you some tips on the events and what´s happening while your out here 🙂

      Like

  23. There is nothing quite like Carnaval (and its various iterations) in almost any city. Fun, frivolity, costumes, debauchery, and more … what’s not to like? Sounds like reason enough to visit the Canary Islands.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Absolutely! Have you had the chance to check out any Carnival celebrations during your travels?

      Like

  24. Mel Butler says:

    Oh my this carnival celebrating in Santa Cruz de Tenerife not only looks like fun but sounds like a lot of fun. Though I don’t know if I could handle 15 days, the Spainsh definitely know how to party. I do love that you get to dress up, now that is my type of thing. I also like all the different types of things happening. I feel I need to add this to my list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      15 days is definitely too much, but it´s well worth checking out for a weekend! It´s an experience like nothing else, I hope you get to check it out one day 🙂

      Like

  25. Cozy says:

    We are cutting our Marrekech trip short this year to come over and check out the Santa Cruz Carnival for the first time. Wanted to stay in Adeje but it seems that will be too far from the action… Is the taxi traffic very dense to get to Carnival from there? If staying in Santa Cruz, I am looking at the Iberostar since it’s close, hopefully far enough from the action to sleep? Thanks for a very informative blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Marrakech is incredible (one of my favourite cities), so you´re in for a pretty incredible trip combining the too! While the south will have better weather in February, I´d definitely recommend spending the bigger festival days in Las Palmas to avoid the long trip back and forth and to be able to go back to your hotel to rest if need be. The Iberostar looks like a great pick and definitely someplace you´ll be able to rest and escape from the action a bit.

      Like

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