Carnaval in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria:
Top 6 Must See Events
Vibrant colors, vivacious rhythms, dizzying talcum powder wars and the most diva-licious Drag Queen show I’ve ever seen –
Ya es Carnaval in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria!
Living in the Canary Islands for the last five years has made me into somewhat of an unintentional expert in all things Carnaval. Granted, loving a good fiesta certainly didn’t hurt the learning curve 😉.
Carnaval is one of Spain’s favorite celebrations, especially in Cadiz, Sitges and the Canary Islands. For two years, I celebrated in our rival city – Santa Cruz de Tenerife – which is perhaps a bit more famous for their revelries, but the unique traditions in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria are so captivating that I can guarantee you an unforgettable time no matter which Canary Island you choose. So turn up the volume 🔊, turn on my favourite Carnival jam 👇 and read on about one of the most incredible festivals in all of Spain 🎭💃.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
will celebrate Carnival 2020 from
February 7 – March 1, 2020
The 2020 Carnival theme is Erase Una Vez (Once Upon a Time), so start preparing your tutus, tiaras and fairy tale disfrases for a Once Upon a Time to remember!
1. Carnaval de Día in Vegueta
Saturday, February 15, 2020
If I were to celebrate just one day of Carnaval in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Carnaval de Día in Vegueta would be the one, hands down.
Vegueta is the heart of the historic city center, adorned with colonial architecture, cobblestoned plazas and the grand Catedral de Santa Ana.
Daytime Carnival in Vegueta is the event that sets off the season in Las Palmas, so energy levels are at a max and people are using their A-Game to plan costumes and props.
From seemingly every angle there are DJs blasting Latin tempos, top 40 hits, and of course the classic Carnaval tracks like Chayanne’s Madre Tierra and Celia Cruz’ La Vida es un Carnaval. Thousands upon thousands of costumed carousers sing, dance and squeeze their way through impossible crowds from one stage to the next.
Even better, Carnaval de Día in Vegueta begins a week before the celebrations start in Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival, so it´s definitely possibly to check out the best of both cities.
Saturday, February 15, 2020
Where the Daytime Carnival Magic Happens
The action is everywhere in Vegueta, but it’s mainly centered around Calle Mendizábal
(the same pedestrian street that hosts the weekly Tapas Thursday).
The whole barrio is in on the party, so you literally can’t miss it. The bars are closed to the crowds, but instead sell drinks and snacks from mini bars set up outside to block the doors.
If Calle Mendizábal is too crowded for your tastes, edge out along the side roads for some fresh air and dancing space.
What to Wear to Carnaval de Día
This is the day to flaunt the best costume you’ve got, so get creative and rock it! Remember, the theme for Carnaval 2020 in Las Palmas is Erase Una Vez, so I’m predicting we’ll see plenty of princesses and Prince Charmings, not to mention some Malifecents, mermaids and more. So get out there and lose that glass slipper!
What to Expect at Carnaval de Día in Las Palmas
A. Lot. Of. People. If you hate crowds, well, you’ll
probably hate this. Expect loud Latin beats, insanely intricate costumes, a lot of drinking and very few places to pee.
As far as the crowd goes, Carnaval de Día in Vegueta attracts all age groups, so you’ll find everyone from families with children to old folks who still like to get down.
The Carnaval de Día After Party
After sunset, crowds start to thin out as people realize they need something to soak up all those Tropicals 🍻and Arehucas con cola 🍹. The masses usually wander down toward Triana where the restaurants and cafés start to fill with ravenous, costumed patrons. Families with young children begin to head home, but many others stick around til late, filling the local bars and The Paper Club or catching cabs to Tao or Kopas.
2. Los Indianos / Carnaval Tradicional
Monday, February 24, 2020
As far as wonderfully absurd traditions go, this one definitely hits a high note. Los Indianos was a big surprise for me my first year in Las Palmas because it’s not part of the Santa Cruz Carnaval repertoire.
Picture this: It’s Monday evening, but the streets surrounding Plaza de las Ranas are closed to traffic and slowly filling with people. But rather than fluorescent wigs and bedazzled tutus, tonight everyone is dressed to the nines in vintage white lace dresses and linen suits, topped off with white parasols and broad Panama hats. Oh, and the most important accessory: talcum powder.
What seems to be a blast from the past stroll down old Havana quickly turns to talcum mayhem as the signal goes off and talcum powder is strewn over everyone and everything by children and adults, friends and strangers.
The tradition dates back to the Canarians who made their fortune in Cuba and Latin America and then returned to the Canaries at the turn of the century with money in the bank, noses in the air and Cuban cigars in hand.
Some say the white powder is reminiscent of their dusty exit from the long journey back, while others suggest that it represents their tendency to powder their skin after years baking beneath the Caribbean sun.
The festival originates from the island of La Palma, and the Palmeros hold bragging rights for the biggest and best celebration of its kind (held on the same night). Something for next year 😉
Monday, February 24, 2020
Where the Los Indianos Magic Happens
The great powder war is centered on Avenida Guiniguada in front of Plaza de las Ranas, right at the meeting point between the neighborhoods of Triana and historic Vegueta.
What to Wear to Los Indianos
The ideal for women would be a vintage white lace dress with espadrilles, a broad brimmed hat, and if you’re really getting into it, a white lace parasol.
For men, the traditional attire is a white or cream linen suit and a panama hat, or obviously, a white dress (it’s Carnival after all, get weird!)
Obviously there’s no need to go out and break the bank, but you absolutely should wear white, even if it’s just jeans and a sweater.
What to Bring to Los Indianos
Talcum powder! There’s a pharmacy on nearby Calle Calvo Sotello if you forget, but the hundreds upon hundreds of bottles in their warehouse tend to sell out before the night is through.
A Facemask: This madness gets downright crazy and powder is quite literally everyfrikkinwhere. As you may know, talcum powder isn’t exactly the healthiest thing to inhale (read: pretty bad for you) so bring a facemask or handkerchief to cover your mouth and nose once things start to get cray.
What to Expect at Los Indianos
Speaking of talcum powder being pretty toxic-ish to breathe, those with asthma or breathing issues probably want to steer clear of this one. If that bums you out, go early and head straight upstairs to the rooftop terrace of the Azotea de Benito, just above Plaza de las Ranas, where you’ll get bird’s eye view of the action at a safe distance.
The Los Indianos After Party
Last year we made our way to the after party at Tao Nightclub (a taxi ride away) where everyone was dressed either in indianos attire or Carnival costumes and the atmosphere was incredible. The back room was hosting a bangin’ gay club where we danced until the wee hours of the morning, and you’ll probably find me there shakin’ my groove thing this year as well.
3.Drag Queen Preselection & Drag Queen Gala
Pre-selection: Saturday, February 22, 2020
Drag Queen Gala: Monday, February 24, 2020
While Santa Cruz de Tenerife may be known for its bigger bouts of Carnaval debauchery, Las Palmas’ claim to fame is an extraordinary Drag Queen Competition. The tradition began in 1998 and continues to grow bigger and more glamorous each year.
Canarios go bananas over this event, and for good reason. The dozens of contestants (more than 30 this year!) go above and beyond perfecting their costumes and choreography, often overstepping limits and inciting a bit of scandal.
2017 winner Drag Sethlas caused more than just a stir for his irreverent performance – evoking enough publicity to carry home the coveted crown.
There are three main events focused on the Drag Competition:
- Drag Queen pre-selection: Saturday, February 22, 2020 at 21:00
- Drag Queen Gala: Monday, February 24, 2020 at 21:00 (*This is often the same night as Los Indianos in Vegueta, so you’ll have to choose one or the other).
- Drag Queen Parade: Sadly, this event seems to have disappeared from the official program in 2020. Watch this space for updates!
What to Wear to the Drag Queen Gala
Anything! Normal street clothes are fine and costumes aren’t necessary unless you’re planning to party in Santa Catalina afterwards.
What to Expect at the Drag Queen Gala
Divas more divalicious than the Queen Bey herself. Expect contestants to push the limits, so those who are easily offended might want to sit this one out.
The Drag Gala After Party
Afterwards there will be DJ’s, costumes and dancing in the Santa Catalina area, though it tends to bring a younger (high school to university-aged) crowd.
4. Concurso de Maquillaje Corporal
(Body Paint Competition)
Friday, February 28, 2020
This one was another big surprise for me, and a definite highlight of Las Palmas Carnaval.
We sauntered up late to the main stage at Parque de Santa Catalina with little to no expectations of the event. We didn’t really know what it was all about, but assumed it would be makeup artists showing off their canvases (IE, the models’ bodies). Seemed cool enough for a night when we had nothing better to do.
It was SO much better than that.
The Body Art Competition not only showcases impossibly intricate artwork, but is set to bangin´ music and choreography. The models were not simply models, but rather artists themselves with teams of back up dancers and creative props, performing extraordinary routines in nuthin’ but skin and paint.
Friday, February 28, 2020
Where the Body Art Magic Happens
The Concurso de Maquillaje Corporal is held at the main Carnaval stage in Parque de Santa Catalina.
What to Wear to the Body Art Gala
Whatever you like! We wore normal street clothes to this event as did most of the spectators, but there were a few people dressed up, especially children.
What to Expect at the Body Art Gala
It’s a great night out, and more low-key than most of Carnival. There’s lots of seating available if you get there early, otherwise standing room only.
The Body Art After Party
Afterwards there’s DJs and dancing nearby next to Museo Elder, but the majority of the crowd looked like they could be (and probably were) my high school students, so I passed.
If you’re looking for something a little more grown up, there’s plenty of options in the area. Try El Tendedero de Catalina, a great rooftop terrace above Bed&Chic that often hosts live music on the weekends, or simply head to any of the countless bars overlooking nearby Las Canteras Beach.
5. Gran Cabalgata
(Main Carnival Parade)
Saturday, February 29, 2020
Just when you think Carnaval is starting to wind down, BANG! The main parade.
This is your chance to see anything and everything that Carnival is all about – murgas, comparsas, local bands and dancing troops, the Queen and her runners’ up, the Drag Queen champion and of course, around 200,000 of us!
The parade takes ages to wind through the city, thanks to the dozens and dozens of floats (basically party buses) that make up a large part of the cavalcade, so don’t feel obligated to stick around for the whole thing.
This year the parade route will be going back to it´s roots (see what I did there 😉). Rather than leaving from Triana and finishing up at La Isleta´s Mercado del Puerto as it has for the last 5 years, in 2020 the Gran Cabalgata (main parade) will leave from La Isleta rumbo toward Triana, where it will end in Parque San Telmo.
The parade starts at 17:00 and goes on literally forever, so if you’re planning on having a big night, pace yourself – this is a marathon, not a sprint! And don’t forget – this is your last chance to rock that fluorescent purple wig and sparkling turquoise tutu, so go big or go home.
Saturday, February 29, 2020
Starting from about 17:00
Where the Carnival Parade Magic Happens
The parade will begin on Calle Juan Rejón in La Isleta (near Castillo la Luz) and wind down along Calle Leon y Castillo until it finishes up hours (and hours and hours) later near Parque San Telmo in Triana. The parade starting and ending points are pretty much opposite that of previous years and will more or less follow the same route as the Three Kings Christmas Parade.
What to Wear to the Carnival Parade
Costumes are a must for the big parade (not to mention your last chance to wear them until next year!) so go big or go home!
What to Bring to the Carnival Parade
This is a longer event that starts at around 17:00 and can go on until the wee hours, so it’s not a bad idea to rock a backpack with whatever necessities you need, especially a sweater or jacket (it might be the Canary Islands, but it´s February after all!). Many people also bring along their own booze and some snacks to avoid the long lines.
What to Expect at the Carnival Parade
Expect big crowds, rockin’ beats and a crap-ton of people livin’ La Vida Carnaval!
The Carnival Parade After Party
The parade ends near Parque San Telmo, so people will be heading for the usual late night hotspots in the area (Azotea de Benito, Paper Club, and Calle Mendezibal) or hitching a cab to Tao or Kopas.
6. Entierro de la Sardina
(Burial of the Sardine)
Sunday, March 1, 2020
I fell head over heels (fins?) for this event in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and my love has only continued to grow here. I’m a sucker for weird stuff, and the Entierro de la Sardina is about as weird as it gets.
Lemme paint you a picture. The vibrant Carnaval colors have all faded away into shades of black. Black dresses, black fish nets, black boas, black veils. Tonight symbolizes the end of Carnaval and the death of our overindulgences, and we’re all dressed as widows mourning the procession of a giant papier-mâché sardine.
It gets better.
After the long and irreverent procession, the mourners gather on the sands of Las Canteras beach, where the giant sardine is set afloat on the Atlantic, bobbing away into the horizon. Small fishing boats follow alongside and BOOM! The sardine is set alight with the crack and boom of fireworks in a spectacle that symbolizes the conclusion of Carnaval.
Sunday, March 1, 2020
Starting at around 19:00
Where the Sardine Magic Happens
I recommend catching the procession while it’s fresh on Calle Leon y Castillo (near Parque Romano) and obviously making it to Las Canteras for the final explosion and fireworks. We usually take a little break to refuel on Calle Ruiz de Alda, a lovely pedestrian street overflowing with terraces, where we have a couple cañas and a snack before rejoining the procession as they arrive at Las Canteras via Calle Gran Canaria (La Puntilla side).
What to Wear to the Entierro de la Sardina
Anything goes at the Burial of the Sardine as long as it’s black, but it’s always more fun if you get creative. Carnival is ending and we’re in mourning, so if you have anything in your closet that looks like widow-wear, it’ll do. This is another big night for “dressing in drag,” so you’ll see both men and women in either little black dresses and fish nets or on the other end of the spectrum, big dudes in their abuela’s black muumuu with a pillbox hat.
Recently it’s become trendy to don calavera inspired makeup, and there’s always a few oddballs out there in black flamenco dresses, Scream masks and the occasional King and Queen of hearts.
The Entierro de la Sardina After Party
The Entierro de la Sardina always takes place on Sunday in Las Palmas, so this sleepy teacher doesn’t tend to stay out too late afterward. Not to fear though, the procession ends right on the beach, so there’s hardly a shortage of bars and restaurants to grab something to eat or drink as the crowds start to disperse from the sand.
And That’s Not All…
There are plenty of other events that might be up your alley – murgas, Carnaval for kids, for people with disabilities, for pets and much more. You can find the complete schedule on the official Las Palmas Carnaval website, but here are a few highlights I recommend checking out…
Presentation of the Carnival Queen & Drag Queen Contestants
Presentación y sorteo de Reina y Drag Queen
Saturday, February 1, 2020 at 20:00 in Vegueta´s Plaza de Santa Ana. Get your first Carnival sneak peak with the presentation of all the Queen and Drag Queen contestants accompanied by comparsas and with live music performances from Última Llave, Javy Martín and Kids´ The Voice contestant Leire Suárez.
Opening Night Parade // Pasacalles Anunciador
Friday, 7 February at 20:30. The parade starts at Plaza de Cairasco and heads toward Plaza de Santa Ana, where the opening ceremonies take place. Afterwards, a free concert is typically held, though the 2020 scheduled artist has yet to be released.
Murgas Competition // Concurso de Murgas
February 10, 11 & 12, 2020 in Parque Santa Catalina. In one of the longest standing local traditions, the murgas groups perform satirical songs with lyrics highlighting and poking fun at the year’s social and political scandals.
Adult Costume Competition // Concurso de disfraces adultos 🎭
Thursday, February 14, 2020 at 21:00 in Parque Santa Catalina.
**Daytime Carnival in Vegueta // Carnaval de Día Vegueta 🌞 🎭
Saturday, February 15, 2020 in Vegueta.
Canine Carnival // Carnaval Canino 🐶 🎭
Sunday, February 16, 2020 at 12:00 in Parque Santa Catalina.
Queen Election Gala // Gala de la Reina 💃👸
Friday, February 21, 2020 at 21:00 in Parque Santa Catalina.
Day Time Carnival Triana // Carnaval del Día Triana
Saturday, February 22, 2020 at 17:00 on the Paseo de Las Canteras.
Carnival in the Sun // Carnaval al Sol 🌞 🎭
Saturday, February 22, 2020 at 17:00 on the Paseo de Las Canteras.
**Drag Queen Preselection // Preselección Drag Queen 💃👸
Saturday, February 22, 2020 at 21:00 in Parque Santa Catalina
Daytime Carnival Santa Catalina // Carnaval de Día Santa Catalina 🌞
Sunday, February 23, 2020 at 12:00 in Parque Santa Catalina.
**‘Traditional’ Carnival // Los Indianos
Monday, February 24, 2020 at 17:00 at the Guiniguada Canyon between Triana and Vegueta.
**Drag Queen Gala 💃👸
Monday, February 24, 2020 at 21:00 in Parque Santa Catalina.
**Gran Cabalgata//Main Parade
Saturday, February 29, 2020 at 17:00 starting from Calle Leon y Castillo and finishing at Mercado del Puerto
**Burial of the Sardine // Entierro de la Sardina 🎣 🎆
Sunday, March 1, 2020 at 19:00 starting from Calle Leon y Castillo and finishing at Las Canteras Beach (La Puntilla end, Calle Gran Canaria).
Neither can I! The good news in, we won’t have to wait long 😊 To read more about Carnival in Spain, check out this post on Carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife (the second biggest Carnaval in the world!) and this one about the Do´s & Don’t´s of Carnival in the Canary Islands. Also, don´t forget to check out a full list of events happening throughout the island in February and March:
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask below 👇. And if you’ve celebrated Carnaval in Las Palmas (or anywhere else!) I’d love to hear about your experiences!
Party on! 🎉🎊 🎆