Las Alfombras de La Orotava
Corpus Christi in the Canaries
“Get ready, Erica, we’re going to see La Orotava’s carpets!”
Are we talking Turkish rugs? Royal tapestries? Perhaps Aladdin has swooped down to show me a whole new world? It’s not the first time I’ve jumped at a vague and slightly confusing invitation, and it certainly won’t be the last!
And as usual, I wasn’t disappointed with the alfombras de la Orotava. Spontaneity, once again, for the win 😉.
Within the hour we were on our way along Tenerife’s stunningly scenic northern highway amid the lush, verdant ravines of the Orotava Valley. Sunny spring skies above, the interminable Atlantic to our right and the titanic Mt. Teide to our left, this was set to be a good day.
La Orotava is easily one of the most charming towns in Tenerife and is worth a visit any time of year, but never more so than during its colorful Corpus Christi celebrations held annually from about mid-May to mid-June.
As we arrived, the town was fully alive and buzzing with color and movement. The abuela’s strolled arm and arm in their traditional Canarian dresses, the colourful pom poms of their full, striped skirts dancing in the wind. Crowds made their way down the sidewalks admiring the floral carpets as children weaseled between their legs and under the guard rails to get a better view.
As we neared the Church of Our Lady of Conception, young girls in tiaras and white tulle skirts beamed beside the blossoms, their families taking advantage of the lovely decorations and late spring sunshine to snap their first communion photos.
So, ¿What the Alfombra? are
Las Alfombras de La Orotava?
The ‘carpets’ are not actually carpets, but intricately designed patterns created with vibrant flower petals, toasted seeds and volcanic sand from nearby Mt. Teide. The carpets are designed and crafted with local products by groups of neighbors from local barrios and decorate the narrow, antique streets and plazas of lovely La Orotava, radiating color and fragrant aromas.
The Catholic Feast of Corpus Christi takes place every year 60 days after Easter, and since the mid-18th century has been celebrated with floral carpets in many parts of Spain. Some of the more well-known celebrations include Ponteareas in Galicia and many towns in the Canary Islands, such as La Orotava and La Laguna (in Tenerife), and Gran Canaria´s Arucas, to name a few.
In La Orotava, the tradition has been alive and well for over a century, and since 1919 has included a giant display at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in front of the town hall. The elaborate alfombra in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento takes weeks to craft and is such a point of interest on Tenerife that the town of La Orotava has recently set up a web cam for those who wish to see the progress.
Corpus Christi 2019
2019 Alfombras de La Orotava
Alfombras de la Orotava: 2019 Dates
While every year is a big event for las alfombras in La Orotava, this year marks a major milestone as the event celebrates it´s centenial in the lovely village – 100 years of floral carpets for Corpus Christi.
In 2019, the alfombristas of La Orotava will begin decorating the town hall’s square for Corpus Christi from May 15, with the most important events happening in late June.
The most important dates for 2019 are:
Thursday, May 15, 2019: Day 1 of La Orotava´s annual festival of San Isidro Labrador
The festivities in La Orotava begin in mid-May and last over a month. For the full schedule of events, click here for the 2019 program.
Thursday, June 27, 2019: Tapices & Alfombras – Corpus Christi Day
The busy alfombristas begin their masterpieces at 8:00 am, splashing the town in color with their vivid, floral designs. You can even enter the historic town hall to view the biggest floral carpet in the Plaza de Ayuntamiento from the balconies above.
Friday, June 28, 2019: Baile de Magos
To get a real sneak peak into Canarian culture, there’s nothing like attending the Baile de Magos. It’s expected that all guests respect local customs by wearing traditional Canarian clothing, so don your fullest peasant skirt or widest brimmed panama hat and get amongst it!
Sunday, June 30, 2018: La Romería de San Isidro y Santa María de la Cabeza
On the morning of the 30th, locals will crowd into the church to offer fruit and attend mass, followed by the romería pilgrimage in the early afternoon. In the evening, the town will continue to celebrate with traditional music and dancing, mostly concentrated around Plaza de la Constitución.
In recent years, it has become quite common for the Corpus Christi carpets to spread a social message or commentary, and we´re eagerly awaiting the announcement of the 2019 theme.
In 2018, the alfombras de la Orotava shared two very important messages and calls for action – the ever-growing refugee crisis and violence against women. I’m very much looking forward to see which theme is chosen for 2019.
La Orotava is easily one of the most beautiful regions of Tenerife, and includes everything from the lush green Orotava Valley, the cerulean blue waters of Puerto de la Cruz, and the otherworldly peak of Mt. Teide (the tallest mountain in Spain at 3,718 m). At the center of it all, of course, is the strikingly elegant town of La Orotava.
The town was strategically built about 400 meters above the northern coastline to protect from pirate raids, which weren’t at all uncommon in the early days. La Orotava was traditionally the home of the elite, and it shows. Creamy white houses with elaborately ornate wooden balconies peer out over picturesque parks and cobblestoned plazas. Locals gather on the terrace of a café which sits within a gazebo overlooking the valley and the coast in the distance. La Orotava is always a delight to visit, and not least so during the enchanting Corpus Christi celebrations.
Getting to La Orotava
From Santa Cruz the journey should take about half an hour. Take highway TF-5 north through La Laguna and along the northern coast heading west. Just past Santa Ursula, merge inland onto highway TF-211 and follow the signs to La Orotava.
Parking is never easy in La Orotava and even less so during special events, so public transport isn’t a bad idea for those looking to avoid the hassle.
From Santa Cruz, hop on Titsa Bus 107, 108 or 101. The trip will take 50 – 80 minutes and will drop you off at the La Orotava bus station in the modern part of town. While not far, be warned that the whole town is built on a hill and it’s a steep stroll to get in and around the historic town center.
Get Lost Amid the Alfombras de La Orotava
When: Annually from mid/late May to mid-June. Please see the La Orotava tourism website for this years’ official dates.
Where: The stunning, historical town of La Orotava set above the lush hills of La Orotava valley.
Have you ever seen Spain’s Corpus Christi carpets?
If you follow this blog, you know that I’m obsessed the Spain’s fun-loving summer celebrations, like La Rama de Agaete, Teror´s Fiesta del Pino and Madrid´s La Paloma. If you’ve had the chance to enjoy a fragrant Corpus Christi celebration in another town or pueblo, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!