July 18

Dancing to the Beat of the Santa Cruz De Tenerife Carnival


I’ve always been a bit dubious about carnivals ever since I was forced to take part in my local village summer carnival event where I starred as Sleeping Beauty on the float for the Amateur Dramatics Group. I was ten years old and so excited to be cast as the leading role – until I found out that I would be spending the entire duration of the parade on a wooden bed pretending to be asleep while I awaited my handsome prince.

carnival tenerife

Unfortunately, as a celebratory fire cracker went off in the crowd (well, about 50 people), one of the cows in the parade (I’m from a very rural area) panicked and darted in front of the float causing the driver to brake suddenly. The (not-so-handsome) prince was supposed to pretend to kiss me (at regular intervals throughout the parade) but thanks to the sudden jerk in movement, he fell forward, planted a smacker right on my lips, and the bed then collapsed leaving me red-faced and traumatised beneath a pile of MDF.

carnival tenerife costume

Fortunately for me there were no cows on the loose at the spectacular Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival on the island of Tenerife – but surprisingly, there were an awful lot of sardines….

Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival is one of the world’s biggest annual festivals which takes place in either February or March, depending on the date of Easter. The festivities last up to two weeks and are on par with the world-renowned Rio de Janeiro festival in Brazil.

A week before Ash Wednesday the starting point of the carnival is marked with the Election of the Queen. The elected queen has an important role to play over the next 12 months as she represents Tenerife and promotes tourism at several global trade fairs. The costumes are huge and truly incredible creations which represent many different themes, but I certainly don’t envy the ladies having to carry the weight of gigantic headpieces in this glorious but rather scorching Tenerife weather.

carnival tenerife kids

The Opening Parade kicks off on the Friday as the elected Queen and her entourage take to the streets of Santa Cruz on a huge carnival float surrounded by hundreds of people dressed up in colourful glittering costumes and music comprising beating drums and Latin beats.

The festivities continue over the weekend with Latin music, dancing, energising parades, singing contests between the Rondellas murgas, comparsas and agrupaciones, and even more dazzling fancy dress costumes. On Shrove Tuesday the lively Coso Apotheosis parade takes place along the Avenida de Anaga and marks the official end of the first week of carnival celebrations.

carnival tenerife

Ash Wednesday is perhaps the most surreal stage of the carnival as festival-goers celebrate “The Burial of the Sardine” by dressing up in crepe paper outfits and walking through the streets of Santa Cruz alongside an enormous sardine made out of paper which they later set on fire. Despite Ash Wednesday being the official end of the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival, celebrations continue on throughout the weekend with the Saturday and Sunday of Piñata which provides plenty more excuses for live music, dancing, and glittering firework displays.

Some advice though if you plan to visit my destination, Tenerife during the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival – don’t expect to get any sleep as the parties carry on into the small hours and remember to pack some glitter spray, glow sticks and a fancy dress costume – you don’t want to stand out in the crowd….

Author Bio: Anna Ridley

Anna Ridley is a freelance travel writer who has a passion for travel, writing and fizzy wine. After living in the French Alps for two years, she now lives back by the beach in Cornwall where she is attempting to work her way through her “bucket list”.

[Photo credits @ Flickr: starobs]

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Have you been to Tenerife in the Canary Islands? Did you have the chance to do so during Carnival? Which were the highlights of your trip? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below, and this post too if you liked it!


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  1. I lived there for 18 years and attended to these celebrations each year ever since I can remember – I loved it! Even while living abroad now, I try my best to go back every few years. I haven’t in the last 5 years or so, it’s time to get back!

    I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  2. Gosh, these festivals in South America are the bomb! The queen’s so majestic but it must be very hard to carry all of those weight! 😀

    1. It certainly must Pia! But for the records, the Canary Islands belong to Spain and are off the west coast of Africa 🙂

    1. Hi Andrea! The good thing about Tenerife is that it is not as expenisive as that in Rio. Sure, there is no Samba, but as you can see it is a great show indeed too!

  3. Such fun is Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival! I’m sure I’ve never been to a festival quite like it. Would love to have that experience. Also enjoyed your Sleeping Beauty story. 🙂

  4. The women in the photos are very beautiful. The costumes are very nice also. Thanks for the fantastic photos ~ Curt

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