Carnival Time on the Canaries

Godfrey Hall enters in the party mood

Watched and supported by around a quarter of a million people the carnival in Santa Cruz, the capital of Tenerife is said to be second only to that of Rio de Janeiro. With strong South American connections the islanders have carnival deeply embedded in their souls and a chance to experience this amazing event is not to be missed.

Celebrated as far back as the early 17th century, there are many historical references to carnivals in the Canaries. At one time masks were banned and in the mid-tenth century there were documents indicate that bands were already playing conga type music. However, the first carnival as we know it today appeared in Tenerife around one hundred years ago during the 1920s.

Santa Cruz has a number of carnival clubs that work throughout the year preparing for this event together with a number of bands including several drumming groups. Celebrating carnival in early spring time is very popular in Europe but can still be a bit chilly. However, in the Canary Islands where the weather is pretty good all year round you should be able to throw away your thermals and hopefully enjoy some real sunshine!

One of the must-do events is the carnival queen gala when many of the entrants put on their glad rags and turn to fantasy as they parade along the streets in their costumes of feathers and sequins which can be up to three metres high and weigh in excess of 400 kilograms. The carnival takes place over several days with a parade of floats and different bands moving slowly through the streets. These are usually accompanied by carnival groups known “comparsa” bands which date back to the early 19th century and have South American connections. Also included in the parades are “murga” street musicians who appeared in the 1920’s playing their satirical songs on instruments made of rods and cardboard.

Murga is a type of popular musical theatre which is popular in Uruguay, Panama, Argentina and Badajoz, Spain during the Carnival season. In Argentina it is more centred on dancing and less on vocals than in Uruguay. These groups provide a satirical side to the carnival introducing songs about political events around the world.

The “rondallas” who also take part in events were the first musical group formed in the Santa Cruz Carnivals to concentrate on voice techniques. Featuring professional singers they offer their own renditions of cultural songs accompanied by string instruments.

These lyrical-musical groups play classical songs by a variety of composers, accompanied by special plucked string instruments such as guitars and octavinas, which are stringed instruments often found in Cuba. In no other carnival on Earth does such “cultured” music play such an important part as it does here, with thousands of fans and followers supporting the groups.

At the end of the festivities there is ‘the burial of the sardine’ when a large model of a sardine is carried in a procession through the streets of Santa Cruz which are decorated as though the city is in mourning. The Procession includes wailing widows, and individuals dressed as popes, nuns and bishops. At the end of the procession the sardine is thrown onto a fire and set alight. This officially brings the carnival to a conclusion which then closes with a firework display.

Festivities in Santa Cruz usually start on the Friday before carnival and groups including the rondallas and murgas go on celebrating in the streets long after the parades have finished. Thousands of people wear carnival masks to disguise themselves, a tradition that goes back a long way.

The first of the parades to take to the streets is the Cabalgata Anunciadora an impressive procession which can include the carnival queen, Murgas, dance groups and much more. An amazing event to start off the festivities and get things off with a bang.

I have enjoyed taking part in the run up to these events and visiting the carnival club in Santa Cruz to take part in the rehearsals of several drumming groups who create amazing rhythm and sequences for the actual event.

Carnival in Tenerife means a chance to paint your face, get out your party clothes and just dance until you drop.

Probably the best places to see this event is in the capital Santa Cruz or at the resort of Puerto de la Cruz.

This year’s theme is science fiction however due to Covid 19 carnival has been put forward to 3rd -26thJune. If you would like to attend this amazing event a good starting point, is the official Tenerife website:

Talking to the many artists who take part in the carnival I was impressed by their dedication and the hard work that goes into the amazing costumes and floats.

A trip to the carnival in Tenerife is a mind-blowing experience and one that will be remember long after the event is over. Often known by many for its incredible weather, hotels, apartments and beaches, a visit to the carnival will provide a different look at island life revealing a whole new experience that it exceptionally good fun.

Find out more

Our Silver Travel Advisors can help you plan a trip to Tenerife, call 0800 412 5678.

Visit Classic Collection Holidays or Sovereign Luxury Travel.


Share Article:

Godfrey Hall

Award-winning travel writer

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

From a restored mansion in the Scottish Highlands to a stylish villa in Southern Spain, becoming an HPB Bondholder allows…

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.