Tenerife’s Carnival Santa Cruz: the biggest party this side of Rio

Welcome to Tenerife’s Carnival Santa Cruz! and some parties last a long time, The Canary Islands’ Carnival has lasted six centuries.


Carnival Santa Cruz History

When the Spanish colonised the Canary Islands in the 15th Century, the islands received an influx of European visitors. It was then a group of Italians who initially came up with the idea of holding a small masked celebration in Gran Canaria. But, like many great ideas, this one gathered momentum, and spread to the other islands until it became the explosion of colour and culture that is today considered one of the biggest festivals around the world. Santa Cruz de Tenerife has now joined Las Palmas de Gran Canaria as one of the epicentres of the carnival, which has resulted in the crowing glory of all the festivities taking place in Tenerife.

Santa Cruz’s carnival is the second biggest in the world and it’s no coincidence that the city is twinned with Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, home to the biggest. Santa Cruz made it into the record books in 1987 when 250,000 people attended a concert by Celia Cruz during the Carnival.

santa cruz de tenerife dancers

2019 Carnival dates and theme

If you’re planning a trip this winter and are stuck for what to do in Tenerife, consider your plans sorted. In 2019, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife opens on Febuary 24th and runs until March 10th.

The theme for 2019 is The Deep Sea, and after this year’s theme of ‘Fantasy’ which included carnival queens wearing huge 80kg costumes on wheels, we’re expecting lots of giant fish, whales and a sea of blue!

What to see

Early highlights at the carnival are the competitions for the best murgas (musical troupes) and the elections for the Carnival Queens. Every year, the carnival queen is elected for each age group: children, adults and seniors. These lucky ladies are the focal point of the ensuing parades, riding elaborate floats while wearing glamorous costumes. Last to be elected is the adult queen and her coronation marks the start of the festivities.

The Opening Parade on the February 24th is the first major party of the year and, for the costumes alone, is a total spectacle. Following this is a jam-packed week of masked balls, dance troupe parades, concerts and long nights filled with eating, drinking and dancing in the streets.



A final highlight is the end of the carnival on Ash Wednesday. This day involves the curious tradition of the Burial of the Sardine, where the Carnival thumbs its nose at the Catholic Church with a mock funeral procession for the ‘sardine’, made out of paper. It’s carried through the streets of Santa Cruz, followed by mourners, wailing widows and participants dressed as priests, bishops and nuns.

Away from Santa Cruz, where the bulk of the festivities take place, the northern coastal town of Puerto de la Cruz knows how to throw a good party too. A must-see here is the Mascarita Ponte Tacón, or ‘High Heels Marathon’.  The occasion involves men dressing up in drag and navigating obstacle courses in heels high enough to give Lady Ga Ga vertigo.

The weather

An added benefit to the Carnival is that the weather in Tenerife in February and March is very different to the typical downpours and chilly winds that you’d find in the UK. Temperatures average in the high teens or low 20s, meaning there’s a good chance of some winter sun without having to decamp to the southern hemisphere.

The sunny skies and warm evenings make for the perfect weather to be out in the streets watching the parades, and then boogies in the busy boulevards until dawn.

Visiting the Carnival

Most the events happening throughout the carnival are free to attend anyway, but parties take place in the street, over spill from local bars and restaurants, and are open to everyone.

If you’re attending with little ones, there are child-specific events (see the carnival calendar above), and it’s probably best to keep them away from the bustling celebrations after dark.

Accommodation-wise, it’s great to stay near enough so you can walk to and from the action, but it’s great to also have somewhere peaceful to get some sleep. In Santa Cruz, the area around Las Ramblas is a quieter place to stay, whereas in Puerto de la Cruz, the La Paz district will offer respite from the crowds when you want some down time.

When heading to the festivities, it’s best to go on foot as roads will be either closed or busy, and parking spaces will be few and far between. If you’re going further afield for some festival fun however, it’s best to book a taxi well in advance.

Places to visit for some quiet time

After all the partying, take your tired self away from Puerto de la Cruz or Santa Cruz and head out to the calmer Costa Adeje, with it’s stunning sandy beaches, or Los Gigantes, with its black volcanic sands and pretty marina. Sit back, relax and recharge while reflecting on one of the biggest street parties you’ve ever seen.

A taster of what to expect

As a taster for what to expect at this year’s Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, discover some of 2018’s carnival winners. We can’t wait for more glitz, glamour and sheer fun in 2019!

Carnival Queen of 2016


This article was produced with the support of the Tenerife and the Santa Cruz Tourist Boards.

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