It may be hard to imagine but right now, as you sit reading this blog, one of the world’s biggest parties is in full swing on the sunny streets of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
As you read this, Carnival Queens are appearing in sequins and exotic plumage, dancers are parading through the streets accompanied by Latin and Samba beats and crowds (many in fancy dress) are partying in the city’s many squares. Makes you wonder why you’re still sitting there reading instead of booking the next flight over to Tenerife, doesn’t it?
Spain is a country famous for knowing how to throw a good party, with similar Lent festivals held in Cadiz and Puerto de la Cruz, but the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival is the country’s very best and biggest fiesta. In fact, it is second only to Rio de Janeiro in the stakes for best carnival of the world.
Throughout the month of February – this year until 5 March – Santa Cruz is given over to partying. All the local residents take part, many of them having worked on costumes, floats and various fiesta preparations right throughout the year. As a result many of the businesses, shops and offices shut during Carnival so that all their energy can go into throwing one of the world’s best parties.
But while the party never stops, there are key dates to look out for, and some of the major events of the Carnival will require you to buy a ticket.
Selection of the Adult Carnival Queen Gala
Held on the 22 February this year, the selection of the Adult Carnival Queen is one of the biggest events of the carnival and the first major spectacle. The costumes are more like ‘constructions’ than items of clothing, with the mantra seeming to be ‘the more sequins and feathers, the better’.
Watch the parade of the competing Carnival Queens and then dance and cheer with the rest of Santa Cruz as the winner is announced.
If you find you have a taste for the over-the-top costumes and amazing spectacle of the Carnival Queens then you’ll love the Drag Queen of the Carnival competition, which has all this and much, much more.
Grand Carnival Parade
The Grand Parade, this year held on 28 February, is one of the last events of the Carnival when the winners of all the various competitions held throughout the month get to parade through the city on some seriously elaborate floats. Expect to see the various ‘Queens’ of the Carnival (child queen, adult queen, drag queen, senior queen) as well as prize-winning bands and dance troupes.
Burial of the Sardine
Held on 1 March this year, and marking the beginning of the end of the carnival, is the traditional Burial of the Sardine parade. Bizarre, but entirely fitting with the crazy carnival atmosphere, a 30ft papier mâché fish is carried through the city accompanied by a group of ‘mourning widows’ (men in drag, usually wearing black miniskirts and fishnet tights) and many of the locals all in fancy dress.
Partying on the Streets
If you can’t get tickets to some of the carnival’s galas, don’t despair – many of the best parties during the carnival actually take place on the streets and are completely free.
The Mogollones are the free parties that are held throughout the city during the carnival. Taking advantage of the great weather that the island is so famous for, these events are all open air and usually include a combination of live music and DJs.
Prepare yourself, as these Mogollones are often all night affairs, with locals of all generations happily partying until dawn.
Love it or hate it, however you feel about fancy dress, it is a large part of the celebrations during the carnival in Santa Cruz. You’ll find locals and tourist alike in elaborate costumes which all add to the fun. No one seems quite sure why, but cross-dressing plays a major part in the proceedings, so if you feel like cutting loose this is definitely your chance.
For those who prefer not to go too over-the-top, many of the local shops will sell a variety of wigs, funny glasses etc which will allow you to get into the spirit of the festivities without too much effort.
How to Get to Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Tenerife is served by two international airports: Tenerife North Los Rodeos International Airport and Tenerife South Reina Sofia International Airport. Tenerife North is the closest to Santa Cruz with a transfer time of just 20 minutes, while Tenerife South will take slightly longer at around 40 minutes.
The quickest and easiest way to get from either airport to your accommodation is to book an airport transfer with Shuttle Direct before you set off. Book a luxury private transfer online and your driver will be waiting for you in the arrivals lounge when you touch down to take you to your car.
Where to Stay:
Hotel Colon Rambla – A stylish oasis in the heart of Santa Cruz, the Hotel Colon Rambla has a pretty walled garden with an outdoor pool, terrace and restaurant, in case you want to escape the festivities for a couple of hours. All the rooms have outdoor space and pillow menus.
Hotel Escuela Santa Cruz – The four-star Hotel Escuela Santa Cruz has a seasonal outdoor pool, stylish modern interiors and a stunning rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the city. There’s a choice of food at either the hotel’s gastro-bar or the restaurant with its two terraces, one of which looks out over the sea.
Palacio de Daoiz – For a genuine local experience of Carnival, why not try a self-catered apartment. The Palacio de Daoiz, in the heart of Santa Cruz, offers stylishly modernised apartments with a combination of traditional and contemporary Spanish flare. There’s free WiFi throughout and some apartments come with a terrace or balcony. A shared rooftop terrace may be the perfect place from which to watch the town’s festivities.
About Shuttle Direct:
A leading provider of airport transfers to hundreds of destinations across Europe and North Africa, Shuttle Direct is the most convenient way of getting from the airport to your hotel destination. Book your own private, luxury car online before you set off and rest assured that a driver, with in-depth local knowledge, will be there to meet you and take you directly to your destination.