Carnival in Spain
February is the month of love for many of those celebrating Valentine’s Day, but for Spain it signals the start of fiesta time! Carnival season begins at the end of February and is one of the liveliest and most exciting times to be in Spain, the perfect antidote to January Blues. Cities are filled with parties, parades, fancy dress, and fireworks with people celebrating well into the early hours. The most prominent carnivals are those of Cadiz and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the latter of which is second only to the Rio de Janeiro carnival, with elaborately costumed dancers and a majestic gala to crown the Carnival Queen.
Find out more about these fabulous festivals below:
Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival (27th February – 10th March 2019)
Carnival in Tenerife is without doubt one of the best times to visit the island for a wonderful insight into Canarian culture and spirit. It is the biggest carnival in Spain and second most popular and internationally known after the Rio de Janeiro carnival. Over fifteen days Santa Cruz’s streets come alive with music, colour, dancing and parades, giving locals and tourists the chance to let their hair down and soak up the cheerful atmosphere.
Once of the most important events is the gala to elect the Carnival Queen which takes place on the Wednesday of the first week. Hopefuls train for months to build up strength to carry the heavy costumes and parade the dazzling sequin and feather-coated outfits across the stage. The chosen Queen is announced before a crowd of thousands of spectators two days later and the crowds of musicians and revellers liven up the city to celebrate.
The proceeding week is full of official parades showcasing dancing and musical groups, many of which feature traditional folk music and dances, as well as lively comedy performances. As well as the official carnival performance troupes, locals join in the fun by donning fancy dress to add to the joyful atmosphere. The carnival culminates with ‘El Coso’ – a spectacular parade featuring some of the best performers - and followed by the ‘Burial of Sardine’ wherein a sardine (the ‘spirit’ of the Carnival) is carried through the streets in a funeral procession and burnt on a funeral pyre. If you’re looking to join in the fun, we represent a number of hotels in Santa Cruz such as the Silken Atlantida Santa Cruz and the Hotel Escuela Santa Cruz.
After enjoying the vitality of this wonderful spectacle, you can relax and explore the island’s other wonderful offerings such as the beautiful Playa de Teresitas beach, just north of Santa Cruz, which measures over 4,000 ft and is covered with a unique fine sand imported from the Sahara. Or perhaps use up some of that energy with a hike around Mount Teide, the island’s famous dormant Volcano and the highest point in Spain. You can enjoy spectacular views of Teide from the island’s Parador de Las Canadas del Teide. For those looking to extend their stay with a more traditional poolside stay in the south of the island, we have a number of hotels across the Costa Adeje and Los Cristianos resorts including the H10 Costa Adeje Palace and H10 Conquistador.
Cadiz Carnival (28th February – 10th March 2019)
Whilst the Carnival de Cadiz it not quite as big as Tenerife’s celebrations, it is mainland Spain’s biggest carnival and the people of Cadiz certainly know how to party.
In the run up to Carnival you will hear music playing throughout the streets as the locals prepare their embellished fancy dress costumes (called tipos) – fancy dress is a must in Cadiz - and get ready for a couple of weeks of fun. The Cadiz Carnival is one of the most important dates for locals who put lot of personal effort into the festivities, with local troupes and performers beginning preparations a year in advance, and is known throughout Spain as a grand, boisterous street party, attracting thousands each year.
One of the most important parts of the Carnival is the Falla Theatre competition which sees over 100 acting, comedy and musical troupes taking part and offering open-air gastronomic events during the day to practice their songs and skits on members of the public. Other important events include the Gran Cabalgata (Great Parade) which travels down the avenue at the entrance to the city and the Cabalgata del Humor (Comedy Parade) which sees groups of friends, families and work colleagues performing humorous songs along with the official parade performers.
Cadiz is one of the oldest cities in Spain and can trace its roots back over 3,000 years. Although the Carnival is not quite as old, there is evidence of similar Carnivals being held in Cadiz as early as the 16th century when Cadiz was an important port city in Spain and had route connections with cities like Venice which were renowned for their extravagant celebrations.
The Parador de Cadiz is an ideal place to stay during carnival allowing you easy access to the lively centre, as well as a peaceful stay looking out over the Atlantic Ocean.
Las Fallas de Valencia (15th – 19th March)
For those wishing to continue the celebrations well into March, Valencia holds its ‘Las Fallas’ festival in mid-March and people travel from all over Spain to take part in this historic celebration. The main focus of the event are the fallas, these are large sculptures and scenes, typically made from wood and cardboard, and decorated in bright colours made to look like cartoonish figures, often in humorous poses.
The run-up to the festival kicks off with the Mascletà when a cannon is fired at 2pm and people gather in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento to enjoy tapas and drinks to celebrate the beginning of ‘Las Fallas’. The falleros (makers of the fallas) then install the ‘fallas’ ready to be judged, this involves both the professional creations and the children’s competition. A parade and prize giving ceremony is held to recognise the most impressive ‘Fallas’ followed by spectacular fireworks display. There is a religious aspect to the festival as it ties into celebrations of the city’s Virgin Saint, Our Lady of the Forsaken, and participants create a 15m high tapestry of flowers depicting the virgin, this is called the ‘Ofrenda de Flores’. The festival culminates with ‘La Crema’ – the burning of the large sculptures, somewhat reminiscent to Guy Fawkes in the UK, with revellers partying in the glow of the firelight.
Throughout the official events, parades and ceremonies, locals and visitors celebrate with music, dancing, drinking and merriment into the morning, creating a vibrant and joyful atmosphere. If you’re looking to head over to Valencia and partake in the fun, the Parador de El Saler is only 14km south of Valencia, giving you plenty of opportunities to relax by the sea or enjoy a round of golf. For those looking to stay in amongst the action, we have a number of Keytel hotels in Valencia such as the Vincci Lys and Vincci Palace hotels near the heart of the old town.
There are Carnivals throughout Spain during this period and we recommend checking for any local fiestas if you're travelling at the end of February and in March. These are usually very popular and hotels can book up quickly and offer premium rates, so you expect to pay more for your stay, but it is truly an exciting time to be in the country and get a real taste of Spanish fiestas.