Tenerife Carnival: A Celebration of Color, Culture & Pure Fun!

Tenerife's carnival dancer
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Who hasn’t heard of the sophisticated Carnival of Venice, or Rio de Janeiro’s colorful carnival parades? Regardless of where in the world, this festivity has always been a time ruled by vibrant, riotous celebrations in the name of freedom, light, and joy. 

Yet, what if we told you that you could enjoy a Rio-worthy experience without leaving Europe?

Tenerife Carnival is the second largest in the world, only after the world-famous Rio de Janeiro’s. 

During these two weeks, the streets of Tenerife fill up with colors, feathers, music, dancing, and fun. Who would have thought that such a small island hides such a precious gem, right?

What Is Tenerife Carnival All About?

Tenerife's carnival dancers
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Yearly Tenerife goes wild for two weeks, celebrating carnival in all of its glory. An endless sea of color, smiles, and joy fills the streets with people dancing, partying, and celebrating. 

Tenerife carnival always has a theme on which all the costumes, parties, and parades are based on. For example, science fiction was the theme that moved Tenerife Carnival in 2022. This year is New York City – the city that never sleeps”.

From the election of a Queen to the burial of a sardine, passing by a drag queen show, and numerous parades, Tenerife carnival has it all. 

However, this gigantic show isn’t done overnight. Carnival preparations for the next year start right after the end of the season. 

Tenerife carnival is heralded by the presentation of the potential Carnival Queens, where each contender will show her costume to the rhythm of cheerful music. 

It’s a colorful, hypnotizing spectacle with very unusual costumes. They have gotten so vast that the contestants cannot take them on or off on their own.

Afterward, the competition of the “Murgas” begins. Murga is a popular music and theater form that is performed during Tenerife Carnival season. They involve satire artists who perform critical songs showcasing last year’s political and public events. 

Once the winner has been chosen, the Carnival Queen is elected, a very special event that culminates in a razzmatazz of color, music, and joy, embodied by the hundreds of dancers parading and the euphoria of the public.

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Why Do We Celebrate Carnival in the First Place?

We long for the warmth celebrations bring us, and in the middle of winter, who doesn’t want to ignite the flame of joy with yet another party? 

Although the true origin of this vibrant festivity continues to be lost in the mists of time, scientists believe that it all started as a pagan celebration to honor the beginning of spring and the return of light after the dark winter. 

However, as in all countries with big Christian populations, Tenerife Carnival is also associated with religion. From the Latin ”carnem levare meaning “doing away with meat”, it’s believed to be a riotous celebration of life and all earthly desires before surrendering to the 40 days of fasting prior to Christ’s Passion. 

Either way, the Spaniard’s arrival to Tenerife back in the XVI century meant embracing Catholicism, and so carnival emerged on the island. 

Characterized by the lack of rules and a playful, rioting spirit, people began to play tricks on each other by disguising themselves with masquerades. Was it the beginning of modern-day costumes?  

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Where Can I Celebrate Carnival in Tenerife?

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Although each municipality prepares its own, unique program, the ultimate parties and events will still take place in the cities. 

Puerto de La Cruz, where our headquarters are located, throws a big, worthwhile party with an elaborated program every year. 

Everywhere in the center, you can spot stages that fill up with performances, orchestras, and DJs every night.

However, the most extravagant parties will be held in Santa Cruz. So if you’re a party animal, eager to experience Tenerife carnival at its wildest, Santa Cruz is your place to be. 

How Can I Get to Santa Cruz during Tenerife Carnival?

How to get to Santa Cruz's carnival
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If you’re located in Puerto de La Cruz, here’re the buses that will take you to the capital and back:

102 – Puerto de la Cruz -> Las Arenas -> Santa Cruz

103 – Puerto de la Cruz -> Botánico -> Santa Cruz

104 – Puerto de la Cruz -> Tacoronte -> Santa Cruz (a night bus)

During the busy carnival season, buses drive more frequently than normal. 

Despite this, getting a spot can still be tricky. We strongly recommend that you be really early at the station because the rush is overwhelming.

You will find all bus lines and departure times on the official TITSA website.

Do’s & Don’ts to Survive Santa Cruz’s Carnival

Tenerife's carnival
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If you’ve managed to read until here is because you’re a fellow carnival lover. But be careful, Tenerife Carnival, concretely Santa Cruz’s, is not for the weak. 

For the sake of making it through this Bacchanalia in one piece, we’ll disclose some insider tips only the most experienced carnivalists and locals know. 

  • This might come as pretty straightforward, but wear a costume! You’ll probably need to listen to ongoing complaints, should you not dress up.
  • Bring your own booze! Getting served in the main zones likely requires some Tom Cruise-mission-impossible-like maneuvering. If you don’t want to wait an eternity and a half to buy yourself a drink, simply bring your own.
  • Make sure you bring your own glass and don’t forget a cap. A coffee mug will do the trick. This is as good for your safety as it’s for your pocket, as you would otherwise pay €1 per glass. 
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  • Wear comfortable, easy-washable shoes or ones you’re not too attached to. Disclaimer: you’re going to walk, dance, and get stepped on until dawn.
  • Leave your car at home! The city collapses during this season, and it’s nearly impossible to get through by car. As an alternative, we suggest you hop on the bus and let someone else deal with the humongous traffic. 
  • Don’t stress if public transportation is late. Buses and trams will be fully packed, and you’ll for sure arrive at the party eventually… Sometimes the rave already starts on the bus! 
  • Keep an eye on your belongings. It’s easy to lose stuff in such chaos, and pickpockets will use any distraction to try and succeed in their wrongdoings. 
  • Don’t wear any valuables if you’re afraid of losing them. 
  • Choose a meeting point with your pals, in case you get lost. Phone signal can be pretty bad in the crowds. 
  • Don’t walk alone, especially if you’re not feeling well. Make sure you always have somebody trustworthy by your side.
  • Start getting familiar with popular songs. Check out this playlist, if you want to sing along during Tenerife Carnival.

Last but not least…

  • Don’t forget to drink water and eat! The best remedy against exhaustion is to fill your belly with a “paponazo”, which is the typical grub of the season in Tenerife. Basically, it’s a roasted “papa”, potato, stuffed with cheese, meat, and lots of sauces.

Cheers! Now that you know the theory about our famous island carnival, it’s time to put it into practice. 

Grab your favorite costume and hit the streets with your pals, let loose to the rhythms of Spanish music, and most importantly: have lots of fun!  

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