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Tenerife Carnival 2020

It’s time for the biggest festival in the Canary Islands: Tenerife Carnival 2020 is here!

If you have never heard of the Tenerife Carnival or have never been to a Carnival celebration, you are in for a real treat!

It’s one of the biggest celebrations in the world with over 400,000 people descending on Santa Cruz de Tenerife for one of the biggest festivals you will ever experience.

In fact, the Tenerife Carnival is the second biggest carnival in the world, just behind the world-famous Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.


Official Carnival Poster by Javier Nóbrega

History of the Tenerife Carnival

The celebration of Carnival has been around for thousands of years and is said to have originated from pagan traditions.

Celebrations have evolved quite a bit but the original concepts of freedom of expression and joy still remain.

The exact origins of Carnival are unknown but here are some things we learned about the history of the Tenerife Carnival:

  • Carnival came to the Canary Islands in the 16th Century.
  • The celebration was brought over from Spanish and Portuguese explorers on their way to the Americas.
  • From the 16th to the 18th Century the celebration was held by both the upper classes and the peoples of the islands
  • Celebrations during that time involved parties around huge banquets, music and dancing.
  • Despite laws and religious bans on parties and balls, the people of the Canary Islands continued to enjoy these celebrations during the 19th century.
  • From the 19th century on, celebrations began to involve the use of a mask – this was to give the upper-class free rein to mingle with the “commoners” on the streets.
  • Around this time, going out on the streets became popular with races and street parties.
  • In the early 20th century the celebrations became more mainstream, even being fully legalised.
  • But during the Spanish Civil War, the celebrations were stamped out once again and became private parties held indoors.
  • Fast forward to the 1960s and Carnival makes a comeback, declared as a celebration of national and touristic importance.
  • In the 1980s, Tenerife Carnival (Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife) becomes the second biggest Carnival celebration in the world.
  • In 2019, police in Santa Cruz de Tenerife reported an audience of 400,000 in one day of the festivities.


Image from Tenerife Tourist Board website 

Tenerife Carnival: The Celebrations

Carnival is made up of many different events over a 3 month period, from January to March. Expect lots of competitions, parades, dancing and partying until the early morning.

It is a very colourful and vibrant affair, celebrating the unique beauty and joy of the Canary Islands and the people.

Every year the Carnival has a different theme.

Last year the theme was “The Marine Depths” which involved a 6-foot sculpture of Poseidon being shipped over from Valencia.

Let’s just say that no expense is spared in terms of design or costumes. In fact, it’s got to the stage where the flamboyant queen’s costumes are so enormous, they require multiple people to fit them on. Last year while parading, one of the queen’s fell and was unable to get up due to the weight of the costume.


Image from Tenerife Tourist Board website 

Carnival 2020: The Events

The official celebrations start on the Wednesday before Carnival week with the selections of the Carnival queens. Queens are from three categories: Senior, Young Adult and Children.

This year there will be a 1950’s theme which will inspire the costumes and the set and stage design. We would very much encourage you to dress up!

This year the festival ends on March 1st, but not before the “Burial of the Sardine”, a deep-rooted tradition carried on over generations.


Image from Tenerife Tourist Board website 

During this parade, held on Ash Wednesday, thousands of festival-goers dress up as if they are in mourning and say goodbye to the Sardine or Chicharro fish. This is a sight to behold and is probably the most outlandish of all the celebrations in Santa Cruz! It’s definitely a must-see!

For a full list of the daily events please click here.


If you are interested in Tenerife as a holiday destination, we have some amazing hiking packages which would enable you to hike around the beautiful countryside and take in the culture and events. Fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you with some options:

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