There is not a carnival on Tenerife; there are many carnivals all across Tenerife.
That might seem a moot point, but at this time of year there are articles galore about carnival on Tenerife and many either get something wrong, or don’t paint quite the full picture of what carnival means on the island.
We can tell from reading some that their authors haven’t experienced carnival(s) on Tenerife. Often that’s because too many travel articles these days are written from desk-based research rather than first hand experience (this is a bugbear of mine, especially where publications I once respected are involved).
Here are a few things that are regularly misrepresented at this time of year. These were all taken from reputable travel publications.
Carnival on Tenerife takes place each February
As many people know, carnival is linked to Lent, and Lent is a moveable feast. Which means the dates of carnival change each year. For example, in 2020 Lent begins on 26 February. But in 2019 Lent began on 6 March. Subsequently, the main carnival events took place in March. The traditional carnivals on Tenerife observe these dates, well, religiously. But see below when it comes to the non-traditional carnivals. The good thing about this is that you know years in advance when the trad carnivals on Tenerife will be taking place.
For an entire week the people of Tenerife party
Wrong, this is one of the common mistakes many publications make, referring to Santa Cruz carnival as though it’s the only carnival on Tenerife. Some publications state that it lasts a week, some that it lasts two weeks, and others that Santa Cruz carnival lasts for weeks and weeks. The last isn’t technically wrong as the first official carnival date in 2020 was its inauguration on 24 January and the last official date is 1 March. But it’s not all party, party. The run up involves various competitions – carnival queens, dance troupes (comparsas) and murgas (satirical singing groups) competitions etc. But the part of carnival which involves parades and street parties kicks off after the election of the carnival queen and is known as carnival en la calle (carnival in the street). In Santa Cruz this lasts for ten days.
As for the people of Tenerife partying for a week. It lasts much longer than that because of the reality regarding the next misconception.
Carnival celebrations begin in Santa Cruz before continuing across Tenerife
Wrong again. Carnival celebrations take place at exactly the same time in many traditional towns on Tenerife because the dates are linked to Lent. But there are non-traditional carnivals, especially in southern areas which have developed mainly thanks to tourism. Once the big (and smaller) northern carnivals are over, these non-traditional ones begin. In 2020, Los Cristianos carnival begins on 12 March with Los Gigantes carnival arriving slightly earlier, starting on 6 March. The downside to these carnivals is, because they’re not linked to Lent, it’s more difficult to plan exactly when they’ll be taking place. The upside is that locals in those areas can enjoy a traditional carnival like the one in Santa Cruz, and then their own as well.
In reality, there are loads of carnivals across Tenerife. How long each lasts can vary from town to town.
The week ends with the Entierro de la Sardina, or the Burial of the Sardine
Nope. Carnival does traditionally end with the burial of the sardine on Ash Wednesday. But in places like Santa Cruz, and in Puerto de la Cruz, the carnival party continues till the end of the following weekend.
And finally, Canary Islands carnival misconceptions stretch beyond Tenerife’s shores.
“There are no glitzy, Tenerife-style carnivals on La Palma, El Hierro and La Gomera…”
Oh yes there are. Some might be more low key, but there are also some brilliantly bonkers carnivals on other Canary Islands. The author of this piece seemed to connect carnival with tourism rather than tradition. Carnival isn’t exclusive to Tenerife.
Misconceptions like these, and many others in the world of travel writing, are partly we write our own Tenerife travel guidebooks and guides.