Choose Edition
Connect
Choose Edition
Tamaño letra

Top 15: Spain’s must-see carnivals

All types of queens, giant ants, mermaid abductions and, of course, several sardine burials; here are some of the wildest celebrations

  • Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Tenerife: This carnival in Spain’s Canary Islands is one of the most popular and well-known in the world. It kicks off February 22 with the choosing of the carnival Queen and ends more than a week later with the Burial of the Sardine on Ash Wednesday. Every year has been based around a theme since 1987, when the city made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the biggest open air concert ever, with 250,000 seeing Celia Cruz perform. This year, the theme is ‘Caribbean.’
    1Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Tenerife: This carnival in Spain’s Canary Islands is one of the most popular and well-known in the world. It kicks off February 22 with the choosing of the carnival Queen and ends more than a week later with the Burial of the Sardine on Ash Wednesday. Every year has been based around a theme since 1987, when the city made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the biggest open air concert ever, with 250,000 seeing Celia Cruz perform. This year, the theme is ‘Caribbean.’ Getty
  • Las Palmas, Gran Canaria: Las Palmas, on the island of Gran Canaria, celebrates its carnival from February 10 to March 5, with the Santa Catalina park as its epicenter. This year, the theme of the legendary carnival is ‘eternal spring.’ Besides choosing a queen for the festival, the city also chooses a drag queen. From local dances to parades, the city fills with music and costumes. It also closes with the traditional Burial of the Sardine. The festival, with roots in the 15th century, is brimming with character.
    2Las Palmas, Gran Canaria: Las Palmas, on the island of Gran Canaria, celebrates its carnival from February 10 to March 5, with the Santa Catalina park as its epicenter. This year, the theme of the legendary carnival is ‘eternal spring.’ Besides choosing a queen for the festival, the city also chooses a drag queen. From local dances to parades, the city fills with music and costumes. It also closes with the traditional Burial of the Sardine. The festival, with roots in the 15th century, is brimming with character. Getty
  • Cádiz, Andalusia: With a totally distinct style from the carnivals in the Canary Islands, the carnival of Cadiz is marked by satire, wit and criticism, all to be found within the music. In fact, this carnival’s political bite brought it problems during the Franco dictatorship, when it went underground after being officially banned. Its strong suit is the Official Competition at the Gran Teatro Falla, in which different musicians compete from the end of January until February 24. Yet the best party is found outside, with street performances, parties and plenty of energy.
    3Cádiz, Andalusia: With a totally distinct style from the carnivals in the Canary Islands, the carnival of Cadiz is marked by satire, wit and criticism, all to be found within the music. In fact, this carnival’s political bite brought it problems during the Franco dictatorship, when it went underground after being officially banned. Its strong suit is the Official Competition at the Gran Teatro Falla, in which different musicians compete from the end of January until February 24. Yet the best party is found outside, with street performances, parties and plenty of energy. agefotostock
  • Águilas, Murcia: The entire town comes out to celebrate Aguilas’ carnival, which was declared to be a festival of International Tourism Interest in 2015. The event begins on February 23, with the release of the half-animal, half-human called Mussona (pictured above). There are several other characters that add color to the festival’s parades and shows and a national drag queen contest will be held on Friday March 10.
    4Águilas, Murcia: The entire town comes out to celebrate Aguilas’ carnival, which was declared to be a festival of International Tourism Interest in 2015. The event begins on February 23, with the release of the half-animal, half-human called Mussona (pictured above). There are several other characters that add color to the festival’s parades and shows and a national drag queen contest will be held on Friday March 10.
  • Sitges, Catalonia: The open air carnival in Sitges runs from February 23 to March 1 and is another that has gained worldwide fame. The keys to its success are its joyfulness and lack of inhibition. One aspect of this carnival with a difference is that it depicts the story of a king who comes to power on February 23 but is later arrested, burned and buried on Ash Wednesday. Sitges is known for its openness to the gay community and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors with its costumes and dances.
    5Sitges, Catalonia: The open air carnival in Sitges runs from February 23 to March 1 and is another that has gained worldwide fame. The keys to its success are its joyfulness and lack of inhibition. One aspect of this carnival with a difference is that it depicts the story of a king who comes to power on February 23 but is later arrested, burned and buried on Ash Wednesday. Sitges is known for its openness to the gay community and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors with its costumes and dances. Getty
  • Tarragona, Catalonia: One of Catalonia’s most emblematic carnivals is celebrated in the coastal city of Tarragona. It begins with the grand entrance of the Carnival King and the Concubine Queen, with a sermon included. There are two parades, Rúa de la Artesanía and Rua de Lluïment, along with fireworks, music groups, dances and lots of street life. This year it takes place from February 18 to 28.
    6Tarragona, Catalonia: One of Catalonia’s most emblematic carnivals is celebrated in the coastal city of Tarragona. It begins with the grand entrance of the Carnival King and the Concubine Queen, with a sermon included. There are two parades, Rúa de la Artesanía and Rua de Lluïment, along with fireworks, music groups, dances and lots of street life. This year it takes place from February 18 to 28.
  • Laza, Ourense, Galicia: Beginning in the morning of February 26, after mass, the 'Peliqueiros' (in the photo) make their yearly appearance on the streets with masks, bells on their wastes and whips in hand. The next day is the ‘farrapada’ – a battle where rags covered in mud comprise the weapons. Later in the afternoon, la Morena (a man dressed as a bull) comes down from the highest point of the town accompanied by giant ants, of course. On Ash Wednesday people fill the streets carrying torches.
    7Laza, Ourense, Galicia: Beginning in the morning of February 26, after mass, the 'Peliqueiros' (in the photo) make their yearly appearance on the streets with masks, bells on their wastes and whips in hand. The next day is the ‘farrapada’ – a battle where rags covered in mud comprise the weapons. Later in the afternoon, la Morena (a man dressed as a bull) comes down from the highest point of the town accompanied by giant ants, of course. On Ash Wednesday people fill the streets carrying torches. agefotostock
  • Badajoz, Extremadura: Carnival is lived intensely in the capital of Extremadura. In the Lopez de Ayala Theater, there is a clown competition and the streets are full of fun, humor and costumes. On Sunday February 26 the clowns go on parade in the town and in nearby municipalities. The following day is the last night for the carnival. On Tuesday morning the festivities come to an end with the Burial of the Sardine in the neighborhood of San Roque.
    8Badajoz, Extremadura: Carnival is lived intensely in the capital of Extremadura. In the Lopez de Ayala Theater, there is a clown competition and the streets are full of fun, humor and costumes. On Sunday February 26 the clowns go on parade in the town and in nearby municipalities. The following day is the last night for the carnival. On Tuesday morning the festivities come to an end with the Burial of the Sardine in the neighborhood of San Roque. Getty
  • Ciudad Real, Castile- La Mancha: Piñata Sunday is celebrated the Sunday after Ash Wednesday and is the colorful highlight of this city’s carnival. This year it falls on March 5, with festivities the night before. However the party kicks off on Saturday February 25, with music and dance competitions in the city's Plaza Mayor on February 26.
    9Ciudad Real, Castile- La Mancha: Piñata Sunday is celebrated the Sunday after Ash Wednesday and is the colorful highlight of this city’s carnival. This year it falls on March 5, with festivities the night before. However the party kicks off on Saturday February 25, with music and dance competitions in the city's Plaza Mayor on February 26. agefotostock
  • Vinaròs, Valencia: The town will celebrate one of the most famous carnivals on Spain’s Mediterranean coast until February 27. It started, in its current form, in 1983, when the first musical groups and dressed up revelers started to parade down the streets. Today it includes a range of attractions including carnival queen competitions, parades, cultural and sports activities and a gastronomic focus.
    10Vinaròs, Valencia: The town will celebrate one of the most famous carnivals on Spain’s Mediterranean coast until February 27. It started, in its current form, in 1983, when the first musical groups and dressed up revelers started to parade down the streets. Today it includes a range of attractions including carnival queen competitions, parades, cultural and sports activities and a gastronomic focus.
  • Tolosa, Basque Country: The most famous carnival in the Basque Country lasts for six days and begins on February 23 with Maundy (or “fat” Thursday). It is followed by Skinny (Good) Friday and drum performances on Saturday. On Sunday, everyone takes to the streets in pajamas and slippers and from then on it is all about parades, music and dances until midnight on Tuesday, with the Burial of the Sardine.
    11Tolosa, Basque Country: The most famous carnival in the Basque Country lasts for six days and begins on February 23 with Maundy (or “fat” Thursday). It is followed by Skinny (Good) Friday and drum performances on Saturday. On Sunday, everyone takes to the streets in pajamas and slippers and from then on it is all about parades, music and dances until midnight on Tuesday, with the Burial of the Sardine. agefotostock
  • Lantz, Navarre: The Lantz carnival will take place this year from February 26 to 28. Here, there is no schedule – the action starts in the afternoon, and at dusk Miel-Otxin (as seen in the photo), a three meter wooden structure, representing the bandit, is captured and executed. Ziripot, the strongest character in town, guards the bandit, but the bandit’s horse defends his master, and throws Ziripot to the ground every chance he gets. Oh, and there is plenty of Basque music too.
    12Lantz, Navarre: The Lantz carnival will take place this year from February 26 to 28. Here, there is no schedule – the action starts in the afternoon, and at dusk Miel-Otxin (as seen in the photo), a three meter wooden structure, representing the bandit, is captured and executed. Ziripot, the strongest character in town, guards the bandit, but the bandit’s horse defends his master, and throws Ziripot to the ground every chance he gets. Oh, and there is plenty of Basque music too. Getty
  • Bielsa, Aragaon: Starting on the night of February 23 the people of Bielsa begin making Cornelio Zorrilla, a creature made of old clothes and filled with straw. The effigy is later placed in the city’s main square and burned on Sunday. The carnival here features many other unique characters such as ‘los trangas’ – single young men who wear the pelts and horns of male goats (pictured above).
    13Bielsa, Aragaon: Starting on the night of February 23 the people of Bielsa begin making Cornelio Zorrilla, a creature made of old clothes and filled with straw. The effigy is later placed in the city’s main square and burned on Sunday. The carnival here features many other unique characters such as ‘los trangas’ – single young men who wear the pelts and horns of male goats (pictured above). agefotostock
  • La Bañeza, Leon, Castile and Leon: In this carnival there are no costume competitions. Here, the people dress up because they feel like it. Good fun and humor mark this celebration, from the initial procession on February 24 to the Burial of the Sardine on Wednesday, March 1. There are parades and races and a lot of fun because, as this carnival proclaims, “humor is the best carnival costume.”
    14La Bañeza, Leon, Castile and Leon: In this carnival there are no costume competitions. Here, the people dress up because they feel like it. Good fun and humor mark this celebration, from the initial procession on February 24 to the Burial of the Sardine on Wednesday, March 1. There are parades and races and a lot of fun because, as this carnival proclaims, “humor is the best carnival costume.”
  • Santoña, Cantabria: The rebirth of this carnival that runs until March 11 came in the 1980s after an initiative promoted by local clubs. On Saturday, March 4, the most unique feature of this celebration takes place: a performance of an underwater trial, in which a seabream is accused of kidnapping a mermaid (pictured above). Later, the town celebrates his burial.
    15Santoña, Cantabria: The rebirth of this carnival that runs until March 11 came in the 1980s after an initiative promoted by local clubs. On Saturday, March 4, the most unique feature of this celebration takes place: a performance of an underwater trial, in which a seabream is accused of kidnapping a mermaid (pictured above). Later, the town celebrates his burial.