Top Ten Carnival Festivals in Spain

by Lauris on Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Carnival Festival

Just before Lent arrives, which marks a time of fasting and spiritual introspection, Carnival celebrations offer us the chance to relax and enjoy a few days of partying. Below, you'll find a selection of ten carnival festivals with unique features. Join us and experience these fiestas with joy and tolerance, letting yourself get caught up in the excitement of Spanish traditions.

  1. The JoaldunaksDuring the final days of January, in the two Navarro towns of Iturren and Zubieta, residents and visitors celebrate a very special Carnival festival. On the 28th and the 29th, the joaldunaks parade about town, wearing very intriguing attire: skirts, sandals, sheep fur over the shoulders and around the waist, colorful scarves around the neck, decorated hats with colorful bands, and enormous bells carried on the back, bells whose ancestral chime drives away evil spirits and awakes the land after its winter slumber. On Monday, the joaldunaks of Zubieta visit Iturren and on Tuesday those from Iturren travel to Zubieta, covering the 3 kilometers distance that separates the two towns, sporting the special attire and chiming the bells the entire way.
  2. Carnival in TenerifeEl Puerto de la Cruz, in Tenerife, celebrates one of the oldest carnival festivals on the island. It has some special features that make it unique: The main carnival parade does not take place on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday; it happens on Saturday to avoid coinciding with the patron saint day of Santa Cruz, the capital of the island. On the Friday before carnival's Coso-Apoteosis, a unique event takes place: the "Mascarita ponte tacón is a race for drag-queens in which hundreds of participants and thousands of spectators gather from all corners of the island. This is a highly entertaining spectacle that's not to be missed.
  3. Carnival celebration in TenerifeIt's no mere coincidence that Santa Cruz de Tenerife celebrates one of the most famous carnival festivals in the world: the striking beauty of the costumes of the Carnival Queen and her court, along with the comparsas and murgas that make their way through town dancing and singing, all make this festival a fantastic spectacle to behold. One of the unique features of the Santa Cruz Carnival Festival is the Carnaval de día (daytime carnival) celebrated days before the Entierro de la Sardina (Funeral of the Sardine), and which brings together visitors from all over the island dressed up in thousands of different costumes, displaying incredible imagination which this year will follow the theme of "Bollywood: India".
  4. Carnival in CadizThe Carnival Festival of Cadiz is an explosion of joy, humor and music. The chirigotas, murgas, coros and cuartetos (curiously formed by four people) are musical groups that sing their medleys in the Gran Teatro Falla. The groups compete there for a prize, using lyrics loaded with humor and poignant criticism. Later, the groups will take their acts outside, where the streets of the city become their stage. During Carnival time, the city fills with visitors looking for places to hear the fun medleys and enjoy fish tapas and shrimp omelets.
  5. The Tarragona Carnival FestivalThe Tarragona Carnival Festival revolves around the Plaza de la Font, where an enormous wineskin is placed and its contents are offered to Carnival goers. Over the next few days, a Carnival Queen will be elected by representatives of the comparsas that will participate in the parade held on the following Saturday. The morning of "jueves lardero" (the Thursday before Lent), butifarra de huevo (a type of pork sausage with egg) and torta de chicharron (a type of pork flat cake) are shared among Carnival revelers (and there are many) as an appetizer for the election of the queen. The following Tuesday, the city goes into mourning for the entierro de la sardine which finalizes celebrations.
  6. Sitges CarnivalSitges is a well-known beach destination for tourists. During carnival time however, it transforms into a spectacular scene, where the limitless creativity of the city's celebration can be observed in the "Rúas" (parades), in which moving stages capture your attention and admiration. On "Jueves lardo", his majesty Carnestoltas makes his entrance into the city and gives a speech to the people from town hall (the "predicot"). On Sunday, the Rúa de la Disbauxa is celebrated in all the splendor of Carnival. On the Tuesday of the festival, the Rúa Extermini is held which, unbelievably, has even more participants than the Rúa de la Disbauxa. On Ash Wednesday, the entierro de Carnestoltas (funeral of Carnestoltas) is celebrated, drawing a close to festivities.
  7. Peropalo in CaceresIn Villanueva de la Vera, in the province of Cáceres in Extremadura, "el Peropalo" is a central figure of Carnaval celebrations. El Peropalo is a doll that is placed in the town square atop a lance. The doll spins during the days of Carnival until it ends up with its back to town hall. Peropalo is accused and judged for crimes (almost always of a sexual nature) and sentenced. His sentence is displayed on the back of a young person dressed in hideous clothing who rides a donkey about town for the townspeople to inform themselves about the verdict. The festival ends, after several different traditional rituals, on Ash Wednesday, when Peropalo is burnt, as certain mourners lament their loss and miss his favors.
  8. In the beautiful Cantabria city of Santoña, the so-called "Carnaval del norte" (Carnival of the north) is celebrated. Declared a Festival of Touristic Interest, this celebration takes the sea as its theme. Neighbors of the city, great crowds of them, dress up as fish to participate in the festivities. The "juicio del fondo del mar" (judgment at the bottom of the sea) event is held, presided over by Neptune. The Besugo, (Sea Bream, a type fish) is accused of kidnapping a mermaid. Although the Besugo is found innocent, he ends up dying for his love of the mermaid who does not reciprocate his feelings. Festivities draw to a close with his funeral and cremation.
  9. Carnival Festival in Gran CanariaThe Carnival Festival in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has emerged with impressive force over the last fifteen years. Although Carnival traditions have a longer history in the neighboring island of Tenerife, Gran Canary residents have created a fiesta that is now on par with that of their neighbors. They have also given it a unique twist, adding a drag-queen ceremony in which a spectacular parade of participants show creativity, choreography and grace worthy of admiration.
  10. Carnival in the Salamana countrysideFinally, in the Salamanca countryside, Ciudad Rodrigo celebrates one of the oldest Carnival Festivals in Spain, which centers on the bull as the top of the animal pyramid. The country surrounding the town is one of the areas in which the best bulls are bred, which explains the preponderance of the animal in the festival. The bull fights in Ciudad Rodrigo are well known, and some have a unique feature; bull fighters participate in the event on horseback. A "bull rink" is also installed in the town square, however with the special characteristic of being triangular in shape instead of the usual round form.
Photos credits:
Header by Maduroman
Joaldunaks Parade by Ruben LC
Tarragona Carnival Parade by Xeniarm
Carnival Time in Sitges by Thundershead
El Peropalo by M. Martin Vicente
Carnaval in Gran Canaria by El coleccionista de instantes
Carnaval del Toro by Julio Codesal

Keywords: carnival,tenerife,carnival festival,carnival time,carnival in spain


1 » Veronique Howley (on Saturday, January 19, 2013) said:

When you have opted to read in Spanish, why does it revert to English when you click on READ MORE. I would like to read about all 10 carnivals i Spanish not in English.
Thanks for your reply

2 » dQ Tyson (on Monday, January 21, 2013) said:

Thank you Veronique for pointing out that clicking on READ MORE reverts the article to English. We appreciate your interest in our newletter and blog and I'll be happy to send you the entire "Top 10 Carnavales en España" piece in Spanish.