Carnaval in
Carnaval in


Semana Santa


Santa Cruz
de Tenerife


Las Palmas
de Gran Canaria



Spanish Carnival

Top Carnavals

  1. Tenerife's Carnaval
  2. Cadiz's  Carnaval  [Canary Islands]
  3. Valencia's Fallas  [March -spring equinox
  4. ]Carnaval de Sitges [Barcelona]
  5. Las Palmas [Canary Islands]
  6. Aquilas [Murica]
  7. Cartegena
  8. Barcelona
  9. Madrid






After 40 years of being forbidden by the Spanish dictator, the Carnaval of Spain was allowed to return to the streets and reclaim its inheritance from dusty attics: the rhythms that never die as the rebirth of spring cries for expression. Spaniards appreciate a festival that invites us to experience it intensely, calling for the  active and spontaneous participation of all who might join in.

Carnaval was banned in Spain in 1938 by the dictator Franco and was only recovered in 1981 with the reestablishment of democracy.

Rome was a large influence on Spain; thus, their wild winter solstice ritual of the Saturnalia may be cited as a major influence. These festivities had the first parade floats: a boat mounted on a carta cart, called the carrus navalis. (An alternative theory to the more popular "farewell to the flesh" that we usually hear about: Carne [meat] and valle= farewell.)The festival has changed greatly, although some of its earlier characteristics have survived: the festive permissiveness, the licentiousness of its customs and bending the rules of established order. Anything is possible, everything is allowed: Humans transform themselves into animals, males become females, peons strut like kings, social station is scorned, decorum is debunked and blasphemy goes unblamed. Carnival is a time when anything goes, before the arrival of Lent with its days of abstinence and penitence.

NNowadays, Lent has lost its meaning of collective abstinence, but King Carnestoltes (the name coming
from the Latin carnes toldres or carnes tolendas, meaning "forbidden meat") continues to come each year to the cities and towns of Spain. In most areas of Spain, Carnaval is celebrated during
the week before miercoles de Ceniza. Students do not
have classes during this week because there are dias
de fiestas
. A cohete (rocket) is fired to open the
celebraciones. Then the streets fill with trajes de
(colorful costumes) and floats. The desfiles
and bailes de enmarcarados (masked balls) play a big
part in the Carnaval celebrations.

With the end of Carnaval, el miercoles de Ceniza, there is another ceremony called El Entierro de la Sardina (Burial ofthe Sardine). The "fun times" are buried because it is now la Cuaresma - a time of fasting and praying. The sardina is a symbol which reminds the people that now they will be eating fish instead of meat. (Catholics still observe the tradition of not eating meat on miercoles de Ceniza and on Fridays during la Cuaresma).

Carnival in Spain is often a 7 day affair beginning with the arrival of His Majesty Carnival on
Fat Thursday (Dijous Gras), to the climax of Grand Parade (Gran Rua) on Carnival Saturday, to the burial of the sardines on
Ash Wednesday (Dimecres de Cendra).
Throughout the season the is fun to be found at the Masked Balls (Balls de Màscares) and the
Feasts (les Fartaneres).

GETTING THERE: Located 691 kms from Madrid, on asmall peninsula with modern beaches and an important port. Airports: either Seville or Jerez Airport. Also, Faro Airport in Portugal is only 2 hours away by car. 
serve Cadiz from Seville, Jerez and Algeciras

In modern-minded Spain, there is one vestige of
the ancient, the mystical, the pagan—
four days and nights of Carnaval

by Alan Weisman with photos by Christina García Rodero

Understanding the songs’ witty choruses and clever lyrics is not essential to enjoying Carnival in Cádiz. Being there is enough.
The city’s biggest street festival entertains on each corner. There is something on every block -- sort of like standing in the middle ring of a three-ring circus, except for the fact that most of the performers are loopy on sherry.

Cadiz the first great port of Spain founded by the Phoenicians at Great mineral deposits were mined in Spain for export by the Phoenicians between 800 B.C. and 500 B.C.

"There are countries where the organizers don't know what they're doing or what's going on - but I wouldn't name Italy and Spain!" --
Robert Smith


Carnaval in Cadiz
Cadiz in Imagefolio

Cadiz is an ancient, seafaring City on the Atlantic (along the Andalucian Coast) which means it enjoys a nice regular cooling breeze running across itself. Traditionally, its date of establishment is about 1100 BCE. Cadiz is a quiet and serene, except when it plays host to Spain's ultimate party: Carnaval de Cardez, with its choruses, fancy-dress processions, jokes, disguises and float parade.

Cadiz (pronounced CA-deeth) is famous for the sense of humour of its citizens and the age-old Carnival where authority, politicians, celebrities and the church are parodied and ridiculed with unparalleled skill and wit in comic song. The central figures here are the choirs, or agrupaciones, which are groups of between three and forty singers.  The Falla's Contest is a Music festival held in the Gran Teatro Falla before Carnival itself and, to a certain extent, it is a relatively serious competition as t
he show is televised across Spain. Competition is keen, and contestants spend months in preparation.


The most popular type of group is the chirigotas, choirs normally of ten unison or close-harmony singers, accompanied by bombo, caja (drum, box - used as a percussion instrument) and guitar. Their repertoire is the most satirical of the different types of groups and the literary quality of the songs can be very high (they may be written by local authors). Only a few musical forms such as the tango or pasodoble are used, so that everyone knows the tune and can concentrate on the words.


As the story goes, the Carnaval fun began in the 17th century when the city tried to outdo the opulent carnival celebrations of Venice. The crews of the great Spanish port on the Atlantic spread their Carnaval song afar, most notably to Tenerife, which has similar competitions for their world-famous Carnaval. The galleons returned from the New World with not only gold and silver, but with even more powerful treasure: the rhythms and musical influences that still dominate today's Carnival. African and Creole rhythms, sambas and rustic Colombian tunes all intermingle in the streets with local Andalusian songs and traditional flamenco music. During the country’s civil war in the 1930s, Gen. Francisco Franco banned Carnival in certain areas because of its anti-authority theme. In 1937, he abolished it entirely when fear of revolt was greatest.

In Cádiz, however, the party never stopped. Today, the town of 160,000 people begins planning six months in advance for the parades and the singing showdowns at the theater.


While many Carnivals end the day before the beginning of Lent, the party goes on several more days in Cádiz. Parades are held on the Sundays before and after Ash Wednesday. People on the floats throw confetti, or sometimes candy, to the children.

Other nearby towns such as El Puerto de Santa María, Rota, San Fernando, Chiclana, Algeciras, Medina-Sidonia and Trebujena have lavish carnivals. Isla Cristina and Ayamonte are also famous for their elaborate costumes and excitement, drawing visitors from throughout the region and the other side of the Portuguese border as well. This area has avoided the mass tourism side effects which afflict better known tourist zones. For more Carnaval adventure consider crossing to Africa and enjoying the great Carnaval of Cueta.  Fast [35 minutes] ferries sail from Algeciras near Cadiz to 'The Gateway to Africa.'

The Gran Teatro Falla in Cádiz

"Carnival songs resemble a tabloid newspaper in their verve, spirit and range of themes. They are a measure of social change and an annual summary of events and opinion. The songs involve considerable artistry and are renowned as well for their raucous humor and vulgar concerns. (Promiscuity and sexual misalliances are common subjects)."

Carnival Song and Society
Gossip, Sexuality and Creativity in Andalusia
by Jerome R. Mintz 1997


















Cádiz by RoughGuides/

Cadiz Province


Carnaval de Cadiz
by google




Carnival Santa Cruz de Tenerife has twice been the world Carnaval Capital by virtue of hosting the Carnival Cities Convention. The last time was in the year 2000. More at, and the report filed from Tenerife is here













Carnival Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Canary Islands in Imagefolio

 The Carnival Santa Cruz de Tenerife is often listed as among the world's greatest annual festivals, and the natives consider their celebration second only to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. By most measures, Santa Cruz de Tenerife hosts the largest, most impressive carnival in Spain. Love of fiestas is an essential part of the make-up of the Canary Islanders, who celebrate Carnaval on all seven islands. Just as this island holds the largest mountain [The Teide volcano] in Spain, there is no rival in Spain to Tenerife's massive Carnaval celebration.

In the time of Caravel ships, when trade winds powered the intrepidvessels, this archipelago of seven islands was the gateway to the Americas. As a crossroads destination, the inhabitants grew rich on the trade. The history of this can bee seen in Las Palmas, which is home to may ornate churches. Tenerife is a very walkable city with many plazas and public spaces, which make an excellent atmosphere for their great Carnaval.  

The main events of the festival begin a week before Ash Wednesday, but the season starts months before, as groups prepared themes and costumes for the great party. The Carnaval officially begins with the election of the carnival queen. There are many flamboyant processions by Carnaval groups, fancy-dress parades starring Brazilian samba schools and fantastic costumes, street musicians, a cabalgata (horse parade), keen chorus and musical dance competitions -- all reaching a climax in the arena on the Tuesday.

Visitors from all around the globe flock to the town to partake in the cross-dressing event of the year. Shrove Tuesday is marked with a great parade and the celebrations, finally end with the entierro de la sardina on Ash Wednesday. A ridiculously large sardine is burnt before an entourage of wailing widows. Many participants get into the spirit of the event by dressing in mourning clothes.

Traditionally, the sardine's cremation, followed by fireworks and a huge open-air ball, should signify the last day of the carnival, and the beginning of Lent, but this carnival now comes to its climactic end the following weekend - at which point smaller towns around the island often start their own carnivals.
>Tenerife (capital)> Santa Cruz de Tenerife);  Spain,

The celebrations do not end with the Grand Parade but move out from Santa Cruz to other parts of the island. Many of the local villages take up on the fun filled atmosphere of Santa Cruz and carry on with their own
Like in

Candelaria Carnival by
Candelaria stages one of the smaller pre-Lenten festivities on the island, but that's not to say you should overlook it. As it takes place well into Lent, it might be a nice, relaxing tail end to your sojourn in the crazy carnival country.
Santa Cruz by RoughGuides/

"Every year proceedings aim to outstrip the efforts of the year before, so much so that in recent years up to 280,000 people - from all over the world and particularly South America - have been dancing in the streets at peak times during the celebrations.

Carnival and Other Christian Festivals
Folk Theology and Folk Performance 2003
By Max Harris

"Julio Caro Baroja, the father of Spanish Carnival studies, scorned the antiquarian notion that the masked figures and seasonal inversions of Carnival were "a mere survival" of ancient pagan rituals. Carnival, he argued, was first nurtured by the dualistic oppositions of Christianity. Where it survives—for when he wrote it had been banned in Spain by Franco—it still enacts those old antagonisms. "Carnival," he concluded, "is the representation of paganism itself face-to-face with Christianity."

6 x 9 in.304 pp., 12 color, 65 b&w illus. ISBN 0-292-70552-2

Carnaval de Sitges
a small town in the province of Barcelona, about 40 kilometers south west of the city of Barcelona. Sitges by RoughGuides/TravelNow

The Carnaval at Sitges (pronounced “Sit-jez”) is one of the outstanding events of the Catalán calendar. For more than a century, the town has celebrated the days before the beginning of Lent. Up to 250,000 visitors from Germany, Britain, Catalonia and the rest of Europe converge, ready to party and be amazed by each other's good-time spirits. Fancy dress, feathers, sequins, and plenty of skin make this a electrifying event. The party begins on the Thursday before Lent with the arrival of the King of the Carnestoltes and ends with the Burial of a Sardine on Ash Wednesday. The Grand parade has over 3000 revelers and 40 floats. Sitges has a large gay community, but this is not a particularly gay Carnival. However, amazing and glamorous drag shows can be found, and both the straight and gay press consider Sitges Carnaval a wild party. The Sitges Carnival will entertain even the most demanding reveller.

Sitges lies about 40 km south of Barcelona and is one of the most popular resorts of Southern Europe. Sitges has long been an artist community; among the notables who frequented Sitges were Salvador Dalí and poet Federico García Lorca. Nearly everyone in Sitges speaks Catalan, and Barcelona families take over the resort town during the peak summer months. Sitges has more than 4,500 hotel rooms (half of them in four-star establishments), 1,500 rental apartments and 3,000 campsites; it can be difficult to find accommodations there during the summer months and the during the Carnaval. There's 17 beaches (including a gay beach and a nude beach), an active gay nightlife and a busy festival calendar. 

Sitges by RoughGuides/TravelNow

Along with Ibiza, Key West, and Mikonos, Sitges has established itself firmly on the "A" list of gay resorts.

Sitges carnival in February
  It's widely thought that it is a gay carnival. That is until you have seen it. You then know there is nothing gay about it. If you are hoping  to see something along the lines of Gran Canaria's carnival, you are going to be very disappointed. There are NO gay floats in Sitges  carnival. There aren't even any drag queens in it. 


Carnaval de  Aquilas
Cartagena & Murcia


The Carnival of Aguilas lasts two weeks, beginning on the Saturday before Carnaval Saturday with the change of power flowing to the Carnaval personages of Musa, Don Carnal, Doña Cuaresma and Mussona. Carnaval Thursday sees the loose call 'of the Mussoná take place -- a personage more recently recovered who rocks the carnival at night, representing the beast inside us and the duality between the savage and our more civilized selves. This is the traditional battle between order and chaos at the heart of carnival. On Carnaval Saturday night, after pregón, is the battle between Don Carnal and Doña Cuaresma; with this triumph begins the celebration for the people. The parades are Sunday, Monday, and Shrove Tuesday, and for many years on the following Saturday, where a great parade brings participants of the many comparsas from the region together. These parades will star more than 4,000 performers in various comparsas, groups, bands, charangas and floats. The Carnaval de Aguilas was declared of National Tourist Interest in 1997.

During all the celebration, the "shells" are broken on the people's heads. They are made by filling up empty egg rinds with confetti. You may also drink "crow", a typical drink of the carnival made with wine, fruit and other ingredients.

Carnival of
Santa Cruz de
La Palma  by whatsonwhen

Since the 1960s, this carnival has commemorated the enormous wave of emigrants who left the islands for the Americas with a Native American parade, which dances through the town to Cuban rhythms - a burlesque version of multiculturalism. The most memorable part of the carnival, however, is the enormous talcum powder battle which erupts as the parade makes its entrance
After the main Carnaval
by whatsonwhen.

the resort town of Maspalomas, on Gran Canaria, features a drag queen competition, a parade and a show, as well as many other events. There are fiestas everywhere in town, although the main venue is the Yumbo Shopping Centre in Playa del Inglés

DownloadCarnaval of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria


The Carnaval of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria begins with the reading of the announcement, turning the city over to 2 weeks of colorful dreams and carnival magic.

Open air concerts in Parque Santa Catalina feature salsa & merengue music and are the stars of what is called 'mongollon nights.' The spirit of regeneration and death give these fiestas a certain license for chaos and for upsetting traditional values. This leads to the typical street parties, known as verbenas del mogollón, in which thousands of people in fancy dress dance till dawn around the stalls and in Parque Santa Catalina to the rhythm of salsa music.

The gala for choosing the Carnival Queen is one of the most important annual social events on anyone's calendar. There is also the Drag Queen contest, known throughout the world as one of Carnaval's most spectacular and magnificent. Body painting is becoming a noteworthy Palmas Carnival tradition, and there has been a wild BODY MAKE-UP competition since the year 2000.

Be sure to not miss the Great Parade, which marches through the whole city of Las Palmas.

The ritual ending of the Carnival is done by carrying a gigantic sardine from Parque San Telmo to Las Canteras Beach and burning it. Thousands of people follow the route and cheer the bonfire.

Carnaval of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria:
Widely acclaimed as Spain's best Gay Carnaval and famous for its many Majestic Reinas [Queens]

Body Paint Competition
Queen Competition
Burial of the Sardine



The Carnival of Cartagena has been honored with the highest national designation as a declared Celebration of Regional Tourist Interest. The Federation works closely with the City Council and other celebrations in the city to make the Categena's Carnival one of the best in all of Spain. Cartagena is an ancient port City and during the Carnaval with its many events ceremonies and nighttime parades there is a special feeling of aliveness which cannot be described only experienced. The Cartagena Carnival is a Carnaval of international importance as cartageneros once again can show how to unite the Mediterranean in the new millennium. The president  D. Luís Ramallo who is also the President for Spain of the Federation of European Carnival Cities

Founded about 230 BC by Carthaginian General Hasdrubal as Carthago Nova. Hannibal got silver from the mines to carry on the war against Rome. In 1873, the garrison arose against the First Spanish Republic and formed the independent Cartagena Canton. More recently, during the establishment of Autonomous Communities, some Cartageneros were not happy to be in the same region as inland Murcianos. A compromise was struck by having Murcia as the seat of the regional government and Cartagena as the seat of the parliament. Cartagena has a lot of archaeological sites. All over the old centre you can find showcases with remains of Roman buildings.

Carnival in Barcelona

Carnival weekend sees revellers converge on the market places and streets to watch as the local carnival guilds and commercial establishments compete for the much acclaimed pimiento de oro - golden pepper. The winners aren't just judged on their lavish costumes and smiling faces, but on their ability to drive the large crowd into a frenzy of celebration. Saturday afternoon sees the celebrations come to a climax with the Gran Rua de Carnaval.




"Everyone, old and young, whether in their neighbourhoods or at larger events designed to bring together people from all over, has the opportunity of enjoying a festival as traditional and rooted in our city as it is innovative and full of vitality and joy."
Official carnaval web site 2005






The first Carnival festival in Barcelona on record is in the year 1333, where reference is made to the prohibition of some customs associated with the festivities in the city, such as riding around wearing disguise or throwing oranges.  

The Barcelona Carnival had its days of greatest splendour in the 19th century when, in 1859, Sebastià Junyent i Comes, a jovial and public-spirited businessman who loved revelry, established the Societat del Born (the Born Society), an organisation that was exclusively concerned with organising the Carnival festivities. Following the interval when the festival was prohibited during the Franco dictatorship, the story of the Barcelona Carnival now continues anew.

As an initiative of the Culture Department (Office of Festivals and Traditions) of the first post-Franco democratic City Council, Carnival was restored to all the citizens as their heritage.

After 1989, the Carnival of Barcelona "surt de darrere el taulell" (come out from behind the stalls) when the city’s markets began to organise it. Since 1992, the Parade has been Barcelona Carnival’s most spectacular event, outgrowing its original home of the Rambla,

Rua de Carnaval (Carnival Parade)
[ neighbourhood of Sants]
The first parades took place, almost spontaneously, along the Passeig de Gràcia, (the Rambla)
and later in Paral·lel. When the Rambla was no longer big enough, the Parade moved to Via Laietana and, since 2001, it has gone along the Carretera de Sants, from Hospitalet to Avinguda Maria Cristina.

Like most Carnavals in Spain, the city is in charge of its organization and production. Since 2002, the Institute of Culture has been in charge of coordinating volunteer efforts along with the City Council Department for Citizen Relations, the Municipal Institute of Education and the Municipal Institute of Markets. Moving forward, the relatively young  Comissió Cívica del Karnaval de Barcelona (Barcelona Civic Commission on Carnaval), is attempting to coordinate the many Carnaval events into a united format that will continue to become even bigger and better each year.

"Lovely ladies of Barcelona all of you,
Honourable gentlemen of Barcelona too,
You may be aristocratic by birth,
Simple craftsmen, whatever your name,
From Horta or Sants, you’re the same worth,
From Poble Nou or Gràcia, it’s all the same.


This world is one big ball
So we’ve got to make it roll.
It’s clear to one and all:
Send your troubles for a stroll."

From the organisation Gatzara continua (Constant Revelry), 1905
Cited by Joan Amades in Costumari Català: el Curs de l’any (Catalan customs throughout the year)

Best Official Carnaval web site in English in Spain!
Barcelona by

Madrid Carnaval

Madrid's carnival was revived in 1976 after being quashed for 40 years under Franco's regime. Carnaval action in Madrid is still growing and remains centered around venues like the Casino and the Circulo de Bellas Artes.

The main event is a  huge parade along the Paseo de la Castellana. There are also fancy dress competitions and an evening concert in the Plaza Mayor. The end of Carnaval on Ash Wednesday brings on the traditional 'Burial of the Sardine' parade, with the participants all dressed in black carrying a cardboard sardine in a coffin which is theatrically and mournfully buried at the Fuente de los Pajaritos, marking the beginning of the fasting and reflection associated with Lent.

  • For more information contact the Madrid Tourist Office: 91 588 1636 or 91 366 5477.
Even the street benches are especially decorated for the Alicante Carnival. On Saturday, called Sábado Ramblero, there are parades down Rambla Avenue featuring carnival costumes, ending with a festivity called the “Funeral Wake and Burial of the Sardine”. Held on the weekend and days leading up to Ash Wednesday wiki/Alicante
North African Coast where Atlantic meets the Mediterranean wiki/Ceuta
Chipiona in the province of


a port city in Andalucia, southern Spain, on the Costa del Sol coast



Laza (Orense) offers os peliqueiros or cigarrons --characters dressed in a kind of fringed petticoat with babules, a jacket, cowbells and a gaudy mask, all crowned by a kind of semicircular mitre, and the Morena, a man covered with a cow-hide who rushes at all those around him. Pantallas, masks typical of Xinzo de Limia (Orense), are also prominent.
  • wiki/Ourense the capital of the province of Ourense in Galicia. Its population of 109,001 (2002) constitutes 30% of the population of the province.

A 3000 year-old town with an important port in the Mediterranean Costa Brava, located in the comarca of Alt Empordà, in the province of Girona, Catalonia

Costa Daurada
The best parades/processions are in in Reus and
El Vendrell

Tarragona by RoughGuides/TravelNow

City in the province of Albacete in the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha


province of Valencia

Galicia celebrates the extremely popular Antroido (carnival), which, in Santiago, sees the whole of the city taking part.

  • Carnaval de Santiago de Compostela  by Shrove Tuesday kicks off with an elegant parade of beautifully-decorated horse-drawn carriages, featuring revellers in traditional Galician dress. The carnival route starts outside the train station, leads onto the Romero de Onallo through to the Praza do Galicia and draws to an end shortly after Santiago de Chile, after passing through many of the city's beautiful granite-lined streets and squares.
Some people say that the original realpolitik of carnival was as a short-term safety-valve releasing pent-up emotions of a population feeling some degree of repression, at that time mainly religious. The period of carnival has sharply defined start and end dates, the latter being particularly important as they highlight the point at which the repressing power re-establishes strict control often with external symbolism (such as the religious daubing of foreheads with ashes the day after Mardi Gras followed by 40 days of abstinence.) During carnival, the normal mores of a strict society about status, sex and gender are relaxed for a short period and then re-imposed after carnival time is over. This relaxation allows emotions pent up over the year to be safely released with major risk to the holders of power. Carnival & Culture- sex, symbol & status in Spain by David D. Gilmore published by Yale University Press, 1998] and paraphrased by Ronald Hilton - 7/30/03 here

Last Update: 7MAY06
Last Link Check: 07OCT05