Santa Cruz's Carnival
is one of Europe's most vibrant and colourful festivals. 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.
Though originally following the religious calendar, the event has now extended deep into Lent itself. Each night the Plaza de España and surrounding streets fill with revellers from around the island, dancing to vibrant salsa beats from bands performing on various stages, or to various pop and rock tunes pumping out of the hundreds of kiosks lining the street. The party is at its height from 11pm until dawn and is particularly well-attended at weekends. Fancy dress is almost compulsory for all who attend, and many will dress in the annual theme.
The highlight of the week is the Grand Procession on Shrove Tuesday - a cavalcade of floats, bands, dancers and entertainers, who march and dance their way along the dockside road. Also popular is the ironically comical Burial of the Sardine on Ash Wednesday, when the effigy of 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.
For the latest on the current year's carnival preparations and plans check www.carnavaltenerife.com .