10 Spanish Carnival Celebrations you cannot miss

Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Designated Festival of International Tourist Interest)

After the Carnival in Rio, the Santa Cruz Carnival is considered the most popular and well-known carnival in the world. In fact, in the year 2000, the city became World Carnival Capital following its pirate-themed carnival.
The Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival lasts more than two weeks, a period in which the streets of the city are flooded with rhythm and colour and with spectacular floats and costumes that have been prepared all year for the occasion.

Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

The two week programme includes the election of the Carnival Queen (both adult and child), parades (the Grand Cabalgata Anunciadora is the best expression of Carnival on the Canary Islands), traditional musical performances of rondallas, comparsas and murgas, orchestras, group performances and fireworks.
At any time of the day or night during the two weeks of the Carnival, you will find dozens of people in every corner of the city, dancing and enjoying the atmosphere.

Carnival of Cadiz (Designated Festival of International Tourist Interest)

The Carnival of Cadiz does not give as much importance to spectacular costumes and dress, as to fun, street parties and humour. Above all, a humour expressed through social critique with a witty, acerbic touch.
During the Carnival, dozens of illegal charanga and chirigota musical ensembles parade through the streets of Cadiz, amusing their audiences with racy interpretations of current affairs performed to comparsa rhythms.
They are days of serious partying, laughter and banter… and very little shame, in which all corners of the city are flooded with people singing and dancing wearing disguises as diverse and original as the Carnival itself.

Carnival of Cadiz

Carnival of Águilas – MURCIA (Designated Festival of International Tourist Interest)

Together with the Carnivals of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Cadiz, this is one of only three Carnivals in Spain designated as a Festival of International Tourist Interest.
Fat Thursday: The Release of the Mussona in the Castle. The Mussona, a traditional half-human half-animal figure, stalks the castle and surrounding streets of Águilas scaring children and adults until finally reaching the Plaza de España.
The party begins on Thursday with the Release of the Mussona, which runs through the castle and the streets of Águilas, scaring children and adults alike. And on Friday there is the Battle between Don Carnal and Doña Cuaresma (Carnival and Lent), each supported by their respective entourage, which ends with the War of the Eggshells, in which each side throws confetti-filled eggs at the other.
In the two weeks of the festival, there are numerous parades, comparsas, floats and contests, including the traditional paper costume competition.

Carnival of Ciudad Rodrigo or Toro Carnival – SALAMANCA (Designated Festival of National Tourist Interest)

The bull is the main protagonist of this festival, making this carnival unique among other celebrations.
During these holidays, the Plaza Mayor hosts a hand-built wooden bullfighting ring, in which several events are held. In addition to the traditional costumes, masks and musical ensembles that parade through the city, the runnings of the bulls through the streets of Ciudad Rodrigo during this period are particularly notable. The most remarkable of these events is the running of the bulls on horseback, in which horsemen drive the bulls through the countryside of Salamanca until reaching the city.
It is considered by many to be the oldest carnival in Spain because of the existence of a document dating from 1493, during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, in which Ciudad Rodrigo is criticized for its excessive expenditure on bullfights. Since then, bullfights and runnings have become the most famous parts of the Carnival.

Carnival of Ciudad Rodrigo

Santoña Carnival – CANTABRIA (Designated Festival of National Tourist Interest)

Famous for its traditional musical parades, this carnival is also distinguished by its maritime character.
During the annual Trial at the Bottom of the Sea performance, a seabream is tried for the kidnapping of a siren by a court of fish of different species and presided over by Neptune. Although the seabream is acquitted by Neptune, the trial ends with The Burning of the Bream, after the fish dies from its unrequited love of the siren, culminating in its burning and burial in the bay.

Carnival of La Bañeza (Designated Festival of National Tourist Interest)

The main feature of this carnival is the large number of participants it gathers.
The inhabitants of La Bañeza spend the entire year preparing original and sophisticated costumes, for which reason it is difficult to find anybody without a costume during the festivities.

Sitges Carnival – BARCELONA (Designated Festival of National Tourist Interest)

This Carnival began to acquire its name from the end of the 19th century when the El Retiro and the Casino Prado Suburense Recreational Societies took charge of the social activities in Sitges. The societies soon began to compete with each other, with their rivalry becoming almost a question of honour.
The contest to grab more attention than the opposing society involved an ever increasing extravagance that made the Carnival of Sitges unusually spectacular in the eyes of the local residents of the era and thus acquiring its great local popularity.

This carnival continues to stand out for its ‘anything goes’ attitude in the competition to see who can attract the most attention in this spectacular carnival.

Sitges Carnival

Solsona Carnival – LLEIDA (Designated Festival of National Tourist Interest)

This carnival stands out for its Crazy Giants effigies, the Satire of the Sermon and especially the traditional Raising of the Donkey, in which the inhabitants congregate in the bell tower of the Torre de les Hores to hang a soft papier mâché donkey that ‘urinates’ on all present, in reference to the legend that gave rise to this particular tradition.

Carnival of Villanueva and Geltrú – BARCELONA (Designated Festival of National Tourist Interest)

In 1937, an order was issued in Burgos banning all carnivals in territory controlled by the pro-Franco troops. In 1939, with the triumph of the rebel forces of General Franco, this order was extended across Spain.
This order was nonetheless ignored in Villanueva and Geltrú, with the only Carnival openly celebrated (albeit discreetly) in the first years of the Francoist regime in Spain.

Carnival of Villanueva and Geltrú

In addition to the traditional costume parades, numerous dances and traditional musical performances, of particular note is the carnival figure of the Moixó Foguer, a completely naked character smeared with honey and feathers who parades through the streets in a chariot, accompanied by a charanga music ensemble and a group of people in nightgowns. Also of note is the Merengada or Meringue Fight, in which children do battle in the streets armed with meringues they obtain from various local bakeries.

Carnival of Navalmoral de la Mata – EXTREMADURA (Festival of Regional Tourist Interest)

This carnival is the most important in the province of Cáceres. It includes parades, traditional music ensembles and performances, fairs, floats… and drag-queen competitions. One of the main attractions of this carnival without doubt is the Burial of the Sardine, which takes place on Wednesday and includes numerous tastings of migas, sardines and traditional pork rinds at different points of the city.

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