The many faces of Carnaval on Tenerife

by AndyMont

When I was a teenager, my air hostess next door neighbour assured me, with all the confidence of her profession, that, “Tenerife is an island of two halves”.

It wasn't until I made my home here that I discovered Tenerife isn't an island of two halves at all, it's as multi-layered as a Christopher Nolan film script. And, over the next six weeks, these layers will be hitting the streets in glitter, feather boas and killer heels.

Depending on where you are, Carnaval on Tenerife takes many guises - from a week long bender fuelled by copious amounts of alcohol, all night partying and an unhealthy reliance on energy drinks, to spending a couple of hours at the roadside of your resort watching the parade go by. Culturally, the deeper you go, the greater the experience but you may need a holiday to recover.

Head to the island's capital city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife for the biggest and best of Carnavals, and an all-out assault on the senses. Throw caution and conservatism to the wind by adopting a disguise and joining Europe's biggest nightly street parties.

Those who prefer to voyeur can forego the suspenders and simply join the throngs of thousands who line routes to watch scantily-clad dancing troupes and Carnaval Queens in costume creations the size of sky scrapers, all accompanied by the adrenaline-pumping beat of the Latino drums.

Further along the north coast in Puerto de la Cruz, you'll find all the authenticity and razzle-dazzle of the city's Carnaval but in more intimate surroundings. Smaller versions of all the main events and street parties are staged in hill towns all over the north of Tenerife over the ensuing weeks.

Travel down the island towards the southern resorts and, like a snowball rolling towards the sun, the Carnaval experience melts down.

Two of the best places to catch a flavour of authenticity are in Los Cristianos and Los Gigantes where Carnaval Queens, parades and sardine funerals all put in an appearance to tempt tan-seeking holidaymakers off the beach for a few hours.

Tenerife Carnaval dates:
Santa Cruz - March 4-9, 2011
Puerto de la Cruz - March 5-12, 2011
Los Gigantes - March 17-21, 2011
Los Cristianos - March 20-28, 2011

Read more about Carnaval in my guide Carnaval in Tenerife: it's time to party!.