As in many other countries with a Roman Catholic heritage, carnaval is a period of celebration in Spain leading up to Lent. Combining Catholic and pagan traditions, these Mardi Gras-style celebrations are a way for locals and visitors alike to break free of the darkness of winter and have some fun before the sacrifice of the Lenten period, 40 days before Easter.
If you’re thinking of visiting Spain during carnival, there are several towns and cities well known for their celebrations. However, today we want to talk to you about carnival in Canarias, where some of Spain’s biggest, brightest—and tastiest—celebrations take place.
The Canary Islands are an archipelago of seven main islands in the Atlantic Ocean, just west of Morocco. An official autonomous region of Spain, called Canarias, the islands have a population of just over 2 million people, similar to New Mexico or Nebraska.
The official language is Spanish, although hospitality workers are often fluent in English and/or German. Moreover, the archipelago’s temperate climate and beautiful beaches, including the nature reserve of Maspalomas, make it an ideal winter sun destination.
Gran Canaria is the second most populous island in the region and its capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, is the biggest city. It’s a great place throughout the year, but carnival time is especially good, as visitors are warmly welcomed by locals and the weather alike, with a pleasant daytime average of 65°F.
The Gran Canaria Carnival runs from February 10th to March 5th in 2023, and the celebrations take place around Santa Catalina Park. The area is full of shops, restaurants and bars and is the beating heart of all entertainment in Las Palmas, making it an ideal location for some carnival celebrations.
The festivities, which have their roots in the 16th century, are defined by the sound of music and the shining colors of the amazing outfits worn by locals as they participate in the carnival parades. Visitors will experience an unmatched sensory bonanza of light and sound, intensified by street parties and street-based music groups (known as murgas) singing their satirical songs.
One of the most striking and internationally known events of the Gran Canaria Carnival is the great Drag Queen Gala. At this event, drag queens show their spectacular looks and choreographies as a vindication of the open, transgressive and diverse nature of the festivities. Tickets sell out within hours and, since 2022, the event has been broadcast afterwards on the Carnival playlist on YouTube.
This is an all-important question, given that no celebration in Spain is complete without local delicacies that, once tried, can never be forgotten.
Of course, this is all about excess and enjoyment before the more austere Lenten period. So, it’s no surprise that typical carnival dishes in the Canaries include sweet pumpkin pancakes (tortitas de calabaza), fritters with syrup or honey (buñuelos) and fried cold milk pudding (leche frita).
Besides that, you can also take advantage of your trip to the Gran Canaria Carnival to try some of the typical dishes of these islands. Among them, we can find papas arrugas con mojo (small unpeeled potatoes served with a spicy or non-spicy sauce), conejo en salmorejo (the rabbit is marinated in a sauce with garlic, bay leaf, white wine, vinegar, hot pepper, thyme, oregano and sweet paprika and fried) or ropa vieja (literally, “old clothes”, a delicious stew of meat cooked with potatoes, chickpeas, aromatic herbs and vegetables).
Indeed, all that talk of sweet food and celebration, and the thought of escaping the cold to find the sun and sand, make us want to head to Gran Canaria and try out the carnaval experience!
If you’re thinking the same, just get in contact with us, your travel partners at Lugarex, to discuss how we can organize a bespoke trip to Gran Canaria Carnival for you.