Carnival Gran Canaria is a festival of colours, costumes, music and dancing. In February each year Las Palmas, the capital city of Gran Canaria in Spain comes alive with celebrations which the entire island community participates in.
Locally called “Carnaval” it’s a lively, vibrant and open party for anyone to join in. It’s a festival of pure fun that brings joy to everyone from performers to spectators.
Carnival doesn’t just happen in Rio or Buenos Aires. Spain is home to quite a few great Carnival festivals including Cadiz, Sitges and Santa Cruz in Tenerife. This article will focus on the Las Palmas Carnival held on the Spanish Canary island of Gran Canaria. We’ll share everything you need to know about this iconic festival and what to expect.
The history of Carnival Gran Canaria
The history books show island residents holding masked balls in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria as far back as the 15th Century. The festival grew in size each year and it became quite famous thanks to the talented theatre groups and performers. However locals had to hold the event in secret between 1935-1975 due to the years of strict State repression under Franco.
The Las Palmas annual street Carnival started in 1976. When a local Governor obtained authorisation to bring a costume parade and carnival to the streets of Las Palmas after 40 years of State prohibition.
Due to the locals love of colourful costumes, dancing and carnivalesque entertainment the modern-day Carnival Gran Canaria is what takes place now. People from all over the World visit Las Palmas to celebrate and join in with the festival fun.
Photo credit: Rove
What to expect at Carnival Gran Canaria
During Carnival Gran Canaria you can expect activities and entertainment organised for the whole family. A schedule is carefully curated each year by the Carnival committee. Be sure to check the current schedule to see what’s organised.
It’s a celebration that goes on all through the day and night for 3 whole weeks. Most of all you can enjoy parades, games, shows, dancing, costumes and drums. The main stage is set up in the city centre’s Santa Catalina park and most shows are free to watch. If you want to be a part of the performance or take part in a contest you might need to register. Most of the children’s activities happen during the day and the festival builds up to the Great Parade on the final weekend.
The Carnival is centred around a different theme every year and people are encouraged to dress up according to the theme but you can honestly wear whatever you like a long as it’s brightly coloured, sparkly or fabulous. Wonderful Galas are held to celebrate the beauty in everyone whether young, old, gay, straight, able bodied or disabled. Even pet dogs have their own Gala! Be aware that some of the final Galas require ticket purchase.
Photo credit: The Canary News
- Carnival Queen & Drag Queen Gala – First of all entrants are introduced at the start of the festival in a beauty pageant parade. Then one Queen from each group gets crowned in the final Gala.
- Comparsas Contest – Groups of singers, musicians and dancers perform and compete.
- Murgas Contest – Groups of musical theatre performers share ironic and comedic songs about the last years political and social events. They compete in rounds throughout the festival until the final show down.
- The Sunny Carnival – A late afternoon beachfront parade and party along Las Canteras beach. Incorporating music, dancing, swimming and sunbathing all together.
- Traditional White Carnival – Everyone wears white and gathers in a small town outside the city for a party. Watch out for flour being thrown!
- Carnival Nights – Live music and dj’s keeping everyone entertained into the early hours of the morning.
- Bodypainting contest – Performers wearing very detailed and intricate full body paint put on a show.
- Great Carnival Parade – The main procession through the streets of Las Palmas, cars floats, all performers, dancers and musicians follow the Drag Queens and other Gala winners in the final parade.
- Sardine Burial – A huge sardine is burnt on the beach to symbolise the end of the festival. Fireworks and beach parties create a big send off!
As you can see there are many things going on during the Las Palmas Carnival Gran Canaria. It is wise to plan your time and choose in advance what events you would like to see. If you are not too keen on partying, attend the daytime activities. If you want to stay up all night, have a siesta so that you don’t burn out. Also crowds are to be expected but if you find yourself all Carnival-ed out, just hop on a bus to another part of the island to relax.
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Other sights and attractions in Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria has an amazing selection of shops bars and restaurants and some lovely local architecture and beaches to explore. So, if you want to head outside of the city there are many other sights and attractions to enjoy on the island:
One of the biggest beaches on the island and famous for its vast sand dunes. Head to Playa de Ingles and find out how to join the walking routes to explore the dunes.
An 80 metre high volcanic rock located in Tejeda. A UNESCO protected natural site that erupted 4.5 million years ago. It’s great for hiking and has a clearly sign posted trail.
At the opposite side of the Island to Las Palmas is this cute little fishing village. It’s peaceful charming and well worth an afternoon wandering.
On the North East side in Tarifa Alta you can see amazing local and imported plant life. The garden has over 500 varieties on display and is dedicated to preservation and research.
The ancient town of Vagueta
A 15th century town full of traditional houses and cobbled streets. Explore the plaza, cathedral and museums to see what life used to be like on the island.
Sioux City theme park
A Western style theme park where everything is a replica of the Wild West. Watch performances and join in the fun with the cowboys. It’s located near San Agustin in the South.
I hope this article has got you interested in joining the next annual Las Palmas Carnival festival celebrations or thinking about planning your holidays to Gran Canaria this year.
Have you been to Gran Canaria? Or ever joined a Carnival festival? Tell us all about it in the comments below.
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