Experience the carnival atmosphere of the Canary Islands

Carnival

Although the Canary Islands cruise season may be drawing to a close, there is still time to embark on a 7-night itinerary of these volcanic beach paradises with Pullmantur Cruises. Throughout the remainder of February and early March, Horizon will embark on a series of seven-night roundtrip journeys to the islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife and La Palma.

Additionally, towards the end of February, many of the Canary Islands’ residents will participate in a range of flamboyant carnival celebrations that coincide with the beginning of the Christian period of Lent. While these celebrations are synonymous across the Canaries, each island celebrates in their own distinctive way. Passengers embarking on the Carnival in the Canary Islands Cruise itinerary will be able to experience these festivities first-hand and, this week, we take a closer look at the history of these unique carnival events.

Origins

As is the case with many carnival festivals around the world, the basis is religion. The 40 days of Lent is marked in Catholic practice by the abstinence of meat, leading to the formation of a huge carnival event on Shrove Tuesday.

The carnival celebrations of Canary Islands go back as far as the 15th century, when settlers first started arriving on the islands. The Gran Canarian capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, was one of the first cities to participate in these vibrant celebrations. In 1478, the island and the city became known for the ability to bring together settlers from a variety of cultures.

A number of dances were held in Gran Canaria at private events throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. Many documents event allude to the presence of Italians at these events, who were very fond of masquerade dances and the element of disguise.

There are also many references made to the mid-16th century, following the events of the Spanish Conquest. Many islanders were forced to leave their homes and decided to seek fortune within the Caribbean and South America. After the conquest, these islanders later returned, bringing with them their newly-found influences - thus introducing a unique sense of colour and flamboyancy to the proceedings.

This grew into a much larger and organised event in the 19th century, when sociocultural institutions began organising parties that were complimented by parades of floats and masqueraders.

Francoist Spain and Revival

Carnival

State repression of the Francoist dictatorship during the 20th century almost resulted in carnival festivities dying out altogether, but locals across the islands strived to keep the traditions alive by celebrating in secrecy. Dances and parties were held for residents, who hid their costumes under sheets until they arrived at the venue. The element of disguise is something that has always been synonymous with the carnival proceedings – often through force rather than choice due to religious and political persecution.

Following the death of the Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco, in 1975, authorisation for a street party was obtained by and the festival was revived after 40 years of prohibition. Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, the carnival festivities continued to grow, with the Tenerife capital, Santa Cruz, obtaining the Guinness World Record in 1987 for the largest outdoor concert. It was also voted ‘Carnival Capital of the World’ in 2000, ahead of the famous Rio de Janeiro Carnival.

Today, the carnival festivals offer a reflection of the history and culture of the islands, with all visitors being encouraged to join in with the proceedings. The Carnival in the Canary Islands Cruise will enable passengers to experience carnival events on the islands of Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, La Palma, and Tenerife.


Pullmantur Cruises will continue to operate Canary Islands itineraries until the beginning of March. Horizon will then be transferred to the Mediterranean, where she will operate a series of itineraries to destinations across Spain and Italy.

If you would like to learn more about the full range of itineraries available with Pullmantur Cruises, contact us today via the freephone number above or by completing the online enquiry form.