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Carnival Las Palmas - 15 February to 8 March, 2014

Official details at this link

Carnival Maspalomas - 07 to 16 March, 2014

Carnival Drag

What can I say, WOW springs to mind but words could never describe the atmosphere the weekend I spent in Las Palmas for the carnival. If you imagine Notting Hill Carnival only with everyonefriendly and out for a laugh and then take all the clubs from one night in Ibiza and put them within walking distance of each other and you'd be half way to realizing what kind of place Las Palmas carnival is to be. Friday was the election of the Carnival Drag Queen which, combined with the parties afterwards, is the biggest night of the Carnival's three weeks. The following day was the big Street parade so me and a mate went up on Friday afternoon and stayed overnight there.

The main events of the carnival take place in Santa Catalina park, Las Palmas as it's quite a large, open and pedestrianized area so the ideal setting. There's a huge stage created and on this takes place each of the events. The Friday event was one of the only two that are closed off and tickets are sold (the other being the election of the carnival queen). In spite of blacked-out fences surrounding the scenario, hundreds more gathered outside and spent half the evening tearing down the "black" off the fences so they could see in too. I'd guess around 7 or 8 thousand people were inside and the atmosphere was fantastic; everyone in a party mood and singing and dancing - that's the crowd by the way before anything started. Lots of people dressed up in crazy, carnival costumes.carnival

Several carnival dancers/acts took place first and then probably the most famous TV presenter in Spain hosted the show. There were 15 finalists on the night, chosen from previous rounds. Each one comes out in an outrageous costume which tends to have parts (most parts) which can be removed to leave little remaining underneath. Platform shoes range from 10 to 30 inches yet they dance, stomp and jump around for about 3 minutes to some pretty pumping music. Just about every one of them got the whole crowd going crazy and on the feet dancing and shouting for them in many cases. Anyway, a "mermaid" won after doing acrobatics in what can only be described as "stilts".

The park remained alive and kicking for hours after the show. All the surrounding bars were packed to the rafters and various bands played live music on the stage whilst everyone was allowed in to dance. We did one of the bars before heading to the city's trendiest club, "Mogambos". It's worth going there to check out one of the dolls-houses they have on display - "S & M Barbie with friends", fantastic! As it started to fill up too much in there too much, at around 3am, we decided to head back to the hotel.

Well, that's the bit that surprised me. See, the party atmosphere after the drag show is called "Mogollon" which roughly translated means "Loads". There's 6 of these throughout the carnival and this was the second. The best clubs are all in the same area and nearby the carnival organizers had created about 6 or 7 more but open-air clubs in the same area. Every one was packed and being open-air meant you could have hundreds of people outside each one who could still enjoy the music from inside. At the end of the last one they had constructed a huge, open-air stage where the DJ was playing the most amazing music, really good house and techno versions of carnival music! Sounds a bit daft but when you hear it it's pretty darned good. Add to that several thousand people around and in front of the stage dancing in the streets to the music and that's why I would say the atmosphere was better than Ibiza. You also have people there of all ages, whilst the majority are 20 or 30 somethings, hundreds and hundreds more are either children, parents and grandparents. There's a huge police presence which seems to work fine as I didn't see a single sign of any trouble or one person who wasn't smiling and having fun.

carnivalSo, you wake up from the day before and have just enough time to get your head and blood levels back to normal and it's time to start partying again. The "Gran Cabalgata" or Big Parade starts off from the old port in the north of the city and ends up in the historic quarter in the south, some 15 or so kilometers away. Along the way, both sides of the street are packed with onlookers all the way along. There's people leaning out of windows above and many dressed again in carnival costume.

Everything starts at 4pm and the parade is lead by the winner of the Carnival Queen, followed by winners of the other competitions, each on their own float. There's various Spanish celebraties thrown in somewhere for good measure. The majority of people that follow are groups on foot until the sun starts to set, then the rest of the floats set off each spectacularly lit. There's lots of loud music, drums, singing and dancing all the way through the day and night. The actual procession lasts around 7 hours so the last of the people who arrive at the end have just enough time to go grab some food and then it's out for another "Mogollon" and dancing in the street all night long.carnival

Around a half million people are out in the streets today and added to the crowds that turn out for the other events, this is the second largest carnival in the world after Rio! So - to surmise.....every year, around February or March and lasting for approximately four weeks, the island goes carnival crazy. Although most of the festivities take place in Las Palmas,the island's capital in the north, almost every resident on the island will pay at least one visit to the carnival. By far the largest carnival in Europe, amazing costumes, street parades, street parties, music and dancing are all to be enjoyed throughout the carnival. There's plenty of events in Playa del Ingles too!


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