Those in Rio and Venice may be more famous but Carnival is energetically celebrated in Spain, particularly in the Canary Islands, where Santa Cruz de Tenerife, has forged a reputation as the place to party. Fancy dress is the order of the day, replacing traditional masks.


Vying with Santa Cruz for best carnival is the southern Spanish city of Cádiz, where the accent, during two weeks of celebrations, starting on 28 February, is on music and wit. Small groups, called chirigotas, tour the city singing satirical songs and competing for the grand prize.


Catalonia also celebrates Carnival with gusto, with the epicentre at Sitges – a pretty resort south-west of Barcelona, with a big gay community. Festivities begin on 28 February with the arrival of the Carnival King, Carnestoltes. Folk dances are performed and xatonades (Lenten fish salads) are eaten, while everyone waits for two wild parades called Debauchery and Extermination, before the Burial of the Sardine, in which the parading and burning of the fishy image, symbolising the end of Lent brings things to a close on 6 March. Sitges’s Gay Carnival is held on March 3rd and 6th.