The climate across the Canary Islands is mild year-round, which means there’s no bad time to visit. In addition, as fiestas are a part of island life, there is a fair chance of experiencing one during any stay, with a whopping 30 days a year officially set aside for festivals. Carnaval rules supreme – but check out the alternative festivals too.
High season is during the European winter, and places get especially busy from mid-December to February, when temperatures hover around 20°C. The islands are also popular during carnival, Easter, and throughout summer holidays (June–September) when temperatures can get up to 30°C. September and October are particularly nice times to visit: summer temperatures still linger, but the high-season crowds haven’t yet arrived. You’re most likely to see some rain, particularly in the north, during season changes (ie November and February/March).
All that said, it is difficult to generalise about the islands. The mountainous nature of Gran Canaria and the north–south divide of Tenerife mean that the weather can be completely different at opposite ends of each island. There are two rules of thumb: the easterly islands are drier and warmer than the westerly ones (Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are normally a little warmer than Gran Canaria).
Be prepared for winds: in spring there is a cold and wet gust from the northwest, and in autumn, the fierce sirocco wind.
The biggest event of the year, celebrated across the islands. In Tenerife, Santa Cruz’s carnival is a wild week of mayhem and hedonism. Much of the action takes place in and around Plaza de España, where the streets fill with costume-clad locals dancing to live bands and DJs until dawn. On Carnival Friday, just along the coast in Puerto de la Cruz, hundreds of cross-dressed men take to an obstacle course wearing comedy-sized, high-heeled shoes in what is rapidly becoming the most attended event of carnival – the High Heels Marathon.
In Lanzarote’s Puerto del Rosario, the Carnaval de Nuestra Señora del Rosario is a festival of music and dance, plus Canarian wrestling.
Día de la Cruz (3 May)
Processions, festivities and fireworks in places with “Cruz” (cross) in their name. All the crosses are elaborately decorated in flowers.
Día de Canarias (30 May)
Public holiday marked by folk dances in traditional towns across the islands. Look out too for Canarian wrestling and sailing events.
Harvest festivals involving food, wine, carts pulled by oxen, and townspeople in traditional costume take place across the islands throughout the summer. One of the largest, and most spectacular, is the Romería de San Roque, held in Garachico (Tenerife) in August.
Fiesta de Corpus Christi (May/June)
Celebrated in towns and villages everywhere, especially La Laguna and La Orotava (Tenerife), where streets are covered with coloured sand and flowers. Dyed salt is used on the roads of Arrecife (Lanzarote).
Fiesta Virgen del Carmen (16 July)
The largest celebrations for the patron saint of fishermen and sailors are in Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz on Tenerife. They include the Virgin being taken out to sea amid a flotilla of boats.
Fiesta de San Buenaventura (Mid-July)
Fuerteventura’s islandwide festival featuring Canarian wrestling in Betancuria, as well as open-air cinema screenings and theatrical performances.
Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de las Nieves (5 August)
The Feast of Our Lady of the Snows in Agaete, Gran Canaria, and several locations in La Palma. Expect street-band parades and a popular evening dance in the main square.
Fiesta Virgen de la Candelaria (15 August)
In Candelaria, Tenerife, thousands of pilgrims cross the island to celebrate the Virgen de Candelaria’s patron day, and everyone is invited to the main square to watch an elaborate re-enactment of her discovery.
Semana de Colón (September)
Columbus Week celebrates the departure of Columbus (Colón) from San Sebastián (La Gomera) on his first voyage to the Americas.
Fiesta de la Virgen de los Volcanes (September)
Celebration of deliverance from volcanic destruction in Mancha Blanca, Lanzarote. Locals honour the Virgen who diverted the lava flow away from their village in 1736, with songs and dances.
Fiestas de la Naval (October)
Processions in Gran Canarian ports, celebrating the Armada’s victory over the English in 1595. Events include the Bajada de la Rama (when revellers wave palm branches to music), a night dip, and the election of the Queen of the Fiesta de la Naval.
Kite Festival (November)
The skies above the dunes in the town of Corralejo, Fuerteventura, are awash with colour during this three-day international event.
Fiesta de Santa Lucía (13 December)
On the eve of Santa Lucía a ceremony is held that marks the beginning of Christmas and the twinning of the towns of Santa Lucía de Tirajana (Gran Canaria) and Lulea (Sweden) in honor of their common patron saint, Santa Lucía.
Cabalgata de los Reyes (6 January)
On the Eve of the Epiphany, the Three Kings arrive (sometimes riding camels) bearing gifts in ornate processions in major towns. This, rather than December 25, is traditionally the day for present giving. The action mainly takes place in Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, Santa Cruz and Garachico in Tenerife and Valle Gran Rey in La Gomera.