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Santa Cruz de Tenerife springs to life in spring, when it hosts the world’s second-largest carnival – second only to the one in Rio de Janeiro – and the largest celebration in the whole of Spain.
About a million years ago, near the African coastline, sharp-edged cliffs and mountains emerged from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean and formed the Canary Islands, the biggest of which is called Tenerife. It’s simply paradise, hosting around 900 000 locals and 5 million visitors every year. Even though geographically they’re almost as far from Madrid as Eastern European cities, the Canary Islands belong to Spain.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife - a lively, bustling port city – is the island’s capital. A tropical city bursting with colour, it’s full of elaborate shops, interesting galleries, greenery and fountains. This city, home to around half a million people (including the inhabitants of suburbs), is as busy as any of its large European counterparts – people rush to work and enjoy midday siestas, surrounded by Spanish urban culture; all of which is in sharp contrast to the other resorts in Tenerife, where everything is geared towards tourists, recreation and entertainment. Furthermore, Santa Cruz has great roads, an excellent city bus system and ferries to other islands.
The city was established 2 thousand years ago by blond, blue-eyed ancient Guanches (Berbers), who, it’s believed, came to the island from North Africa. For a long time it was a small fishing village, until it acquired the title of the capital of Canary Islands, at which time it became one of the biggest Spanish sea ports. Now it is the second largest city in the European Union beyond the geographical boundaries of Europe.
Unlike most resorts or the La Laguna university town, Santa Cruz de Tenerife is not known for turbulent night life. The development of tourist attractions is impeded by the locals, who want to be able to get a good night’s sleep before another day at work. However, the city does have a few clubs and bars, well-liked by locals and tourists alike, and the city government is already proposing initiatives for reviving the drowsy capital.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife comes to life in February during a carnival, which is one of the biggest of its kind in the world. It has been organized since the very first Europeans landed on the islands. Colourful festivities in Santa Cruz are mentioned in written documents dating as far back as the 17th century. Now it’s the second largest carnival in the world after Rio de Janeiro, and the largest festival in the whole of Spain. Tickets to the festivities are sold out on the Internet in mere minutes.
During the carnival tourists can enjoy beautiful summery weather. Even when most of Europe is covered in snow, Tenerife enjoys 15-20 °C, while the ocean water is as warm as the Baltic Sea in summer. So if you’re considering when to visit Tenerife, don’t forget the brisk and entertainment-filled February.
One of the main architectural symbols of the capital is the Tenerife Concert Hall. At first sight, the sail-shaped building, designed by Santiago Calatrava and erected on the sea shore in 2003, is just as majestic as the famous Sydney Opera House.