The best places to enjoy Carnival in Green Spain

Carnival is currently one of the celebrations that best combines tradition with new festive proposals. The north of Spain gives a good account of this situation. And, is that each of the regional peculiarities is present in the most famous of the pagan festivals. This 2018, will begin the weekend of February 10 and will continue, in most of the territories, until Ash Wednesday.


The Carnival in Euskera has three possible names: iñauteriak, aratusteak or ihoteak. The urban branch most representative of the Basque Carnival is located in the Guipuzcoan town of Tolosa. The celebrations begin with Jueves Gordo and continue during the Vienes Flaco, on Saturday and Sunday. On Friday, the Flaco Friday Festival is celebrated at the Leidor theater, starring local residents. Saturday is the turn of the tamborradas, a day known as “Zaldunita bezpera”. A day later, the neighbors go out with their house slippers and pajamas. The festivity lasts until Monday and Tuesday, the day it ends with the burial of the sardine at midnight.
In contrast to the urban character of the Carnival of Tolosa, the historical territory of Sola is one of the main cradles of the Basque rural carnival. Every weekend, from January to April, each village in Sola hosts the performances of several groups of inhabitants. In the so-called “Masquerade of Zuberoa” can be distinguished two confronted groups: the “gorriak” and the “beltzak”. The first ones are good dantzaris and dress elegantly. The seconds, on the contrary, are dirty, clumsy, noisy and disordered.

Maskarada in Zuberoa


Speaking about the Entroido , Galician term with which Carnival is known, requires talking about three localities in Ourense: Xinzo de Limia, Verín and Laza. The celebrations of these three municipalities are characterized by maintaining ancestral traditions that are reflected in the costumes, different according to the territory. In Verín, the most famous costume is that of the “cigarette” , a character whose existence goes back to the sixteenth century and which is linked to the tax collectors of the time. They wear a wooden mask, in which a mustache and a big smile stand out. The dress consists of a white shirt, tie and a jacket. As complements, they carry a whip in their hands and clash at the waist.
In Xinzo de Limia, the “screens” are the protagonists. Its name is due to its peculiar mask, which is accompanied by an outfit composed of a white shirt and shorts and a red cape. Their purpose is to ensure that everyone goes in disguise, and make their presence known by the sound of the bells that surround their waist and hitting two dry and inflated cow bladders that they carry in their hands.
Laza, on the other hand, is characterized by the presence of “peliqueiros” , very similar to “cigarróns”, with the difference of the animal skin like a ponytail that hangs from the back of the mask of the first, what gives it its name.



From the Entroido, to the Asturian Antroxu . In its origins, the Antroxu participants painted their faces black with soot and disguised themselves as animals with the skins of cattle. The change of sex at the time of disguise was widespread, a custom criticized by the Church and that led to the Carnival was banned in Asturias until the arrival of democracy in the 80s of the last century . The current Antroxu retains the essence of yesteryear, although the forms and costumes have been modernized.
The rural Antroxu is kept in some locations in Asturias, where ancestral masks are kept, with which the Carnival characters are disguised. Among them, the Guirrios de Ponga, Laviana, San Martín and Langreo stand out; Lena’s Zamarrones; the Zaparrastros de Aller; the Reises of Ibias and Valledor, the Bardancos de Caso; the Guilandeiros de Tineo or the Sidros de Siero. One of the most famous characters of the Antroxu is the Guirria, half man and half demon. El Guirria is considered the king of the Asturian Carnival and goes out into the streets in New Year to ask for the bonus and commit mischief. In this festival, of Tourist Interest for the Principality, the Guirria embraces the women of the town and throws ashes at men.

Sidros at the Asturian Carnival


The Carnival of the Cantabrian town of Santoña, also known as “Carnaval del Norte” , is characterized by its maritime character. Considered a Festival of National Tourist Interest, this celebration has the participation of many of the neighbors of the area, who come dressed as different species of fish.
The most important moment of the festivities is marked by the “Judgment on the Seabed” , a representation in which the sea bream, king of the Santoña Carnival, is judged for the abduction of a mermaid before the last act, “The Burning of the Bream” . The trial, featuring different marine species, takes place in the Plaza de San Antonio.
Another of the most traditional celebrations of Cantabria is the Carnival of the Zamarrones , in the municipality of Polaciones. The white Zamarrones go through the villages of the valley, applying the “sabaneo” to the single women, splashing them with mud and water with a sack tied to a stick that supports them. This curious ritual continues with the races in pursuit of the girls, for whom it is an honor to receive the sabaneo.

Zamarrones in Cantabria, by Ricardo Vega