If you are looking for a cultural activity full of emotions, exciting themes, and with many days of fun and entertainment, the Águilas Carnival is the perfect option for you.
Held in Águilas, in the province of Murcia, Spain, this carnival is one of the most famous carnivals in the entire country, to the point that some consider it a cultural symbol of Spain. The Águilas Carnival is so important that, in 2015, it was declared a Fiesta of International Tourist Interest.
To put it simply, we are talking about a carnival that not only attracts thousands of people from Spain, but also visitors from all over the world.
What is the Aguilas Carnival?
The Águilas Carnival runs over the course of two weeks, day after day filled with fun, artistic and cultural entertainment in the traditional Spanish style. The carnival is held the two weeks before Lent, which sets the date of its celebration.
The carnival is known for its endless activities and moments full of colors and humor. Contests are held for those who want to participate (with prizes), as well as daytime and nighttime carnivals where interesting characters portray coastal traditions and customs.
This spirit of the Águilas Carnival was already in the Spain of the 18th and 19th centuries, where people in the two weeks before Lent took to the streets in search of fun and wildness, since the days of Holy Week were reserved for hard work and austerity.
By end of the 19th century, both men and women would enjoy this time before Lent to forget about the daily routine. In the end, the Águilas Carnival became an annual tradition that transcended the years. Today, it is one of the most famous and important cultural and artistic events in the country.
Where is the Aguilas Carnival held?
This large festival takes place in Águilas, located in the province of Murcia. It has a population of 665,667 inhabitants according to the 2019 census.
Águilas is a city on the coastal side of the province. The entire carnival runs through the streets of Águilas, parading across the municipality so you can get to know it in those two weeks.
It is a relatively low populated city, but during the holiday, it usually welcomes more than a million tourists, foreigners and Spaniards who take part in the carnival.
Book your Hotel and Flight for the Aguilas Carnival
When is the Aguilas Carnival celebrated?
As explained, the Águilas Carnival is held two weeks before Lent. Therefore, the carnival of 2021 was already celebrated. However, given the current COVID-19 pandemic and the imposed regulations, this year’s carnival was held in a different way.
How so? Well, to avoid canceling this year’s carnival altogether, the city opted for broadcasting the programs on television and hosting activities at home. This way, people were able to enjoy the activities while preventing the spread of the virus. Surprisingly, it went smoothly!
Although the carnival broadcast on TV and social media was well-received, it was not possible to analyze what was done well and what could be improved.
The city also pointed out that they hope this same alternative won’t be needed next year, since carnivals are about people coming together to enjoy parades and activities full of music, colors, emotions, and a lot of humor and entertainment.
If everything goes well, the Águilas Carnival 2022 will be from February 24 to March 5.
Characters of the Aguilas Carnival
The following are the iconic characters of the Águilas Carnival. However, before we get to know them, it is worth mentioning a character that encompasses everyone else: the Carnavalero (carnival man), who is the spirit of excitement and euphoria.
This character represents all the participants and spectators of the carnival. It represents the Spaniards coming from all over the country, and the visitors and foreigners from other countries who meet and take part in this great festival. The Carnavalero is the Spirit of Águilas!
Don Carnal or Mr. Carnal
He is one of the most colorful characters, with a really extravagant costume, and represents the Roman God Janus. This character is at war with Doña Cuaresma (Mrs. Lent), and while he temporarily wins, he is later defeated in a battle in Playa de la Colonia.
Before his defeat, Don Carnal spends a week of fun by joining the shows and activities of the carnival. When the day of his defeat against Doña Cuaresma arrives, known as Piñata Saturday, a doll is placed inside a bonfire and fireworks are set off as part of this ceremony.
The doll represents Don Carnal’s body, and the burning of it is the symbol of his temporary defeat since every year Don Carnal returns with that same joy, fun and wildness to face Doña Cuaresma once more.
Doña Cuaresma or Mrs. Lent
This character represents sobriety and abstinence, thus, as her name implies, symbolizing the upcoming Lent. She is temporarily defeated by Don Carnal in a heated debate one Saturday before the parades.
Having lost, Doña Cuaresma asks for a truce, and Don Carnal is given a week to celebrate the carnival. After that time, she finally defeats Don Carnal on Piñata Saturday.
La Musa or the Muse
Known as the Queen of Carnival, la Musa represents the spirit of joy and celebration. She is a spirit that fosters creativity and humor in people. This character appears at the opening of the carnival festivities, taking advantage of the moment before Doña Cuaresma makes her entrance.
The fantasy, glitter and magic that la Musa gives off are always noticeable, and she makes sure the streets of Águilas are filled with them the entire week.
In a sense, this is the oldest character in the carnival, since it represents the ancient carnivals that took place in Águilas. The Mussona is a half-human, half-beast creature, thus having a spirit that is both wild and civilized.
This character has a unique characteristic: it can be played by a man or a woman. The costume resembles a marine animal since it is designed with materials from the sea and land.
While La Mussona contributes to a week of fun like many other characters, this one also calls for order and peace. This is possible thanks to the musician tamer, a character who seeks to calm the beast side of the Mussona through music.
How is the Aguilas Carnival celebrated?
Music everywhere, fireworks, games, contests… And this is only part of what you can find in the carnival as there is so much more to enjoy. This is not only a large celebration, but also an experience in which you’ll get an idea of how festivities in Spain were several centuries ago.
This two-week carnival means you get to enjoy fourteen days of fun, games, entertaining arguments, humor, terror, songs and lots of emotions. Part of all this is portrayed by the carnival’s characters, who make sure it all shows on stage.
An example is the Gala of Cambio de Poderes (change of powers) on the Saturday before the carnival, or the Sunday before the carnival when a Paper Costume Contest is held in various places of Águilas.
There are also battles between characters, such as the debate between Don Carnal and Doña Cuaresma, which takes place on two different Saturdays. Another event is the Release of the Mussona, who runs through the streets of Águilas scaring everyone on its path.
Shows, dance performances and dance schools are also seen in the parades. A well-known battle is the Guerra de los Cascarones (War of the Eggshells), where two sides made up of people in costumes and led by Doña Cuaresma and Don Carnal fight by throwing eggshells filled with confetti against each other.
Without a doubt, this event is something that you cannot miss. The motif of this carnival is combining fun, wildness, humor and fear with euphoria. Visitors get to enjoy, celebrate and make most of the time before the inevitable arrival of order and strictness.
How to reach Aguilas
The Águilas Carnival is celebrated in Murcia, Spain, so the first step is traveling to this region. For this, you have several means of transport, whether you are a foreigner or a Spanish resident. These include:
The most common option is by plane since it is not only practical but also the fastest alternative for many, as well as comfortable. Two airports are available for the arrival: the Murcia – San Javier Airport and the Alicante Airport.
Each means of transport has its own set of recommendations depending on the season and the place of departure.
Tips and Recommendations for the Águilas Carnival
A sea of people
Since this is almost a world-famous festival and a well-known tradition among Spaniards and Águilas citizens, you will certainly find yourself in a sea of people over the two-week course of the carnival.
It is essential to pick clothes and shoes that are very comfortable. Most likely you will also have to walk a lot due to the parades and other activities.
Another and very important tip is staying hydrated. You should always carry around a bottle of water since long journeys can be expected, in addition to the fact that the carnival can be enjoyed both during the day and at night, so there will be events and activities to spare. Staying hydrated will be essential.
The weather before Lent
This carnival happens a few weeks before Lent, so you can expect the weather to be somewhat cold and unpredictable depending on the year. The celebration could be in the middle or almost at the end of winter, when temperatures are usually nicer. Our recommendation is that you keep track of the weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
Do not carry valuables outside
Take care of your belongings! When surrounded by so many people, it is easy to lose something you bring along. Valuable items, such as your passport, should be left in the hotel safe or at home before going to the parade.
If you are going to take photos or videos with cameras or smartphones, take good care of the place where you keep them. You can use a practical and simple chest bag that allows you to safely carry your devices.
Take part in as many activities as possible
For a complete carnival experience, make sure you don’t miss out on any of the activities that are hosted in the two weeks. Give in to the atmosphere, the excitement and the joy that you’ll find in every corner. Also, keep an eye on the stage design, the shows and the performances to learn more about the culture and tradition of this carnival.
The idea is to enjoy it to the fullest, to recommend it to others, and to be able to go again with family and friends.
Places to visit in Aguilas
If you are lucky enough to be in Águilas longer than carnival lasts, you can check out a few options of interest to make your stay in Águilas more memorable.
La Carolina beach, La Higuerica beach or Las Delicias beach: While it’s true that the weather may not invite for a swim, the temperature will be friendly enough to allow you to lie down or take a walk on one of these beaches.
The historic center is one of the most beautiful places in Águilas, so if you have time do not hesitate to visit the favorite places of the people of Águilas, including La Torre de las Palomas (the Tower of the Doves), the St. Joseph Parish Church and Los Molinos de Sagrera (the Sagrera Windmill).
Castle of San Juan de las Águilas: This castle of Arabian origin rests at the top of the city, so you certainly won’t miss it. Both children and adults will be amazed at the sight of this wonder in Águilas.