Spain has no shortage of fun festivals and crazy events to enjoy throughout the year. One of the best ways to get to know a country is to enjoy one of the famous festivals or holidays, and Spain is no exception. Everywhere you turn there is some unique event or another, making it one of the most entertaining countries I’ve visited so far. Have you ever been to a famous Spanish fiesta?
If there is one festival to witness in Spain, it’s the famous running of the bulls every July in Pamplona. For 10 days the city is taken over by people dressed in the festival white pants and shirts with red bandanas and belts, declaring their allegiance to this annual fiesta. The first day is marked by the famous chupinazo, where a rocket is set off from the main square in front of city hall and the whole downtown goes wild.
Every morning at 8am, the main route though the old quarter is fenced off leading towards the bullring, while spectators ring the fences and climb up balconies for a good view of the run. A huge crowd of brave souls line up at the beginning of the run, stretching their legs and preparing for the mad dash to the bullring. As the bulls are let loose, everyone runs like crazy through the narrow streets, dodging horns and people alike. Lasting for only a minute or two, it is a great introduction to the festivities. Just make sure you book accommodation very far in advance or you’re likely to end up sleeping in a park.
If the running of the bulls was not enough for you, hop on board a train down to the coastal city of Valencia in August to participate in the world’s biggest tomato fight. Once again don your white clothes and prepare for complete pandemonium that can only be found in Spain.
Located in Buñol, a small town outside Valencia, La Tomatina gets tough and messy so prepare accordingly. Trucks roll by and pelt the crowds with more tomatoes than you could possibly imagine. After a few minutes the streets run red with streams of tomato juice, don’t even try to stay dry. Instead, find some goggles and lose your inhibitions with everyone else and start flinging those tomatoes around like you were at cafeteria food fight. Where else in the world can you experience something similar?
Translated literally as Holy Week, Semana Santa is the week leading up to Easter in Spain, and it is unlike any Easter tradition I’ve ever seen. Forget chocolate bunnies and dyed eggs, Spain thoroughly embraces its Catholic heritage for this one week, especially in the southern region of Andalusia. Cities like Seville, Cordoba, and Granada go all out with multiple processions a day.
Each church in each neighborhood has a special elaborate float that they light up with candles and dozens of men carry through the streets for hours on end, followed by members of the brotherhood dressed in pointed caps and long robes. For Americans, they suspiciously look like the dreaded KKK, but don’t worry, these Spanish processions have been going on for centuries and they are really special to witness.
One of the most beautiful coastal cities in Spain has to be Cadiz, in the southwest near Portugal. In February the city swells many times its normal size as thousands and thousands of people flock downtown to be part of the most famous carnival in Spain.
Friends and families form groups and dress up in costume, trying to outdo everyone else as the festival rages on for days on end. They compete with the most satirical and comedic songs and rhymes. The beautiful old quarter is jam-packed with people, so if crowds aren’t your thing, I suggest you visit another time. Spain’s version of Halloween, no matter what Cadiz is worth traveling to all on its own, but during Carnival it’s transformed into one giant street party of costumed crazy people.
If Spain didn’t have enough variety when it comes to festivals already, add in the mix the famous Las Fallas festival in Valencia, where each neighborhood in the city builds enormous papier-mâché floats and figures, known as a falla, only to ritually set them on fire. Fallas is five days of total pyrotechnic chaos on the streets of Valencia.
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Liz’s blog is Young Adventuress, which is geared toward adventure and slow travel. Liz Carlson began the blog while trekking through the Andes before moving to Spain for two years, where she has been teaching English and living the expat life. With over 30 countries under her belt, Liz is now planning to take on New Zealand and explore a whole other side of the world. Follow Liz on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.
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