The Spanish are known for having some of the most famous festivals in the world. Surely you know of the Running of the Bulls and La Tomatina, or the Tomato Fight, but perhaps these lesser-known Spanish festivals may be worth your visit!
Batalla del Vino is a huge wine battle that takes place in the region of La Rioja on June 29th. The event occurs atop a hill just outside the small town of Haro. The battle originates from a land dispute dating back the 10th century, though the first wine battle occurred in the early 1900s. Just before 9am, people march up the hill and begin throwing wine at each other for no other reason than having fun and celebrating tradition. As you make your way up, you see wine being tossed from boxes, buckets and water guns. There seems to be no rules to the battle so the more ruthless the better!
The Batalla Naval, translated to the Naval or Water Battle is an annual tradition that takes place 10 kilometers from central Madrid in the neighborhood of Vallecas. The event started in the early 1980s on a hot summer day in July. With temperatures above 105F, a group of local children began a water fight to cool off. Ever since, the event has taken place yearly now with more than 10,000 people in attendance. Participants parade through the streets not only throwing water at each other, but at the neighbors above who are consequently throwing buckets of water out their windows. Though not a legendary festival, its still an exciting event worth attending if you plan to visit Madrid in July.
The World of Music, Arts and Dance Festival, (WOMAD) is held in Caceres at the beginning of May. The first WOMAD event was held in 1982 and since then they have hosted more than 160 festivals in 27 countries. The event starts on Friday evening in the main plaza and attracts thousands of local and regional visitors. Food and drink is abundant surrounding the square, though the locals take a more cost effective approach by bringing their own drinks inside, including sangria and calimochos red wine mixed with cola. The festival lasts until Sunday and the stage is packed with musical and dance performances the entire weekend.
Semana Cervantina is held each year in Alcal de Henares, a small town 30 kilometers from Madrid. The people of Alcal celebrate in early October in honor of Miguel de Cervantes, the famous Spanish author of Don Quixote, who was born here in the 16th century. In addition to the festival, the historic center of the city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is worth a visit on its own. The festival will take you back in time to the medieval days when Cervantes was born. Street vendors dress up in costumes and sell all sorts of fare including meats, cheeses, nuts and sweets. You can also find plenty of performances, poetry readings and childrens activities. The festival is free and occurs during the week of October 9th.
Carnival is a public celebration and parade of people in costumes held just before Lent. Rio de Janiero may be known for the biggest and most elaborate celebration, but the event in Cdiz is the largest and most animated in Spain. The festival is 10 days long and involves an abundance of singing, dancing and drinking. The tradition in Cdiz is based around groups of people in costume (called murgas) parading around the street, singing or performing sketches. Though you'll miss some of the wit and humor if you don't speak Spanish, it's still a sight worth experiencing. The dates of Carnival in Cdiz change each year according to the Easter calendar.
What festivals do you enjoy attending in your home country?
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Auston grew up in Phoenix before escaping to Chicago in 2008. After 4 years working as an engineer, he sold his belongings and embarked on a round-the-world trip. After traveling non-stop for a year, he finally settled in Spain with his husband where he now calls home. When he's not traveling or writing guides about events, festivals or the best LGBT destinations, he enjoys the long sunny days and nightlife of Madrid. Read Auston's blog at Two Bad Tourists, or follow him on Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram.
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