The Spanish are as well-known for their culture and tradition as their penchant for partying hard, where anything can be an excuse for a celebration. Below are our top picks of fiestas and events in the Spanish calendar, along with need-to-know tips to help you make the most of your visit.
Carnavales in Tenerife and Cadiz
Carnavales (Carnival) is celebrated in all of Spain, but Tenerife and Cadiz are the places where the party really takes off. There, the festivities go for more than a week, with the highlight being their fancy dress parades. On the weekend, everyone dresses up in costumes varying from the Mario Brothers to gladiators. Dates change every year, but generally fall in February or March.
Las Fallas in Valencia
Gunpowder and the ninots are the main attractions of Las Fallas, a fiesta that goes from 15 to 19 March. Ninots are satirical sculptures (usually of well-known public figures or events) that are up to 30m high and take almost a year to make. On the last day of the fiesta, the Valencians celebrate la cremá, the awe-inspiring burning and destruction of these huge creations.
Semana Santa (Easter) is the most important religious event in the Spanish calendar. In all the villages and cities there’s a procession with men carrying a statue of Jesus or Mary and a marching band. Leon, Valladolid and Sevilla are among the cities that have become tourist hotspots for Semana Santa celebrations.
San Fermin in Pamplona
San Fermin, also known as ‘The Running of the Bulls’, is arguably one of the greatest fiestas in the world, not least because almost every year some hapless partier meets with a grave accident. During the week-long party, the population of Pamplona increases from 200,000 to almost 3 million people. The chupinazo (rocket launch) occurs at midday on 6 July at the town hall, signifying the start of the celebrations. From 7 to 14 July at exactly 8am, bulls are let loose to run along a fenced path into the Plaza de Toros (bull ring). After the spectacle, the Spaniards stay in the street drinking and partying long into the night.
Descenso del Sella in Arrioandas and Ribadesella
Generally on the first Saturday of August, the Descenso del Sella is a race down the river Sella in canoe or kayak. As much a social as a sporting event, people travel from all of Spain to watch and to row down the river themselves once the race has finished. The towns Arriondas and Ribadesella close down traffic to allow visitors to pitch tents anywhere they like. Internationally, the annual Descenso is considered one of the most important canoe/kayak events in the sport.