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Twelve epic festivals in Spain to attend in 2017

Hundreds of fiestas take place across Spain each year, whether it be a small village celebrating their patron saint or nationwide celebrations. Here is our pick of the best.

Twelve epic festivals in Spain to attend in 2017
Seville's April Fair is something to dress up for. Photo: AFP

Carnival, February 11th


Photo: Desiree Martin/AFP

They may not have pancake day, but Spaniards know how to let their hair down before the frugality of Lent. Carnival fever sweeps across the nation as people prepare their costumes ready for a big party. While Rio style parades are held in the Canary Islands, some smaller celebrations really capture the imagination.

Las Fallas, Valencia, March 15th – 19th


Photo: AFP

Each March in Sagunto, Valencianos celebrate Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. After months spent creating giant papier-mâché models satirizing politicians and popular figures of the day, the ninots are paraded through the streets before being burnt in a ferocious climax of bonfires and fireworks. The festival has now been awarded Unesco heritage status. 

Semana Santa (Holy week), March 25th -31st

An Easter procession in Palma de Mallorca. Photo: AFP

Easter week is one of the year's biggest celebrations in Spain, where towns and cities stage processions and passion plays to reenact the last days of Jesus and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Andalusia is home to some of the biggest and most elaborate processions, but wherever you are in Spain, there will be plenty going on for Semana Santa. 

April Fair, Seville, April 15th – May 22nd

One of the most beloved fiestas in Seville happens around two weeks after Easter week every year, when people don traditional dress, dance Sevillanas and eat, drink and are merry during the Feria de Abril. Families have their own casetas, or marquees, but if you don't know anyone with access to an exclusive caseta, have no fear – the partying and dancing spills out onto the streets of Seville, meaning everyone can join in the fun, that often lasts well into the early hours. 

Moors and Christians Festival, Alicante region, throughout the summer



Photo: Esther Sánchez/ Chocolatisimo.com/ Flickr

Towns across the Alicante region, from Alcoy to Altea celebrate their own versions of Moros y Cristianos, travelling back in time to the Middle Ages and the reconquista battles that saw the forces of the Catholic monarchs reclaim Spain. Teams dress up as Crusaders and Arabs and re.enact the battles. 

Patios de Córdoba (Córdoba courtyards festival), Córdoba, May 1st-13th


Photo: Roberto / Wikimedia Commons.

The citizens of Cordoba will be competing for the prize of who has the most lush courtyard, decorating their patios with bright flowers, leafy green plants, fountains and more. The tradition dates back to 1921 with the town hall organising a competition, along with music, dancing and wine.

Romería de El Rocío (El Rocio Pilgrimage), Almonte, May 20th-21st


A group with their 'simpecado', or copy of the Virgin. Photo: Avicentegil / Wikimedia Commons.

The most famous of Spain’s Romerias, El Rocio attracts some one million people on a pilgrimage to the saint, with some travelling on horseback, other by carriage or on foot dressed in traditional flamenco-style outfits. Expect live music, dancing, food and drink until well into the early hours.

Battle of Wine, La Rioja, June 29th


Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

For the last three centuries, revellers have gathered in the town of Haro, La Rioja, every June 29th for “La Batalla del Vino” – literally, the Battle of Wine. Dressed all in white with red neckerchiefs, thousands of participants gather at the Hermitage of San Felices de Bilibio for a mass to celebrate the feast day of San Pedro. Then they douse each other in vino.

Gay Pride, Madrid, June 28th – July 7th


Photo: AFP

Stiletto races, Mr Gay Pride contest and live street performances are all part of one of the biggest and best gay pride events in Europe culminating on the 7th July with a colossal parade through the capital. 

San Fermin, Pamplona, July 6th-14th


Photo: Ville Miettinen/Flickr

As much a Spanish institution as tapas, flamenco and paella is bull running, and the San Fermin running of the bulls in Pamplona is by far the biggest event of its kind in Spain, thanks to being made world famous by Ernest Hemingway. The festival runs from the 6th-14th July. Anyone can take part in the 8am 'encierros' as long as they’re over eighteen and sober.

FIB – Festival Internacional de Benicassim, Benicassim, Valencia, July 19th-22nd


Photo: AFP

An ever-popular fixture on the international festival circuit dubbed 'Glastonbury in the sun', FIB takes place in the Valenciano seaside resort of Benicassim. The Killers are headlining in 201.8

La Tomatina Tomato Fight, Buñol, August 29th


Photo: AFP

The small town of Buñol, 40km from Valencia, probably offers one of Spain’s funniest festivals. Each summer, 40,000 people take part in the world’s biggest food fight, throwing tomatoes at each other to create one huge mess. Held the last Wednesday of August, participants are now required to buy tickets in advance.

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FESTIVAL

The crazy ways to celebrate carnival in Spain

As carnival gets underway across Spain next week, The Local gives you the run down on where to see some of Spain's wackiest celebrations.

The crazy ways to celebrate carnival in Spain
Revellers dressed as clowns for carnival in Cadiz. Photo: AFP
Running from February 19th until Ash Wednesday on February 26th carnival week is a big deal in Spain. It is celebrated in dozens of different ways across Spain. Here are some of the biggest and more unusual parties.  
 
Mud madness 
 

Photo: AFP
 
If you’re spending Carnival in Galicia, chances are you’ll get more than just a spot of rain. So why not take it a step further and get involved in a full-on mud battle? Entroido Carnival, in the town of Laza, sees locals engaged in a friendly war where rags drenched in mud are thrown at random at everyone taking part.
 
Grotesque grins 
 

Photo: AFP
 
Entroido Carnival in Laza also offers an alternative to those who don’t want to wash mud out of their hair for a week. Os Peliqueiros, seen in the image wearing odd traditional clothing and creepy masks, are ancestral figures thought to represent Galician taxmen in the 16th century. Up to 150 run through the streets of this small town in northern Spain, whipping anyone who gets in their way.
 
Santa Cruz carnival, Tenerife 

Photo: Desiree Martin/AFP

Billed as the best place to celebrate carnival outside of Rio de Janiero, the Santa Cruz carnival in Tenerife runs from Wednesday 19t February to Sunday 1st March. It  draws crowds of 400,000 and involves street parties, parades, satirical street bands and of course, the crowning of a carnival queen. Full details of events found HERE:

 
Drag queen election
 

Photo: AFP
 
You can't get much glitzier than the annual carnival celebration in Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria. The surreal nature and extravagant costumes seen at each year’s pageant are a feast for the senses, making the event just as popular as the standard Carnival Queen election in neighbouring Tenerife. Anyone can take part in the drag gala, but only a handful of women have taken to the stage since the celebration began in 1998.
 
Where the wild things are 
 

Photo: AFP
 
If you fancy reliving some childhood nightmares head to the village of Piasca in Cantabria, northern Spain. There you will find half of the locals covered in animal skins and wearing unnerving animalistic masks, who will no doubt chase you away with their brooms. Another tradition of the so-called Zamarrones Carnival involves going from door to door begging for sausages, eggs and bacon while heading to the neighbouring village of Los Cos.

Carnival of Carrizo de la Ribera, Leon

Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

Another carnival with cowbells, this time, locals dress up as characters called 'antruejos' (shown in picture, above), terrifying looking figures that you definitely wouldn't want to meet on a dark night. 

 
Powder party

 

Photo: AFP
 
Los Indianos festival sees thousands of people dressed in white take to the streets of La Palma (Canaries) and chuck talcum powder at each other for hours on end. The fiesta’s name refers to the Canarian migrants who sought a better life in Latin America in the 19th century and were greeted warmly on their return to the island of La Palma. As for the talcum tossing, it's thought to be linked to the disinfectant powder sprinkled on the travellers to avoid the spread of disease.
 
Load of bull?
 

Photo: AFP
 
It may come as no surprise that one Spanish town has linked two of the country’s greatest traditions together: bull running and Carnival. After all, if being chased by a 700-kilo beast seemed foolish enough already, doing it in fancy dress seems to make sense somehow. Head to Ciudad Rodrigo near Salamanca (west Spain) for El Carnaval del Toro.
 
Burial of the sardine
 

Photo: AFP
 
Celebrations turn a bit too surreal in many parts of Spain when on Ash Wednesday the streets are jam-packed with fake weeping widows, men and women, who follow a giant polystyrene sardine to its burial. The message behind the funeral parody is more symbolic than it may initially seem: the sardine represents life’s excesses and its burning at the stake, the purge of such vices and the rebirth of our souls. 
 

Basque bigfoots
 

Photo: AFP
 
Old habits die hard, especially ancient ones in the Basque Country and Navarre. Carnival traditions in the villages of Ituren and Zubieta (Navarre) see locals dress up as wild beasts from head to toe as they march through the streets escorted by Joalduns, “those who carry the bells” to scare away the evil spirits. Similar medieval traditions revolving around farming and animal herding are also found in Slovenia and Bulgaria.
 
Meet the giants
 
Photo: http://solsonaturisme.com

In Solsona, Catalonia, carnival festivities have a long history. Under Franco, the celebrations were forbidden; however, the city was the first to begin celebrating again after his death. This carnival gives you the opportunity to experience some Catalan culture traditions, chief among them the parade of the gegants or the symbolic hanging of the (Catalan) donkey.

Arrival of the birds

Photo: carnaval.villarrobledo.com

The carnival in Villarrobledo is another one with a long history which goes back to the 19th century. Traditionally, the festivities begin on Thursday with the Llegada de los Juanes, a parade of people wearing bird masks. They are the opening act for ten days full of costumes, fun and fiestas. There is also a children's carnival with its own costume competition.

Carnaval del Vino de Haro


Photo: lariojaturismo.com

In La Rioja, fans of classy celebrations might find exactly what they are looking for. This year's celebrations follow a Murder on the Orient Express theme, with wine playing a major role. Local bodegas present their latest creations. Salute!

Gay carnival in Sitges

More than 250,000 people flock to the coastal town of Sitges about 35 kilometres from Barcelona for one of the biggest gay carnivals in the world. Starting on Tuesday 18th to Wednesday February 26th, the week is packed with parades, parties and shows and the gay-friendly town opens its doors to thousands of revellers. By the way, this one is also said to be one of the safest street festivals of the world. Best party night is on Saturday!

Drink and dress up


A carnival choir entertains the crowds in Cadiz. Photo: AFP

The carnival in Cádiz is one of the most famous in Spain, dating back to the 16th century. These days it's all about dressing up and poking fun at politicians and people in the news, as well as the usual eating and drinking of course.