An Alternative Guide to Spain’s Festivals | Hertz

Whilst compiling our guide to alternative travel in Europe based on the continent’s best off-beat happenings and venues, we couldn’t help but notice the carnival atmosphere which makes Spain such an attractive destination every summer.

So we’ve taken some time to pick out a few of our favourite festivals and fetes which are happening in Spain during the next few months. See enthusiastic locals prove their community spirit by walking across hot coals, or join in the tributes to Spanish saints with dance and song. Wherever you find yourself during the hot summer days and cool, chilled-out evenings, you’ll be sure to soak up some of the famed carnival vibes and tuck into some delicious local cuisine.

La Tomatina Festival

28th August, Buñol near Valencia

For one hour on the last Wednesday morning of August, visitors to La Tomatina Festival paint the town red by holding a huge tomato fight. It all starts when a fleet of trucks rolls into town, stocked to the gills with the plump local delicacy. Battle begins at 11am on the dot as locals climb aboard and begin showering those in attendance with the tomatoes from the truck. Once the trucks are clear, the combatants are let loose on the 120 tons of tomato pulp that remains – and the fruit starts flying.

If you want to join in the fun, be sure to get your hands on a ticket before the big event – and don’t show up wearing your favourite outfit.

Race meetings on the beach

8-10 & 22-24 August, Sanlúcar de Barrameda

Witness the unrivalled grace and gallantry of a sunset horse race at the seaside in Sanlúcar, as the annual beach race meetings get underway. Each year a prize fund of 600,000 Euros is awarded to the winners of these hotly contested races, which run beside the mouth of the gorgeous Guadalquivir river. Now an official fixture on the Cádiz tourism calendar, the meeting began way back in 1845 with the foundation of the local racing club after crowds would flock to see which of the area’s fishermen would make it to the market first with their daily wares.

Now bestowed with the royal title, organiser Real Sociedad de Carreras de Caballos de Sanlúcar de Barrameda has made the meeting an essential part of the racing season.

La Mercè Festival

21-24 September, Barcelona

A week of arts, culture and performance takes place each September in Barcelona in honour of its patron saint of compassion. A packed programme of 600 events takes place on the city streets each year during La Merce, with theatre, live music and art performances on every corner. Because of its importance in establishing the city’s cultural identity, organisers on the city council give local acts just as much exposure to the thousands of visitors as they do to the more established artists from around the world.

Spend the whole day experiencing new and exciting displays as you take a stroll through the beautiful Barcelona streets, before looking to the sky as night falls for stunning firework displays and innovative light shows.

Las Móndidas festival and fire walking

June 23 & 24, San Pedro Manrique

As night falls in the small Sorian town to usher in Midsummer, locals and tourists gather to observe an ancient tradition and a unique feat of endurance.

The festivities begin as two tonnes of oak firewood gathered from the local area are carefully arranged and set alight, creating a carpet of burning cinders. At 11.30pm a group of the village’s young men perform a traditional dance around the fire. Then, at midnight, the action hots up as a dozen or so daring volunteers take their tentative steps across the flickering embers. Most firewalkers cross the path with a friend on their shoulders, as the extra weight minimises the risk of being burned badly.

The ceremony ends with a hauntingly beautiful procession of women dressed in white known as móndidas, who carry baskets containing arbujuelos, or long breadsticks. One of the women offers a breadstick to the ceremonial overseer, in tribute to the priestesses of old, capping off a memorable evening and night under the Midsummer stars.

If you’re in the mood for capturing some of that Midsummer magic for yourself, or seeing what else is on offer during the special Spanish festival season, why not visit our alternative guide to Europe?