Andalusia is a region known as much for its colourful and culturally rich festivals as it is for the seemingly endless supply of warm sunshine over its Mediterranean coastlines and seas of shimmering olive groves. Happily, these festivals and fiestas run right throughout the year so there’s bound to be something interesting happening no matter the season. Still, the winter months see decidedly fewer celebrations, and as spring settles over the land the fiestas start popping up like the wildflowers across the Andalusian hillsides.
Here are but a few of the soonest to come, a selection of the gastronomic, cultural, religious and aesthetic; though realistically, virtually every Andalusian fiesta includes a combination of these themes!
“Semana Santa”, the Holy Week, 20th–27th March
Malaga, Seville, and virtually every location all across Spain
The Semana Santa makes for possibly the biggest, most important celebration in Spain, especially in Andalusia where the cities of Malaga and Seville hold particularly spectacular events. This is a full weeklong ordeal leading up to Easter Sunday with daily processions full of somber religious orchestrations and side events, as well as a curious mix of festiveness, pomp and circumstance. Thousands of locals take part in the ceremonies, while the rest of the population crowds the streets to enjoy the spectacle of it all. It’s touching, impactful, entertaining, impressive and oddly amusing all at the same time. Centuries of tradition make this a must see for all, pious and irreverent alike. In Malaga, keep an eye out for native son Antonio Banderas who takes part in the processions each year.
“Dia de Aceite Verdial,” the Verdial Olive Oil Festival, 10th April
“Verdial” is a variety of olive commonly grown in this region of vast olive groves set in the foothills of the convergence of three mountain ranges. With views to the Mediterranean it’s a charming location for this most traditional of Andalusian gastronomic festivals. Periana produces one of the most popular and best selling local olive oils, competing against other Andalusian brands making up 29 of the best 50 olive oils in the world. The two local cooperatives in Periana produce some 6,000 bottles of oil for the fiesta alone; all of this will be sopped up with freshly baked bread and lathered across all kinds of other nibbles. Music, dancing, drink and culture… obviously!
“Dia de la Morcilla,” Black Pudding Day, 17th April
Canillas de Aceituno, Malaga
This gastronomic festival in the quaint little white-washed village of Canillas de Aceituno is everything you could ever hope for in an Andalusian fiesta. Aside from the literal tonne of black pudding and drinks served up free of charge, and the additional gastronomic goodies, there’s the requisite music and dancing throughout the day with live performances at night, children’s entertainment and a festive atmosphere of sublime delight from the locals who look forward to this day all year long. Set at an altitude of more than 600 metres with captivating views over the Mediterranean Sea, and perched against the slopes of the tallest mountain in the region, the setting for this fiesta makes the event an instant favourite.
“Cine Español de Malaga,” Malaga Film Festival, 22nd–30th April
Though this marks the 19th edition of the Malaga film festival, the event seems to have gained more and more traction in recent years. The city of Malaga has invested heavily in the arts and culture over the past couple of decades with numerous new and world class museums such as the recently opened Pompidou and Russian Museums, bringing the total of museums in the city to more than 30. The ascendant art scene reflects in the international appeal of such events as this film festival running through the final week of April and it comes complete with all of the glamour such an event deserves. Surely you will soon be hearing about the Malaga film festival in the same tones as Sundance, Raindance, Melbourne, Berlin and even Cannes.
Cordoba Patios Flower Festival, 2nd– 15th May
This annual event offers a unique opportunity to visit and view dozens of private patios and courtyard gardens decked out in the most amazing floral displays and well designed private gardens. Some public spaces get in on the action as well in what becomes a serious competition to out do the neighbours.
Malaga Gastronomy Festival, 1st-10th May
An even more recent arrival on the up and coming scene in Malaga, this third annual event began as an instant classic and many wondered what took so long. With an increasing number of Michelin stars in the restaurants of Malaga province year on year and an emerging fine food scene making waves in international circles, this gastronomic fair is an excellent chance to discover what all of the fuss is about. Expect more than lots of delicious samples and exciting food; also on the agenda are show cooking sessions with some of Andalusia’s most renowned chefs, debates and roundtable discussions on the direction of Andalusian cuisine, expositions, film and other engaging activities daily across ten full days.
Alan Hazel is Owner and Director of Cortijo El Carligto.