The top 4 Andalucian Summer festivals

Nowhere in Europe do they put on a party quite like the Spanish, and the Andalucian festivals are perhaps the most colourful of all. Every village, town and city holds at least two unique festivals each year, providing a veritable non-stop fiesta season from spring all through summer and autumn. While there are numerous dedicated Flamenco and culinary festivals, the vast majority of all festivals contain at least an element of the most famous of Andalucian art forms in Flamenco song, music and dance, and all will certainly have delicious local cuisine and plenty of flowing wine and sherry. The Andalucian festivals all display a unique and fascinating combination of history, culture, art and cuisine; but most importantly, that Spanish warmth of character that is as scintillating as the Mediterranean sun. Here is a round up of a few of the most impressive and enjoyable of the Andalucian summer festivals.

The festival of Malaga, 17th-24th August 2013

The festival of Malaga dates back centuries and commemorates the incorporation of Malaga into the Castilian Catholic Monarchy in 1487. The Spanish are famed for their love of a good party and with more than 500 years of momentum behind this festival it takes the crown for the biggest and best of the Andalucian summer fiestas. Until recently it ran for a full ten days and nights on end; now a week long festival, it kicks off with fireworks and concerts on the beach and continues with energetic daily street parties throughout the charismatic old centre and on into the night at the fairgrounds just outside of the city. It’s a virtually unending party with something for everyone of every age: there are street performers and Flamenco song and dance, equestrian and bullfighting displays, and general merry making in the unmistakably Spanish style. It’s worth going just to see what the “señoritas” young and old will be wearing and you can’t go wrong even if you don’t have a schedule of the many events. This is a festival that must be seen to be believed!

The “Vendimia” festivals, August/September

The Vendimia is not one festival but many across Andalucia to celebrate the grape harvest. If one is most notable it is perhaps the festival in Jerez, usually around 8th September, but the date can vary according to the maturity of the grapes themselves. The festival in Jerez focuses around their famous sherry, but like most vendimias features processions, exhibitions, concerts and Flamenco along with, naturally, lots and lots of grapes, raisins, sherry and/or wine.

Other notable vendimia festivals include The Night of Wine in Competa (15 August), the Raisin Festival in La Viñuela (13-14 September) and the Fiesta of the Moscatel Grape in Iznate (3 August); however, there are numerous vendimia festivals in each of the Andalucian provinces at this time of year.

The festival of the Three Cultures in Frigiliana, 23rd-25th August 2013

This well organised festival celebrates the history, traditions and Andalucian legacies of the three influential cultures of the Islamic Moors, the Jews and the Christians. It’s a bit of a fantasy time warp with villagers and participants dressed in period garb with artisanal products being crafted in the manner of centuries ago, street performers in character (think fire breathers and belly dancers) and a wonderful culinary aspect that includes two tapas routes with the participation of dozens of local bars and restaurants. One route highlights the culinary legacy of the Moors in Spain while the other typifies Christian contributions; if you make it through the entire route (and can still walk) you’ll earn a well deserved T-shirt for remembrance sake.

The festival of the Three Cultures in Frigiliana

On a more serious side the festival includes various conferences and exhibitions to discuss and highlight the artistic and cultural contributions of each of these cultural groups. The festival celebrates the centuries of harmonious cohabitation of the three cultures in this region of Andalucia, but it also remembers Frigiliana as the site of the final battle between Moors and Christians once that harmony came to a violent end.

“Las Fiestas Columbinas”, Columbian festivals in Huelva, 29th July – 4th August 2013

Since 1882 this fiesta has been held as a tribute to the sailors and mariners who departed alongside Christopher Columbus from the port of Palos, and to mark the discovery of the new world. In 1492 the historic journey set off on 3rd August, so this is the central and most important date of the festival though it carries on for a full six days and nights. Not surprisingly, the fiesta includes many exhibitions and sea or water related events, such as competitions in swimming, sailing, canoeing and fishing; however, this most active of fiestas also includes golf, archery and even football tournaments, not to mention bullfighting and equestrian events. The fiesta kicks off with an enormous fireworks display and continues on with daily concerts and musical performances in the city’s periphery at the riverside fairgrounds, which are lit up like the Las Vegas strip for the entirety of the fiesta.

Alan Hazel is Owner and Director of Cortijo El Carligto.

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