If you’re planning on relocating to Spain, you may be looking forward to the finer things in life – sunshine, food, drink. And the beach! Plenty of newcomers look forward to hitting the beaches in a Spanish summer, but if you’re not a fan of large crowds and you happen to live in a city such as Barcelona, it can be far from a relaxing experience, to say the least.Never fear! There are plenty of other things to look forward to, and several hidden gems where you can go to escape the masses of tourists who flock to Spain during the summer holidays. From weird and wonderful regional festivals to the best places to escape the heat, here’s what to do in the Spanish summer as an expat.
A great way to enjoy a Spanish summer is to explore some of the different regional celebrations that happen, particularly the more eccentric ones…
La Tomatina (Tomato Fight Festival)
One of the most famous and strangest regional celebrations is La Tomatina. This is essentially, a giant food fight. In the Valencian town of Buñol, crowds gather in the streets and quite literally pelt each other with tomatoes. This odd tradition has been going since 1945, but since 2013, participation has been restricted to ticket holders. There’s a saying that “no good story ever started with a salad”, but 145,000 kg of squashed tomatoes and some passionate Spaniards seems a guaranteed recipe for an interesting tale!
Feria De Málaga (August Fair In Malaga)
The August Fair in Malaga is a popular annual event in which the city’s streets are decorated with paper lanterns and floral displays. The day and evening are filled with entertainment and activities, including traditional dancing (notably the local version of the flamenco known as the verdiales) and bullfighting. Colourful traditional dresses can be seen everywhere while decorated horse-drawn carriages pull people through the crowds.
La Festa Major De Gràcia (Gracia Festival)
The neighbourhood (or barri) of Gràcia in Barcelona is known as a quirky, artsy area, which always has plenty of activities on offer. However, the biggest event of the year is La Festa Major De Gràcia. A large, colourful street festival where all are welcome, you can expect to see live bands and larger than life papier-mâché sculptures down every winding side street.
La Batalla del Vino
La Batalla de Vino (the battle of wine) is part of the Haro Wine Festival, an annual festival held in the town of Haro, located in the La Rioja region of northern Spain. The day begins with a procession led by the Mayor, on horseback, where wine is carried in various vessels through the streets and up to the Cliffs of Bilibio. Mass is then celebrated at the Hermitage of San Felices de Bilibio.
Following mass, all hell breaks loose, and as per tradition, people throw wine over each other until everyone is soaked from head to toe in purple. After everyone is thoroughly soggy, the traditional ‘bullfighting’ takes place in town. However, this is more a show for posterity, as there is no actual fighting or killing of the ‘bull’, which is, in fact, a female cow.
Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme, Las Nieves
Where: Las Nieves
Also known as ‘the Festival of Near-Death Experiences’, La Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme in the town of Las Nieves, Galicia is another strange and unique regional celebration. The festival celebrates those who have had a near brush with death in the past year. They hold ‘funeral processions’ where those who have had near death experiences are carried through the streets in open casket coffins.
The festival is so-called because Saint Marta de Ribarteme is the patron Saint of resurrection. The coffins are carried into the small local church where mass is held. After the funeral procession and mass, there are usually firework displays and parties that carry on throughout the night and well into the early hours of the next day.
Escape The Heat And The Crowds
You may experience times when you’re struggling with the heat and are longing for a cooler climate or a lovely breeze. Heading up into the mountains can make for a beautiful day trip, and is less busy than the beaches. Our top picks for escaping the heat are as follows.
Sallent de Gállego, Huesca
A town nestled in the Aragon Pyrenees, Sallent de Gállego enjoys a cool climate of 15°C to 19°C during the summer months. This is the perfect getaway if you need a little respite from the heat. A picturesque town with cobbled streets, a blue lake and an early 16th-century gothic church, this location makes a pleasant weekend getaway from bustling city life.
The main town of the Roncal Valley, located in the province of Navarre in Northern Spain, Isaba is another great getaway from the unrelenting heat that comes with the typical Spanish summer. A quaint-looking village with a mountainous backdrop and beautiful rivers with stone bridges, it’s a lovely location to unplug for a few days. It’s also great for nature lovers who like to hide, given its proximity to the mountains.
Las Arenas, Cabrales
One of nine small Parish towns in the region of Cabrales, there is not an awful lot to do in Las Arenas if you’re not an outdoorsy person, or you don’t like cheese. However, if these are two of your favourite things, then you’re in luck. Not only is it colder up in this mountainous area of Northern Spain, but you can also visit the Cheese Caves, where they make the Cabrales speciality Queso de Cabrales, a regional blue cheese. The surrounding area has stunning scenery, where you can walk various trails such as the gentle Ruta del Rio Casano that takes you along the river.
Hidden Coastal Gems
Do you still want to spend the weekend at the beach, but you’re sick to death of the masses of tourists and all the annoying hawkers who come crawling out of the woodwork to try to sell you cheap tat and dubious substances? Then check out some of these suggestions.
Islas Cíes, Galacia
One of Spain’s best-kept secrets, you’re not likely to get many tourists here. As an additional bonus, the location of the island archipelago guarantees a cool breeze and icy cold waters to dip your toes in when the temperatures climb during the hotter summer months.
Zumaia, Basque Country
The small coastal town of Zumaia has two beaches, both of which are situated along the longest set of continuous rock strata in the world. This leads to a unique coastline. Generally speaking, the Basque Country is one of the less visited areas of Spain, which is great if you’re looking to get away from the crowds.
With its white-washed houses, an old town that sits on a rocky formation, and a 10th Century castle, Salobreña is an interesting town to visit. In fact, it has a history stretching back some 6,000 years. You’ll likely find more tourists here than the first two destinations on our list, but it still makes a welcome break from city life during the height of summer.
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