Festival season is upon us once again, and it’s not just about listening to popular music being knee high in mud and drinking warm beer. Here we feature some of the more extraordinary and outrageous festivals around Europe which can add heaps more fun to your holiday.
La Tomatina in Bunol Valencia, the largest tomato fight in the world.
Each August the streets of this eastern Spanish town are truly painted red as more than 40,000 revellers travelling from all over the world take up arms with 100 tons of tomatoes, pelting each other at the annual ‘Tomatina,’ battle that has become a major tourist attraction.
So if you seek the surreal as well as Spanish food and culture, and don’t mind immersing yourself from head to toe in tomato pulp then the Tomatina festival is for you. Valencia itself has so much to offer, including the now famous City of Arts and Sciences and numerous other excellent museums. Or relax after the stresses of battle to take a stroll and absorb the atmosphere of this captivating city by simply ambling around the old town where you’ll find plenty of opportunities to sample delicious tapas and wold famous paella.
Flights depart daily from to Valencia from £250 pp. return with accommodation ranging from the basic Ibis Valencia situated 10 miles from the festival and costing £50 pp for a standard room to the uber luxurious Las Arenas Balneario twice the distance and costing more than sixteen times the price.
Watch a jousting tournament on the canals at the Fête de la Saint-Louis, Sète, Languedoc
Each August the usually tranquil port of Sète holds water jousting tournaments on its canals in memory of the town’s patron Saint Louis. The town known colloquially as the Venice of Languedoc goes into overdrive during the festival when lancers, suspended on platforms on the stern of a boat propelled by oarsmen, try to knock each other into the water. Revellers can also enjoy festival’s many other events including parades, pop-up bars and concerts, as well as Sète’s oyster filled lagoons, ancient salt flats, golden sandy beaches, picturesque canals, seafood restaurants and traditional markets.
Trains run from London St Pancras to Sète with tickets from £88.36, but please note prices climb sharply during high season.
Cit’Hotel Imperial is located 200 metres from the beaches and costs around £113 for a standard room. Whilst the more sedate Mont Saint-Clair, situated between the old town and the beach, and has a pool cost around £100 for a double.
Honour the gorgeous grape at the festival of Sagra dell’uva, Quartu Sant’Elena, Sardinia.
Held ever September since at least 1787, this 10 day festival in honour of Saint Helena culminates in the very generous giveaway of bunches of home-grown grapes. Wine producers of the province turn out in traditional costumes to celebrate the grape harvest. Carts decorated with grapes, vines, palms, bells and ribbons pulled by horses, donkeys and even oxen follow a two-hour route through the town, a suburb of Sardinia’s capital. More revellers carry baskets of grapes, and trays of cakes, all to folk music from guitars, accordions and pipes. This ardent amassing of the community is truly a celebration of the regions traditions held by, and put on for the local community.
After all that revelling why not unwind on Cagliari or Poetto’s cascading golden beaches on the Mediterranean sea.
Return flights from London to Sardinia cost around £165
As an alternative to a hotel why not try a Villa in Flumini. This quiet seaside town is situated to the east of Cagliari and offers an ideal base for exploring the south east coast of Sardinia. A mere15 minute drive will take you into the centre of Cagliari where you will find an abundance of eateries as well as many historical sites to explore. Flumini has its own local beach, or if you prefer white sandy beaches and turquoise waters can be reached within a short drive.
Villas in Flumini start from £999.
Embrace the powers of flowers at Festas do Pereiro, Portugal.
Wall to wall flowers cover the narrow streets of Pereiro each August, a small town 200km north-east of Lisbon This annual celebration is a typical Portuguese summer festa, where the whole village celebrates its saint with festoons of flowers, feasting and dancing. There is no mistake that Pereiro is the “capital of the flower-decked streets.” This town has a real party atmosphere as it kicks off the weekend with dancing in the town square to pimba music late into the night. Abundant amounts of beer and delicious bifanas or pregos (steak sandwiches) are served until dawn, and keep many of the revellers going until the Sunday procession of the Nossa Senhora da Saude (Our Lady of Good Health) carried on a float through streets strewn with rosemary is ended.
After all that partying why not take a gentle stroll along 2km wooden walkway that starts at the Alamal river beach, 20km south of Pereiro and follows the Tejo, Tagus River enjoying stunning views of the 12th-century castle in Belver.
In peak season flights to Portugal cost around £450 return flying with BA.
Casa Covão da Arbitureira is a beautiful old stone house in Belver with seven guest rooms and views across the Tejo. Double rooms can be booked from as little as €60 B&B
Flotillas, fireworks and a burning ship at the Armata festival in Spetses, Greece.
The first weekend of September sees the tiny up market Island of Spetses and neighbours from Porto Heli (Cheli) gather at opposite harbours for a re-enactment of an epic and victorious battle that took place against the Ottoman empire in 1822. A flotilla of fishing boats lit only by candles, surround a model Turkish ship that is ceremonially set alight as a fusillade of fireworks and dramatic music almost drowns out the cheering crowds This patriotic display is the climax of a week-long festival of traditional Greek dancing, live music, and religious rituals. Orthodox masses are held throughout the area.
Spetses is a stunning little island with a population of around 4000. Completely car free it is easy to circumvent the island on a moped discovering delightfully secluded coves, hidden beaches, nature trails as well as the charming old harbour of Balitza. Sample sumptuous traditional Greek food and wine at any one of a number of sea front tavernas.
Flights to Athens from London cost anything from £370 return in September. There is a connecting high speed ferry from Athens which takes 3 hours, and costs around €54 euros each way.
There are numerous villas and single room lets on the island as well the famous Poseidonion, an imposing luxury hotel with a stately façade overlooking the Argolic Gulf. A superior double costs in the region of £1850 for a five night stay.
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