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There are dozens of festivals along the Camino every year. Choose the ones you would like to attend on your walk and book your holiday with us. Here is our list of top festivals on the Camino de Santiago that you can visit while walking the Camino:
Semana Santa (Easter)
This is the biggest Festival of the year that takes place on the Camino. It starts on the holy week or Easter, which is usually around March/April. Semana Santa is one of the most impressive, traditional, colourful religious parades and the parade marches in Spain is nothing like the one you may be used to. If you want to see the celebration in its full glory, Seville and Malaga are the best places to go. Starting from their very religious parade and food, it is worth booking your holiday just for this festival. We talked about Easter at Seville in great details in a separate post, if you would like to read more about it.
Freedom Day, across Portugal
On the 25th of April is the national holiday in Portugal. It is the anniversary of the Carnation Revolution which marked the end of the dictatorship and the start of dimocracy. Unlike many countries, they were able to shift their system without much blood shed. Freedom Day is celebrated with parades, fireworks and different entertainments across the country.
Run with the Bulls (San Fermin) in Pamplona
Every year between the 6th to the 14th of July in Pamplona, there is a festival in honour of San Fermin. As a main part of the celebration, bulls are led through the streets to the bullring. This exciting and dangerous festival is known as Running with the Bulls around the world. It first started as bulls needed to be moved from outside to the bullrings. You can watch the runners getting chased by bulls. There are several strict measures to make sure everything run smoothly without any incidents for assurance. San Fermin Festival is a world famous and historicaly rooted festival that also has many parades, traditional sports and firework displays.
St James Festival in Santiago de Compostela
St James is the patron of Santiago de Compostela and also Galicia. This festivalin his honour takes place during the last two weeks of July. It is full of concerts, galeries and street entertainment across the city, including the fireworks on the 24th of July. On the 25th of July is the Feast of St James is the national feast in Santiago and is celebrated in style. One of the events you might be interested in is the official mass where the Spanish royalties and the Galician government attend. People watch a big insence swing from the roof with a rope. The Camino routes or St James Way are very busy coming up to the 25th of July; especially closer to Santiago.
Semana Grande in Bilbao
Semana Grande is the largest Festival in Northern Spain. The festival starts on a Saturday after 15th August. It usually lasts up to nine days. The festival’s mascot is called Marijaia and the whole celebration starts with her making a grand entrance onto the balcony. This festival is dedicated to the Virgin of Begona or Mother to the Basques which is one of Europe’s most exhilarating street parties. There are also bullfights but unlike “Run with the Bulls”, the bulls’ horns are padded and much safer in comparison. This is the place you should go if you want to experience the Basque culture to its fullest.
Fiestas de la Encina in Ponferrada
On the 8th of September is the Virgin of La Encina, saint patron of El Bierzo. The festival starts on the 1st of September in Ponferrada and it usually lasts for 10 days. La Encina is full of concerts, activities, street entertainment and fireworks etc.
Spain also has a number of strange festivals. Here are our top picks:
Festival of Near-Death Experiences
Unusual from the name alone, this festival takes place on the 29th of July in Pontevedra to celebrate the second chance at life for those who had a near death experience. The locals put the person who came back from the death door in a coffin and carry them to church. They are then reborn there and celebrate their second life with huge feasts. Much like birthdays, after having carrying out this ceremony, you are welcomed by everyone you love. It is a little “thank you” for returning alive to your mother, father or your partner. As strange as it seem, it can give the people a great sense of unity and belonging to their culture.
Baby Jumping Festival
You might have thought chasing bulls or getting put in a coffin was weird. But this one, El Colacho, wins the award for the quirkiest festival of them all. Just like the name suggets, it is a festival where people literally jump over babies. Families bring their infants to the event where they are laid on the ground. Then an adult man dressed in a devil suit jump over the babies in front of crowd of people, including the parents. The crowd is often ecstatic and hold their breath in case the “devil” injures them in any way. In a way it is similar to baptism that it is to cleanse them from all evils before they learn of this world and it has been in practice since the 1620’s. And for people who did not participate, it is said that, they will have to live in constant bad luck, always having to looking over their shoulder for their life. For those who have the heart to watch, this old traditional festival could be a great fun. The exact date of the festival varies from year to year.
Check out our article on Tapas, Drinks and Gastronomy in Santiago de Compostela here
If you would like to take part in any of the Camino festivals along the Camino de Santiago routes, please don’t hesitate to contact our Camino experts.
Travel marketing executive, originally from Tipperary (as the song goes, it’s a long way to Tipperary). Enjoys photography and hiking around the world, visited 5 of the 7 continents. Plans to visit Antarctica very soon.