The Most Extreme Festivals to Enjoy in Spain

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Whether aiming for glory in sports or simply finding an excuse for a good celebration, Spaniards never do anything by halves. As a tourist destination for thrill-seeking travelers, this probably explains why Spain is one of the most exciting European countries to visit.

Sporting & Festival Culture

The two most popular sports in Spain are undoubtedly soccer and basketball. Real Madrid and Barcelona enjoy the strongest support in the Spanish soccer scene, traditionally dominating the race for LaLiga and European trophies. However, these two multi-sport clubs also boast phenomenally successful basketball teams.

As of early April, FC Barcelona Bàsquet are tipped at +175 odds to win the 2020-21 EuroLeague. Meanwhile, Real Madrid Baloncesto are considered to have an outside chance this year, priced at +1200 odds, despite being the most successful team in European basketball history.

Of course, aside from the passion for soccer and basketball, Spaniards enjoy every other kind of sport you can imagine, driven by strong traditions and a fiercely competitive spirit. Spain is also famed for the excess and exuberance of local celebrations, which brings us to some of the most bizarrely fascinating activities and festivals in the world.

Cascamorras

Few locations in the world boast so much diversity as the province of Granada, in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. This location has everything the adventurous traveller could possibly want, including excellent snowboarding and skiing facilities in the Sierra Nevada.

It is entirely possible to bathe in the Mediterranean Sea, ski on the Sierra Nevada slopes, walk around the Alhambra fortress, and enjoy the culture and fine dining of Granada city, all in one day. In addition, you could also visit one of the strangest festivals in Spain.

For three days each year in late summer, the neighboring towns of Guadix and Baza celebrate the Fiesta de Cascamorras, literally fighting for possession of a local statue. Local history says this all stems from when a worker from Guadix, named Cascamorras, uncovered a sacred image of the Virgen de la Piedad (Our Lady of Mercy) in 1490, while he was working on land in Baza.

The statue remains at a church in Baza and sparked a religious festival every September. However, local legend has it that if someone from Guadix can steal the religious icon, reaching the church without getting dirty, they could claim it for the rival town.

Now, crowds gather as a modern ‘Cascamorras’ in a harlequin suit aims to do just that, with stops at two fountains as a traditional dunking of the would-be thief. At each festival every participant usually ends up getting absolutely filthy, covered in mud, oil, and paint.

La Tomatina

The Province of Valencia is home to all manner of extreme sports, especially along the coast and around the provincial capital of Valencia itself. Water sports are a part of daily life here, from wakeboarding to windsurfing and much more.

Nevertheless, it’s inland where you will find one of the strangest and most famous festivals in the world, in the small town of Buñol about 19 miles from the coast. Held on the last Wednesday of August, La Tomatina attracts crowds in their thousands each year.

It all started back in 1945, during a carnival featuring people dressed as giants or donning oversized heads. One of the participants was jostled by the crowd, causing his big head to fall off. A fight ensued and a market stall filled with tomatoes provided ammunition, as the crowd pelted one another.

In the following years, locals established pre-arranged tomato fights, leading to what has become a traditional annual celebration. The boom in popularity came about in the 1980’s, following a national television report, which appeared elsewhere around the world.

La Tomatina has been banned and revived numerous times over the years, although over the last decade, tens of thousands attend and must register participation in advance. There are also strict safety rules in place, now that crowds of over 100,000 regularly fill the tiny town of Buñol.

Spain is Famed for Festivals

While both Cascamorras and La Tomatina have become increasingly famed, even sparking towns in other countries to copy or emulate their festivities, Spain itself is a thriving festival hub.

Whether it’s participating in festivals dedicated to extreme sports or simply an excuse to celebrate local traditions, in every province and every region of Spain, there’s always something unique to enjoy throughout the year.