From Fiesta to Festival
They know how to party in Andalucía. The region’s combination of sunshine, long nights and proud cultural heritage is bolstered each year by a string of summer festivals. This 356-mile Spanish adventure takes in plenty of them, giving the chance not only to visit a quartet of absorbing Spanish cities, but to join in the revelries while you’re there. The south’s Mediterranean food and Moorish architecture help make it attractive travel year-round, but summer gives the added opportunity to see the region in its fiesta-season finery.
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Best known for its huge “mosque-cathedral”, La Mezquita, Cordoba was once the most important Moorish city in Spain. It’s still a charming place to visit, particularly if you coincide your trip with either La Noche Blanca – an all-night flamenco party on the summer solstice – or the International Sephardic Music Festival, which runs for five weeks from early June. Cordoba’s old Jewish quarter La Juderia forms part of its UNESCO-listed historic centre. It boasts a network of atmospheric narrow lanes – and be sure to try authentic cuisine at Casa Mazal while you’re there. From Cordoba, Granada sits 100 miles to the southeast.
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No Andalucían car hire journey can justifiably exclude Granada. Its centrepiece, the monumental Moorish palace of The Alhambra, has long been one of Europe’s great sights. The city also has some unusual summer celebrations. The Fiesta del Agua y del Jamón (Festival of Water and Ham) takes place on 23 June each year and is marked by a huge water-fight and evening fireworks, while the decidedly less damp International Festival of Music and Dance of Granada is a highbrow arts celebration with global performers. It makes use of several venues, some within the Alhambra itself. Moving on, Almería lies 1 hour and 45 minutes away.
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“We must say adios until we see Almeria once again” sang The Pogues in their raucous hit single Fiesta. The Mediterranean port city remains a spirited destination to this day. It’s been used as the setting for a number of Hollywood films – including scenes from Indiana Jones – but you’ll find drama of a different kind if you’re here on the Noche de San Juan (Night of San Juan). It falls annually on the 23 June and sees huge bonfires being lit along the seafront, as well as music and dancing. Nearby, the fishing town of Garrucha is another spot that’s known for its San Juan bonfires. Your final stop, Murcia, is two hours east of Almeria.
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After crossing the Andalucía border into the Murcia region, you’ll come to the city of the same name. It’s close to the coast – half an hour and you’re there – and you can enjoy beaches that are far quieter than those of the Costa del Sol. The city itself is also well suited to folk celebrations, as evidenced by the Three Cultures Festival, a lively programme of dance, music and art combining Islam, Christianity and Judaism. It’s staged in early summer and makes use of outdoor locations across the city. The Museo Salzillo has a remarkable collection of holy sculptures to add to the overall experience. And for something to eat? Try the creative tapas at La Tapadera.
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