Spain is a very diverse kind of place. It has enormous beautiful coastlines dotted with world-famous beaches, and rugged mountain systems or ‘sierras’ that seem to fill the entire interior. It has arid, dusty landscapes to the the south and lush green valleys in the north. It has great big sprawling modern cities, and remains decidedly rural and traditional everywhere else.
Spain is also famed for some unusual sights and traditions. Many people have heard of the hair-raising bull run of Pamplona, or the bizarre (and messy) La Tomatina tomato-chucking festival. But these barely scratch the surface of weird and wonderful in a country that seems to specialise in quirk. Here are four more of the more surprising examples it is well worth checking out.
If you head to Catalonia in late August and September, there is every chance you could stumble across a neighbourhood Correfoc, or ‘fire run’ festival. Examples include the Festa Major de Gracia close to the centre of Barcelona, one of the city’s biggest annual street parties. The centrepiece of a Correfoc is a parade of people dressed up as devils, running amok through the streets with firecrackers and fireworks strapped to their costumes and pitchforks, setting them off and generally causing mayhem. It makes for a surreal, chaotic, entertaining and slightly edgy experience you definitely won’t forget.
Spain is more famous for its sun and beaches than its ski resorts. But what many people don’t realise is that you can have both. Just an hour north of the famous Costa del Sol – the sunshine coast – is the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Boasting some of Spain’s highest peaks and a snow season that runs all the way through to early May, it is one of only a handful of places in the world where you can ski and swim in the sea on the same day!
Legendary Spaghetti Western film-maker Sergio Leone famously used the southern Spanish province of Andalusia to film his cult hits, which brought a certain Clint Eastwood to global attention. The local landscape certainly looks the part, with the arid semi-desert making a perfect substitute for the badlands of Arizona, New Mexico and so on. One legacy of that golden age of Western films is that a number of Wild West-themed attractions have sprung up. Concentrated in the hinterland around the coastal town of Almeira, one of Leone’s favourite places to film, visitors can now take a stroll through a typical one horse town and even have a drink in a saloon.
Although people think of Spain as very much a Catholic Christian country, for 800 years through the Middle Ages it was rules by the Muslim Moors of North Africa. That has left a lasting mark on the country’s architecture, especially in the south. One of the most stunning examples is La Mezquita in Cordoba – a stunning mosque which, following Christian conquest, was repurposed as a cathedral.
If you do fancy checking out any of these suggestions – especially attending a Carrefoc or going skiing – then make sure you get appropriate travel insurance to keep yourself covered. To find out more about travel insurance for Spain, click here.