Spanish festivals: 5 unmissable fiestas in Andalucía

Flamenco dancer in Andalucia. Photo: Shutterstock
Flamenco dancer in Andalucia. Photo: Shutterstock

With celebrations going on in Andalucía all through the year, the enjoyable problem you'll have as a traveller is which to tie into your trip. Fortunately, we've made this decision a little easier with our list of unmissable fiestas in Andalucía.

The Seville Fair (Feria de Abril)

Possibly the most famous fiesta in Andalucía, the Feria de Abril is also the biggest of the Spanish festivals. If you only go to one fiesta, make it this one. It's a week of pure indulgence; a riot of fun and colour that takes place two weeks after Easter. The sheer size of this festival is extraordinary. At the Seville fair, you can watch flamenco dancers perform their mesmerising routines, enjoy the spectacular parades, have a go on the fairground rides, and dance the night away in the public casetas (big tents, to the likes of you and me). The drinks will be flowing freely, so make sure you fill yourself up on tapas so you can stay conscious for as many hours as possible – all-nighters are the norm here. If this sounds like your idea of fun, you might want to check out the Insight Guides ready-made trip to Seville created by a local expert.  

Jerez de la Frontera Horse Fair

An exciting and lively event, this is the festival in Andalucía for horse lovers. The horses are the stars of the show but there is plenty more excitement to come once the night draws in. The horse fair traditionally takes place in the first week of May and attracts people from far and wide to the city of Jerez de la Frontera. For one week, the Gonzalo Hontoria Fairgrounds fills with visitors, who are treated to all kinds of equestrian displays. The horses (and their riders) are dressed in fine costumes and you'll be hard-pressed not to be utterly spellbound, especially when the horses start dancing to the flamenco beats.

If dancing horses aren’t your thing, there’s still lots to enjoy here. Pay a visit to one of the many marquees and tents dotted around the fairground and join in with the dancing that goes on all day. Once the sun goes down, the dancing horses are replaced with human flamenco dancers and the parties don’t stop till morning.

Spanish festivals - 6 unmissable fiestas in Andalucia: horses decked out in festival attire at the horse fair in Jerez de la Frontera

Horses decked out in festival attire at the horse fair in Jerez de la Frontera. Photo: Shutterstock

Cadiz Carnival

Unlike some of the other Spanish festivals, the week-long Cadiz Carnival doesn’t take itself too seriously. Rather than focusing on being a dazzling theatrical display intended to render observers awestruck, Cadiz Carnival is more light-hearted fun and an excuse to be silly. Parody and sarcasm are the order of the day. ‘Coros’ singing groups perform humorous songs, comic solo artists perform in the street and carry signs with funny illustrations, and ‘cuartetos’ groups will improvise amusing scenes for the enjoyment of onlookers. But don't worry - there is still all the extravagance, colour, and noise you'd expect at a fiesta in Andalucia. And you can still enjoy watching traditional Spanish dancers and spectacular parades. It is the highlight of the year for locals, who will often make magnificent fancy dress costumes. Over the years the Cadiz Carnival has developed into one of the most truly unique fiestas in Andalucia, taking place every February. If you want to go to a Spanish festival with a sense of humour, this is the one to visit.

St John’s Night (Noche de San Juan)

Think Bonfire Night in the UK, but in summer (and in Spain). This Spanish festival is traditionally held around the time of the summer solstice and was originally a pagan festival. Over the years it took on a more Christian meaning – celebrating the birth of St John the Baptist. Nowadays, it’s probably fair to say it’s seen by most as a good excuse to let their hair down.

People get together and build huge bonfires on the beaches. These burn all night while people drink and dance around them. Expect lots of music, concerts, and maybe other types of entertainment too. Effigies of anyone famous or disliked are burned and often people will jump over the fires and run into the sea (to wash off last year’s problems and start anew). It is certainly impressive to see all the fires burning along the coastline.

Spanish festivals - 6 unmissable fiestas in Andalucia: celebrating St John’s Night at the Malaga FeriaCelebrating St John’s Night. Photo: Shutterstock

Malaga Carnival (Malaga Feria)

This is one of the most authentic of Andalucía's fiestas; a week-long street party in late August with lots of flamenco and sherry. It’s similar to, but less famous than, its counterpart in Seville. So if you want your Spanish festival experience to be a little less ‘touristy’, this would be the one to choose. The origins of the festival date back to 1487 and the event celebrates the re-conquest of the city. The shows, performances, and partying take place in Malaga town centre during the daytime, but in the evenings you’ll want to be at the night fair, where you can party till sunrise. The traditional drinks, Malaga Dulce wine and Rebujito (sherry mixed with lemonade), are available in abundance, and flowers, colour, music, and dancing are everywhere. If you'd like to visit Malaga, Insight Guides has a ready made-trip, Andalucia by Car, that starts and ends in the city.

Ready to take a trip to Spain?

Insight Guides can help you plan and book fantastic trips to Andalucía and other regions in Spain. Simply get in touch with us to share your ideas for the trip and let us know when you would like to travel. Our local experts will then create a personalised itinerary exclusive to you and your requirements, which you can amend until it's exactly how you want it before booking. You can browse our existing itineraries for inspiration, and keep in mind that they can all be tailored to suit your specific requirements.