Cultural festivals and events on the tourist track
The Nature Areas Route takes in some of the liveliest tourist destinations on the Costa Blanca. Its cultural diversity is illustrated by the wide variety of festivals all through the year, reflecting its history, traditions and beliefs.
These fiestas are extrovert, open and welcoming, intended to be held outdoors in the Mediterranean sunshine.
Light, fire, gunpowder, colour, festive music, originality and magnificent decorations are all elements of festivals held across the length and breadth of the region.
The Moors and Christians Festival in Alcoy, held in honour of San Jorge (St. George) were declared Festival of International Tourism Interest in 1980 and are regarded as the first of all similar festivals held all over the Community of Valencia.
The official dates of the Alcoy festival are 22, 23 and 24 April, although these dates can change because of Easter Week.
Equally colourful and spectacular is the Moors and Christians Festival in Calpe, held in October in honour of the Santísimo Cristo del Sudor. In Dénia mid-August is festival time, with parades of Moorish and Christian ambassadors, flag raising, disembarkation, trumpet calls and the Gala Parade, filling the streets with richly decorated Medieval-style costumes and jewellery, festive music and lots of fun.
In Benitatxell the Moors and Christians festival is held during the second weekend in June, while in Javea festival week is from 12 to 20 June.Elche has its festival in August, in honour of the Virgen de la Asunción, with one event in particular drawing the crowds: the Nit de l’Albà, in which the night sky is set alight with hundreds of fireworks in honour of the town’s patron.
Pride of place on the August festival programme is taken by the Misteri d’Elx, a sung Medieval drama telling the story of the Virgin Mary‘s death and assumption into heaven. The play is now a UNESCO Intangible World Heritage Asset.
Bulls take centre stage at the Bous a la Mar event in Denia, held in the second week of July and also a festival of National Tourism Interest.Heifers are released at the top of town to make their way down to the temporary “semi-bullring” set up in the port area. The other half of the bullring is the sea. The most unusual part of the event takes place in the bullring, as youths try to make the heifers chase them and fall into the sea.
Other festivals involving bulls along this route are the Bous a la Mar in Javea during the first week in September and Bous al Carrer inBenitatxell, with five consecutive days of bull running starting on 25 July.
Two special events in Javea are well worth seeing if you can. The Fogueres de Sant Joan, the Alicante version of bonfire night. The bonfires celebrate the summer solstice and are lit at midnight. They were originally built to burn old junk as a body and soul purification ritual. The bonfire festival has a packed programme of events, including Living Chess (declared of National Tourism Interest), which re-enacts a famous chess match. The two players moving the human “pieces” are usually the winner of the Fogueres de Sant Joan schools chess tournament and a guest of honour.
Two of Alcoy‘s Christmas events are especially exciting. The Three Kings Parade, the oldest one of its kind in Spain, has been held since 1885. The Betlem del Tirisiti is an original piece of puppet theatre that opens the Christmas festivities. The puppet play has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC) and depicts festive customs and traditions from yesteryear.
A whole range of religious festivals jostle for place on the agenda for this route, with unforgettable sights such as Palm Sunday in Elche, aFestival of International Tourism Interest. Thousands of local people carry their white palms as they walk in procession through the town’s streets in a beautiful prelude to Holy Week.
All along the route visitors will find smaller festivals featuring open-air dances, concerts, performances, parties, bull running, fireworks, processions, Easter passion plays and pilgrimages.