Autumn Festival, Madrid (tel. 91-720-81-83): Held in October and November, the Festival de Otoño is the best music festival in Spain, with a lineup that attracts the best of the European and South American musical communities. The usual roster of chamber music, symphonic pieces, and orchestral works is supplemented by a program of zarzuela (musical comedy), as well as Arabic and Sephardic pieces composed during the Middle Ages.
Feria del Caballo, Jerez de la Frontera (tel. 95-633-11-50): Few events show off Spain's equestrian traditions in such a flattering light. Costumes are appropriately ornate; riders demonstrate the stern, carefully controlled movements developed during medieval battles; and the entire city of Jerez becomes one enormous riding ring for the presentation of dressage and jumping events. Horse buying and trading are commonplace at this May event.
Las Hogueras de San Juan (St. John's Bonfires), Alicante (tel. 98-120-24-06): Bonfires blaze through the night on June 20 as a celebration of a festival revered by Celtic pagans and Romans alike -- the summer solstice. Stacks of flammable objects, including discarded finery and cardboard replicas of sinners and witches, are set ablaze. The bonfire signals the beginning of 5 days of parades and 5 nights of fireworks, during which normal business comes to a virtual standstill.
Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians), Alcoy, near Alicante (tel. 96-514-34-52): The agonizing, century-long process of evicting the Moors from Iberia is re-created during 3 days of simulated, vaudeville-style fighting between "Moors" and "Christians" every April (dates vary). Circus-style costumes worn by the Moors are as absurdly anachronistic as possible. When the Christians win, a statue of the Virgin is carried proudly through the city as proof of Alcoy's staunchly passionate role as a bastion of Christianity.
La Tomatina (Battle of the Tomatoes), Buñol, Valencia (tel. 96-250-01-51): Every year on the last Wednesday in August, nearly everyone in the town, along with thousands from neighboring towns and villages, joins this 2-hour-long tomato war (11am-1pm). The local government sponsors the festival, bringing in truckloads of tomatoes totaling more than 88,000 pounds of vegetable artillery. Local bands provide the music for dancing and singing, and there's plenty of drinking. Portable showers are installed for the participants.
La Rapa das Bestas (the Capture of the Beasts), San Lorenzo de Sabucedo, Galicia (tel. 98-154-63-51): In the verdant hills of northwestern Spain, horses graze at will. On the first weekend of July, they are rounded up and herded into a corral. Here, each is branded and then released back into the wild after a few days of medical observation. For information, contact the Office of Tourism in Pontevedra.
Misteri d'Elx (Mystery of Elche), Elche (tel. 96-741-11-00): Based on the reputed mystical powers of an ancient, black-faced statue of the Virgin, the citizens of Elche have staged a mystery play in the local church every year for more than 6 centuries. The chanting and songs that accompany the plot line are in an archaic dialect that even Castilians can barely understand. Competition is fierce for seats during the August event, and celebrations precede and follow the play.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.