40390 Biaudos, France

80+ Basque festivals to plan your next trip to the Basque Country

What to do in Saint Jean de Luz : Udaberria dance festival

Have you ever visited the Basque Country and regretted missing out on interesting Basque festivals?

Or maybe you live here and find it difficult to organize your cultural outings to discover the region’s traditional festivals?

As I live in the Basque Country Landes since 2002, I know how frustrating it can be.

I may be specialized in promoting traditional festivals, but I myself have the greatest difficulty in getting the right advice and I have had to set up my own organization in recent years to try not to miss important dates!

Today, I have therefore decided to share with you my agenda for the Basque festivals, so that you can anticipate your stay in the Basque Country Landes according to the festivals that interest you.

Be careful, however, this agenda is by no means exhaustive and corresponds to some of the most traditional moments of Basque culture. Also, check the dates with the tourist offices as often I have to determine the dates according to my experience; plus some festivals are sometimes cancelled without any notice.

For the summer period, a complete guide to the activities is available in the tourist offices.

If you know of a Basque festival that might be of interest to me and could be included in this listing, feel free to let me know via the comment section at the bottom of the page or via the contact form.

You will also find some interesting festivals in Bearn as it’s very close to my vacation rental.

If you are looking for an apartment to rent 16 kilometers from Bayonne, don’t hesitate to visit me! The apartment, which can be booked on Airbnb site with a commission or directly from me, can accommodate 5 people. It is located on the ground floor of my house, on a 2,500 m² enclosed orchard, in the Seignanx countryside. For babies, a bed, high chair and bathtub are provided. Dogs are welcome and there is no danger of escape, the fence being high enough. Central heating is included. >> Check the price, full description and photos on the Airbnb website. Contact me directly for your reservation and my guiding services to save Airbnb’s extra costs.

Agenda of 80+ festivals in the Basque Country
Basque horseman, zamalzain

Summary of the article.

Frequently asked questions.

How to make the most of Basque festivals?

Nothing beats the support of a local! It will be easier for you to decrypt the codes, feel more comfortable and have the right information.
Thanks to my partnership with a local travel agency, I can now not only accompany you during your trip, but also organize your trip from start to finish. Contact me via the form below, letting me know your needs.

Where do the most interesting Basque festivals take place?

Each of the 7 Basque provinces has its own traditional festivals.
My favourites are the carnivals of Navarre, the Fête Dieu in Labourd and Basse-Navarre, the traditional Basque dance festival of the 7 provinces in Saint Jean-de-Luz, the Via Crucis Viviente in Balmaseda and the pilgrimages of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in Vizcaya, the alarde d’Irun and Hondarribia in Guipuscoa, Biarritz in Christmas lights, the souletine pastorale. And I forget some!

And where exactly is the Basque Country?

The Basque Country is located in the South West of France. It is a part of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. There are 3 Basque provinces on the French side.
It is also located in the north of Spain, with 4 Basque provinces.

Are there any ferias in the Basque Country?

No, we don’t use the term feria in the Basque Country! We talk about Basque festivals, village festivals, traditional festivals, carnivals, masquerades, pastoral, alarde, Fête Dieu, etc. depending on the type of festival. The ferias are organised around the bull, which is never the case in the Basque Country, even for the famous festivals of Pamplona.

Top Basque festivals.

  • TAMBORRADA – SAN SEBASTIAN. January 20, 2020.
  • NAVARRE CARNIVALS – NAVARRE PROVINCE. January 27 to February 25, 2020.
  • SEMANA SANTA – SPAIN (Via Crucis Balmaseda – Volatin Tudela…). April 5 to 12, 2020.
  • SAN PRUDENCIO – VITORIA. April 27 and 28, 2020.
  • FÊTE DIEU – BASSE NAVARRE. June 14 and 21, 2020.
  • ALARDE – IRUN AND HONDARRIBIA. June 30, 2020. September 8, 2020.
  • SAN FERMIN – PAMPLONA. July 6 to 14, 2020.
  • BAYONNE FESTIVAL – BAYONNE. July 29 to August 2, 2020.
  • VIRGEN BLANCA – VITORIA. August 5, 2020.
  • ASTE NAGUSIA – SAN SEBASTIAN. August 8 to 15, 2020.
  • ASTE NAGUSIA – BILBAO. August 22 to 30, 2020.

Where is the Basque Country located?

The Basque Country is located in both France and Spain.

It includes 7 provinces, 4 in Spain, 3 in France.

This means that each region has its own festivals, dances, traditions, beliefs and that many cities or villages often have their own dance!

As with Basque cuisine, each province has its own cultural identity despite a strong Basque identity above all.

The map of the 7 Basque provinces
Map of the 7 Basque provinces

If you look at the map, Labourd (Bayonne), Basse-Navarre (Saint Jean Pied de Port) and Soule (Mauléon) are the 3 French Basque provinces.

Biscaye (Bilbao), Guipuzcoa (San Sebastian), Alava (Vitoria-Gasteiz) and Navarre (Pamplona) are the 4 Spanish Basque provinces.

In this article, the festivals will be classified by month but will also include the province, or even the village, where they take place.

You will also find Booking links allowing you to have direct access to the hotels in the area.

I only added the best ones for each city/area.

Basque festivals in January.

The month of January is marked in particular by the beginning of the Souletine masquerades in Soule, which last until April, and by the Tamborrada of San Sebastian.

January is also the month of the very first Navarre carnival, a very traditional one occuring in Ituren and Zubieta.

Also noteworthy are the celebrations of the Bixintxo, the patron saint of the city of Ciboure, from 17 to 26 January 2020.

Passion play of the three Kings in Sanguesa.

Although it is not a typical Basque festival but takes place throughout Spain, January 6, the day of the Magi (Reyes Magos) or the Spanish Epiphany, is particularly important in Sanguesa.

This festival, declared a Festival of Tourist Interest in Navarre, is a living religious drama, also known as the Auto de los Reyes Magos.

To find out more, click here

Since 1967, at precisely 11:30 am, the inhabitants of Sanguesa have been replaying the journey of the Three Kings of the East to Bethlehem. The play is performed in open air, in front of the most beautiful monuments of the city.

It is followed by a Mass of the Kings in the church of Santiago, under the chairmanship of the actors.

Place: Sanguesa, Navarre province.

Date: January 6, 2020 at 11:30 am.

Type: Christmas ceremony, liturgical drama, outdoor theatre.

For your stay, I strongly recommend you to stay in the hilltop village of Gallipienzo, at Heredad Beragu Hotel, 7kms from Sanguesa.

>> Click here to see some pics, reviews and the availability of this beautiful stone house hotel

The Souletine masquerade.

The Souletine masquerade takes place every year in a different village of Soule.

A performance takes place every Sunday from January to April.

In 2020, it will the young people of Aussurucq who will play it at home and in the surrounding villages.

The guide to the masquerade in Soule Basque province
Zamalzain, the Basque horseman

The Souletine masquerade is an extremely important moment in Souletine culture.

It combines carnival, dance, music, songs and burlesque theatre.

Through the masquerade, the young people of the village tell the story of the past year in a humorous and teasing way.

In the morning there are what are called barricades. In the afternoon the performance takes place.

The Souletin dances are among the most beautiful and impressive in the Basque Country.

Be careful, however, if you do not speak Basque because the show is not translated.

Place: Soule’s villages.

Date: From the 5th January 2020 to the 19st of April 2020 (pending confirmation).

Type: a key moment of Souletine culture, a theatre performed/danced/chanted in the open air.

The dates and places in 2019:

  • Ordiap, 6 January.
  • Arrast-Larrebieu, 13 January.
  • Aussurucq, 20 January.
  • Lichans-Sunhar, 27 January.
  • Menditte, 3 February.
  • Esquiule, 10 February.
  • Pagolle, 17 February.
  • Mauléon, 23 February.
  • Barcus, 3 March.
  • Idaux-Mendy, 10 March.
  • Garindein, 17 March.
  • Larrau, 24 March.
  • Alos-Sibas-charrite de Haut, Saturday 30 March.
  • Chéraute, 7 April.
  • Musculdy, 14 April.
  • Ordiap, 21 April.

For your stay, I recommend you the beautiful Domaine Agerria.

>> Check the pic, price and availability for your stay here

The tamborrada of San sebastian-Donostia.

The tamborrada (Spanish) or Danborrada (Basque) of San Sebastian (San Sebastian in Spanish, Donostia in Basque) is celebrated every year on January 20, San Sebastian’s Day.

This festival dates back to the 19th century and commemorates the Napoleonic occupation during the War of Independence (1808-1812).

Two groups march: the first with Napoleonic drums and costumes, the second with barrels and costumes of cooks and water vendors.

The tamborrada officially begins on January 19 at midnight, with the raising of the city’s flag and the “Marcha de San Sebastian” played in the Constitution Square. But the children begin around 8pm with their own opening.

Then the companies composed of 20 to 50 drums and 50 to 100 barrels parade in the neighbourhoods, always accompanied by a banda.

On January 20 at noon, the children’s tamborrada takes place, starting from the town hall square, along the Concha, the main beach of San Sebastian.

It ends after 24 hours, at midnight on January 20, again on Constitution Square, with the tamborrada of the oldest society in the city, the March of San Sebastian and other compositions.

To find out more, click here.

Place: San Sebastian, Guipuzcoa.

Date: January 20, 2020.

Type: “military” parade, the feast of the city’s patron saint.

The Concha bay of San Sebastian in the Basque Country
San Sebastian’s concha Bay

Don’t forget to try the best culinary experience in the world according to Lonely Planet: pintxos, Basque tapas, in the bars of the old town.

Experience them in the Basque style: enter a bar, choose one or two tapas and enjoy them with a glass of txakoli, the slightly sparkling local white wine and then start again in a 2nd bar until you are full. Don’t worry, the waiters have excellent memory. Just enjoy the moment!

In terms of accommodation, Maria Cristina is the most famous 5-star hotel in the city. Ideally located close to the waterfront, in front of the theatre and 400 metres from the historic district, this magnificent building has welcomed many celebrities such as Woody Allen and Liz Taylor. The famous French chef Hélène Darroze welcomes guests to the ephemeral restaurant from June to October.

>> Click here to check the pics, reviews, prices and availability for your dates

The famous Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra, also on La Concha, often offers very attractive promotions.

It is also the favorite hotel of tourists for its view of the famous Concha, the main beach of San Sebastian. Try to book on the 7th floor for the most beautiful view.

>> Click here to check the pics, reviews, prices and availability for your dates

If you are travelling with a family or small group (up to 8), I recommend Amara Astoria-luxury Apartments, in the Amara district. This 3-bedroom apartment, with a surface area of 105m², is the best plan for families and groups.

>> Click here to check the pics, reviews, prices and availability for your dates

If you wish to stay outside the centre of San Sebastian and prefer a more rural atmosphere while retaining the charm of the old, I recommend the Heredad de Unanue.

>> Click here to check the pics, reviews, prices and availability for your dates

The carnivals of the kaskarots from Labourd.

The Labourd carnivals, the earliest in the French Basque Country, start at the end of January or beginning of February.

In each village, a group of kaskarots, the main characters of the Labourdin carnivals, do the collection from house to house, while performing the traditional Labourd dances.

Guide to the carnivals of the kaskarots from Labourd
Kaskarot dancers

Place: Labourd villages.

Date: from the 8th of February 2020 (to be confirmed).

Type: carnival, traditional dances.

For your accommodation, you can book the independent apartment for 5 people in my house, by contacting me via the contact section.

>> Check the description and clients review here

The carnival of the Joaldunak

The carnival of Ituren and Zubieta opens the season of the famous carnivals of Navarre, the most interesting and richest carnivals in the Basque Country.

It takes place on the Monday and Tuesday of the last week of January, in the villages where the Joaldunaks or Zanpantzar come from.

On Monday, the parade takes place in the village of Ituren. Tuesday in Zubieta.

little boy wearing the joaldunak attire during Ituren carnival
Young Yoaldun

For having been to each of the two villages, I preferred Monday morning in Ituren: preparation of the clothes, parade in the typical village. However, I did not see a parade from one village to another. The tourist office was laconic about the actual program and I couldn’t figure out if the Joaldunaks really walk from one village to another or only walk a little bit as I saw.

On Tuesday afternoon, I started in Ituren where all the Joaldunaks were gathered. They paraded a little bit then I followed them when they started their march towards Zubieta…. except that they quickly climbed into vehicles!!! As a result, they arrived long before me and I couldn’t film the arrival on the old stone bridge of Zubieta. There were also chariots and it was rather gore, as the tradition wants that young people dress up as characters representing chaos, that the Joaldunaks, hunters of evil spirits, go hunting with their bells (“Joaldunaks” actually means “bells”). It became even worse in Zubieta’s square, and not very reassuring, between the young people covered with blood or brandishing dead organs or dead animals and those who were scaring people with their chainsaws…

Place: Ituren and Zubieta, Navarre.

Date: Monday and Tuesday of the last week of January. 27 and 28 January 2020 (pending confirmation).

Type: carnival of Navarre.

For your accommodation, I recommend you Tresanea Apartamentos, in the beautiful rural village of Ituren.

>> Click here to check the pics, reviews, availability and prices for your trip

Basque festivals in February.

February is one of the most interesting months for lovers of traditional festivals as it is often the month of the carnivals of Navarre.

I’m not going to detail them all, there are too many of them. However, I will tell you about the ones I was able to cover and that I liked the most and you will find a list of those that may be interesting afterward.

Caldereros de la Hungria.

Before the beginning of the carnival, the Hungarian boilermakers are celebrated. The inhabitants of the city disguise themselves as boilermakers to commemorate their arrival in San Sebastian in the 19th century, and announce the carnival. The first procession by the original troop took place in 1884.

Guide to caldereros de la Hungria festival in San Sebastian Donostia

Location: San Sebastian, Guipuscoa.

Date: Depending on the year, the last Saturday in January or the first Saturday in February. February 1, 2020 (pending confirmation).

Type: parade, singing, dancing, traditional music, outdoor.

Sunset on the beautiful Concha beach of San sebastian Basque Country Spain
Concha Beach San Sebastian

Don’t forget to try the best culinary experience in the world according to Lonely Planet: pintxos, Basque tapas, in the bars of the old town.

Experience them in the Basque style: enter a bar, choose one or two tapas and enjoy them with a glass of txakoli, the slightly sparkling local white wine and then start again in a 2nd bar until you are full. Don’t worry, the waiters have excellent memory. Just enjoy the moment!

In terms of accommodation, Maria Cristina is the most famous 5-star hotel in the city. Ideally located close to the waterfront, in front of the theatre and 400 metres from the historic district, this magnificent building has welcomed many celebrities such as Woody Allen and Liz Taylor. The famous French chef Hélène Darroze welcomes guests to the ephemeral restaurant from June to October.

>> Click here to check the pics, reviews, prices and availability for your dates

The famous Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra, also on La Concha, often offers very attractive promotions.

It is also the favorite hotel of tourists for its view of the famous Concha, the main beach of San Sebastian. Try to book on the 7th floor for the most beautiful view.

>> Click here to check the pics, reviews, prices and availability for your dates

If you are travelling with a family or small group (up to 8), I recommend Amara Astoria-luxury Apartments, in the Amara district. This 3-bedroom apartment, with a surface area of 105m², is the best plan for families and groups.

>> Click here to check the pics, reviews, prices and availability for your dates

If you wish to stay outside the centre of San Sebastian and prefer a more rural atmosphere while retaining the charm of the old, I recommend the Heredad de Unanue.

>> Click here to check the pics, reviews, prices and availability for your dates

Nurses and shepherds in San sebastian-donostia.

The day after the Caldereros de la Hungria, it is Inudeak eta Artzaiak or nurses and shepherds.

This festival commemorates the courting of nannies by shepherds and the vaccination of children.

Not to be confused with the variant of the same name, in Bera de Bidasoa, which I love so much!

Place: San Sebastian.

Date: February 2, 2020 (pending confirmation).

Type: parade, carnival, outdoor, traditional music.

Check above for accommodation ideas.

Santa Agueda in Alsasua.

Santa Agueda is celebrated throughout the Spanish Basque Country.

The festivities in Alsasua, Navarre, are however known to be the most typical. It honours the “quintos”, the young people who celebrate their 18th birthday.

On the eve of Santa Agueda, the girls go out into the streets singing.

On the day of Santa Agueda in the morning, Quintos and Quintas make the quest for the feast. In the evening around 8pm, they dance in the square.

Place: Alsasua, Navarre.

Date: February 4 and 5, 2020.

Type: traditional dance, parade, outdoor activities.

For your accommodation, I recommend you the quiet Hotel Rural Latxanea, in a comfortable Basque house.

>> Check the pics, reviews, availability and prices here

Sorgin Gaua in Ciboure (witches night).

The Friday after the bear Day in Saint Jean de Luz, it’s Sorgin Gaua, the night of the witches.

The evening begins with a torchlight parade at 8pm and continues with traditional dances.

Place: Ciboure, Labourd.

Date: From 8pm, February 14, 2020 (pending confirmation).

Type: Labourd carnival, traditional dances, outdoor activity.

For this festival, you can book the independent apartment for 5 people in my house via the contact section.

>> Check the description and customers review here

Bear Day or Hartzaren Eguna in Saint Jean de Luz.

The awakening of the bear normally evokes the spring awakening. In Saint Jean de Luz, it rather evokes the arrival of the many festivities in February, the month of the carnivals.

In particular, it is an opportunity to discover the dance of the Hiruburus, three-headed characters representing the past, present and future.

The carnival will occur on the next Saturday, 15th.

Place: Saint Jean de Luz, Labourd.

Date: First or 2nd Saturday of February, rather in the morning (10:30 am) to see the Hiruburus dance at the market and in the streets. February 8, 2020 (pending confirmation).

Type: carnival, traditional dances, outdoor.

For this festival, you can book my holiday rental through the contact section.

>> Check the description and customers review here

Bayonne carnival.

Bayonne’s carnival has been celebrated since 1480, despite the church’s ban at the time, which considered it a pagan rite.

After having disappeared for a long time like many traditional festivals in the French Basque Country, it has been celebrated again for about 40 years.

It traditionally starts on the Thursday before the beginning of February school holidays.

The most interesting day is obviously Saturday, San Panzar day.

Traditional dance groups start performing at “Carreau des Halles” at 11am.

San Panzar, accompanied by the bear and wild men, arrives at 3pm for the cavalcade (parade).

At 4:30 pm, when the cavalcade returns, it’s the reading of his trial.

At 5pm, the sentence is carried out: bonfire and dancing of the bear and wild men.

At 6pm there is a big closing show with all the groups.

From 7pm, it’s the peñas’ cavalcade.

Joalduns, bells carrier, from the Basque Country
Joaldunak and Stephanie Langlet during Bayonne carnival

Place: Bayonne, Labourd.

Date: from 20 to 22 February 2020 (pending confirmation).

Type: carnival, outdoor.

For Bayonne carnival, you can stay in my holiday rental for 5 people.

>> Check the description and customers review here

Carnival of Goizueta.

The particularity of Goizueta carnival is the zahagi-dantza dance, performed by the charcoal maker, which you will see in the video.

The dance is performed by adults on Tuesday, by children on Sunday.

Place: Goizueta, Navarre.

Date: February 23 to 25, 2020.

Type: carnival of Navarre.

Carnival of Estella.

Place: Estella, Navarre.

Date: Saturday, February 15, 2020 (rural carnival). Saturday, February 22nd (pending confirmation).

Type: carnival of Navarre.

For your accommodation, I recommend you the beautiful and comfortable Apartamento Belmecher, a 130m² flat in the centre of Estella.

>> Click here to check the pics, reviews, availability and prices

Vera carnival.

My favorite Basque carnival for the self-derision of its participants and the good-natured atmosphere!

This is a variant of Inudeak eta Artzaiak or San Sebastian nurses and shepherds, in which the roles are reversed: boys are nannies, girls are shepherds.

The evening before, the Caldereros are celebrated as in San Sebastian.

Place: Bera, also called Vera de Bidasoa ou Vera. Navarre.

Date: on the Sunday before mardi gras. February 23, 2020.

Type: carnival of Navarre.

In terms of accommodation, I recommend you to stay in the beautiful nearby San Sebastian.

Check above in Caldereros de la Hungria’s section.

Lantz carnival.

Lantz Carnival is one of the most famous in Navarre.

Yet it takes place in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere.

Only happiness!!!

The central character is the villain Miel Otxin, representing evil spirits.

He is captured on Monday and executed on Tuesday.

The other characters:

  • Ziripot: dressed in bags full of straw, this obese character walks the streets while the Zaldikos demolish him on the ground.
  • Zaldiko: joyful and jumping, dressed in his most beautiful clothes (a horse on his belt) demolish Ziripot on the ground.
  • Ferralariak: it is the blacksmiths who put horseshoes on the Zaldiko.
  • Txatxo: they represent the population of Lantz, are dressed in old rags, wear straw brooms and have their faces covered.

Place: Lantz, Navarre.

Date: February 24 (pending confirmation) and 25, 2020.

Type: carnival of Navarre.

If the accommodations in Lantz are free, don’t hesitate to reserve!

The Hotel The Originals Hotel Rural Iribarnia is a 17th-century farmhouse beautifully restored.

>> Click here to check the pics, reviews, availability for your dates

Carnival of Lesaka.

Lesaka celebrations are concentrated on the Sunday of Carnival.

When the sun rises, the streets of the village are filled with zaku zaharrak (literally old bags), thirty characters dressed in canvas bags filled with dry grass, two between the legs and one on the torso. Their faces are covered with a handkerchief, a straw hat and a pizontzia (“chamber pot” in Basque). These characters march in single file following the music of the village banda accompanied by the “Mairus” (women in broad hats and covered with abundant multicoloured bands) and the “Goitarrak” (mountain farmers).

Place: Lesaka, Navarre.

Date: Sunday before mardi gras. February 23, 2020 (pending confirmation).

Type: carnival of Navarre.

For your accommodation, I recommend you the flat Gure Idorpea, a beautiful flat for 4 people, in the village.

>> Click here to check availability and prices

carnival of Tolosa.

The most famous and popular carnival in the Basque Country is celebrated in Tolosa, Guipuscoa, for 6 days.

The celebration officially begins with the “Ostegun Gizena” (Carnival Thursday).

At noon, the speech is read and the carnival is opened.

The next day’s programme (“Ostiral Mehea” or Friday carnival) offers us the “Festival del Viernes Flaco” (Friday Carnival Festival) at the Leidor Theatre, which consists of a very original show organised by the village inhabitants, the protagonists of the event.

On Saturday (“Zaldunita bezpera”) there are the “Tamborradas” (adults and children), drum parades, in the streets of Tolosa.

On Sunday, the city streets fill with pyjamas and slippers, as participants leave home with a neglected look, just getting up from the bed.

On that day and also on the following Monday (“Astelenita”) and Tuesday (“Asteartita”), the chariots and groups march, with surprising costumes, music and dances.

The celebration ends on Tuesday at midnight with the funeral of the sardine.

Place: Tolosa, Guipuscoa.

Date: from Thursday to Mardi Gras. February 20th to 25th, 2020 (pending confirmation).

Type: carnival of Guipuscoa.

For your accommodation, I recommend you the very central Hotel Bide Bide Tolosa, ideally situated on the main place of Tolosa.

>> Click here to check the availability and prices

For the best pintxos, the Basque tapas voted best culinary experience in the world by Lonely Planet, go to the bar known to be the best pintxos bar in the city, Orbela Taberna, Errementari Kalea. When a Tolosarrak friend took us there, we were surprised by the incredible quality and very soft prices.

Tolosa is also the ideal place to test chuleta, the prime rib of beef. The city is renowned for producing the best in the Basque Country and even organises a txuleta festival at the end of the year.

Carnival of Alsasua.

In my opinion, the most terrifying carnival in Navarre.

I have never been there before and I let you discover its process in the video below.

If you live in Alsasua or know the carnival, I am ready to try the experience with you!

Place: Alsasua village, Navarre.

Date: February 23, 25 and 29, 2020 (pending confirmation).

Type: carnival of Navarre.

For your accommodation, I recommend you the quiet Hotel Rural Latxanea, in a comfortable Basque house.

>> Check the pics, reviews, availability and prices here

Carnival of Unanua.

The interest of this carnival, which has been taking place since the Middle Ages, is the very old bronze masks worn by the Mozos.

Their origin is unknown and they are carefully preserved at the town hall.

Place: Unanua, Navarre.

Date: Mardi gras. February 25, 2020.

Type: carnival of Navarre.

You can find a cosy place to stay at Alsasua (12kms).

>> Check the pics, reviews, availability and prices here

carnival and caldereros of Pamplona.

The celebration begins with the caldereros, the Saturday before mardi gras and the carnival.

Place: Pamplona / Iruña, Navarre.

Date: February 21st to 22nd, 2020 (pending confirmation).

Type: carnival of Navarre.

For your accommodation, don’t miss the magnificent and central Gran Hotel La Perla, one of the 5 stars of Pamplona, which has hosted many celebrities such as Ernest Hemingway or the Aga Khan.

>> Click here to check availability and prices for your dates

If you are travelling with your family or a small group (max. 5), the Apartamento Singular Deluxe, located 350 metres from the old town, is a pleasant alternative.

>> Click here to check availability and prices for your dates

Tudela carnival.

Dancing and singing are the main activities of Tudela carnival.

The main characters are called Zipoteros.

Place: Tudela, South of Navarre.

Date: February 21 to 23, 2020 (pending confirmation).

Type: carnival of Navarre.

Friday of carnival: dia del Zipotero. Zipoteros procession at 8:30pm.

2019’s program.

Take benefit of your stay in Tudela and discover the nearby Bardenas desert, where a lot of films have been shot.

For your accommodation, I recommend you the Atico el Muro, a beautiful 72m² flat in the centre of Tudela, with a fabulous terrace and view.

>> Check the availability and prices here

Aoiz carnival.

On the Saturday evening before mardi gras, all the carnival characters leave Calle Maldita, which is only open for the carnival period.

Place: Aoiz, Navarre.

Date: Saturday night before carnival. February 22nd, 2020 (pending confirmation).

Type: carnival of Navarre.

For your accommodation, I recommend you the guesthouse Hostal Beti-jai, where the food is also good.

>> Click here to check availability and prices

Basque festivals in March.

Don’t forget the springtime of the restaurants.

Depending of the year, Basque carnivals can be in February or March.

The Javierada.

The Javierada, or more precisely the Javieradas, is a pilgrimage in honour of Saint Francis Xavier.

It occurs each year in March and May in Javier, in Northern Spain, in Navarre.

The pilgrims do the Way of the Cross leading to the castle to assist to a Mass in honor of the saint.

Javierada pilgrimage in Javier castle Navarre Spain
Javier castle

Read more: My complete guide to Javierada, Javier and its surroundings.

The main Javieradas, departing from Sanguesa, occur at the beginning of March.

Place: Javier, Navarre.

Date: March 8, 2020 (to be confirmed).

Type: pilgrimage, religious festival, Stations of the Cross.

Ethno Travels was there in April 2019.

Check 2019’s program here.

Which hotel to stay in Javier?

If you come on Friday for the first Javierada as I advise you, I recommend Hotel Xabier, just opposite the castle.

The balconies overlook the castle.

>> Click here to check availability and prices for your dates

Basque festivals in April.

In April, the most important festival in Alava takes place.

It is also Holy Week, Semana Santa, a major event in Spain.

Bayonne ham fair.

Bayonne ham has been celebrated since 1462!

In 2020, the fair will take place from Thursday, April 9 to Sunday, April 12.

Among the most important events, we can note the Brotherhood Mass on Sunday and the election of the best ham.

The atmosphere is obviously festive with choirs, dances and bandas. And we eat… ham!

The full program is here.

Place: Bayonne, Labourd.

Date: from Thursday 9 to Sunday 12 April 2019.

Type: Local festival, gourmet event, outdoor activities.

Contact me to book my apartment 16kms from the center of Bayonne.

>> Check the description and customers review here

Via Crucis Balmaseda.

The Via Crucis of Balmaseda is a fascinating living Stations of the Cross, played every year on Good Thursday and Good Friday by the city’s inhabitants.

Check my article here for all the practical information.

Place: Balmaseda, Biscaye.

Date: April 9 and 10, 2020. Good Thursday and Good Friday.

Type: religious festival, living Stations of the Cross.

I stayed in Valle de Villaverde, in Posada Calera. The environment is superb, the food is very good and copious, my room overlooked a terrace, there are stones and exposed beams. The staff was adorable and even agreed to let me come with my little Westie dog (normally, it is forbidden but I had asked beforehand). Unfortunately, I was quite disturbed by the shameless attitude of some Spaniards slamming doors and speaking loudly in the middle of the night. Don’t forget the earplugs.

>> Check the availability and latest prices here

The option I would choose as I now know the city is the marvelous Convento San Roque. Not only the ancient building is amazingly beautiful but it’s also very comfortable, clean, pet-friendly and the guest reviews are very good. And the best thing is: it’s in the centre, close to the places where the show is!

>> Click here to check the availability and price for your dates

Volatin of Tudela.

Tudela, in Navarre, lives the last days of Holy Week with its celebrations of the Volatín and El Ángel, a custom that dates back to the Middle Ages.

At 10:00 a.m. on Holy Saturday, the cremation and public hooting of the Volatín, a wooden and rag character with a firecracker cigar in his mouth, begins. Once on fire, the character struggles with force, only to collapse, totally destroyed. A simple ceremony, reminiscent of Judas’ suicide, the apostle who denounced Jesus to the Romans.

At 9:00 am on Sunday, the Bajada del Ángel, which brings together thousands of people in the Plaza de los Fueros, is held. On this occasion, a child dressed as an angel rushes into the air towards the image of a Virgin, whose head is covered with a black scarf, as a sign of mourning for Jesus’ death. The angel takes off this veil, to symbolize the joy of Christ’s resurrection.

Place: Tudela, Navarre.

Date: April 11 and 12, 2020.

Type: Religious festival, outdoor.

Take benefit of your stay in Tudela and discover the nearby Bardenas desert, where a lot of films have been shot.

For your accommodation, I recommend you the Atico el Muro, a beautiful 72m² flat in the centre of Tudela, with a fabulous terrace and view.

>> Click here to see pics and prices

Bolantes of Luzaide-Valcarlos.

This is one of the most amazing and ancestral dances in Navarre, which welcomes pilgrims on the Way of Compostela in the locality of Luzaide-Valcarlos every Sunday of Carnival and Easter Sunday.

This celebration takes place to the rhythm of the dancers’ bells dressed in multicoloured costumes: red beret, spartan espadrilles, white shirt and cotton pants decorated with golden trimmings, jewellery and red and yellow ribbons.

Traditionally, dancers walk the streets of the city all day long.

Place: Luzaide-Valcarlos, Navarre.

Date: April 12, 2020.

Type: Traditional dance, outdoor.

>> Click here to reserve the best accommodation in Valcarlos

San Prudencio Vitoria.

San Prudencio is the most important festival in Alava.

The festivities begin the day before in Vitoria Gasteiz, with a giant tamborrada and the parade of the gastronomic societies.

The next day, April 28, thousands of people go on pilgrimage to the sanctuary of Armentia, south of the city, to venerate the relics of the Patron Saint of Alava.

2019 program

Place: Vitoria Gasteiz, Alava.

Date: April 27 and 28, 2020.

Type: pilgrimage, religious feast, key event.

For your stay, I recommend you the flat Casa El Ensanche, ideally located at 600 metres of the centre.

>> Check the availability and prices here

Dia de la Almadia – wooden raft Day in Burgui.

One of the most popular traditional festivals in Navarre.

It is held every year in Burgui, in the Roncal Valley.

Wood rafts were old boats that, until the middle of the 20th century, carried wood on the rivers of the Navarre valleys. The memory of this profession, which has now disappeared, is preserved thanks to these festivities.

During this day, several wooden rafts are rafted down the Esca River. The journey lasts five kilometres and ends at the medieval bridge of Burgui.

The programme of festivities also includes many other activities: exhibitions, crafts fair, traditional dance and music, workshops, theatre, rural sports, photo competitions and audiovisual screenings, as well as a popular lunch.

For more information, you can visit the official website here

2019 program

Place: Burgui, Navarre.

Date: April 25 or May 2, 2020.

Type: historical commemoration, outdoor.

>> Check the pics and price of the beautiful hotel Almadiero in Burgui

3rd Chapter of the ttoro fraternity in Ciboure.

Mass, parade, intronization and tasting.

Ttoro is the fish soup of the Basque Country.

Place: Ciboure, Labourd.

Date: May 3, 2020 (pending confirmation).

Type: gourmet meeting, folklore.

Book my vacation rental for 5 people in Biaudos via the contact section.

>> Check the description and customers review here

Basque festivals in May.

In addition to the traditional festivals listed below, you can also program:

* the European Museum Night.

* the French patrol in Saint Jean-de-Luz.

* the Socoa feasts.

* the axoa festival in Espelette.

* Herri Urrats in Saint Pée sur Nivelle.

* Dantzari Ttiki.

* Euskaralai.

* Salbatorez: Peña Idiak festival in Hasparren.

* the Andalusian festival of Saint Jean de Luz.

Txindoki – ascent to the summer pastures.

Ethno Travels covered this festival in 2019.

The opening of Aralar meadows.

Every year, on May 1st, the cattle herds are gathered in Larraitz, before being taken to the high meadows until October.

The meeting takes place in a festive environment, with a large audience, traditional music (trikitixa) and stands featuring rural products, such as cider and cheese, as well as handicrafts.

In 2008, 18,000 sheep, 650 mares and 700 cows participated in the summer pastures. May 1st at noon is the official opening of the Aralar meadows and farmers take their animals up any next day. There is no – more? – of big gatherings.

The big question: is it worth going to this festival?

My very personal answer is yes!

  • For the exceptional mountainous setting: Txindoki, Autza in particular.
  • For the demonstrations of traditional art: making ropes, soles, basketry, taloa.
  • For the local product stands: cheese, honey, cakes, etc.
  • To see some pretty pottocks, sheep, cows, sheep dogs, etc…
  • For the festive ambiance.

Practical information in brief.

Place: Txindoki, Tolosa, Guipuscoa.

Date: May 1, 2020.

Type: rural festival, shepherds’ feast, outdoor, transhumance.

Getting organized/some useful tips.

  • Stands and entertainment start at 10am. Arriving around 10am, you will not be able to reach Larraitz by car but you should still find space to park in the village of Abaltzisketa. All you have to do is follow the people and take the small path that leads up to Larraitz. There are many panels explaining the fauna and flora and the setting is magnificent.
  • Once you reach the Larraitz sign, you will find a bar that also has a restaurant on your left and a tourist office on the right – difficult to communicate other than in Basque or Spanish.
  • If you want to taste the pintxos that look delicious, do it when you arrive. It’s very quickly out of stock. Same thing for taloas to avoid the 13h queue.
  • For your meal, I advise you to plan your picnic. You will find many tables. Either to go down directly to Tolosa once the herds have passed and the dance is over. I give you below the name of the best pintxos Bar in the city.
  • Couple your morning to the pastures with a visit to the pretty town of Tolosa – old town, main square of the European Puppet Centre, covered market, churches, old buildings.
  • You can also try to follow the herds on the slopes of the Txindoki. But I can’t tell you that they go very far. Feel free to share your experience with us!

Where to stay in Tolosa?

For your accommodation, I recommend you the very central Hotel Bide Bide Tolosa, ideally situated on the main place of Tolosa.

>> Click here to check the availability and prices

Where to eat in Tolosa?

For the best pintxos, the Basque tapas voted best culinary experience in the world by Lonely Planet, go to the bar known to be the best pintxos bar in the city, Orbela Taberna, Errementari Kalea. When a Tolosarrak friend took us there, we were surprised by the incredible quality and very soft prices.

Tolosa is also the ideal place to test chuleta, the prime rib of beef. The city is renowned for producing the best in the Basque Country and even organises a txuleta festival at the end of the year.

2019’s photos of Txindoki transhumance and Tolosa.

Here are Cathy’s pics – she was with me

Romerias in Orreaga-Roncesvalles.

The pilgrimages in honour of the Virgin of the Real Colegiata de Santa Maria in Roncesvalles take place in May, June and the first Wednesday in September since the 16th century.

Thus, at this time, one can meet pilgrims dressed in dark tunics, penitents wearing black veils and bare feet and inhabitants in traditional costumes.

Place: Roncesvalles, Navarre.

Date: May, June and September, 2020.

Type: pilgrimage, religious celebration.

>> Click here to watch the pics and reserve your room in the beautiful Hotel Roncesvalles

Pintxos Eguna in Bayonne.

About thirty peñas participate in pintxos eguna and offer the pintxos for 1€. An opportunity to discover these traditional places that are the peñas and this specialty elected by Lonely Planet in 2018 as the best culinary experience in the world.

Place: Bayonne, Labourd.

Date: Saturday, May 9, 2020 (pending confirmation).

Type: a gourmet meeting.

Book my vacation rental for 5 people at 16kms from Bayonne through the form at the bottom of the page or the contact page.

>> Check the description and customers review here

Bayonne weekend gourmand.

I’m happy to announce that “Bayonne fait le pont” is replaced by “Week-end gourmand”, that will propose chocolate and other Basque specialities degustations for free.

The official communication is not ready yet but it will be on Friday and Saturday of the Ascension weekend.

Originally the Bayonne Chocolate Days, these were incorporated into Bayonne fait le pont, with various attractions offered throughout the Ascension holidays.

Place: Bayonne, Labourd.

Date: Friday and Saturday Ascension weekend. From 22 May 2020.

Type: chocolate tasting and various activities.

Book my vacation rental for 5 people at 16kms from Bayonne through the form at the bottom of the page or the contact page.

>> Check the description and customers review here

Pasaia maritime festival.

Pasaia was for the first time in 2018 the scene of a maritime festival, incorporating traditional dances and songs, concerts, many activities and the visit of traditional boats specially brought for the occasion, such as the Hermione.

Place: Pasaia, Guipuscoa.

Date: 28 May – 1st June 2020 (pending confirmation).

Type: maritime festival, outdoor.

Don’t forget to try the best culinary experience in the world according to Lonely Planet: pintxos, Basque tapas, in the bars of San Sebastian.

Experience them in the Basque style: enter a bar, choose one or two tapas and enjoy them with a glass of txakoli, the slightly sparkling local white wine and then start again in a 2nd bar until you are full. Don’t worry, the waiters have an excellent memory. Just enjoy the moment!

In terms of accommodation, Maria Cristina is the most famous 5-star hotel in the city. Ideally located on the waterfront, in front of the theatre and 400 metres from the historic district, this magnificent building has welcomed many celebrities such as Woody Allen and Liz Taylor. The famous French chef Hélène Darroze welcomes guests to the ephemeral restaurant from June to October.

>> Click here to check the pics, reviews, prices and availability for your dates

The famous Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra, also on La Concha, often offers very attractive promotions.

>> Click here to check the pics, reviews, prices and availability for your dates

If you are travelling with a family or small group (up to 8), I recommend Amara Astoria-luxury Apartments, in the Amara district. This 3-bedroom apartment, with a surface area of 105m², is the best plan for families and groups.

>> Click here to check the pics, reviews, prices and availability for your dates

If you wish to stay outside the centre of San Sebastian and prefer a more rural atmosphere while retaining the charm of the old, I recommend the Heredad de Unanue.

>> Click here to check the pics, reviews, prices and availability for your dates

Are you looking for accommodation and/or a guide for Holy Week, May holidays or any other period? Contact me via the comments or the contact section. I can also organise your full trip thanks to my partnership with a local travel agency.

Basque festivals in June.

In addition to the festivals below, you can discover:

* Visit your Basque Country.

* Dance show Elgar Oinka and Azpeitia in Hasparren.

It is also worth seeing if the Paloteado del Casco Viejo in Tudela is renewed for a second edition or not (a mixture of traditional dance and theatre, which was performed in the 1940s).

All the festivals of the beginning (Labourd and Basse-Navarre) are easily accessible from my home. You can book my rental for 5 people via the contact section.

Udaberria Dantzan, festival of the 7 Basque provinces dances, in Saint Jean de Luz.

A dance festival not to be missed!

Every year, Saint Jean de Luz invites dance groups from each of the 7 Basque provinces for a magnificent show on Place Louis XIV.

Although each year offers different dances due to the number of existing dances – each province but also many villages have their own dances – Godalet Dantza, the spectacular glass dance, is systematically presented.

Learn more about this Basque dance festival in my article here

Place: Saint Jean de Luz, Labourd.

Date: Sunday, June 7 or 14, 2020.

Type: traditional dances.

Ethno Travels goes there almost each year!

For this festival, you can book my holiday rental through the contact section.

>> Check the description and customers review here

Cherry festival in Itxassou.

Place: Itxassou, Labourd.

Date: May 31 or June 7, 2020.

Type: cherry tasting and Basque culture: dances, music, Basque force.

For this festival, you can book my holiday rental for 5 people through the form at the bottom of the page or the contact page.

>> Check the description and customers review here

Corpus Christi and Octave.

Although Corpus Christi is also still taking place in Guipúzcoa and Soule, I will only talk here about Corpus Christi in the northern Basque country, in the villages of Basse-Navarre.

Corpus Christi and Octave celebrations on the following Sunday are called in the Basque Country Besta Berri or Pesta Berri (Fête Dieu in French).

The mass is animated by men from the village, dressed in Napoleonic clothes, then a parade takes place.

Place: various villages in the diocese of Hasparren, Basse-Navarre, Soule, Guipuscoa.

Date: June 14, 2020.

Octave: June 21, 2020.

Type: religious festival, procession, dance.

A festival I regularly go to.

For your accommodation, you can book the independent apartment for 5 people in my house, by contacting me via the contact section.

>> Check the description and customers review here

Saint Jean festival in Saint Jean de Luz.

Many interesting activities, including bandas, dances, solemn mass with orchestras, choirs and dances, tamborradas, small corsairs in black and red…

Place: Saint Jean de Luz, Labourd.

Date: June 20-24, 2020 (pending confirmation).

Type: patronal feasts, open air.

For this festival, you can book the independent apartment for 5 people in my house via the contact section.

>> Check the description and customers review here

Traditional pilgrimage in San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.

June 24 for Saint John’s Day: this is a traditional pilgrimage, known mainly to the inhabitants of Bermeo.

Surrounding residents, especially from Bermeo, come to the foot of the chapel to get married beforehand, to keep their promises or thank the saint.

The day before, on June 23, the “Fogatas” of the night of San Juan are celebrated in Bermeo as part of the events of the Fiestas de San Juan. It starts at 7:30 pm with a parade and concerts until about 10 pm, then the traditional songs of Saint John are sung around the fire. People also burn the messages they wrote to make the bad things of the previous year disappear and attract happiness.

A floral offering is also made to the image of the Virgin Mary, immersed in the depths of the sea, under one of the natural arches that emerge at the foot of the islet.

Location : Gaztelugatxe, Biscay.

Date : June 24, 2020.

Type : pilgrimage, outdoor.

>> Click here to see the pics and reserve the best flat in Bermeo

Religious celebration in Txindoki hermitage.

On St. Peter’s Day, a great popular and religious celebration takes place at the hermitage (a gathering called erromeria in Basque).

Location: Hermitage of Txindoki, near Tolosa, Navarre.

Date: 29 June 2020.

Type: religious holiday, outdoor.

For your accommodation, I recommend you the very central Hotel Bide Bide Tolosa, ideally situated on the main place of Tolosa.

>> Click here to check the availability and prices

Alarde in Irun.

On June 30, San Marcial Day, Irun commemorates the Battle of San Marcial with a magnificent military parade in Napoleonic dress.

Location: Irun, Guipuscoa.

Date: June 30, 2020.

Type: local celebration, military parade, commemoration.

Basque festivals in July.

In July, you can also discover:

* Gauargui, Espelette World Dance Festival.

* Tuna Festival of Ciboure.

* Tuna festival of St Jean de Luz.

* Bayonne Feasts (July or August depending on the year).

* Night of the sardine of Saint Jean de Luz.

San Fermin in Lesaka.

San Fermin festivities without the crowds of Pamplona festivities!

They start on July 6 at noon like those in Pamplona, but the most interesting moment culturally is the 7th.

It is the only day of the year when ezpatadantzaris dance the Zubigainekoa, the dance on the bridge!

This dancing ritual is the symbol of peace signed in the 15th century between the city’s districts.

The Dantzaris must show dexterity and balance by not falling into the Onin River.

Place: Lesaka, Navarre.

Date: from July 6, 2019 at noon. But on July 7th for the dances.

Type: patronal feasts, traditional dance.

>> Click here for the best accommodation in Lesaka

San Fermin in Pamplona.

The famous Pamplona San Fermin would be the 3rd in the world in terms of attendance.

It lasts 9 days, alternating popular, religious, trade fair and bullfighting rituals.

You can read a very complete description in this excellent article on Wikipedia.

If you decide to attend the San Fermin festival, keep in mind, and it is the same for the Bayonne festival, that every year there are deaths and sexual assaults. The festive side should not make you forget the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption.

Location : Pamplona, Navarra.

Date: July 6-15, 2020.

Type: 3rd largest festival in the world, outdoor.

>> Click here to reserve the best hotel in Pamplona

Medieval market in Bayonne.

The Medieval market of Bayonne was taking place every year on Place Montaut from 12 to 14 July, except in 2019. So we don’t know yet if it’s definitively over or not.

The reconstruction of a medieval market around craft trades invites the visitor to a journey into the past at the end of the 14th century.

Exhibitors and participants from all over France and also from abroad make it possible each time to discover crafts, music, costumes, dances, fights, receptions…

Place: Bayonne, Labourd.

Date: July 12-14, 2020.

Type: medieval market, outdoor.

Book my cottage 16kms from Bayonne via the contact section.

To be followed >> here

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