Best Sicily Summer Festivals for Cultural Breadth

When I think of festivals, I think of cultural breadth: a shortcut to a destination’s most iconic customs and traditions. While I have already introduced you to some of the best beaches in Southern Italy, today I wish to delve deeper into this region’s culture by showcasing the best Sicily summer festivals.

Best Sicily Summer Festivals for Cultural Breadth

Sicily summer festivals, food

By Dedda71, Wiki Commons

Ferragosto
August 15: anywhere in Sicily

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Ferragosto is the grand Sicily fiesta no summer traveler can miss.

The main draws of Assumption Day in harbor cities include a vast array of authentic Sicilian foods; firework displays; traditional Sicilian boat races and yacht regattas with the Madonna herself as one of the sailors.

A sample festive dish you might not find any other time of the year? Gelo di mellone: a traditional watermelon dessert in Palermo. Akin to a gelatine pie, it is sprinkled with jasmine flowers and other toppings.

There are other secrets to discover in Sicily however, so you must visit the island to uncover them! 😉

summer festivals in Sicily, Palio

By Vincenzo Fileccia, Wiki Commons

Palio dei Normanni
August 12-14: Piazza Armerina, Enna

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Medieval enthusiasts will love the raucous horse races known as “palio.” Particularly, the jousts, full-costume processions, parades, and shows with over 600 participants have regarded the Norman Palio as the most important medieval history reconstruction of Southern Italy.

Being part of the Italian Federation of Historical Games and listed in the Register of Intangible Heritage of the Sicilian Region add to its historical and cultural importance.

Sicily summer festivals, Erice

By MrEHQE 2005 (CC)

Renaissance Music Festival
August 13-15: Erice, Trapani

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One of the best music festivals in Sicily is another medieval-themed event. The Renaissance Music Festival puts together not only local, but also internationally-acclaimed medieval artists.

The beauty of this festival is that it intertwines with popular Ferragosto, allowing attendees to enjoy several nuances of Sicilian culture.

Sicily festivals in the summer, Taormina Arte

Taormina International Arts Festival
July-September: Taormina, Messina

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One of the longest, most culturally-diverse Sicily summer festivals takes place in and around the ancient Greek amphitheater of Taormina.

With performances ranging from symphonic orchestras and operettas to classical dance, art exhibitions to special cinema viewings, Taormina Arte has become not only one of the most acclaimed cultural festivals in Italy, but the world.

Passeggiata di Giganti
August 13-14: capital of Messina

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Passeggiata di Giganti Festival is the feast of the mythical founders of the city, preceding the important procession of “La Vara.”

The legend of the two giants, Mata and Grifone, varies greatly: were they Muslim prisoners taken by the mercenary Ruggero D’Altavilla or the authentic founders of Messina?

Variations aside, they are mostly known as a Saracen soldier (Grifone) who converted to Christianity to finally capture the heart of Mata–and live happily ever after with many children.

Sicily summer festivals, Cefalu

By Oliver-Bonjoch, Wiki Commons

Madonna della Luce
August 14: Cefalù, Palermo

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During the Feast of the Mother of Light, Sicilians honor their patron saint and heritage, carrying the Madonna along the seas. The beautiful nocturnal procession, which culminates the festival, typically runs from the coast of Kalura to the Old Harbor.

5 Amazing Facts You Didn’t Know about Spain

Spain, that beautiful country in Europe‘s Iberian Peninsula, attracts millions of visitors each year. With its amazing culture, food, warm climate and history, Spain has been loved by tourists for ages. However, here are some amazing facts you didn’t know about Spain.

Or maybe you do. We’ll see about that.

Today we’ll the talking about the top five facts you probably don’t know about España. Some of them might amaze you, but all of them are surely going to make you want to grab your bags, book your hotels, and head to Spain!

5 Amazing Facts You Didn’t Know About Spain

5 Facts You Didn't Know about Spain Different names of the country

Throughout history, Spain has had a lot of names — many of which you’ve probably never heard about. For example, its first North African inhabitants called it Iberia, which meant the “land of rivers.”

Many years after, the Greeks invaded the peninsula, and called the area Hesperia, which directly translates to the “land of the setting sun.”

Then, once again, Spain was renamed when the Carthaginians arrived and ruled around 300 BCE. These people named the region Ispania, which in their language meant the “land of the rabbits.”

And theeeeeeen, the Romans conquered the country and Latinized the name to Hispania. Over time, this name was tweaked to simply España.

random facts about Spain

Nudists’ beaches are the thing

Although naked bodies in public spaces are not that common, Spain has a few laws that actually allow people to, errm, showcase their naked bodies in public beaches.

That is pretty easy to understand: with more than 3,000 hours of sunlight each year, everyone will do everything to get that great full-body tan!

So, if you are a free spirit, you will certainly enjoy this carefree attitude towards nudity and the fact that on many beaches it is common to see other sunbathers (particularly women) flaunting what they got.

Spain weird facts

A pooping Christmas log

One of the oldest, and also one of the most religious, countries in Europe has one weird Christmas traditional you might actually love.

Or find it hilarious as heck.

The so-called Tió de Nadal is a popular Christmas custom among many Valencianos and Catalonians during the winter’s holiday season. It translates into “the Christmas Log in English.”

However, the Spanish tradition is also nicknamed Caga Tió (meaning ‘shitting log’ or ‘poo log’). The story behind it is pretty simple – children during Christmas beat the hollow log with various sticks until it “defecates” various treats out. You know, poo-looking edibles such as chocolate or dark candy.

Kids love it and tourists get weird about it. Either way, this is definitely one of the most unique Spanish Christmas traditions known to date.

Sagrada Familia interesting facts Spain

The never ending construction of an iconic church

I don’t know how about you, but when I was in school, we were taught that Barcelona’s La Sagrada Família Church is the record holder of the longest construction in the history of the world.

How much of this story is truth is hard to tell, but some facts are proving this for sure. Spain’s most iconic church has been in construction since breaking ground in 1882 – and it looks like the development is nowhere close to ending.

The expected completion date of Sagrada Familia is sometime in 2026, after some 140 years in the making. Despite ‘s ongoing construction, the church is open to the public and managed to get into the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list due to its extraordinary beauty and unique architectural features.

cool facts about Spain

The oldest working restaurant in the world

Another one of the most unique facts you didn’t know about Spain (probably) is that the Mediterranean country is home of the world’s oldest restaurant.

In Madrid, you can find the Restaurante Botín. It opened its doors in 1725 and since then has set the bar for traditional Spanish cuisine.

Nowadays, you can still enjoy old Spanish dishes such as cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) and old style roasted lamb there.

Dishes which will take you away to those golden Spanish ages when this fabulous European country was one of the most powerful empires in the world.

facts you didn't know about Spain

The following was a guest post. Please contact me to contribute!

Icelandic Road Trip Ideas: Stops, Activities, and Unique Stays

Icelandic road trip, namafjall

Namafjall by GuideToIceland.is

I was reminiscing about my incredible time hitchhiking and Couchsurfing Iceland on my 6-day stopover en-route to Puerto Rico from Morocco in 2009. The eerie geography, outworldly landscapes, and relatively-easy way to get around captured my attention. Then, it dawned on me–my next visit has to involve an Icelandic road trip.

In fact, I should come up with my own Iceland self drive tour!

Everything from camping to dropping by unique guesthouses to even crashing a local couch or two all over again. Season? The summer, in order to see those stunning frozen landscapes in vibrant greens under the intriguing midnight sun.

But…where to go?!

There’s so much ground I was unable to cover on my first trip there. Moreover, there are dozens of other unique activities I would like to include in my itinerary. So! To narrow it down, I came up with this Icelandic road trip ideas photo essay:

Icelandic road trip, diamond beach

Diamond Beach under the midnight sun by GuideToIceland.is

Icelandic Road Trip Ideas: Route Options

My first dilemma is routes. Most options follow the famous Ring Road with little to no detours. Yet, how many stops will I make? This depends on how much time I have.

My top two itineraries thus far include a straightforward 8-day Ring Road trip, including the following stops: Reykjavík, Akureyri, Jökulsárlón, Dimmuborgir, Geysir, Gullfoss, Dyrhólaey, Þingvellir, Hraunfossar, Deildartunguhver, Höfn, Vik i Mýrdal, Blönduós, Kerið, Godafoss Waterfall, and Lake Myvatn.

I’ve already been to 5 out of 16 of those highlights, though. This is when option B becomes more attractive: 12 full days, visiting all 3 Icelandic National Parks, hitting most of the aforementioned highlights, in addition to zigzagging the East Fjords:

  • Reykjavík: the world’s northernmost capital
  • Akureyri: northern city with cool restos
  • Jökulsárlón: stunning glacial lagoon
  • Snæfellsjökull: 700,000-year-old stratovolcano
  • Skógafoss: my fave waterfall with interesting rock formations
  • Seljalandsfoss: to see it in full force, not frozen
  • Geysir explosions: they are always sweet to look at
  • Gullfoss: I wonder what it looks like lush, under the midnight sun?
  • Dyrhólaey: spectacular promontory, black sand beaches
  • Þingvellir: so I can finally swim between 2 continents!
  • Snæfellsnes Peninsula: wild, Western Iceland + EarthCheck community
  • Höfn: to take in the Hornafjörður Fjord and surrounding landscapes
  • Stykkishólmur: coastal town, gateway to countless of islands
  • Borgarnes: to visit Fljotstunga, the largest lava cave in Iceland
  • Lake Myvatn and Dimmuborgir: as I’m obsessed with lava formations
  • Seydisfjordur: to visit Skálanes reserve and adorable puffin colonies

From what I can see, itinerary B only excludes a few towns such as Blönduós and popular attractions I’ve already seen (i.e. Kerið).

Icelandic Road Trip Ideas: Activities

Either road trip route includes several outdoor activities and uniquely-Icelandic pastimes I wish to try out. Here’s my preliminary list:

  • Ice climbing: hello intimidating glaciers!
  • Geothermal springs: dipping beyond the touristy Blue Lagoon
  • Cruising: sailing by dramatic icebergs and small fishing villages
  • Camping: midnight sun equals fabulous weather, endless sunlight!
  • Hiking: from expansive pastures to rugged coastlines and lava fields
  • Couchsurfing and Meal Sharing: meeting locals is always my top priority
  • Horseback Riding: the small, mostly pony-sized breed is so stinking cute
Icelandic road trip, horseback riding

adorable Icelandic horses by GuideToIceland.is

Icelandic Road Trip Ideas: Unique Accommodation

While I love Couchsurfing, I want to ensure I have some “us” romantic time if my man tags along. For this reason, I also looked into unique accommodation options around the spots on my wish list. Here are some ideas:

Happy Campers: what about a camper van, rented from a local family?

ION Luxury Adventure Hotel: or floor-to-ceiling glass windows to stargaze (while cuddling indoors!) nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site Þingvellir? Hmm…

Volcano Hotel: or undisturbed stargazing on a remote black sand beach after a day of glacier hiking nearby? Sounds dreamy!

Cabin Rental: luxurious log cabin, with hot tub, and walking distance to geyser. SEXY.

Viking Hotel: live like them, be kidnapped by them 15 min. from Reykjavík. I’m intrigued.

Kerlingarfjöll Mountain Resort: pick between traditional cabins or campground to rest at after a full day hiking Iceland’s largest geothermal area. Both mountainside, surrounded by hot springs. Ahhh

Hotel Glymur: four-star, Jacuzzi included, plus stunning views of Whale Fjord.

Icelandic road trip, Hraunfossar

Hraunfossar by Aconcagua, Wikipedia

Phew. That’s quite some planning and unique ideas alright! I’m not sure when I’ll be able to finally go on this dreamy getaway to my favorite country in the world. However, I’ll be more than ready when the opportunity arises 😉

Have you gone on an Icelandic road trip? Share your ideas below!

While I was asked to share my dream Icelandic road trip by Guide to Iceland, these are my honest plans. I can’t wait to go back to this beautiful island!

A Stone’s Throw From Stonehenge Lies a Massive New Mystery

Stonehenge new mystery photoLocated in Wittshire, England, Stonehenge is one of the world’s most iconic man-made landmarks. Tourists flock to the raised stones to ponder their origins and meaning. Are these the marks of an alien burial site? Were ancient sacrificial rituals conducted here? How were these stones raised before the advent of modern technology? Stonehenge baffles tourists (and historians) to this day as it sits isolated in the middle of the English countryside.

Recently, a group of archaeologists from the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project uncovered the extensive remains of a 90-stone structure less than two miles from Stonehenge. Using remote sensing technologies, the archaeologists were able to detect the presence of the massive stone monument, which is currently buried under a bank of grass. Though the archaeologists aren’t entirely sure when the monument was built, they are able to place its construction as contemporary to Stonehenge itself, some time between 2,000 and 3,000 BC.

This new discovery means Stonehenge is not isolated and may in fact be relatively small in comparison to its newfound neighbor. Scientists and archaeologists alike are scrambling to figure out the significance of the new monument and where it figures into the history of the area.

Luckily for them, the new monument is surprisingly well-preserved, and excavation of the stones could lead to specimens more easily researchable than Stonehenge. If full excavation occurs, the monument would form a half moon that dwarfs its sister site. Preemptive hypotheses suggest the new stones might’ve been used for ancient calendar purposes, as a sacred space for religious acts, or as the wall of an arena.

In a statement released to the press by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, Paul Garwood, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Birmingham, reflected on the project’s game-changing discovery, “The extraordinary scale, detail and novelty of the evidence produced by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project is changing fundamentally our understanding of Stonehenge and the world around it. Everything written previously about the Stonehenge landscape and the ancient monuments within it will need to be re-written.”

Regardless of what scientists uncover, this story will be an important one to watch unfold. And in the near future, the discovery might also be a can’t-miss addition to the English travel itinerary.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on Oct. 6th.

Barcelona Free Attractions and Tips: My Favorites

It’s #ThrowbackThursday! Memory Lane has taken me back to fall 2009, when I visited several European cities while studying abroad in Morocco. A student budget meant this was only possible thanks to low-cost carriers and other budget-friendly activities I sought out. Namely, I had the best luck in Spain, so today I’m sharing my favorite Barcelona free attractions and tips.

Barcelona Free Attractions

Barcelona free attractions, Gaudi

Casa Batlló by KHYLAsophy via Trover.com

Walking Tours

I took some of Sandeman’s free tours and highly recommend them. Their guides are knowledgeable and witty. They only live off tips though, so I don’t like to promote the tours as “free” but rather “good value for your money.”

Their three-hour Barcelona walking tour is the most complete of the bunch. It covers a good mix of the city’s history, Catalonia’s national identity, and famous characters. People watch at La Rambla; awe at Picasso’s paintings and Gaudi’s architectural legacy; learn more about the Spanish Civil War; and even visit Roman ruins.

Runner Bean also offers free walking tours in the city—the difference being that they are more targeted. Their Old City tour covers some of the most iconic plazas, churches, and other sites within the Gothic Quarter, highlighting Barcelona’s cultural past. Conversely, their Free Gaudi Tour exclusively focuses on the eccentric architect’s life and modernisme masterpieces.

Outdoor Events

Independent travelers will be happy to know that Barcelona’s free attractions are not limited to group tours. I love Cinema Lliure and its independent film screenings on Sant Sebastià beach Sunday and Thursday nights. Speaking of beaches, you can also visit crowded Barceloneta—or even wear your birthday suit at the nudist section of Mar Bella—gratis.

Barcelona’s vibrant scene is constantly sprinkled with free cultural events though, so make sure you check out For Free’s calendar during your visit.

Museums

As an art lover and history buff, I was thrilled to find out that some of Barcelona’s top museums offer free admission every Sunday after 3 PM.

The Museum of History of Barcelona is particularly striking, with a 4,000-square-meter archaeological dig, filled with Roman ruins. Also worth a visit is the Picasso Museum, highlighting the artist’s early work; the Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona for a deeper look into Catalan culture through different exhibitions and special events; and the National Museum of Art of Catalonia for a good mix of both modernist and medieval pieces (free first Sunday of the month).

Barcelona Free Accommodation (and Food!)

Barcelona free attractions, tapas

Tapas by Chris Stevenson via Trover.com

Tapas

Many bars throughout the city throw in free tapas when you order a drink—per Spanish tradition. Some spots that come to mind are Gata Mala (Gracia), Ambiente del Sur (L’Eixample), Bar Mingus (Gothic District), and Bar Atrapatapa (also in L’Eixample).

Couchsurfing

Even if you’re staying at a Barcelona hotel, check out the local Couchsurfing scene. Hosts are willing to show you around town, even if you’re not staying with them. One of the highlights of my trip to Barcelona was attending a free Catalan poetry reading, accompanied by live music. Afterward, my host took me bar-hopping with his friends in a district I cannot pronounce—and did not see another tourist the whole night.

Oktoberfest History and VIDEO: Travel Bucket List Wednesday

Yah, I’m back! Welcome to another fun edition of Travel Bucket List Wednesday. In addition to talking to you about Oktoberfest history beer and sharing a short VIDEO I created, I have an announcement to make…which, if you wish to read, will have to keep scrolling down until you see it… 😉

Oktoberfest history and VIDEO

ZUM WHOL! It’s time to introduce you to the real story behind the world-renowned festival, Oktoberfest. So without further ado, let me show you a short clip (no fancy editing) of my visit to Oktoberfest Tampa, while telling you how the famous German fair came about:

According to Wikipedia, a parade took place for the first time in 1810 to honor the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. So yeah — a MARRIAGE. Is what gave birth to the world’s largest fair? YAH! Now you also know why the site where Oktoberfest is held every year is called Theresienwiese – that’s exactly where the 2 got married!

However, it wasn’t until 1881 that booths selling bratwurst popped up. Furthermore, beer wasn’t served or even an important part of the fair until 1892. Crazy to think about, no?

Oktoberfest history beer, food

Typical Oktoberfest fare by Verde Canyon Railroad, Flickr

Modern Oktoberfest history: how much has it changed?

Oktoberfest has been the traditional festival we know today since 1950. Previously, there was no 12-gun salute nor the tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest beer at 12:00 by Munich’s current mayor. In fact, Oktoberfest was mostly horse races, which the entire royal family enjoyed, and an agricultural show to promote Bavarian products for the first 100 years. Nowadays? Mostly a way to attract the greatest number of tourists as possible, luring them in with great German beer 😀 Hey, nothing wrong with that!

Oktoberfest history beer, keg tapping

Tapping of the first Oktoberfest keg by Munich’s mayor (2008) by Rich Anderson, Flickr

Why Oktoberfest is on my travel bucket list

Hordes of people from all over the world, delicious curry wurst, and excellent German beers [less than € 9 for one liter!] all day every day for 2 weeks…oh, let’s not forget the dances, dance, and lively energy throughout. Need I say more?! I can’t wait to experience Oktoberfest history myself.

So! When am I thinking to cross this one off my travel bucket list, you ask? I have huge plans for 2014, so that might be the year! What might happen is so so exciting, I can’t even tell you the whole story yet. Just PLEASE keep me in your prayers and let’s hope those doors open next year. Because if they do, WE’RE GOING TO OKTOBERFEST THAT SOON! 😀

Oktoberfest history beer tent, Schottenhammel Festhalle

“Schottenhammel Festhalle is the oldest tent at Oktoberfest in München, Deutschland. In 1867, Michael Schottenhamel built a little wooden barn behind the “Königszelt” at the Theresienwiese that would fit just about 50 people. This “Oktoberfest restaurant” grew to its current dimensions, which can hold up to 10,000 people at a time. * This tent is also where Oktoberfest begins every year, with the mayor of Munich tapping a keg. Schottenhammel serves Spaten beer, one of the famous local brands, in one liter glasses”    -Grufnik, Flickr

+NEWS: I didn’t make it to the CWE Final 5. Just made it to the Top 10…

SPEAKING OF other plans for 2014: yah, I didn’t make it to the final round of Jauntaroo’s Chief World Explorer competition. Of course, disappointment hit me hard once more, just like I predicted. HOWEVER! It was short-lived due to the AMAZING outpouring of support and encouraging messages I received not only from friends and fans, but also from TV PRODUCERS…! Just check out what the judges from Jauntaroo said about my videos, hosting style and how people from the actual industry reacted.

What Jauntaroo said to me:

You were definitely one of our top 10 choices. In an effort to provide some candid feedback on why you were not selected, we would say just a little more polishing on camera. That comes with practice and we truly enjoyed your videos.

What a former Travel Channel producer told me:

Being natural on camera is MUCH better than being polished. I like your style, keep on being spunky, it’ll take you much farther than being boring, rehearsed and polished. Suerte con todo!

So yah — I’m not changing anytime soon 😉

history of Oktoberfest beer and festival, Paulaner ALE

Let’s drink to that! ;D (photo: Erik, Flickr)

Do you know any fun facts about Oktoberfest history beer?

Burano Island, Venice, Italy: The One That Got Away

Back in 2005, I visited Europe and Venice for the first time. The sometimes stinky alleyways and channels couldn’t take away from the romanticism in the air. Yet, Burano Island, the most colorful, magical Venetian island…is the one that got away…from me! And so, for my long-lost love, this special Travel Bucket List Wednesday post. I’ll come back to you, I swear!

Burano Island photo, Venice

Colorful alleyway of Burano Island, Venice, Italy (Saffron Blaze, Wiki Commons)

Burano Island, Venice, Italy: How to Get There

I don’t know what’s crazier: the fact that my high school group missed out on Burano or that I saw Burano Island photos for the very first time this summer. I mean, it’s only located 4 miles away from the center of Venice!

All it takes is a 40-minute ride on the water taxis or Venetian motorboats (vaporetti, Wikipedia). For instance, LN water bus departs from San Mark’s (€6.5 each way), stopping at Lido, Burano Island, Murano, and others.

Every time I remember I missed out on it, makes me want to cry…

Venice photos, vaporetti

Vaporetti along Ponte degli Scalzi, Venice by Gwenaël Piaser, Flickr

Burano Island, Venice, Italy: Things to Do

Bright, colorful architecture

Fun fact: residents of Burano Island must send an official request to the local government if they wish to paint their home, as the change must be pre-approved plus fit with the color scheme of their neighborhood. Crazy huh?!

things to do in Burano Island, architecture

Houses of Burano by Paul R, Tripadvisor

Fabulous lace shopping at Martina Vidal Venezia

Love lace? Martina Vidal Venezia [Via San Mauro 307] is the place to be. As with many other popular shopping districts, vendors here may be pushy, but just be firm and take in the culture.

Not into shopping? STILL go! Voice on the street says that Martina’s place is decorated impeccably, with beautiful views of Burano rooftops and the Venetian lagoon off the terrace. Take many, many pictures.

things to do in Burano Island, Martina Vidal Venezia

Martina Vidal Venezia rooftop photo by Arzana Agency

San Martino Cathedral and it’s leaning tower

Yes, it exists! If you got no time for Pisa, head to Burano Island and experience San Martino Cathedral’s 18th-century leaning tower [Via Baldascare Galuppi].

things to do in Burano Island, leaning tower

San Martino Cathedral and its leaning tower by Gerry Balding, Flickr

Burano’s canals

No visit to a Venetian island is complete without its canals. Make sure you capture that postcard image, including Burano’s colorful houses sprinkled throughout one of its many channels.

things to do in Burano Island, Venice canal photo

Burano Island, Venice canal by Rafal Kiermacz, Flickr

Got more photos or things to do in Burano Island? Share them below!

Noche de San Juan history: Beach Thursday special!

What does Noche de San Juan history has to do with Beach Thursday, some of you may ask? Well, all of it! Through a fun photo essay, I’ll describe this exciting beach festival. And while it is also celebrated in Portugal, I’ll focus on Spain and Puerto Rico today. Good way to warm up before I go to freeze my butt in Canada this Saturday! 😉

Noche de San Juan history, Portugal beach

Bonfires as seen from a beach in Medeira, Portugal by zyberchema, Flickr

Noche de San Juan history

The original Christian holiday honors John the Baptist on June 24th. However, its eve (Noche de Fuego) is an adaptation of an earlier pagan festival, which paid tribute to the sun. FIRE and water take center stage, symbolizing the cleansing of sins.

In short, Noche de San Juan is a celebration of the shortest night of the year, used as an opportunity to “start anew” (+ party). And while the summer solstice is actually closer to June 21st, the church wanted to celebrate it by St. John’s holiday (night of June 23rd). So it stuck!

Noche de San Juan history, Night of Fire

Giant Noche de San Juan bonfire in Spain by Lumiago, Flickr

Whether we’re talking about it in Spain or Puerto Rico, the origins are the same. Conquistadors got here, traditions were passed on, you know the deal. When it comes to practice, though? Somewhat different!

Noche de San Juan customs, traditions, and superstitions

Naturally, Noche de San Juan customs and traditions aren’t the same in Spain and Puerto Rico anymore. While Spaniards focus more on fire rituals, Puerto Ricans simply like to have a great beach concert and splash into the ocean. Here are some examples:

– It’s believed that as soon as the sun comes up the morning of June 24, the waters of fountains and rivers are full of special powers to cure and protect people. Additionally, whoever bathes in the dew of that night will be protected for the rest of the year (only in Spain).

Noche de San Juan history, Puerto Rico beach

The party starts early! Ocean Park beach, Puerto Rico by Amber Porter

– Going backwards (naked!) into the ocean, while looking at the moon, will give the bather special powers on Noche de San Juan (in Spain). OR you can simply jump backwards into the ocean, even if wearing a bathing suit, 7 times after midnight of June 24th for good luck (in Puerto Rico).

– Singles who look through the window of their home after midnight of June 24 will see the love of their life walk by (either Spain or Puerto Rico).

– A scary-looking ragdoll is burned by the ocean, while making a variety of petitions and promises (only in some coastal towns, Andalucia, and the Canary Islands).

Noche de San Juan customs and traditions, Canary Islands

Playa Jardín, Canary Islands by Carmen Fuentes

Noche de San Juan: modern celebrations

While the previous Noche de San Juan customs and traditions are kept by some, most youngsters simply go to the beach to party the night of June 23rd. To give you a taste of what this holiday is like nowadays in both Spain and Puerto Rico, here are some videos of the respective celebrations:

Noche de San Juan in Spain, also known as The Night of Fire:

Noche de San Juan in Puerto Rico’s capital:

I’m excited to be celebrating Noche de San Juan in Puerto Rico this year. PLUS my birthday is that same week (June 25) 😉 Mr. B and I have rented a studio by the beach, so will sure be taking great photos of the party by Ocean Park beach! Can’t wait for next month 😀

Yay for the good times and bye-bye to the gloomy days (I hope…!).

Noche de San Juan history, beach fireworks

Playa de Las Canteras, Las Palmas by JUAN RAMON RODRIGUEZ SOSA

Did you know about Noche de San Juan history? Have you celebrated it?

Canary Islands beaches: photos from Grand Canaria

It’s Beach Thursday! Today we are going back to Europe to visit some Canary Islands beaches. Specifically, we will learn more about the hot spots of Gran Canaria, where 40% of the Canaries’ population resides. Enjoy!

Canary Islands beaches, Las Canteras

Las Canteras by JUAN RAMON RODRIGUEZ SOSA, Flickr

Canary Islands beaches: Gran Canaria

I don’t know what intrigues me the most: the fact that one of its beaches is known as Europe’s nudist capital, the few dangers that you may encounter during your visit or that its most popular beach is called Puerto Rico (yup, just like the Caribbean island). Gran Canaria is definitely a destination for the adventurous, open-minded traveler.

Puerto Rico Resort

Of course I had to start with Gran Canaria’s most popular beach. Puerto Rico is the center of a popular resort area, sprinkled with several hotels and bars. As expected, it is quite crowded and not everyone’s piece of cake.

Canary Islands beaches, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria by Gran Canaria Go, Flickr

Amadores Beach

Just like out of a Caribbean brochure, it is hard to believe that Amadores is a man-made beach. Literally made from scratch, it is a 15 min. walk (or 3-min. cab drive) from wildly-crowded Puerto Rico resort.

Canary Islands beaches, Amadores Gran Canaria

Amadores Beach by Sergio Carriedo, Flickr

Maspalomas Beach

The biggest beach in Gran Canaria also happens to be Europe’s nudist capital. However, the only nudist zone is located at its center, so you may still visit one of the island’s most popular beaches without having to strip down. LGBT travelers: there’s also a special area designated with a Pride flag. Personally, I love this beach because of its spectacular sand dunes.

Canary Islands beaches, Maspalomas

Gorgeous sand dunes of Maspalomas Beach by Pedro Szekely, Flickr

Playa de Las Canteras

Want to go snorkeling? Coral sandstone barrier reef La Barra is right off this beach. As a bonus, it breaks incoming waves, making this spot perfect for families as well. Make sure you also spend some time by the paseo marítimo, the red-brick boardwalk that hugs the beach with several restaurants, bars, and shops. It is another popular spot in Gran Canaria, so definitely not for those who are seeking peace and quiet 😉

Canary Islands beaches, Playa de Las Canteras

Playa de Las Canteras, Las Palmas by JUAN RAMON RODRIGUEZ SOSA

Guigui Beach

Speaking of peace and quiet, if you seek isolation and relaxation, Gui Gui is your beach. While it may be reached by boat from the Puerto Rico resort or by water taxi from Puerto de Las Nieves. Adventurous souls might want to take the 3-hour hike from its closest road, though!

Canary Islands beaches, Guigui beach valley

Valley leading to Gui Gui beach by Vijay Sikanda, Flickr

Guayedra

Want to hang out with the locals? Head over to Guayedra. Located on the gorgeous West Coast, getting there is just half the fun. Go on a weekday to mingle with Canarians hailing from Agaete, Galdar and Guia. Otherwise, go on a weekday and chances are you will have this slice of heaven all to yourself.

Please note though: this is a black sand beach with many pebbles, plus you may find the odd group of nudists from time to time. Bonus though? You may take a mud bath here! One of the most unique Gran Canaria beaches of the island IMO.

Canary Islands beaches, Guayedra

Guayedra Beach, Gran Canaria north coast by Ramon Sanchez Bruhn, Flickr

Have you visited any Canary Islands beaches? Which is your favorite?