Las Fallas: Spain’s Festival of Fire

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My biggest reason for visiting Spain?  Attending the Las Fallas festival in Valencia — the festival filled with a week of fireworks, explosions, and giant burning effigies!

And it almost ended in disaster.  Read through to the end of this piece to see how I averted one of the most horrifying calamities that I can imagine.

So, what brought me here?  After having the time of my life at Up Helly Aa in Shetland with Haggis Adventures, I decided that I needed more fire festivals in my life — and Haggis’s partner company, Busabout, had a Las Fallas trip that looked amazing!

What is Las Fallas?

Every year, from March 15-20, Valencia is engulfed in a celebration of fire, explosions, music, and religious devotion.

Throughout the city are the Fallas: hundreds of giant paper-mache sculptures, like the one pictured above.  These are some of the weirdest and most wacky sculptures you can imagine!

People both young and old parade through the city in traditional Valencian costumes, the women wearing heavy dresses, mantillas and spirals of curls pinned to their temples.  Music blares from trumpets and drums.

Each afternoon at 2:00 PM is the Mascleta: a deafening daytime fireworks display, bright white against the blue sky.  Tens of thousands of people in Valencia show up to the main plaza, and you can hear it from miles away.

The explosions never stop in Valencia — during any given minute, you’ll probably hear about seven or eight firecrackers go off.  Even the smallest of kids are into it, running around with sparklers and setting off firecrackers of their own.  (You will NOT sleep unless you have earplugs!  Consider them essential packing for Las Fallas.)

On the final night, the Fallas are burned.  This burning is far from meek — people pour gunpowder and gasoline on the Fallas and then strike up a match, firecrackers and fireworks raining everywhere as the effigies are engulfed in flames.

Once again, I said to myself, “This would never happen in America.”

Las Fallas with Busabout

When you go to a festival with a group tour, you know you’re going to experience the festival in the best way.  Our Busabout guide Dax knew exactly what to do — from precisely where to view the Mascleta to what local spirits to try (viva aqua de Valencia!).  And while food isn’t included in this trip (save the opening night paella dinner), he took us to some cool, cheap restaurants that we loved.

Our group was mostly Australians, with a few other nationalities thrown in, and we became fast friends.  Every day in Valencia, we could explore together as a group or go off on our own.  Valencia has a lot of cool stuff to see — like the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences!

There were plenty of optional extras, like seeing a Flamenco show, or renting bikes to ride to the beach.

On the final night, we gathered to see a giant head of Leonardo da Vinci explode with fire, and joined the locals in their revelry.

The Single Greatest Benefit of Going to Las Fallas with Busabout

I love Jackass and go crazy for the stunts Johnny Knoxville and his crew perform — but there are a number of skits that I just can’t watch.  Like “the fart helmet.”  Or “how to milk a horse.”

OR: anything involving a porta-potty.  I’m looking at you, Steve-O.

I hate porta-potties — my friends will vouch for the fact that I walked from the Esplanade to the Whole Foods in Beacon Hill just to avoid using a porta-potty in Boston on the Fourth of July

So when I use one, it’s a last resort.  And I got to that point when I was wandering the streets with our group and admiring the Fallas and light displays.

I went into the porta-potty, determined to get in and out as soon as possible.  All of a sudden, I heard guys from my group yelling, “NO, NO!  STOP!  She’s in there!”

I peed harder than I ever had in my life and got out of there.

Turns out that two guys were about to throw a firecracker into the porta-potty while I was in there.  And because I had people with me, they stopped them.

Busabout saved me from literally being covered in sh*t.

I try not to shy away from anything on my travels just because it’s intimidating or difficult, as you all well know.  I use this site to show that women can travel solo safely almost anywhere.

But the truth is that no matter where you are in the world, some people use festivals as an excuse to go crazy, drink too much, and cause damage to people and property.  Just read about Kieu’s recent experience getting groped throughout Holi in India.

I wouldn’t stop myself from attending most festivals on my own for that reason, but going with a group means that you have a safety net in the event that something bad happens.  And this time, that safety net saved me from becoming a one-woman Jackass episode.

Aside from this horrifying near-mishap, my four-day Las Fallas trip with Busabout was SO much fun, and Las Fallas is a really under-appreciated festival that more travelers should experience.  Stay tuned for more posts about the fire, the explosions, the processions, and the amazing Fallas!

Many thanks to Busabout for hosting me on their Las Fallas trip.  All opinions, as always, are my own.

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19 thoughts on “Las Fallas: Spain’s Festival of Fire”

  1. Just so you know, the link that says ‘Kieu’s recent experience getting groped throughout Holi in India’ is currently pointing to the Busabout Las Fallas page (, which I assume it’s not meant to? (Feel free to delete this comment btw; just wanted to let you know re the link.)

  2. LOL.. I totally remembered you tweeted about the porta-potty incident. I pretty avoid them at all cost too. Good thing you had a group with you and even more glad you came out, shall I say, sh*tless. 😛 looks like fun though.

  3. I remember you tweeting about the porta-potty incident too… YIKES! Lucky you had some friends watching out for you!

    Las Fallas sounds insane. Can’t wait to read more about it!

  4. I know how Spaniards can go REALLY CRAZY with their festivals! I spent a night at a small town in northern spain and couldn’t sleep all night because of the festival that I didn’t know would take place on that day! And they were still partying drunk all over the streets the next morning when I left town! 😀 I bet this festival is even crazier! all for the better 😉

    And you’re lucky to have those friends with you! would’ve been a bad end for the festival!

  5. All your photos are great but the photos on this post are fantastic. Did you do something different? They are so brilliant in color. Makes me feel like I’m right there with you.

  6. The festival sounds lots of fun besides these crazy people who don’t check whether people are inside a structure they want to set on fire…. oops! I love how you show that women can solo travel around the world AND I’m glad that this time you weren’t solo. I don’t think it has to do with gender, just the crazy people who don’t check whether people are inside a structure they want to set on fire!

  7. Eurgh this is why some festivals bug me – the drunk morons. There’s a huge mud festival in Korea every year but it’s full of people getting drunk from 7am…they tend to get a little violent from what I’ve heard. Not my idea of fun. Plus, I’m fairly hairy and the idea of washing out mud is just painful. I’d be left with patchy hair.

    I’m glad there were people there to stop those guys from throwing the firecracker into the toilet – that would’ve been difficult to wash out.

  8. I’ll think twice about using a portaloo again after reading this! But I still think they’re moderately better than those loos on trains with the sliding doors that open unexpectedly!

  9. I agree, Las Fallas are cool, but as in every massive event, there’s always people that gets a little bit crazy.I’ve been there twice and I had lots of fun. I was happy though that I was walking around with some local friends. Anyway, I really enjoyed them and I think it is worth it going there!

  10. Hey, 10 years after, the hater is here! First of all: having paella for dinner is absolutely wrong! only tourists would do something like that, it’s a traditional dish that you only eat for lunch. Then, about your firecracker incident, I don’t think anything major would have happened, the portaloo wouldn’t absolutely have caught in fire. Obviously, still a horrible thing to experience.

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