Nowhere throws a party quite like Spain, with visitors able to enjoy something different almost every weekend as towns and villages across the country come together to celebrate their colourful local traditions, in which someone quite literally gets to be the king of the castle. One of the biggest and best parties is held over the start of October, when communities across Catalonia and Valencia celebrate their annual ‘Castells contest’. The event dates back more around 300 years, though the exact origins are, unsurprisingly, the source of much debate among Spaniards.
The event sees teams from small villages and towns come together to create human castles, some stretching 20 metres or more into the air. Teams of up to 50 people start off with a large base, with members standing on each other’s shoulders until just a single person, usually a small boy from the village, stands on top of them all, with a hand raised in the air. The team whose tower is the highest are crowned the champions, a huge source of pride for these communities. As well as the gravity-defying human acrobatics, the local festivals are also known for their music, with community bands playing on medieval-style flutes, and for the colourful costumes everyone, not just the ones the participants wear. Plus, this being Spain, all of the festivities are accompanied by singing, dancing, food and wine. And, interestingly, the music played and even the tipple of choice varies according to whether the human castle is being built or is being taken down.
Tourists keen to see the human castles for themselves are advised to head to the Tarragona part of Catalonia, up in the north-east of Spain. Here, dozens of separate local festivals take place over the start of autumn and, though they may be community affairs, visitors are always welcome. So why not come down, enjoy the fun and experience a side of Spain that many people from outside the country know very little about?