What's on in Almáchar... San Cristo San Isidro Feria Dia Ajoblanco
Many ferias exclusive to Almáchar...
Almáchar has a number of fiestas and ferias which are not to be found held elsewhere. Of course visitors will be able to witness Semana Santa during March / April, and San Isidro in May for example, just as one could in any Axarquian village.
However, also in May there’s the Santa Cristo de la Bande Verde fiesta based on a local legend that a group of sailors were miraculously saved by a vision of Jesus with a ‘green band’ around him. Then, also exclusive to Almáchar, there’s one of the cultural highlights of the year, the Dia del Ajoblanco, which celebrates the local gazpacho soup, as well now as the local wine. This really is a must-see event.
Another event seldom found in other villages is the Feria de Ganado, a celebration of local farmer’s horses, donkeys and mules. It is one of the few remaining ‘equine-cattle fairs’ in the region, and has become an important meeting point for the entire agricultural livestock sector, as well as an attractive event for locals and visitors alike.
Finally, in common with other villages, there is the summer festival, the Virgen del Amparo feria. However, unlike many others, Almáchar holds it in the middle of the historic village rather than stuck outside in a tent somewhere, which makes it a more enjoyable experience, being closer to all the bars and restaurants.
If you’ve been to one of these festivals don’t forget you’re invited to leave a comment describing your experience, (note that a Facebook account is necessary).
Santo Cristo de la Banda Verde fiesta
Held on the 1st weekend in May.
This fiesta’s origins go back to 1754, when, according to local legend, the divine intervention of Christ prevented the destruction of the village by a major earthquake. Christ was then named the protector of the town.
There is a programme of events held throughout the weekend. From sports tournaments, dances and orchestral performances, to a large firework display. But the most popular part of this religious festival is themass on the Sunday morning, and the procession of Santo Cristo with a brass band through the streets of Almáchar in the afternoon.
The ‘bande verde’ (green band) comes from another local legend about a group of sailors who struggled to survive in the midst of a great storm. The story goes that eventually their ship sank and they fell into the sea, where they were near to death. They then prayed and saw an image of Christ with a green band around him, coming to them; He gave them a plank of wood on the water which they were able to hold onto. The sailors looked for the statue of Christ in all the towns and found it Almáchar and in thanks gave the town two silver lamps.
Held as near to the 15th of May as possible.
The Pilgrimage of San Isidro every mid-May is one of the oldest and deeply rooted traditions in Andalucía, and in Almáchar it has changed little in how it’s performed.
The participating floats, as well as those on foot or horseback, gather together in the Plaza de España and then accompany San Isidro, the patron saint of farmers, out into the countryside to a spot called El Paraje de la Cuesta Chica.
Many outdoor activities are performed on this festive day. It is traditional for the older people in the village to gather around in circles and sing and dance to popular songs, called Verdiales.
Another custom is with up to 60 horse riders participating in the ever-popular race of ‘carreras de cintas a caballo’. In this throwback to Medieval jousting, the riders have to try to insert a wooden stake into one of the metal hoops suspended on a line above them at full gallop. The hoop and the colourful ribbon (cinta) that ties it to the line are then yanked away and brandished by the proud caballero, (see photo right).
In addition to this, the floats are judged, paellas are of course made, and there are plenty of popular games for adults and children.
Finally, at about 8.30 in the evening, San Isidro is returned to San Mateo church, with all the floats that have accompanied him throughout the day.
June / July:
Feria de Ganado
This festival is a celebration of what was (and some extent still is) the local farmers main friend down the years – their work horses. Started in 2006, it is one of the few remaining ‘equine-cattle fairs’ in the region, and has become an important meeting point for the entire agricultural livestock sector, as well as an attractive event for locals and visitors alike.
Almáchar town hall invites locals to come along with their horses and donkeys to enjoy this fun event, which also has a serious side for them. A day before the start they are usually invited to take part in a training session by a local veterinarian on subjects like the care of their animal such as administering first aid and handling wounds, to basic care of a pregnant mare or a newborn foal. As further incentive, everyone that registers their animal and participates in the fair are rewarded with 10 euros.
For those that love to see well cared for animals it is a great weekend event, and takes place in an enclosure next to the Almachar river.
Virgen del Amparo Feria
Held around the last weekend in the month.
Basically, it’s Almachar’s summer feria, with three days of celebrations in honour of Almáchar’s patron saint, Nuestra Señora de Amparo. Residents and visitors can enjoy a variety of entertainment, with lots of music (including traditional verdiales), dancing and sporting events.
Everything takes place on the Paseo de la Axarquía during the day, and in the pavilions at the María Zambrano Park at night – to keep the loud music outside the village!
As is traditional, the mornings are dedicated to children with workshops, free playgrounds, and traditional horse races – ‘carreras de cintas a caballo’ (see description above).
Friday, the first day of the feria, begins with the traditional firing of rockets at 9:00 am, followed by elections held to choose a Feria King and Queen from among the local children. Later on, there is music provided by local groups as well as DJ.
On the Saturday there is music entertainment, dj’s, a dance marathon, along with a foam party.
Sunday starts with a traditional Mass held in San Mateo church followed by a procession of the Virgen del Amparo accompanied by musicians on its journey through the streets of Almáchar. Later on a paella is provided for all, and there are performances by local dance groups and choirs. Last of all, fireworks are let off heralding the end of the feria – at 5.00 in the morning!
What makes the feria extra special is that it takes place in the historic centre of the village, so that visitors can enjoy the charming labyrinth of streets and squares, as well as being close to all the bars, restaurants and shops there.
Dia del Ajoblanco
Apart from being famous for raisins, it should not be forgotten that Almachar is also the home of the most typical dish found in the Axarquía region, ‘ajoblanco’. Of Arabic origin, it was initially called almond gazpacho (soup) given its basic ingredient of almonds, but later, with the incorporation of a new ingredient, garlic, the name was changed to ajoblanco.
Every first Saturday in September Almáchar celebrates its traditional Ajoblanco in style, probably its most important festival. Nearly a hundred volunteers help to distribute the culinary delights of the area from stalls around the village; and during just one day, 2000 litres of cold soup, 100 litres of Moscatel wine, as well as 400 kilos of grapes and 100 kilos of raisins, are often given away. It has been declared by the Junta de Andalucía as a ‘Festival of National Tourist Interest’.
Starting nearly 50 years ago, Día del Ajoblanco is the oldest gastronomic festival of the province. It was the originally the idea of a group of Almachareños who wanted to make politicians aware of how isolated the village was, and the need for a new link road to it. Thanks to those Almáchar citizens, the eventual new road and the Ajoblanco festival has certainly put the little town on the map.
However, during the festival, the clock is turned back a little and Almáchar’s streets are turned into authentic outdoor museums with exhibitions of old farm implements, handicrafts and ceramics. Also, look out for dolls or dummies dressed up in traditional scenes.
A special stage is set up in the Plaza España, on which there are performances of flamenco and folk dance in the afternoon. The musical entertainment continues into the evening, at which time candles and a great bonfire are lit. Around midnight visitors enjoy an alfresco feast of grilled sardines and tinto de verano (wine mixed with lemonade), for free. There are also festivities that take place on the Paseo de la Axarquía.
The Origins of Ajoblanco
For more details about Almachar’s famous almond soup, including a recipe on how to make it, go here.
Almáchar pages guide
Use the links below to explore what you can see and do in Almachar, what festivals take place through the year, and to read about the area’s fascinating history.