Location: Parque González Hontoria, Jerez de la Frontera, Spain
Dates: three weeks after Semana Santa (the week leading up to Easter Sunday)
Level of participation: 3 - get festive with the music and dance and watch the horses parade and prance
Southern Spain’s festive spring moves to Jerez de la Frontera for the annual Horse Fair. Jerez is a city where sherry, flamenco and horses vie for top billing, but over these seven days in May the horses have no competition (even if the fair does also involve plenty of sherry and flamenco). One of Andalucía’s biggest festivals, the fair attracts more than one million visitors and features music, dancing, bullfights and all kinds of horse competitions, from dressage through to polo.
Each day there’s a colourful parade featuring hundreds of horses passing through the Parque González Hontoria fairgrounds in the north of the city, the aristocratic-looking male riders decked out in flat-topped hats, frilly white shirts, black trousers and leather chaps, and their female crupera (sideways pillion) partners in flamenco-inspired dresses. Similar to Seville’s Feria de Abril, the fairgrounds are filled with more than 200 casetas (tents), though you’ll be free to visit these tents.
Essentials: this festival is a big deal for Jerez and it squeezes accommodation choices to a premium, so book well ahead. Expect sky-high prices.
Local attractions: a visit to Jerez demands some time in a sherry bodega - there are more than 20 in the area.
More info: Jerez tourist office (www.turismojerez.com)
See other top festivals in May here.
This is an excerpt from Lonely Planet's A Year of Festivals.
This article was first published in December 2010 and was refreshed in April 2013.