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5 Amazing Experiences in Northern Spain in January You Probably Never Imagined

In January, right in the middle of the cold season, not only can you make a pilgrimage on the Camino off-season, but there are also some special festivals and winter activities that can only be experienced in winter and January is the perfect month.


carnival vijanera in cantabria northern spain

Foto: Pablo Díaz, Asociación Cultural Amigos de la Vijanera

Celebrate the Winter Carnival 'La Vijanera' with the locals


Where and when? January 7th on the first Sunday of the year (in Silló, Cantabria).

Those who can not wait for Carnival will have the opportunity to join in a traditional and very special carnival in Cantabria at the beginning of January. The festivity, La Vijanera, in the small town of Silló is said to go back to ancient Roman and Celtic traditions.
Here, natives dress up as animal figures, symbolically carrying out the fight between good and evil, in which the evil spirits are to be expelled. The past year is reflected in humorous, ridiculous poems and also the local Schnapps Orujo is never missing from this festivity.
Participants dress up with cowbells and sheepskins, such as bears and foxes or represent plants, taking on various symbolic roles. The ringing of the cowbells heralds the festivity and after the event there is, of course, a rich feast.

Watch the Procession of the Three Holy Kings


Where and when? January 5th, throughout Spain

In Spain, The Three Kings (who are also called The 3 Wise Men or The Magi) are what Father Christmas or Santa Claus is elsewhere: they bring the gifts that the children find under the Christmas tree on the morning of January 6th, Epiphany. Instead of frankincense, gold and myrrh, however, they bring presents. The night before, a colorful spectacle takes place, a procession of costumed participants, music and sweets, where children can be seen with shining eyes of happiness and expectation.
Read more about the tradition of Epiphany here in our blog (Link).

Skiing in the Pyrenees (Aragón)


Where and when? During the winter season December-February in Huesca / Pyrenees (Aragón)

A winter holiday in northern Spain can be combined wonderfully with some winter sports activities as well.
The Formigal Trail in Sallent de Gállego on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees is one of the best known and most popular in Spain. Moreover, it is an experience for the whole family. A total of 176 km of slopes are available for the descent. There is skiing and snowboarding on slopes of all levels of difficulty, against the backdrop of the impressive Pyrenees landscape. In Candanchú there is the oldest ski school in Spain and a particularly good offer for families with children. No matter which place you choose, you will definitely enjoy nature, après-ski and entertainment for all tastes.

Foto: Ayuntamiento de Sallent de Gállego

Drumming, at the town festival Tamborada, in San Sebastian


Where and when? January 20th in San Sebastián (the Basque Country).

The festival in honor of the patron saint, Saint Sebastian, is also the most important festival in the Basque city and gastronomic metropolis on the Bay of Biscay. The city population defies the low temperatures, the cold and the rain and gathers at midnight on the Constitution Square, where various groups of drummers come together and march through all quarters of the city accompanied by the music of drumming. Some drummers wear a uniform that is reminiscent of the Napoleon era, others are dressed as cooks and drum on barrels. Their costumes refer to the famous cooking clubs, 'sociedades gastronomicas', which also participate in this festival.
The tradition of the town festival goes back to the 16th century, when the inhabitants of the city called on Saint Sebastian to assist them during an epidemic and it was also influenced by the Napoleonic Independence Wars.

Foto: Flickr Donostia/San Sebastian 2016

Taste the famous Cocido Stew


Where and when? In the cold season, everywhere in Castile-Leon, Cantabria and Galicia.

Whilst during hot temperatures the emphasis is on light Mediterranean cuisine, winter is the perfect time to get to know some of the more substantial Northern Spanish dishes. Cocido is a kind of stew that usually consists of different meats, sausages, chickpeas and vegetables. Each region has its own recipe and its own way of making and serving Cocido. Often, the individual ingredients, broth, vegetables and meat, are served separately in a specific order. Particularly well-known are the Cocido Maragato (Province of León), the Cocido Montañés (Cantabria) or the Cocido in Lalín (Galicia), where there is even a festive week dedicated to it in January.

Foto: El Bierzo Digital

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