You, too, can visit Cariñena and walk the streets, drink the wine, enjoy the food, and celebrate La Fiestas with just a little preparation.
When should you go?
You really want to visit during one of the annual fiestas when there’s music, wine, food, bulls, and other cultural activities are happening. Visit the official web page of the town hall and follow the links to the details on the las fiestas:
- Fiesta de San Valero – 29 January celebrating the patron saint San Valero
- Romería a la Virgen de Lagunas – On Easter Monday this fiesta celebrates a nearby sanctuary with a procession through the city
- Fiesta de San Isidro – Celebrated on the Sunday closest to 15 May with traditional dress
- Fiesta de San Cristóbal – Celebrated in July but the actual dates of this lively 3-day fiesta can vary from year to year
- Fiesta del Santo Cristo de Santiago – is a week-long fiesta with a focal point on 14 September. This mind-numbing fiesta is celebrated all day and all night for a week with parades, music, food, bull fights, bulls running in the streets, and celebrations at the churches
- Fiesta de la Vendimia – is a weekend event conducted by the local wine industry celebrating the grape harvest and, to the outsider, can be confused with the Fiesta del Santo Cristo de Santiago because it frequently is celebrated a week before or a week after that fiesta. All the vineyards have special events and tents of wine surround the city. The fountain at the town hall is filled with red wine!
How do you get there?
You can fly to Madrid and rent a car and drive northeast 3 hours. Or you can fly to Barcelona and drive west for 3 hours (Madrid is a little closer). Both airports have high-speed trains running through Cariñena and nearby Zaragoza does have an airport served by several airlines. I rented a car at Avis at the airport in Madrid for 3 weeks and paid about $400.
Where should you stay?
There are two hotels in Cariñena (I haven’t stayed at either) but there’s a wonderful Airbnb host with two spacious condos on Calle Mayor less than 100 yards from the town square and fountain.
Ana Cristina operates Casa Pallarés which easily sleeps 7 guests in 4 bedrooms (6 beds) and 2 baths. The full size kitchen is well-stocked, there’s a living room, and clothes washer (a window in a utility room gives you access to a clothes line). A balcony gives you a perfect view of the bulls running up and down the street or you can quietly enjoy your glass of wine.
Ane Cristina has a second condo on the top floor which is a little more modern and has some great views from the many windows, but there’s no balcony. This one sleeps 6 guests in 3 bedrooms (5 beds) and 1 bath.
Bottom line: stay in the middle of town and enjoy the quick walk to every restaurant, bar, grocery store, and church! Ana Cristina is an incredible host who will make every effort to ensure you have a great visit.
How long should you stay?
We visited for 4 days of La Fiesta de Santo Cristo de Santiago on our first trip. It wasn’t enough for me because I wanted to spend days in the church archives doing family research.
My second trip was 3 weeks long. That was awesome. For many of you that is probably too long unless you’re continuing my family research and scouring records or hunting relatives. Cariñena reminds me a lot of visiting Denver, Colorado: a big mountain to the west, and a high-desert plain that isn’t terribly attractive unless you’re seeking that terrain.
However, a couple of hours travel in each direction can take you to beautiful sandy beaches or luscious green mountains. Los Mallos, above, is about 90 minutes north. There is a lot to see in Spain and, frankly, the boys preferred the buzzing metropolis of Zaragoza, just 20 minutes north, with its busy streets, beautiful sights, amusement parks, malls, and the other things they wanted to see and do. They won’t understand why I preferred staying on Calle Mayor until many years from now.
So pick a fiesta and spend a few days in the village. See the church where our ancestors were baptised and married. See the ruins of the Franciscan convent. Stop in and tour the many bodegas and sample their wines. Visit the nearby towns, especially Muel, and shop their stores while exploring their incredible forts and ruins. Plan to spend a couple of days in Zaragoza and then see other parts of Spain. Go to Madrid or Salamanca! Head to the beaches!