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Vikings & Witches On A Weird & Wonderful Vacation In Spain

Catoira Viking Festival
Vikings and witches in Spain [Image Turismo de Galicia/YouTube]
Travelers planning a vacation in Spain mostly think of major cities like Madrid or Barcelona. They book a visit to the beautiful beaches on the country’s coasts. However, for anyone looking for a truly memorable Spanish vacation can experience Vikings and witches in local events. Read on to find out more about the weird side of Spain and when you can experience these fascinating events.

Catoira, Galicia and the Romaría Vikinga (Viking Festival)

Catoira Viking Festival
[Image Turismo de Galicia/YouTube]
The town of Catoira is located in Galicia in northern Spain, around 23 miles from Santiago de Compostela. Meanwhile, the city nestles at the opening of the Ulla River at the point where it joins the Arousa Estuary. The town boasts the iconic ruin of the Torres del Oeste (Towers of the West), which loom over the river and in the past, kept guard of the town.

The towers were built in the 9th century as part of a defensive system against Norman armies and Saracen pirates. Moreover, it hoped to keep away the bloodthirsty Vikings that tried to take over the small town. This is where the town’s fascinating story begins.

‘Festival of Interest’

Catoira Viking Festival
Viking Festival [Image Turismo de Galicia/YouTube]


In August every year since 1960, Catoira throws a “Festival of Interest” where Vikings once again attack the town. The event attracts people from all over Europe to participate in the fun. Meanwhile, the event opens when a group of terrifying Vikings, appropriately dressed to suit, while yielding plastic swords sail to the town’s shores.

Red wine flows

This is where the fun truly begins in the Romaría Vikinga (Viking Festival) as the bloodthirsty Vikings arrive on the shore. As the attack begins, what looks like a lot of blood flies, but rumors say it is actually red wine. Besides the fight, the town then throws a party with folk music entertainment, traditional dancing and a medieval market held in the towers. Basically, everyone in Catoira has plenty of fun.

Readers can enjoy a video of the Viking Festival below:

Witches of Zugarramurdi, Basque Country

Not too far from Catoira is the small town of Zugarramurdi in Spain’s Basque Country.  In the Navarra region, the town has a fascinating past, as it is said to have been a place of witchcraft and pagan rituals. Meanwhile, the past is being kept alive here to this day.

Witches caves of ZugarraMurdi,
Witches caves of ZugarraMurdi [Image by Joan on Flickr]
Located close to the border between Spain and France and the Baztan Valley, and before the 18th century, caves in Zugarramurdi regularly celebrated pagan festivities and rituals. Meanwhile, according to the town’s residents, those caves were carved out by the Olabidea stream which they believed originated in hell.

Here, you will see no stalactites or stalagmites and no cave paintings, but those entering the caves experience an intense and eerie atmosphere. While no one knows if the legends are true, it is said that the Spanish Inquisition sent witch hunters to the town. Reportedly, the hunters found around 7,000 likely witches and many were put to death for crimes. Among those crimes were Satan worship, casting spells and shape-shifting, like something from a Stephen King novel.

Witches caves of ZugarraMurdi, Spain
Witches caves of ZugarraMurdi, Spain [Image by electroduende_ on Flickr]

Feasting and live concerts

Zugarramurdi decided to keep the legend alive by throwing a raucous party and feast in the caves on the summer solstice (around June 20 or 21). El Día de la Bruja (or The Day of the Witch), including roasting lambs on spits, with many fires lit in the caves and a great feast. The night closes with a ceremony depicting the town’s horrifying past.

Luckily, these days no one is burned at the stake and participants have a great time, wearing vintage costumes and playing medieval games. Meanwhile, the caves have other great uses, as live concerts are held there due to the great acoustics in the caves. Moreover, the town hosts a Witchcraft Museum with fascinating relics from Zugarramurdi’s eerie past. The town is also surrounded by beautiful scenery and is perfect for hiking in nature.

Zugarramurdi in the movies

Of interest to note, Zugarramurdi was used as a filming location for the 2013 comedy horror movie, Witching and Bitching. However, it was originally titled Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi (The Witches of Zugarramurdi). Watch the trailer for the movie here.

Readers can also watch a video about the town below. Moreover, read more about these and other caves in the area on the town’s tourism website.

Experience a different Spanish vacation this year by visiting Catoira for the Viking Festival, or Zugarramurdi’s caves.


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