Last year Jodie told us about her Valencian experience during the first week of Las Fallas (check out her post for some background on the festival), and now I am going to share my experience of watching these giant Fallas burn to the ground, and some tips on making the trip to Valencia.
The final weekend of Las Fallas is a huge party. The giant fallas that have been decorating the streets and squares of Valencia are burned to the ground, and rather dramatically at that. On Saturday, the last full day of viewing the fallas, the streets are filled with tourists and locals alike. We found that the center was incredibly packed, not surprisingly of course. As we branched out from the very center the crowds became much more manageable and it was easier to get close to the fallas. For people that have trouble with crowds and feeling claustrophobic, you can still go and enjoy the festival, just stick to the edges of the city center. It was actually much more enjoyable that being smashed in the crowd in the very center, and the fallas themselves are equally impressive no matter where they are located.
On the evening of March 19th the burning began. The fallas are pretty incredible works of art – it was sort of sad to know that in a matter of hours all that would be left is a pile of dust.
At 10pm the infantil fallas (fallas made by kids) were set ablaze. We gathered around the falla as some men setup a line of fireworks and draped the falla with explosives. They lit the end and POW! The fireworks crackled and zipped their way toward toward the falla. When it hit the falla the whole structure began to explode from the inside. The crowd was excited and started inching closer to the fire. The men had put up some barriers, but the children went right under them to get a closer look! The safety standards at Las Fallas are not what they are back home in the U.S. Use your personal judgement on how close is too close, and remember that the fires are very hot. We found ourselves backing away from the fire for each one we saw, and since we picked less crowded fallas this wasn’t an issue. I imagine that when watching the burnings in the very center it’s very hard to move – so don’t get too close to start with. The infantil fires were big, but the full size fallas created massive flames and huge black clouds of smoke. Starting at midnight the full size fallas were burned. The fire department came to hose down the area on a particularly large falla, and good thing they did, since it could have easily gotten out of control. Watching the giant flames, feeling the heat of the fire, and hearing the fireworks explode overhead was an amazing grand finale!
Tips for traveling to Valencia for the burning of Las Fallas:
* Book early. Rooms are very expensive the closer you get to the actual burning.
* Stay near the center. We reserved an apartment very close to the center, but not in the actual center. I preferred this since we could easily walk to the center, but also could get away from the massive crowds. Also the fallas located further out are easier to view and have a more local feel.
* Don’t get too close – those fires are hot!
* Allow time to see the amazing museums of Valencia, even just from the outside. The architecture is incredible.
* Go to the beach. On our final morning we visited the beach before heading back to Madrid. The smell of the ocean and the feel of sand beneath your toes is something you just can’t find here in Madrid.