Roquetas de Mar is an attractive fishing village, extremely popular among Spanish residents looking for a domestic holiday spot. As an ancient town with a culture that’s lasted the years, Roquetas de Mar has a large number of local festivities that you shouldn’t miss if you’re nearby. Here are a few of our favourites.
The Feast of Virgen del Carmen
Before becoming a major tourist destination, almost the entirety of Roquetas de Mar’s economy was based on fishing. It’s only natural, then, that the town should have a special affection for the Virgen del Carmen. This virgin is said to offer protection to fishermen and mariners, and as such is celebrated in various coastal towns. There are even stories of scuba divers’ clubs placing a statue representing the Virgen del Carmen on the seabed and then paying their subaquatic respects to her on her feast day.
The virgin’s feast day is on the 16th of July. Her statue is removed from its place in church and paraded through the streets before being loaded onto a boat, surrounded with flowers. The boat sails out to sea, accompanied by local fishing vessels, and parades across the city’s coastline. Meanwhile, revellers on the shore and on the accompanying boats celebrate the virgin with fireworks, food, drink and music.
While not as visually spectacular as some of Spain’s famous festivals, the Feast of Virgen del Carmen is especially touching due to the surroundings: knowing the historical importance of fishing to the town, and also being aware that plenty of the people you’ll pass on the street are either fishers themselves or descended from a fishing family, the outpouring of love and reverence for a figure said to provide protection on the water takes on a new depth.
Another festival that draws upon the town’s fishing tradition is Las Moragas. The biggest pagan festival in Almeira province, Las Moragas takes place on the 29th of December and attracts thousands of attendants from both Roquetas de Mar and neighbouring villages, not to mention visitors from the rest of Spain or even further afield.
On the 29th, people celebrating Las Moragas gather on the beach, lighting fires and eating traditional food in celebration. There’s also live music and an undeniable party atmosphere as the whole of the town joins in this historic festival.
The origins of Las Moragas are unclear, although almost everyone who speculates about the festival’s history agrees that it’s likely to do with Roquetas’ fishing tradition. Some suggest that the festival marked the end of the fishing season, while others hold that families would wait on the beach for those who had gone fishing to return, and, in the winter months, prepare a fire, hence Las Moragas is now marked with bonfires on the beach. Whatever the precise origins, it’s beautifully poignant to think of the families waiting on the beach to welcome the fishing boats home.
The Feast of Saint Anne
Taking place from the 23rd to the 26th of July are celebrations for the Feast of Saint Anne. In Christian mythology, Saint Anne was the mother of the Virgin Mary, and her name is given to many a church, street and chapel in Andalucía. Roquetas de Mar celebrates her feast extravagantly and has done so for centuries. Her feast is popular among both locals and visitors to the town.
The celebrations take several forms, with feasts and parades on both land and sea. The recently renovated castle, which bears the Saint’s name, contains an amphitheatre, which is brought to life with shows in honour of the saint. Additionally, you can expect sporting events and dances, with a magnificent fireworks display at the port to mark the end of the festivities.
How to get to Roquetas de Mar
Roquetas de Mar is served by Almeria airport. Direct flights from London take around three hours and are operated by EasyJet and Ryanair, although flights from other airports are available.
There is no convenient public transport from Almeria to Roquetas de Mar, so you’ll either have to look into transfers from Almeria airport or drive yourself. It’s around a 40 minute drive via the E15 and the A391.
Where to stay
Apartamentos Maracay – For holidaymakers on a budget, Maracay won’t disappoint. Each simple apartment includes a sofa bed in the living room to accommodate larger groups, as well as a kitchen, giving you the choice between the on-site restaurant and self-catering.
Pierre & Vacances – Only a couple of minutes’ walk from the beach, the Pierre & Vacances offers excellent all-round accommodation. Each apartment is stylishly decorated and well-equipped, and there’s plenty to do in and around the complex, including tennis, swimming and golf.
Protur Roquetas Hotel – For a truly stunning hotel, consider the Protur Roquetas. The hotel is a ten minute walk from the centre of town and boasts Turkish baths, a spa and a gym, but the real eye-opener here is the unique and striking design of the hotel, including spectacular, forested indoor water features and a truly magnificent lobby, complete with a bridge over a pool.