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Cut loose and join the party, shake your tail feather and get down and dirty - here's our list of the most exciting festival destinations in the world...

Valencia, Spain

Valencia takes the top spot for hosting not one, but two essential festivals on the travellers’ trail. First up is Las Fallas, a fiery festival that takes place every March 15-19 in the regional capital, also called Valencia. Papier mache puppets are paraded through the streets, before being arranged into elaborate displays around town. (The puppets tend to poke satirical fun at film stars and politicians; the more outrageous, the better).

On the final night, the whole lot is set on fire and costumed dancers flit about the flames. The pyrotechnics are pretty damn spectacular, but all five days are a non-stop party. Then, the summertime brings La Tomatina, held in the tiny Valencian town of Bunol on the last Wednesday of August. There’s dispute over how it all started, but the most popular theory involves a brawl among local folk in 1945 that ended in tomato slinging, thanks to a vegetable stand sitting nearby. The good-natured sparring caught on and was repeated with growing numbers in subsequent years, although the authorities soon stepped in and banned it. But you can’t keep a good tradition down and, in 1957, the powers-that-be relented and established an official festival. Nowadays, the festivities theoretically begin when a reveller climbs a greasy pole and pushes a local ham off the top. But as no-one can really be bothered to wait for that to happen, the ham hangs there ceremoniously, while cannonfire tends to mark the start. 

Because Bunol is a cramped warren of winding streets and tens of thousands of people turn up for the food fight, you should arrive early to avoid disappointment. We know plenty of pissed-off tourists who have turned up, only to not see a single tomato thrown, and in some cases get pelted with old, dusty flip-flops instead. You’ll probably end up staying in the city of Valencia for La Tomatina as Bunol is so small, so check out the trendy Old Quarter and the colourful Central market while you’re there, too.

NEXT: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


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