The week leading up to Lent is a fantastic time to visit Spain for those who enjoy a good fiesta or festival, and is the time when the Costa Blanca town of Pego celebrates its famous Carnestoltes Fiesta. Not really on the tourist map, Pego lies around 20 minutes inland from Dénia and is surrounded by a series of picturesque mountain ranges, orange groves, and the rivers and marshes that make up the wonderful Marjal Natural Park.
Carnestoltes Fiesta Raft Race
One of the most popular events that serves as a warm up to the Carnestoltes Fiesta is a crazy raft race held a week before the fiesta. This really is quite a spectacle with visitors coming from far and wide to watch these home made rafts take to the water. Held on the Bullent River that makes up part of the Marjal Reserve, the rafts come in all shapes and sizes, the weirder the better and if it floats it qualifies. The town's residents dress just as crazily as they design their rafts, and the only rule is to make it to the mouth of the river sometime during the course of the day, with many capsizing along the way and usually one or two casualties!
The following Saturday is the beginning of the Carnestoltes Fiesta that sees coachloads of revellers turn up to enjoy the festivities, accompanied by much drinking and dancing. Live bands, popular DJ's and makeshift bars and food stalls set up in the town's streets for one massive party with residents and visitors alike wearing all sorts of fancy dress. The following Saturday the end of fiesta is celebrated with the rather bizarre tradition of ‘Burying the Sardine'. This is practised throughout Spain at the end of fiesta week and consists of a rather sombre parade of black clad citizens reenacting a funeral procession that ends with the burning of burial of a symbolic figure, usually a sardine that symbolises burying the past in order for the town's citizens to be reborn with a new vigour for the year to come.