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Preparing for the Festival of San Fermin 2013

Find out what you need to do to prepare for the July Festival of San Fermin 2013. And more importantly, the actual Running of the Bulls 2013.

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No amount of planning can prepare you for the Festival of San Fermin 2013 (locally known Sanfermines). Every year over a million visitors from around the world descend on the small town of Pamplona in Spain for 9 days in July.

The streets of this proud Navarre region are taken over with revellers adorned in white and red celebrating one of the craziest festivals in the world, the Festival of San Fermin. And most of them are only there to see, or participate in, The Encierro. Better known as the Running of the Bulls.

Running with the Bulls, San Fermin Bull Fighting Pamplona

Bullfighting at the Festival de San Fermin

Festival of San Fermin 2013

If there is only one festival you plan to go to in 2013 then the Festival of San Fermin 2013 should be it. It will be the craziest, scariest, most exciting and adrenaline fuelled few days of your life.

San Fermines 2013 runs between July 6 to July 14, as it has for the last few hundred years. The festival marks the celebration of Saint Fermin who is one of the two patrons of Navarre, and is also considered as a martyr in the Catholic Church.

At noon on the 6th July the Festival of San Fermin 2013 will officially begin when the chupinazoa ceremonial rocket, is fired from the town hall in Pamplona.

From then on it is one wild ride of sangria, bulls, dancing, fireworks and little sleep.

Festival of San Fermin 2013 Program: July 7 – 14 July

Every day after the 6th July until midnight on the 14th July, the San Fermines will run in the same fashion:

The Encierro or Running with the Bulls

San Fermin Running with the Bulls still

Still image from our video while running with the bulls

From 6am, those not tanked up on sangria and still able to run safely will start gathering on the narrow streets of Pamplona.

This was one of the most terrifying parts for me as the tension slowly builds in the crowd and you really begin to contemplate what you are doing. Nervous hugs, jokes and silence ascends on the crowd of locals and tourists standing shoulder to shoulder in the pale morning light.

If you have any second thoughts then this is the time to seriously consider if you want to put your life at risk.

Just before 8am the runners ask for the protection of Saint Fermin by singing a chant three times before a small statue of the Saint near the bulls corral. At 8am the first firecracker is set off to announce the release of the bulls. A second firecracker is quickly sounded which signals that the last bull has left the corral.

In total there are six fighting bulls that have never run before accompanied by six oxes that are seasoned veterans. These oxes guide the other bulls to the arena. Shepherds also guide the unpredictable bulls to ensure they don’t turn on the crowd. Although it does still happen.

From there it is a wild 825 metre dash along the narrow fenced streets of Pamplona into the bullfighting arena. As the first bull enters the arena a third firecracker is released before the fourth firecracker announces the end of the run now that all the bulls are safely locked away in the bullpens.

Festival of San Fermin, Running with the Bulls Video, Pamplona

Festival of San Fermin – Running with the Bulls

But that doesn’t signal the end of the fun.

Once all of the bulls have cleared the bullfighting arena, young bulls with their horns wrapped in padding are released into the bullring to cause carnage. Be careful not to get taken out, or the crowd will laugh! And whatever you do, don’t touch the bulls or you will be set upon by the locals who consider the bulls sacred.

Festival of San Fermin 2013 Street Party

Hopefully you survived the running of the bulls and came out unscathed. And that is lucky as this is when the Sanfermines Festival really kicks off. As the Running of the Bulls finishes, the Festival of San Fermin 2013 continues.

Everyone grabs their sangria filled bota bags (wine skins) and parties on the streets until the following run the next morning.

We always took this opportunity to retire to our accommodation for a few hours to catch up on sleep, go surfing in San Sebastian, and grab some delicious local pinxtos (tapas). We wouldn’t return to Pamplona again until the evening because we needed the rest as the party is unlike anything you have every experienced.

You will see scenes that astound you, but make you rush to join in.

Like the men with Firebulls, which are basically a paper mache bull with fireworks strapped to their backs, running through the crazy crowd. Children chase after them and everyone ends up covered in scorching hot cinders. Watch the video below…

There are also countless parades and street bands wandering along the cobbled stones singing and dancing with the crowd. The Spanish really know how to party. 

Bull Fights at the Festival of San Fermin 2013

Every evening from 6.30pm between the 7th and the 14th July the bullfights begin. The six bulls that ran that morning will be killed in the bullfighting.

The atmosphere in the arena is even crazier than in the street. I am not sure if it is the blood-lust or the sangria that gets the Spanish crowd so excited, but they definitely were enjoying themselves.

Just be aware that attending the bullfighting isn’t for everyone. I am not squeamish but by the killing of the third bull I had enough and wished they would finish each fight sooner.

We also appreciate the controversies surrounding the bull fighting and that post covers our thoughts on it which you might want to check out before deciding to attend or not.

Bullfighting in Spain, Sanfermines, Festival of San Fermin

Bullfights at the Festival of San Fermin

And while the Pamplona bullring is the fourth largest in the world, it is full every afternoon and tickets are hard to find. We managed to buy some on the gate a few hours before the fight but were lucky to snap some up.

Where to stay for the Festival of San Fermin 2013

Finding accommodation for San Fermin 2013 can be nearly impossible if you don’t organise it months in advance. We joined Busabout for their Running with the Bulls tour which proved ideal.

The Busabout campground is located about an hour from Pamplona. However they provided breakfast every morning as well as tents and transportation to and from Pamplona throughout the day, and night. Don’t miss the last bus at 3am or you will be there until 6am like our friends were.

What to take for the Festival of San Fermin 2013?

Festival of San Fermin, San Fermines 2013, Sanfermines 2013, San Fermin Festival 2013

Ready for action at the Festival of San Fermin

If you are visiting Sanfermines for the first time then don’t go along with any preconceptions. Have an openmind and be prepared to party like it’s 1999 all over again.

If you are visiting San Fermin 2013 with a company like Busabout, then you don’t need much else other than some sturdy running shoes and a sleeping bag. They will provide you with the tent, red bandanna, white t-shirt and extra tips on where to go and what to do.

While the days are hot in Spain, the evenings can be cold, so consider taking an old sweater that you don’t mind throwing out afterwards. The stink and stickiness of sangria never comes out.

Should I run in the Festival of San Fermin 2013?

Most definitely.

But be aware that this is a very dangerous and risky activity. 15 people have been killed in the Festival of San Fermin since 1925. While the last death was an American tourist in 2009 every year there are hundreds of people injured while Running with the Bulls.

Luckily most of these are not serious.

If you want more information and a full list of the activities during the Festival of San Fermin 2013, then check out the the Navarra Council website.

Or book your festival now!

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Dale

    March 7, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    It was great to read about your experience last year as I’ve never been to see the spectacle that the whole festival must be with so many people all together enjoying themselves – but it’s still wrong in my eyes.

    I read last year your thoughts on how well the bull is treated in the run up to the fight, how it’s more of a dance and celebration of life than an outright blood spectacle; however, imagine it was a human.

    Take a human, put them at The Ritz, feed them with the best food possible, make them dance & dance around them as they bleed to death. It’s just not right.

    And, I know it’s just my personal opinion, I’m sure there are many who would love the opportunity to run alongside you, but it’s just not for me, Cole.

    • Cole Burmester

      March 7, 2013 at 11:50 AM

      Thanks Dale for your comment. One of the reasons we write this blog is to hear from fellow travellers and get their perspectives on various things we do. I completely understand your feelings and so glad you have shared your personal feelings with us here! Hopefully you understood that I was in no way encouraging or forcing people to go and witness a bull fight themselves. And I definitely wouldn’t want to see this happen to a human. I admit that the bull fighting is a very cruel part of the festival and we don’t condone violence or torture of animals in any way. We just felt like we had to attend to witness a fight ourselves. Rest assured I won’t be attending again as by the end I was feeling quite sickened.
      Thanks again and we hope you continue reading.
      Regards,
      Cole

      • Dale

        March 7, 2013 at 1:58 PM

        I had read that it made you both feel quite sick towards the end and of course, I know you’re not trying to persuade people to go or not to go, you’re just giving people a peep into what happens drawn from your own prospective & in quite a well written manner too.

        Everyone should make their own mind up for themselves and with this great post people will be aided in that, either for going, or against.

  2. Jonathan Look, Jr.

    March 8, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    I so intend to do this, THIS YEAR I HOPE! Finally the stars are aligning. Thanks for the guide and hopefully I can buy you guys a beer while we are there.

    • Cole Burmester

      March 8, 2013 at 11:41 AM

      We probably won’t be there this year Jonathan but thanks for the offer 😉 Loved it last year and you will have so much fun! Be safe!

  3. PamplonaMan

    March 9, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    I live here in pamplona & specialise in tours to the san fermin festival. I love meeting new sanfermineros too!

    If anybody needs anything then just get in touch ok.

    Viva San Fermin!

    • Cole Burmester

      March 9, 2013 at 4:59 PM

      Thanks Michael. I’m sure plenty will want some extra tips for San Fermin.

  4. Nancy

    March 13, 2013 at 2:02 AM

    For me, while traveling in Spain, seeing Pamplona, is not during the running of the bulls. To celebrate the killing of animals, not only is something I don’t want to participate in, but the city is much more beautiful without zillions of people.

    • Cole Burmester

      March 18, 2013 at 9:17 AM

      I was just in Pamplona a week ago Nancy while walking part of the Camino de Santiago and it is so different when San Fermin is not on! So quiet and I wasn’t getting sprayed with sangria… So travelling to Pamplona outside San Fermin is definitely a good idea 🙂

  5. Jackson

    March 25, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    I’m sooo jealous. I’ve wanted to attend the Festival of San Fermin for ages. I saw it on television when I was a child and my curiosity and fascination were immediately aroused. I went to high school with a Spanish kid whose father had once been a matador, and who had participated in the festival countless times. We’d gather around Jorge in the cafeteria and listen to him brag about life in Spain. His bragging was more than understandable. Can’t wait to see Pamplona.

    • Cole Burmester

      March 25, 2013 at 5:52 PM

      Would be awesome if you had the chance to go one day soon Jackson! Is a great experience and well worth the effort.

  6. Rebecca

    April 25, 2013 at 9:19 PM

    What a great guide! Thank you so much. My boyfriend and I are going this year and we cannot wait. One question: Do you have to register beforehand to run with the bulls or do you just show up? How do you know where to go?

    Thank you!

    • Cole Burmester

      April 26, 2013 at 10:29 AM

      Hi Rebecca,
      Thanks for your comment and questions 🙂
      Are you going with a tour company like Busabout or doing it yourself? If you are with a company then they will provide you with all the on-the-ground information. But basically there is no registration and you will start lining up about 6am on the run. Make sure you are near the start of the bull run so they you don’t get moved out by policemen who will remove anyone past a certain point. Best place is in the big square by the town hall. Just before the run you will be allowed to move to wherever you want to start from. Just be patient 🙂
      Lots of people can give you tips, info too. Did you see my post and video about the actual running with the bulls?
      Good luck and enjoy the experience!
      Cheers,
      Cole

  7. Chanel @ La Viajera Morena

    July 11, 2013 at 1:05 AM

    Excellent! I will be heading there tomorrow and running/partying on Friday.

    Cannot wait. This post was excellent. Thanks 😀

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Adventure Travel

Is It Safe to Be Outdoors During a Lightning Storm?

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When dealing with outdoor activities what’s better than just clear skies? Sunny weather, a breeze and warm but not too hot temperatures. If the said outdoor activity is being held within the day time, we hope for warm sunshine, and if the time of the activity deems to be in the darker hours, then the aspect of warm sunshine gets replaced with starry atmosphere.

Who doesn’t like the calm of the night and the seemingly scarce starry skies?

In either case, the wish for clear skies remains on that list no matter what. The reason for that is quite understandable: no one wants to be unexpectedly drenched in rain, covered in snow, or worse, struck by lightning.

While the first two experiences are essentially harmless and mostly welcomed in the name of adventure during travels, the third phenomenon can be fatal in most cases. Unfortunately, it is very plausible as well, since the United States itself experiences 100,000 thunderstorms on a yearly basis, around 10,000 of which are classified as severe.

That is why, most outdoor facilities that want to protect their inhabitants and patrons invest in a lightning detection system, which can warn them of upcoming lightning storms and threats.

Being Outdoors During a Thunderstorm is Not Advisable

With these measures being taken to protect lives against lightning storms, you may have already put two and two together to know that it is not safe to be outdoors during a lightning storm, no matter if you are camping by the lake or swimming by the beach during your vacation.

While you can just accept the fact of “being indoors during lightning” only because you are being told to do so, understanding the reasons behind it is what could provide you with the conviction to protect yourself and your loved ones during lightning storms at all costs – especially when the choice you have to make is between spending some more time outdoors at your travel destination or going back to your hotel room.

It Can Be Deadly

From 2007-2017, 328 people lost their lives to lightning strikes, all because they found themselves outdoors during an inopportune time. This is why, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whenever you find yourself amidst an approaching or already landed thunderstorm, it is best to find yourself a shelter to ride out the storm.

In fact, the CDC is so adamant over urging people to seek out any sort of shelter than trying to be adventurous about it that it advises people to get in their car if they cannot find a concrete covered shelter in order to minimize their risks of being struck by lightning.

Putting yourself outdoors during a lightning storm is akin to swimming on a beach that has put out a shark warning. While the deadly fish may or may not attack you, the possibility of it doing so is very apparent. If you do not heed to the warnings and dive into the ocean, and if the shark decides to pay you a visit, the end results would be nothing but severe.

Lightning Storms Are Not Always Detectable Without Help

However, lightning storms cannot always be detected by the human eye and we only often know about them when they are literally over our heads. That is why, the aforementioned lightning detection procedures are important from a safety perspective, as they can warn you about lightning threats in a timely manner and save you the hassle and worry of finding shelter during a thunderstorm.

Keeping this in mind, whenever you are travelling outdoors especially during the months of summer, try to find places that have efficient warning systems such as a lightning detector in place.

And if you find yourself in the midst of a lightning storm anyway:

Go inside.

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Adventure Travel

The Imperial Sand Dunes, an Exciting ATV Destination You Can Visit Within the U.S.

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Adventure travel has gradually become one of the most sought after segments of the travel and tourism industry. Why wouldn’t it be? Many people are cooped up in buildings all day poring over excel spreadsheets or going over reports. They want to have some adventure and a lot fun when they travel.

Who can pass a fun and adventurous trip up?

When it comes to adventure travel, not many things can beat ATV (all-terrain vehicle) destinations. The very thought of riding out four-wheelers powered by OEM ATV parts is exciting by itself, and once you actually experience riding an ATV through a sandy desert or a dense green forest, it is simply too enthralling to put into words.

But since not everyone has the luxury of time to travel internationally just to take an ATV ride, many of us miss out on that experience.

Fortunately, for those who are adventurous at heart but busy at life, there are a few ATV adventure destinations located right here in the U.S. At most, you would have to spare a weekend out of your busy schedule, and in return, experience the unmatched thrill that comes with an ATV spin.

And what other location could better demonstrate the best in weekend vacations and ATV rides than the famous Imperial Sand Dunes? While chances are that you must have heard about the area, you can read on for further information on what it can offer you in terms of adventure travel.

Imperial Sand Dunes

The Imperial Sand Dunes, located within the Algodones Dunes, is a large sand dune field that is located near the border that connects the U.S. state of Arizona and the Mexican state of Baja California.

The land is filled with golden sand as far as the eye could see, with the sand itself is sun-kissed and warm for anyone who travels through it. Fortunately, the soft waves of the sand can easily be swirled through an ATV, which is exactly the reason why people flock towards the Imperial Sand Dunes. They want to get a taste of the wild desert rides that the world keeps talking about. While you may have read about ATV mud tires and their off road control quality, taking ATVs for a spin into the desert would be an unmatched experience on its own.

As long as you maintain your decorum as explained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), you can enjoy the lands and the sights that they have to offer. You can also camp in the recreational area set aside by the BLM, so going there for a weekend and kicking back to relax while you dabble into ATV riding would be a great idea.

This chance to relax would also give you the opportunity to explore all that you can in person before you check out ATV and motorcycle components at a place like the Honda parts house for your future adventures.

All in all, by experiences provided to people in the past, the Imperial Sand Dunes proves that it has a lot to offer in terms of adventure travel. You just need to have proper planning done to make sure you get some extensive time with these sweet ATVs and the exciting desert backdrop, so you could have great memories of adventure to return home with.

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Adventure Travel

Where To Travel To On Your First Surf Holiday

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Since news broke that surfing would make its debut at the 2020 Olympics there has been a lot of interest in this surface water sport. Gone are the days when it was a sport reserved only for the weed smoking beach bums in their floral inspired board shorts. So, if you are feeling extra adventurous and would like to try surfing on your next vacation, we have rounded up the best destinations where you can ride your first wave.

Costa Rica

This populous Central American country is a surfers dream. Whether you are a seasoned pro or a beginner you are bound to catch some neat waves that reach up to 12 feet in height. If you want to take a surfing holiday, Playa Tamarindo is one of the most popular beaches to surf in Costa Rica. Be careful though, as this beach can experience strong rip currents at low tide.

Tamarindo has two main breaks for advanced surfers: Pico Pequeño a rocky point to the right of the Hotel Tamarindo Diriá and the excellent river mouth break across from Cabinas Tsunami called El Estero. The rest of the beach breaks are perfect for beginners.

Nicaragua

South Western Nicaragua receives 300+ days offshore wind and constant southern swells which means that this country is a surfer’s dream. The entire pacific coastline in Nicaragua is peppered with amazing surf spots. From the The Boom in Northern Nicaragua to Popoyo in central Nicaragua and then all the way down to Playa Maderas in San Juan Del Sur.

Nicaragua has a wave for every level of surfer and with water temperatures averaging 27 degrees celsius, long surf sessions are always in order. There are plenty of surf camps dotted all over the country and because Nicaragua is still less developed than Costa Rica, prices are a lot lower than it’s southern neighbour. Don’t forget your surf equipment because you are bound to have a blast.

Portugal

Portugal isn’t just famous for it’s pastèis de natas, this European country also has some of the best surfing spots in the world. Super Tubos situated in Peniche, has been a favourite with locals and tourists alike. The break offers world-class surfing conditions with its hollow powerful waves, and is the site of the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal the World Surf League Men’s Championship Tour event.

The Algarve on Portugal’s southern coastline is famed for white sandy beaches and beach breaks. There are a number of great surf spots in the Alrgarve with Sagres being the epicentre of surfing in this region.

Morocco

Deep in the heart of North Africa there is a fishing vilage called Taghazout. Just north of Agadir. Which comes alive each winter with the sound of pounding pointbreaks and surf banter. It’s a beautiful place with a rich Arabic culture to add  to the magic.

Taghazout is surf, surf and surf.  Taghazout is the premium surfing destination of Morocco with some iconic surf spots, like Anchor Point. Since Anchor point was first put on the surf mpa in the 1970’s, Taghazout has steadily grown to become Morocco’s preeminent surfing destination.

Taghazout now has a plethora of great surf camps to choose from, and all of them mainly cater to beginner and intermediate surfers.

Bali

We had to keep the best for last, Bali has been on the top of travellers favourite destinations for a long time which doesn’t come as surprise. Bali has everything from sun, sea and surfing spots aplenty. Our top pick Kuta is if you are looking for a beach and resort area in the south of the island of Bali.

One of Bali’s first tourist developments, it’s best known for its party-centric atmosphere and surfing in the Indian Ocean. Kuta’s long, consistent waves make it a popular surf spot, particularly for beginners, with plenty of outfitters offering board rentals and surf lessons.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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