Like many countries in Europe, Spain celebrates midsummer with a party. The longest day and shortest night is known as the Noche de San Juan (the night of St John) and the biggest celebrations take place along the Mediterranean coast.
Malaga is no exception with festivities going on up and down the beaches. Read on to discover the best way to celebrate midsummer on the Costa del Sol.
The origins of midsummer on the Costa del Sol
The Noche de San Juan might have a religious name, but its origins are most definitely pagan. The Mediterranean coast has been celebrating the summer solstice for centuries with rituals of fire and water, designed to set you up the year ahead and of course, to offer a great evening out!
Several locations on the Costa del Sol have dedicated fiestas for San Juan. They include Torre del Mar and Benalmádena (see below for details), but you’ll find something going on every single beach along the entire coastline for midsummer.
Think you know all the beaches on the Costa del Sol? Think again – discover these secret sands to get to on your rental bike from Malaga.
When does San Juan take place?
The official start of the summer is 21 June, but midsummer on the Costa del Sol takes place on 23 June.
Partying starts in the early evening at dusk and continues well into the small hours and until the next morning in some cases. This year’s celebrations fall on a Sunday, already the day most locals go to the beach so expect to see people spending almost 24 hours down by the sea.
The essentials for San Juan
San Juan in Spain is all about fire and water, both purifying elements. This is because, according to tradition, midsummer on the Costa del Sol is the ideal moment to purge bad spirits and start the rest of the year full of positive energy.
Bonfires are set up on the beaches.
Most have at least one giant official bonfire, often with a papier-mâché sculpture on top. It usually represents something negative in society – for example, political corruption, drug trafficking – or symbolises something people would like to get rid of such as mosquitos.
In Malaga, these sculptures are known as júas and they’re always burnt to a cinder at midnight on San Juan.
Fire is also used on open log fires at beach restaurants on the Costa del Sol to prepare the traditional espeto de sardinas. These grilled skewers of fresh sardines represent the most typical dish to eat at midsummer in Malaga and are just perfect with an ice-cold beer or tinto de verano (red wine and lemonade)!
Rituals with fire: the bonfires also provide the perfect place to conquer your loved one and/or to make a wish.
Legend has it that if you write the name of the person you want to fall in love with you and then throw it into the bonfire at midnight on midsummer on the Costa del Sol, they will be yours before the end of the year.
You can also write three wishes and burn the paper on the bonfire at midnight to ensure they all come true.
Water provides the other essential element and with the Mediterranean on the doorstep, there’s plenty of it for midsummer on the Costa del Sol!
Apart from enjoying the sound of the waves as your backdrop to San Juan in Malaga, you can also watch the moon come up over the Mediterranean on the horizon, a truly magical experience.
And most importantly, the sea is another essential ingredient in getting rid of those evil spirits.
Rituals with water: according to tradition, as soon as the clock strikes midnight, you should walk backwards into the sea and immerse your whole body for several seconds.
This is apparently guaranteed to remove all negative energy and keep evil spirits at bay for the rest of the year.
If you’re looking for beauty, splash your face with sea water at midnight for apparently amazing results!
Things to do at midsummer on the Costa del Sol
Apart from getting together with friends and family on the beach for some summer solstice celebrations, you can also join dedicated events on the Costa del Sol. Here are some suggestions:
San Juan in Malaga City
The biggest bonfires are lit on the Malagueta and Misericordia beaches at midnight. Live music takes place and there’s a firework display at midnight at the end of the Misericordia beach. Both locations are easy to get to on your bike. If you join our city bike tour, you’ll discover exactly where they are.
San Juan in Torremolinos
Los Álamos beach has some of the biggest action with a definite younger vibe. Expect bonfires along the sands and live music at the funky beach bars. You can get here on the Cercanías train (you can take your bike too) or cycle from Malaga. Ask our staff for tips on how to get to this beach when you pick up your rental bike in Malaga.
San Juan in Benalmádena
Festivities take place in the upper part of Benalmádena in Arroyo de la Miel in the early part of the evening and then move down to the beach. Fireworks go off at the Castillo Bil Bil beach with live music afterwards. Get to Benalmádena on the Cercanías train or if you like a longer bike ride, cycle there.
Torre del Mar
You can also celebrate midsummer on the Costa del Sol at this resort to the east of Malaga city. Free sardine espetos are served from 8pm at El Copo beach with a concert at 10.30pm. This year’s star artist is Marta Sánchez, something of a legend on the Spanish pop scene.
You might not know her music, but she creates a great atmosphere and you’ll find it impossible not to get up and dance! There’s a firework display at midnight.
You can get to Torre del Mar by bus (bike transport available) or on your bike. We recommend you choose a hybrid or mountain bike rental in Malaga if you plan to ride here.
Updates on midsummer on the Costa del Sol
If you’re interested in celebrating the summer solstice Costa del Sol style, ask our staff for the latest details on what’s on where.
Contact us to find out more here or call us on (+34) 951 138 349 or mobile – (+34) 606 978 513.