With the heavy weights of Spanish incentive destinations such as Barcelona, Ibiza and Madrid taking centre stage it’s easy to over look the city of Valencia located on the beautiful Orange Blossom Coast. This incredible city hosts a yearly festival called “Las Fallas” in which the Valencian residents spend an entire year preparing for it, this event is a celebration of the spring equinox that lasts for almost 3 weeks with the city grinding to a halt to celebrate. My visit was during the second week when their carnival was in full swing, the city was alive with 65 foot statues for their parade, fire crackers being let off everywhere and spirits were high in everyone I met.
After a busy weekend of research, great food and some delectable local wines this is a perfect incentive destination with a local celebration for any group looking for something a little different in March. The festival is on from the 1st week in March and continues for 3 whole weeks, the weather is around 14-18c most days so remember to pack your sun cream.
Where to go
There is a steady pace of flights to Valencia from the U.K every day and with flight times being under 2.5 hours it gives you enough time to brush up on your Spanish greetings and is perfect for 2-4 night incentive trips. I stayed on the coastal side of Valencia in De Eugenia Vines just 20 minutes by car from the city centre, this side of the city offers clear sea views, long sandy beaches and lots of sea front restaurants and bars to enjoy. However staying in the city will offer a more bustling experience, you’ll be immersed in impressive architecture around every street corner and with authentic restaurants and bars tucked into almost every side street you are spoilt for choice for lunches and dinners. Along with the added bonus of the Las Fallas celebrations happening right on your door step.
What to do in Valencia
Las Fallas! Watch the city come to life with the Masculetas midday fireworks, over 300 comical statues fill little pockets of open space all over the city, the ongoing sound of fire crackers booming down usually quiet side alleys, traditional dancing in the streets and local women in the traditional dress with princess Leia hair buns. The festival is a metaphorical cleansing of all things bad from the previous year, intricate statues are made to represent those moments in a satirical yet cartoon like interpretation and displayed in full for just 4 days. One thing you can say is when you have seen some of those statues, Valencians sure do have a wicked sense of humour. At the end of the 3 week celebration they are judged and a prize is given to the winner and then they are all burnt in a glorious manner that resembles the “Burning Man” followed by the city rejoicing in a fresh start for everyone.
If you need a break from the celebrations then you must not miss the breath taking architecture along the port and in the older parts of town. This is the city of contrast, take in the sheer size of the futuristic City of Arts and Science building or the Plaza De La Virgin that homes the 750 year old cathedral rich in history. The best way to see Valencia is by bicycle, take a tour though their own central park formally an old river bed now a hub of smooth cycle lanes, children’s parks, water features and rogue roller skaters. By taking a guided tour this will mean you don’t miss the fascinating history behind almost every building and bridge you pass – this works well with groups up to 20. If you fancy feeling the real wind in your hair then head 20 minutes out to the Ricardo Tormo Circuit for a afternoon of 4×4 off road driving, Go-Karting and extreme safety driving (aquaplaning training). Follow this with a tour of the F1 test track and this trip seemed to be every boys dream and brought out the competitive side to most when they knew a trophy was up for grabs at the end of the Go-Karting for the top 3 places. There was no trophy for me unfortunately!
Dining out in Valencia
Like most costal parts of Spain the food is bounteous in seafood options and incredible Paella. The L’Estibador offers both on the beach about 20 minutes out of the city by transfer, if the moreish Paella and fresh breaded calamari doesn’t make you unbutton your trousers their dessert platter will. Dinner is usually from 9pm on wards and Ma Khin Café located in centre is the perfect way to end your trip, with Burmese and pan Asian influences introduced to Mediterranean flavours each course came with simply no fault to find. Beautifully created by 2 of the top cooking trailblazers on the Valencian gastronomic scene every dish tasted as good as it looked.
Valencia is the city that doesn’t sleeps at weekends. Most don’t head out to the trendy part of Carmen till midnight and the party then goes all through the night till 6am. If you fancy something a little less audacious then you are spoilt for choice with rooftop bars offering spectacular views of the restless city streets below and there are lots of quaint late night cocktail bars situated in historical squares.
Hotels in Valencia
Like any big city hotels come in all shapes, sizes and styles but the hotel that offers luxury and some of the best meeting spaces at an affordable price is the 5* Hotel Balneario Las Arenas . Situated 20 minutes out of the city centre it over looks the Balearic Sea. It is modelled on a Greek Temple and became the meeting point of aristocracy at the end of the 19th Century. With over 6 difference meeting paces including an impressive auditorium and state of the art AV equipment, over 200 bedrooms, a gym, a fine dining restaurant, 2 pools and a thermal spa it has it all for group incentives.
Valencia is one hour ahead of GMT. As it has 320 days of sun it is suitable for all year round travel. When you ask how long it will take to get somewhere you will probably be be told 20 minutes. You will quickly learn that the “Valencian 20 minutes” is known across the city and most places really do only take 20 minutes to get to.