Music and revelry, the smell of gunpowder, sweet fried 'buñuelos' and orange blossom... The people of Valencia, Spain's third largest city, know how to celebrate the arrival of spring, as our spectacular photo gallery shows.
In the run up to March each year, the whole of Valencia focuses on Las Fallas: a fire festival par excellence, dedicated to San Jose – Saint Joseph – which celebrates the arrival of spring. Not a corner of the city escapes the heady mixture of sounds and smells: gunpowder, firecrackers, music, flowers and the traditional donut-like buñuelos. You'll have to be quick if you want to see it this year, though, as the saint's day falls on March 19th and celebrations are already under way.
The event centres around the fallas themselves, gigantic satirical sculptures made of wood, papier-mache and cardboard, and peopled with figures called ninots. These masterpieces of ephemeral creativity are on display to the public on the days leading up to the night of la crema, which puts a final flaming full stop to the fiesta.
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Close-up of a ninot caricaturing Michael Jackson, one of the spectacular creations from Na Jordana in 2007 / Tourismo de Valencia
All but one of the figures from the satirical representations will be burned on the night of la crema, celebrated on March 19th, St Joseph's day / Tourismo de Valencia
People come from around the world to see the marvellous images, some of which reach up to 25 metres in height / Tourismo de Valencia
On all the streets and square of the city's historic centre, the fallas go on display, depicting scenes and characters that criticise and caricature social and political issues / Tourismo de Valencia
The falleros parade in traditional costume and offer flowers to the Virgin at the Basilica de los Desamparados on March 17th and 18th / Tourismo de Valencia
Each lunchtime during the fiestas, the walls and windows of the buildings located on the Plaza del Ayuntamiento are shaken by la mascleta – a deafening ten-minute volley of firecrackers that fills the air with the musty smell of gunpowder / Tourismo de Valencia
The Valencians dress in regional costume to celebrate las fallas, a tradition that goes back for centuries / Tourismo de Valencia
Hot chocolate with freshly fried buñuelos – a kind of pumpkin donut – is the typical fare on sale at stalls set up especially for the duration of las fallas / Tourismo de Valencia
These innocuous looking 'tassels' are actually part of the string of firecrackers that make up la mascleta; each will be a single 'bang' in a series of explosions that has to be heard to be believed / Tourismo de Valencia
Only one of the beautifully crafted figures will be spared the flames: the ninot indultado, which will go on display at the city's Fallero Museum / Tourismo de Valencia
The last of the representations to be consigned to the flames on March 19th is the marvellous scene set up in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento – the square where the Town Hall is situated / Tourismo de Valencia