Why camp in the mud when you can camp in the sun? Alice Wood traded Glastonbury for the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim in Spain last summer – and here’s why she loved it.
“Compared to most British festivals, you certainly get more bang for your buck when it comes to Benicàssim. My ticket was priced at a reasonable £128.40, which bought me seven nights of camping and four days of music. With star-studded line-ups and guaranteed great weather, it makes me wonder why I ever forked out over two hundred quid for jamborees such as Leeds Fest.
Situated on the east coast of Spain, north of Valencia, the usual route to the music festival is a flight to Alicante and a coach onwards. The town itself seems to have thrived from the years of festival-goer business, but it has natural beauties too – green mountains on one side and a clear blue sea on the other.
I was pleasantly surprised that the age range of campers went from 18 to about 40, and many older than that stayed in hotels in the town and came for the bands. The atmosphere was extremely friendly and I felt safer than I’ve felt at any festival.
Sensible camping in the sun
When it comes to the camping, preparation is key. Once you arrive at the campsite, it quickly becomes a battle for who can bag the shadiest spot. Vast tarpaulins are erected about the slightly desert-esque camping zone to provide some respite from the blistering Spanish sun. Arrive too late and you’re exiled to the outskirts of these and will subsequently melt in your tent every time the sun rises in the morning. I’ve learnt this the hard way!
In this situation, the roomier your tent is the better off you are. Big open plan spaces with airflow beat crouching around a two-man pop up tent, attempting to get changed whilst sweating your socks off. Although I didn’t spend much time at the campsite itself and so could keep kit to a minimum, fold-out chairs were essential. My friend and I realised this after two days of doing our evening’s makeup in the confines of a very warm, very orange tent. Best to sit outside and people-watch whilst applying mascara instead of having everything melt off your face.
The facilities at the campsites are generally better than at most British festivals I’ve been to. The toilets were portaloos that were cleaned twice a day and always had toilet roll. They were a bit dark at night, but who doesn’t bring a torch camping with them!
For those after a more glitzy camping experience, the Festival offers glamping with bell tents, breakfast buffets, cocktails, sleeping equipment, central tables, cleaning and a common area for the glampers only.
With the heat and many ants crawling around, it’s not advisable to store food or cook at your quarters and we found that there’s no need either. The town centre offers dozens of affordable, delicious restaurants. From tapas to paella to steak to pizza, there’s something for everyone and if you choose wisely you’ll be very pleasantly surprised by the price. In the music arena, there are some fantastic street food stalls (albeit not cheap), ranging from curries to burritos.
I had three days to explore the town and beaches before the bands began, and then the music wafting from the arena was a sweet sound. Even if you don’t book an extended stay, though, there’s plenty of time to chill during the day, as the music doesn’t start till 7pm and goes on until 2am. There’s a great range of artistry; my top three favourites from 2014 were the Presidents of the United States of America, M.I.A and Travis!
The photos, by the way, were taken by Lani Hlalo, who I met at the festival. Told you it was a friendly place!”