We had absolutely no idea what we were in for when deciding to attend the annual Haro Wine Festival, which culminates in the Batalla del Vino (Wine Battle) or San Vino festival. But this Haro Wine Battle is such a crazy and fun fiesta that it has now gone down as a favorite travel experience of all time. The Haro Wine Festival involves battling (and drinking) all that red, red wine Spain is so well renown for.
How could the Haro Wine Festival not be a total blast? Spoiler alert: it is.
Many Spaniards and visitors alike have loads of fun each summer with the many annual festivals occurring all across Spain. Of course, most have heard of the Running of the Bulls (known as San Fermin) in Pamplona. And perhaps some have viewed clips of the Tomatina festival, in which a tomato war wages on each year. Those are good times, no doubt.
But there’s another annual battle that takes place in Spain.
This battle is in a town called Haro, deep in Spain’s famed Rioja wine region. Here, the weapon of choice is not tomatoes, but vino (wine)! We had to see what this Batalla del Vino (Wine Battle) was all about. And we survived the Haro Wine Battle, victorious to tell the tale and share travel tips for anyone considering a trip to the Haro Wine Festival.
The Haro Wine Festival on the Night Before the Wine Battle
While the Haro wine fight itself takes place for about an hour or two, the entire Haro Wine Festival is really a multi-day event filled with shenanigans. This festival, also known as San Vino, begins on the day before the early morning wine battle begins in Haro, Spain.
So it’s on the eve of the wine fight, when the Haro Wine Festival kicks into motion.
Every year thousands of people descend onto this Spanish town of Haro, for three days full of carousing in honor of the country’s signature Spanish red wines that are widely produced throughout the surrounding La Rioja region. These festivities begin each year, on the evening of June 28.
June 28th is the day before the Wine Battle itself. And it’s a good idea to arrive on the 28th, or earlier, well-rested. If at all possible, it is highly recommended to take a siesta on June 28th. There’s a loooong night ahead!
Arriving in Haro on the Eve of the Wine Battle
Hotels and guesthouses book up well in advance of the Haro Wine Festival. So unless accommodation reservations are made a year or so in advance, joining in on the all-inclusive camping experiences at the nearby campgrounds is the way to go. There’s an awesome travel company that sets up everything for the Haro Wine Festival and throws a really fun fiesta of their own. They not only include all the camping gear. Campers also can get unlimited free beer and sangria! Really!
With a severe lack of hotels and stumbling across that camping package with booze, it was an easy decision to rough it in the comfy campgrounds. We figured it was just a place to crash for the night. Little did we know how much fun it would end up being.
It’s all with Stoke Travel (enter ROAMING to get the free booze included). But we’ll give you all the details on what it’s like to camp with them later in this post. Let’s get back to the pre-party scene at those campgrounds.
Upon arriving at the sprawling array of tents, the hundreds of other fun-loving international travelers that joined this camping package all began to make pleasantries with one another. With the unlimited booze flowing strong, everyone quickly became chatty. After much beer and sangria, the chilled vibes of this camp atmosphere in the Spanish countryside soon turned into a full-blown fiesta.
It was a perfect pre-party to the Haro Wine Festival events that were happening in town, just a short stroll away.
Partying in the Streets during the Haro Wine Festival
As the sun sets over Haro just before 10:00 pm, it’s replaced by the night sky and lots of partying! This is an opportune time to head into the streets of Haro with new friends met at the campground. By around 9:00 pm or so, the once-quaint town of Haro transforms into a huge street party!
This is what the Haro Wine Festival is all about!
During the Haro Wine Festival, a big stage is set up in the main town square, where a large concert commences throughout the evening. This jamming concert draws a cheering crowd that’s guzzling cervezas and swigging vino. This big street party preceding the Wine Fight is almost entirely a Spanish crowd and it’s a blast trying to mix in.
Yet it’s equally fun to simply get lost in the crowds that amass throughout Haro’s narrow cobblestone streets. It’s during this street party that there are so many other wine-drinking festival-goers that are breaking out into impromptu concerts of their own. They may not have a big stage, but these mini-concerts rage on with just as much enthusiasm! Trumpets and other brass instruments provide the notes for the hordes of people to belt out some apparently well-known Spanish songs.
Everyone sings along. We even joined in for a few slurred verses that we picked up from repetitive chorus. It’s an awesome scene to mentally soak in, while livers simultaneously absorb the extra alcohol intake taking place during this Haro Wine Festival street party.
And that alcohol does continue to flow freely throughout the streets of Haro. Perhaps it’s all a grand attempt to get everyone in the spirit for the Haro Wine Battle that takes place in only matter of a few hours later. After all, this partying on Haro’s streets is still only a precursor the early morning wine fight that’s about to occur.
During this street party fiesta of the Haro Wine Festival, people stumble in and out of the local bars dotting Haro’s alleyways. They buy drinks from the seemingly endless flow of booze. Simple and normally quiet cafes suddenly have become party hot spots.
Meanwhile back on the streets, people are literally swinging from the lamp posts! It’s this raucous party atmosphere that gets everyone in the right mindset for the Haro Wine Battle that is creeping closer and closer with each hour that goes by.
Some people will occasionally grab tapas to add some substance to their alcohol-fueled night, before spilling back out onto the quaint yet packed streets of Haro. And there are some great nibbles to be had when ducking into the cafes. This is Spain after all. There are some delicious snacks to be had! It’s a great idea to enjoy some of these late night munchies to keep fueled into the wee morning hours.
Have A Plan for the Late Night Hours of the Haro Wine Festival
That street party in Haro goes on all night long! After midnight on the eve of the Haro Wine Battle, there are no signs of the fiesta quieting down. And people don’t start to gather for the actual Haro Wine Battle until several hours later, around 7:00 am. That’s a lot of time to fill with partying in Haro’s alleyways.
So once midnight rolls around, there are three options to consider:
- Go to sleep at a normal time to rest for the morning to come.
- ❌ Not recommended! This street party during the Haro Wine Festival is a big part of the Wine Battle experience. Don’t miss it!
- Stay out late and sleep for an hour or two before the insanity of the Haro wine fight.
- ⚠️ Take a nap if absolutely needed. Just be sure to have a plan to awake by sunrise. This is what we did and it worked out okay for us. But it would be a tragedy to be in wine-induced coma, then accidentally sleep through the wine fight. Be very careful if choosing to take a late-night nap before the morning wine battle.
- Party until the break of dawn and then head out to the wine fight.
- ✅ This is the tradition and what most recommend. Go ahead, stay up all night during the Haro Wine Festival party. Then let that early morning Wine Battle be the culmination of an awesome night. This takes stamina and pacing, but it can be accomplished with some effort. Consider alternating some espresso and water in between all the alcohol. Again, having napped the day prior is an excellent idea.
The Haro Wine Battle Day: June 29
The idea of the Haro Wine Battle is to stay up all night. We lasted until about 3:00 AM, so that we could take a nap before all the craziness of the morning to follow. It worked for us and we were still a bit boozy upon awakening.
We had successfully made it to the main event. It was the time to see what the Haro Wine Battle was all about!
Morning Preparations for the Haro Wine Battle
On the morning of the Haro Wine Battle, sunrise is at exactly 6:36 am. Those pre-dawn hours are a great time to get moving. People begin to gather in Haro by 7:00 am to prepare for the Wine Battle.
It did feel a bizarre rolling out of bed to grab a beer and a mug of red wine instead of coffee. But, hey, it’s the Haro Wine Fight!
The fine ladies and gents who man the kegs at the campground in Haro continued to let the free beer flow. Who are we to refuse a few breakfast beers before the big Wine Battle event? This free beer and sangria is a huge perk of staying at the campground. And it’s nice to top off before heading out for the Wine Battle.
The tradition of the Haro Wine Festival calls for everyone to wear a white shirt and a red scarf during the wine battle. Others wear full-on costumes or added flair. But that white shirt is a must!
Once dressed appropriately, the supplies are gathered. Red wine in boxes, jugs, buckets, water bottles, and whatever vessels that can be found are all filled to the brim with the red stuff.
The Haro Wine Battle itself takes place on a mountain, about 6-7 kilometers from the town of Haro itself. Some walk this distance. But there are complimentary buses that shuttle the half-drunk and sleep deprived masses through the Spanish countryside and vineyards to the mountain’s base. It’s here that a short march begins up the mountain. That’s when signs of the impending battle begin to reveal themselves.
Before the Haro Wine Battle commences, there is an outdoor Catholic mass and some opening traditions that take place. But by the time we arrived at the base of the mountain around 8:30, we noticed creeks of wine already streaming down the trail.
This was just a small sign of what we were about to walk into.
What To Expect at the Haro Wine Battle
Closer and closer to the battlegrounds, splashes are felt and those clean white shirts begin to get stained. Before we even realized it, we were in the thick of the Haro wine fight and completely soaked with red wine.
We reached the makeshift wine battlefield by about 9:00 am to find that the Batalla del Vino was already well underway.
The wine battle is on!
Bug sprayers give people a nice light coating of wine, while super soakers blast others.
Yet it’s the buckets of wine that are thrown with force that really gets people drenched from head to toe.
And there seems to be no mercy or discrimination during the Haro Wine Battle when it comes to these heavy wine dousing.
Keep in mind that it can be quite cold early in the morning on the Spanish mountainside. We witnessed some girls who were soaked, shivering away from the crowd and trying to stay warm. It was only then that a fresh bucket of wine dumped all over them. Haha!
We even saw young children crying because the wine was burning their eyes. It was at that point when Grandpa came from behind not to comfort or help the kids, but instead to dump more wine all over them. No mercy!
This is the Haro Wine Battle at its very best.
Inevitably during all the splashing, spraying and soaking, some vino winds up in your mouth, further fueling the party atmosphere.
A party band eventually comes out to play. The singing & dancing continues. And the wine pouring does too.
The band on the battlegrounds was one of the many ensembles that were in Haro’s alleyways just hours earlier during the late night revelry back in town. This band must have also stayed up all night and probably managed to kick back a few drinks in the process. Yet they don’t miss a beat. It’s an impressive feat!
Haro Wine Battle Video
We drunkenly captured this video in attempts show the craziness of the wine battle during the Haro Wine Festival.
After the Haro Wine Battle
Once all ammo (er, wine) has run out and the winds down, wine fighters all walk back down the hill in defeat. By noon, or even a bit before, the Haro Wine Battle slowly concludes. But the fun does not.
We’ve heard that it’s possible to return from the mountain to Haro using a tube or raft in the nearby river. Yet given the chill in the air and our drunken state, that just didn’t seem to be the best idea. Walking back to Haro can be a scenic and fun drunken affair. But it’s a long way. Thankfully, complimentary buses offer the best reprieve to stumbling back toward Haro.
By this point, it’s a good plan to get cleaned up. The partying continues in Haro for a little while, but most wounded soldiers take their wine-stained bodies to bed.
During some years, Haro has a bull run at the Plaza de Toros in town after the Wine Battle. But rumor has it that during some of the Haro Wine Festivals, the organizers get too drunk to do this bull run.
The midday and the afternoon of the Wine Battle day is dedicated to resting. It is one much-needed and long siesta that goes on throughout the day. The town of Haro actually becomes very quiet during the mid and late afternoon hours of June 29th.
But that evening, another party begins. These people just don’t stop! The celebratory atmosphere is contagious and it doesn’t take too long to grab another free cerveza from the campground bar and jump right back into all the fun.
If You Go to the Haro Wine Festival:
Haro Wine Battle Tickets
You do not need a ticket to participate in the Wine Fight. The event itself is free and open to the public. You simply need to have transportation to Haro and have somewhere to sleep once you’re there. Transportation and accommodation can be extremely difficult to find with the influx of visitors all funneling into this small town during the Haro Wine Festival.
That’s why we fully recommend the Stoke Travel camping package that we used.
Stoke Travel provides both accommodation and transportation for the entire Haro Wine Festival. You definitely do need to reserve a ticket in advance if going with Stoke Travel. These packages do tend to sell out. So be sure to buy in advance.
We’ve provided more information about Stoke’s packages in the accommodation section of this post (including the details of how to get unlimited free beer by entering ROAMING upon checkout).
When is the Haro Wine Festival 2020?
Every year, the Haro Wine Battle is always held on the morning of June 29, the feast day of patron saint San Pedro/Peter. But you must be in Haro the day before, on June 28th or even prior.
The Haro Wine Festival 2020 falls on a Monday, morning. That means you’ll need to be in Haro by Sunday, June 28th, 2020. Since San Pedro’s feast day falls on a Monday this year, there is likely to be festive atmosphere in Haro throughout the entire weekend prior to the big Monday morning wine battle. So it may be worth it to even arrive early.
Here’s how the dates will all break down for 2020:
- Sunday, June 28th, 2020: Night street party! 🎉
- Monday, June 29th, 2020: Early morning Haro Wine Battle 🍷
- Tuesday, June 30th, 2020: Recovery 🛏️
What to Pack for the Haro Wine Battle
Arrive at Haro well-rested, as you’ll need plenty of energy for the weekend.
👕 White shirt: Pack a white shirt you don’t care about. This is the tradition to wear to the Haro Wine Battle. Alternatively, if you stay at the Stoke Travel campgrounds, they sell a complete Haro Wine Battle outfit for €25.
🧣 Red scarf: As for the obligatory red scarf, you can pick one up in town at the party the night before the wine fight. Vendors sell them everywhere for a few Euros.
🔫 Squirt guns: Do bring any squirt guns or other means you wish to use to deliver wine onto other people. But if you don’t have anything to spray with, don’t worry – you’ll be fine to just dump the vino directly from whatever container you have. Yet water guns certainly make the process a lot more fun.
🍾 Wine! If coming to the Haro Wine Festival on your own, be sure to bring wine, of course. While there’s plenty of red wine being splashed around at the hill, none is for sale there. You must bring your ammo with you. If you go to the Haro Wine Battle with Stoke Travel, as suggested, they’ll supply all the wine you need for the wine fight. Wine for the battle is fully included in their camping package (info on that in the section below).
🥽 Mask or goggles: You may want to bring a mask or goggles, as this will help to keep the wine from stinging your eyes while in the midst of the wine battle. Be a prepared wine warrior! Snag a pair of cheap goggles like these before you go to Haro.
👖 Warm Weather Clothes: Don’t forget to pack some clothes for the weekend. Dress is pretty casual throughout the entire Haro Wine Festival. If planning in advance, it’s best to pack for both hot and cool weather. So you’ll be safe to leave the rain gear at home. There have been some Wine Battles in which heatwaves brought afternoon temps to 40° C (105° F). It’s more the norm to expect high temps around 30° C (in the 80s F). Yet even on those particularly hot years, morning temps are still cool, under 20° C (in the 60s F). So plan your clothes accordingly.
👙 Bathing suit: Bathing suits are a good idea to take a dip in the nearby river or at the pool that Stoke Travel has at their campsite. Or you may even want to wear it to the wine fight. Just bring one.
🚿 A towel: You’re going to get soaked in wine. You’re also going to shower. (We hope.) And you’ll maybe even take a dip. So be sure you have something to dry off with. We love this lightweight microfiber quick-dry travel towel!
👟 Old shoes or sandals: Your shoes are going to get drenched in red wine during the wine battle. Don’t dare wear any nice kicks you love to the wine fight. I wore sandals and felt fine in them. But you may be better off in an old pair of sneakers.
🧼 The usual toiletries: Also be sure to pack whatever toiletries you’ll need. Bring deodorant, toothbrush, soap, tampons, whatever you need to stay clean. Just don’t forget it.
💊 Hangover remedy: Whatever may cure your morning-after ailments, pack something to help you out.
💦 Waterproofing: If you don’t have a waterproof phone and you’re going to bring it to the actual Wine Battle, be sure that you have a waterproof phone case like this.
🛏️ A pillow: If doing the Stoke Travel camping package, they provide all the camping gear needed (tent, sleeping bag, etc.) but they don’t provide a pillow. So whether a real pillow or a compact travel pillow, just be sure to bring something to lay your head on at night.
☀️ Sun protection: It can get hot in Haro and it’s usually very sunny during the end of June. Bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. We find sunscreen to be expensive throughout Spain. Amazon has good prices. Stock up before you go.
😁 Attitude: Above all else, just bring a good attitude and be prepared to have fun.
Where to Stay in Haro
Be sure to book accommodation for the Haro Wine Festival well in advance. Haro is a very small town that simply doesn’t have the tourism infrastructure or hotel rooms to accommodate the swell of visitors that come for the Wine Battle each year. There are no hostels in Haro. Meanwhile, the very few hotels in Haro are expensive and get booked up way in advance of the Haro Wine Festival.
You can attempt checking Airbnb and other alternative accommodations, but nearby listings are slim or completely non-existent for those who didn’t plan way in advance.
And with all the drinking and a severe lack of public transportation in this region, it’s absolutely necessary to stay within walking distance of the town of Haro. You won’t be able to get to the Wine Fight if you stay anywhere else, unless you have your own car and designated driver.
That’s why we strongly recommend Stoke Travel as the best bet for accommodation in Haro during the Wine Battle. They organize that awesome all-inclusive camping trip to the Wine Fight. Stoke Travel’s 2019 Wine Battle trip started at €60 per night, per person, based on double occupancy and we’d expect Wine Battle 2020 to be about the same. The 2-night trip for €120 includes tent, sleeping bags, 2 breakfasts, two dinners, and boxed wine for the fight. They also offer convenient transport from Barcelona and San Sebastian.
Then for an extra €10 per day – they also generously throw in all-you-can-drink sangria and beer from the Stoke bar, which flows plentifully non-stop. But Stoke Travel is hooking up all Roaming Around the World readers with the unlimited beer and sangria for free! Just be sure to enter ROAMING at checkout to get that unlimited beer and sangria for free.)
Stoke Travel’s camping packages do fill up. So it’s best to reserve a spot in advance. Check availability at StokeTravel.com now.
How To Get to the Haro Wine Battle
🚆 By train: Taking a train to Haro is possible, but can be costly and inconvenient, depending on where you’re arriving from. There is a train station in Haro that has connections to nearby cities in Spain, such as Madrid, Barcelona, and San Sebastian. If coming by train, be sure to reserve a seat, as the trains do become full. A train to Haro will run about €75-€100 roundtrip if coming from Madrid or Barcelona. It’ll be about €50 roundtrip by train from San Sebastian, but that route requires a tricky connection in the town of Miranda de Ebro, with infrequent trains.
🚌 By bus: If you’re going to the Haro Wine Battle with Stoke Travel and you’re in San Sebastian or Barcelona, it definitely makes sense to hitch an easy ride on one of their buses. That’s exactly what we did and it all went very smoothly. The buses are direct to the campsite, without having to walk from a train station. And it’s actually the cheapest transport option too.
The entire Wine Battle trip with Stoke Travel, plus roundtrip transportation from San Sebastian to Haro adds only €70 to the total trip. And by taking the Stoke bus to the Haro Wine Festival, you’ll be first at the bar to take advantage of all that free and unlimited beer and sangria, when entering ROAMING at checkout. 😉 Check Stoke Travel’s bus packages here.
Stoke Travel Wine Battle Review
For all that is included when camping at the Wine Fight, we thought the Stoke Travel camping package was such a great value, particularly when considering the lack of any other reasonable accommodation in Haro during the Wine Battle.
And while camping can be fun, it can also be a total pain-in-the-ass. So we loved the fact that Stoke takes all the hassle out of camping by setting up your tent, breaking it down, and even cooking up a few good meals that are included too.
Basically, all you need to do is show up, grab one of the unlimited free beers or sangrias and make some friends. And it’s a really good fun-loving crowd of people, from all over the world who all come to with the same goals: drink lots and fight with wine!
Stoke’s tents, sleeping bags, and mattresses were all good quality. But for those wanting more comfort, Stoke now has a glamping package for the Wine Battle that makes it almost a luxury camping experience and includes all sorts of extras, like electricity, wifi, a mattress with fitted sheets & pillow, a much bigger tent, a bedside table, and even turndown service! If you can afford to do the glamping, it can definitely worth the splurge to have a much more comfortable experience. Read more about the glamping packages here.
When we first got on the bus in San Sebastian, we overheard someone talking about Stoke Travel say “They’re not the most professional company, but they’re a shit load of fun!” We now wholeheartedly agree with that. Stoke definitely knows how to throw a party! Everything went off without a hitch. We can now give Stoke Travel a great review and wouldn’t hesitate to book with them again if coming back to the Wine Fight in Haro.
In fact, we had such a great time with Stoke that when we returned to Europe a few years later, we camped with them again at Oktoberfest. (You can see our entire breakdown of our Oktoberfest on a Budget here.)
All the latest info for the Wine Battle can be found directly on Stoke Travel’s website here.
*Free Beer* for You During the Haro Wine Battle!
The awesome folks at Stoke Travel found our article and decided to give all RoamingAroundTheWorld readers unlimited free beer and sangria for all 3 days of their 2020 Wine Fight trip! Just remember to enter: ROAMING when checking out at stoketravel.com.
And if you go this year, we’d love it if you stopped back by our site and dropped a comment to let us know about your experience. Cheers!
The Haro Wine Festival Experience
The Haro Wine Battle is such a unique experience and a crazy good time. We’ve never been to San Fermin or Tomatina, so we can’t compare it. But those we met who had been to multiple fiestas in Spain remarked that the Wine Fight was their favorite because it was much more attended by locals and other Spaniards, rather than by people like us visiting.
That certainly seemed true and it all made for a really fun atmosphere. As visitors, we were the minority compared to local Spaniards. Yet we were always completely welcomed and everyone was very friendly and in high spirits. We had a blast and would definitely recommend Haro Wine Battle if you like a good party.
Have you gone to the Haro Wine Festival? Drop us a line in the comments and let us know about your experience! Or if you have any questions about the Haro Wine Battle, feel free to ask away.
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Publishing note: This post was originally written in November 2014, based on our experience at the Haro Wine Festival. As this article has been used as a source of planning for the event, this post is regularly updated each year to reflect the latest info, most recently updated June 2019, after this year’s event.