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 one of our favorite travel experiences in all of our five years of roaming around the world. The Haro Wine Festival involves battling (and drinking) all that red, red wine that Spain is renown for.
How could the Haro Wine Festival not be a total blast? Spoiler alert: it is.
Spaniards and many visitors alike have loads of fun each summer with the many annual festivals occurring all across Spain. Of course you’ve heard of the Running of the Bulls (known as San Fermin) in Pamplona. And maybe you’ve seen some fun clips of the Tomatina festival, in which a tomato war wages on each year. Those are some good times, we’re sure.
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 just had to see what this Batalla del Vino (Wine Battle) was all about. And we’ve survived the Haro Wine Battle, victorious to tell our tale and now share our travel tips.
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 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 even begins in Haro, Spain.
It’s on the eve of the wine fight when the Haro Wine Festival really 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 all 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 well rested. If at all possible, be sure to take a siesta on this day. There’s a loooong night ahead!
Arriving At the Haro Campgrounds on the Eve of the Wine Battle
Hotels and guesthouses book up well in advance of the Haro Wine Festival. So unless you make accommodation reservations a year or so in advance, camping in the nearby campgrounds is the way to go. There’s an awesome travel company that sets up a fantastic all-inclusive camping package during the Haro Wine Festival, including all the gear and even unlimited free beer and sangria! Really! We’ll spill all the details on that later in this post.
Upon arriving to the sprawling campgrounds, the hundreds of other fun-loving travelers that joined this camping package all began to make pleasantries with one another. And with the unlimited booze flowing strong, everyone quickly became chatty with one another. After much beer and sangria, the chilled vibes of this camp atmosphere in the Spanish countryside soon turns into full-blown revelry.
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 out on the town with new friends met at the campground. By around 9:00 pm or so, the once-quaint Haro streets transform into a huge street party!
This is what the Haro Wine Festival is all about!
During this Haro Wine Festival, a big stage is set up in the main town square, where a large concert commences throughout the evening. The concert draws a crowd and is fun to watch.
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 merrymakers 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 and we even joined in for a few slurred verses that we picked up from repetitive verses. 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 continues 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 taking place in only a matter of hours. All this partying on Haro’s streets is still just a precursor the early morning wine fight that’s about to take place.
During this street party fiesta of the Haro Wine Festival, people stumble in and out of the handful of bars that dot the alleyways. They buy drinks from the seemingly endless flow of booze. Simple and normally quite cafes suddenly have become party hot spot.
Meanwhile on the streets, people are literally swinging from the lamposts! It’s this raucous party atmosphere that gets people in the right mindset for the Haro Wine Battle that is coming.
Some will occasionally grab a tapa 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. It’s a great idea to keep you going!
Have A Plan for the 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 so that you can 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 that you’ve come here for. Don’t miss it!
- Stay out late and sleep for an hour or two before the insanity of the wine fight.
- Take a nap only if you must. Just be sure you 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 if you were in a wine-induced coma, then accidentally slept through the wine fight. Be very careful if you choose to do this.
- 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 this 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 that alcohol. Again, having napped the day prior is an excellent idea.
- Go to sleep at a normal time so that you can rest for the morning to come.
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, when at 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 San Vino calls for everyone to wear a white shirt and a red scarf. Others wear 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. 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 walk begins. 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, you start to feel a little splash here and there and your shirt begins to get stained. Then before you know it, you’re in the thick of it all, and you’re completely soaked.
We reached the makeshift wine battlefield by 9:00 am to find that the Batalla del Vino had already begun.
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 get you 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 appears to be one of the many ensembles that were getting everyone pumped in the alleyways just hours earlier during the late night revelry back in town. I’m guessing they also stay up all night and manage to kick back a few drinks. Yet they don’t miss a beat. It’s actually a pretty impressive feat.
Haro Wine Battle Video
Here’s a video we put together of all the craziness of the wine battle during the Haro Wine Festival.
After the Haro Wine Battle
Once you’ve run out of ammo and had enough fun on the mountain, you can walk back down in defeat. By noon, or even a bit before, the Haro Wine Battle concludes. But the fun does not.
We’ve heard that it’s also possible to return using a tube or raft in the nearby river, but given the chill in the air and our drunken state, that just didn’t seem to be the best idea. Walking back can be a scenic and fun drunken affair. Yet the 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.
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 got 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 siesta that goes on throughout the day. The town of Haro actually becomes very quiet during the mid and late afternoon hours.
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 2019:
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 town for the few days.
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. We’ve provided more information about Stoke’s packages in the accommodation section of this post (including how to get unlimited free beer!) or follow this link to check Stoke’s availability for this year’s event.
When is the Haro Wine Festival 2019?
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 before.
The Haro Wine Festival 2019 is a particularly attractive year to attend, as it’s a rare year in which the Wine Battle perfectly spans the weekend!
- Friday, June 28th, 2019: Night street party!
- Saturday, June 29th, 2019: Early morning Haro Wine Battle
- Sunday, June 30th, 2019: Recovery
What to Pack for the Haro Wine Battle 2019
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 tradition to wear to the Haro Wine Battle. Alternatively, if you stay at the Stoke Travel campgrounds, they sell a 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 you’re 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 of it 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.
Clothes: Don’t forget to pack some clothes for the weekend. Dress is pretty casual throughout the entire Haro Wine Festival. On average the high temperature is 26°C (78°F) and it gets down to an average low of 11°C (52°F) in the early morning hours, so pack clothes accordingly. Although some years have been warmer and cooler than these averages. It rarely rains in Haro during this time of year; only about a 16% chance. So you’ll probably be safe to leave the rain gear at home.
Bathing suit: Bathing suits are a good idea to take a dip in the nearby river or at the pool that’s 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, tampons, whatever. 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 bring something to lay your head on.
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. Instead, check Amazon for some great prices on sunscreen.
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 they get scooped up way in advance of San Vino.
You can attempt checking Airbnb and other alternative accommodations, but you’ll still end up having to shell out hundreds of Euro for anywhere within ten or so kilometers of Haro. When we were looking for a place to stay a few weeks prior to the Haro Wine Battle, we were unable to find anywhere reasonable to stay anywhere near Haro.
That’s when we discovered that the best bet for accommodation in Haro during the Wine Battle was to go with a company called Stoke Travel who organizes that awesome all-inclusive camping trip to the Wine Fight! Stoke Travel’s 2019 Wine Battle trip starts at €60 per night, per person, based on double occupancy. The 2-night trip for €120 includes tent, sleeping bags, 2 breakfasts, two dinners, and boxed wine for the fight.
Then for an extra €10 per day – they also generously throw in all-you-can-drink sangria and beer from the Stoke bar, which all flows plentifully non-stop. But now 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, without the added €10!)
Stoke Travel’s camping packages do fill up. So be sure to reserve a spot. Check availability at StokeTravel.com now.
How To Get to the Haro Wine Battle
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 requires a tricky connection in Miranda de Ebro.
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 went all too 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, which is always nice!
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 Haro, you’ll be first at the bar to take advantage of all that free and unlimited beer and sangria, when entering ROAMING at checkout.
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 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 with Stoke Travel to the Haro Wine Fight!
The tents, sleeping bags, and mattresses used were all good quality. But for those wanting more comfort, Stoke now (2019) has a glamping package for the Wine Battle that makes it almost a luxury camping experience and includes all sorts of extras, like electricity and wifi in your enormous tent!
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 good 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 2019 Wine Battle can be found directly on Stoke Travel’s website here.
*Free Beer* for You During the 2019 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 2019 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 on 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 November 30, 2018, in advance of the Haro Wine Battle 2019.