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It was October 2013 when we first discovered the biggest sand festival in the world at the Fiesa International Sand Sculpture Festival on the Algarve, Portugal. It is full of sand sculptures in fantastic detail.
We were on our very first trip in our new motorhome driving through Albufeira when we noticed the numerous billboards advertising the festival. Curious to see what it was all about we pulled off into the car park. We were pleased to find that it was a lovely spacious, free car park that could accommodate our motorhome.
Every year a group of approximately 60 talented sculptors, from all over the world and experts in the art of sand sculpting, join together to create sculptures with 45 thousand tons of sand, in an area of fifteen thousand square meters.
This festival has been hosted for the last 16 years in Pera in the Algarve. This year 2019 the location and dates are changing. (see address details below). Usually opening in March, however, this year the festival will open a bit later on the 8th June 2019.
I am not sure when it closes but think its the end of October.
There is a different theme each year added to the existing themed sculptures. We found amazing sculptures of celebrities, amusing cartoon characters, film stars, rock stars, animals, mythologies, historical scenes & figures, composers and scientists.
Star Wars was added for 2018 although minions also seemed to feature everywhere.
They are incredible and, it’s amazing how much work must go into designing and making each sculpture. We were also fascinated by the sheer size of each one. Some of the sculptures reach up to twelve meters high.
There is a plaque next to each one which gives a good description of the sculpture.
All of the sculptures are made of sand and water only. It’s not your average beach sand though, but a particular type of sand that is used generally in construction as this type of sand has a more significant percentage of clay.
The sand is put into a box with water and, the artists use their imagination to sculpt their art pieces.
Before opening for the season, they build new sculptures, and they repair the older ones. Throughout the season there are sculptors on hand to carry out minor repairs. I think they do a fantastic job of preserving them for the whole season, especially against the wind, rain and extreme heat of summer.
There is a small cafeteria that serves hot and cold drinks, burgers etc.
Spacious free car park
The staff speak English.
For the Children
From June there are activities for children included in the entrance fee namely workshops related to different art forms, such as sand sculpture, painting, clay, among other things which the children seemed to enjoy judging from the sounds coming from that area.
As well as bungee trampolines (extra cost) some challenges are created during the festival such as “looking for the minions.”
From June there are workshops for adults and guided tours (both take about an hour).
It’s extremely well laid out and spacious although the ground is sandy and a bit uneven with lumps and bumps in places. If you have trouble walking around you can hire a golf buggy also there are buggies available for the little ones.
Best Time to Visit
Our first visit was in the middle of a hot day which I wouldn’t recommend because there is no shade to stand and admire the sculptures. It reminded me of a desert with the white sand reflecting the glare of the sun and making it blindingly bright.
Make sure you have sunglasses, a hat, sun cream and carry water around with you. I would take a parasol too oh and comfy shoes for walking on the sand.
I think the best time to visit in the summer months is late afternoon
/early evening and take a picnic.
Time your visit so that it is still light when you arrive so that you can see all the detail of the sculptures but as the sun is setting you can enjoy seeing the sculptures illuminated in the coloured lights.
The lighting in the evening changes the atmosphere completely.
If you book online before you go admission for 2019 is £8.71 for an adult (there are concessions so check the website). The price could be a little more if you buy at the entrance. Look out for the flyers that are everywhere as they could save you 10% on entry.
Your tickets last all day, however, if you leave the park intending to go back in the evening when the sculptures are illuminated you will need to change your ticket for a wristband.
Please bear in mind that if it is late in the season and if there has been a lot of rain the sculptures can get a little weather-beaten although when weather conditions allow they do carry out minor repairs throughout the season.