Lavender field in Brihuega, Guadalajara
by Jack Wright
If you go by fame alone, you’re bound to think there were only two varieties of lavender worth naming in Europe: the English lavender and the French. But giving them a run for their money is the Spanish variety. Yep, the thing exists. But if you thought there was no Spanish lavender to speak of, that’s quite understandable.
The most famous lavender fields in Spain – now grabbing national attention but barely making a dent internationally – are those found in the municipality of Brihuega in Guadalajara, a province that’s a little more than an hour’s drive from Madrid.
The flower and aroma of the Spanish lavanda are as delicate as the English lavender’s. And its intense purple bracts make it showier than the French lavender. Also, the lavanda is uniquely heat-resistant and is at its best in full sun. Thus, while blossom time in cooler places peaks in mid-July, you can enjoy the 1000+ hectares (about 2,500 acres) of lavender fields in Brihuega up to August.
A word of caution, though: harvest time in 2021 begins at the end of July. If you wait too long to visit the fields, you’ll end up seeing nothing but decapitated stalks!
With its more than eight million tons of lavender flowers, Brihuega produces a tenth of the world’s lavender. Quite an extraordinary record considering that it got started off in the industry just three decades ago. The municipality was a truly promising candidate for ghost-township in the 1990s; the relentless decline in its agricultural economy made it untenable for the villagers to dig their heels in. They had to find other means of livelihood. Likely elsewhere.
Lucky for them, the lavender– and their own enterprising spirit – came to the rescue. They cast their eyes far afield and discovered that out in Provence, France, probably the world’s most famous spot for lavender and one of the world leaders in lavender production, the soil is calcareous and drains well. Just like in Brihuega. And so they knuckled down right there in their village and before long fields upon fields were sprouting lavender.
Today, the essential oil of the lavender from Brihuega can be found in popular Spanish cosmetics, including the perfumes created by the Spanish luxury fashion house, Loewe. And there are of course many other favorite lavender products, not least of which are candies and cakes, lavender-themed ornaments and souvenirs, and a wide range of toiletries and aromatherapy solutions. Never mind what the lavender does for local tourism.
In other words, the lavanda has spooked the ghost out of the town. It won’t be coming back any day soon.
Because Brihuega has a lot to thank the lavender for, the people have mounted the annual Fiesta de la Lavanda. The lavender festival, which is celebrated at the height of the herb’s flowering with concerts and gastronomic treats, is a tribute to the lavanda which redounds to the municipal coffers as it boosts local tourism. Talk about virtuous circle!
However, the festival has to be canceled this year because of the pandemic, just like it was in 2020. Cancelling the festival “pierces our soul (se nos parte el alma),” the Brihuegans say.
The brighter side of it is that the efficacious Covid vaccines have led to the slackening off of the stringent pandemic protocols and some activities have now been resumed, such as the guided tours of the lavender fields Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays throughout July, and the flights on hot air balloons. See here.
Pandemic or no pandemic, the lavender lends itself beautifully to photoshoots. Instagrammers probably have known this from the start. Your best snaps would be those taken just after sunrise or in the early evening as the sunlight begins to fade and the lavandas turn into a beautiful sight, more dramatically than at any other time.
For more info, check out Brihuega’s tourism office.
Other lavender fields to enjoy include Tiedra, between the Tierra de Campos and Campo de Moro, Castilla y Leon (Tierra de Campo straddles the provinces of Leon, Zamora, Valladolid and Palencia), and Moratalla in the region of Murcia.
Featured image ©Turismo Castilla-La Mancha/David Blázquez
Brihuega lavender/Armando Gonzalez Alameda, CC BY-SA4.0 via Wikimedia commons
Brihuega town/Emilio García-Page Sánchez, CC BY-SA2.0 via Wikimedia Commons. Cropped, retouched
Lavanda poster 2021, Fair use
Hot air balloons/David Minty, CC BY2.0 via Flickr
Field sprouting lavender ©Turismo Castilla-La Mancha/David Blázquez
Lavender harvest/P.T.Đ via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA4.0
Tiedra fields/Frayle, PD via Wikipedia
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