August 2015, after a short visit of Lisbon, I am on my way to an amazing dance festival in the mountains : Andancas. In the hotness of Portugal countryside lies a multi-dance/multi activities festival lasting a week and full of hippie like people, ready to party.
Disclaimer : Festival Andancas evolved through the years, and is not always held in the same place. Edition 2021 will be held in Campinho (Reguengos de Monsaraz).
How to go there
I took a lift from Lisbon, which is probably the best way to go there. There are buses and trains going from Lisbon and Porto but you have to change several times or hitchhike to the festival. If you really have time, the organizers propose
a hell of a walk / bike trip from Lisbon to Andancas the week before the festival but i must say the perspective of walking 8 days in the heat is not really my personal idea of vacation.
Arriving in Andancas
After a 3 hours drive from Lisbon, a big lake welcomes you at the gates of the festival, perfect spot for the very hot afternoons. After taking your pass, you have 2 “streets” leading down to the festival : the street of beer and food, or the street of fancy hippie dresses and jewelry. Difficult choice…
Down the hill, 6 stages, a movie theater, an open air amphitheater, 2 spots for kids and babies, and 5 campsites, a cantina and a mini market welcomes you in a very large area full of trees.
Music and dancing
Andancas is the place to learn new dances : folk from every country, swing, african dances, salsa, kizomba, bachata, tango, indian dances, samba, forrò, rock’n’roll… The place is full of beginners from every dance, so comparing to bal folk festivals happening in the same time like St Gervais, if you are looking for high level dancers everywhere it might not be the place for you. But still a lot of very good dancers were there and great funny people. And you can count on it, Portuguese people are very welcoming and sweet tempered (and they drink Porto wine. A lot of Porto wine).
The music was usually of very good quality in the afternoons as well for night parties. I discovered a lot of portuguese dances which are very funny, and i don’t understand why they are not more popular in the rest of Europe.
My only negative point about the whole festival would be : they don’t actually know how to organize decent jam sessions. Music stops around 3am and people are waiting to dance more, but it’s bloody cold and musicians are not really decided if they should fetch an instrument and start playing or not. It can take one or two hours before the music start again. And as there is no decided place and the festival is so huge, it can start at 2 different places in the same time without anyone noticing. As for me, i was so cold during night i couldn’t wait long enough and never saw the sight of a jam session.
Workshops and activities
As far as I know, Andancas is the only festival where you can attend to a workshop about “how to cook your bread in the sun”. Yes. So.hot.you.can.cook.a.bread.in.the.sun.
Workshops are everywhere and about everything. That’s why I think Andancas is perfect as a family festival, or to come with non dancers. There are activities and shows for everyone : How to make mandalas and dreamcatchers, visits of Castello de Vide, knitting crochet, circus, storytelling, concerts… Even kids have a huge corner with a lot of shows and games.
It is also an amazing place to recenter, reflect on yourself while attending to introspective workshops : yoga, massage, qigong, deep connection in dancing, respiration and relaxation, biodanza…
Have a look at the program of 2015
Of course it’s so hot during the day there is a huge chance you just will spend your afternoons under a tree to take a nap (everyone sleeps everywhere). Come on, it’s holidays you are allowed…
As far as I know, everybody stays in the 5 spots of camping under the trees. A lot of space available but prepare yourself to hunt for the shade of the best trees, and any flat space is damn precious. A little cover is mandatory because the nights are fresh.
The most stunning view is the shower spot, when you are naked on the top or the hill with just a piece of fabric between you and the rest of the festival below. Water is kind of cold but it’s so warm during the day, you will be most happy with cold water.
Food and drinks
A friend told me before going “don’t bring any food or anything to eat, there is plenty to buy on the spot”. Best advice ever. You will have a full “street” of cheap food trucks, cheap beer trucks, indian vegan food everywhere. I also ate a lot at the official cantina with a choice of very good vegetarian or omnivore food (and beware of the crocodiles if you’re trying to change queue to go faster! )
Ecology is the main word, as they have the ambition to be a pollution free festival. So take your own cup with you or – better – buy the andancas cup and it’s musketon as a souvenir. For me, that cup is the spirit of Andancas.
As a final advice, I would tell you to stay the full week. It’s holidays you want to take your time. Everything is tempting and if you want to enjoy peacefully and take some rest without running everywhere for activities I think it takes a week.
Prepare for the hot and cold : the days are incredibly hot. So damn hot you have volunteers whose task is to spread water on people. But during the night temperature drops incredibly and it’s not rare to see people put scarf and hats on. As a result you will crawl in your tent looking for warmth but, hey at 9:30 in the morning it’s 35°C again and you will crawl out of your tent for any bit of fresh air.