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Elcano's Day 2024 in Spain

Some communities in the Basque region of Spain hold a day of observance to recall Juan Sebastián de Elcano’s circumnavigation of the globe in 1522.

A replica ship, the Nao Victoria, reenacts the end of the explorer's journey on Elcano’s Day.

A replica ship, the Nao Victoria, reenacts the end of the explorer's journey on Elcano’s Day.


Is Elcano’s Day a Public Holiday?

Elcano’s Day is not a public holiday in Spain.

When Is Elcano’s Day?

Most observances are held on September 6 in northern Spain, with perhaps the most well-known celebration taking place every four years in the town of Getaria, a tradition that began in 1922.

Reliving History

Residents of Elcano’s hometown of Getaria celebrate by reenacting the moment his ship completed its round the world journey, marking the first successful circumnavigation of the Earth.

At the commemoration, held once every four years, cheering crowds welcome a disheveled-looking Elcano as he comes ashore from the replica ship Nao Victoria along with 17 surviving sailors, who proceed to the local church to give thanks to the Virgin for safe passage.

In the presence of Emperor Charles I, the sailors are then serenaded by a local choir, and a medieval fair is declared open on the nearby streets.

Basque Hero, Master Sailor, and Lucky Survivor

All this is to honor explorer Juan Sebastián de Elcano (Elkano in the Basque language), who was born in Getaria in 1476. The experienced sailor joined the five-ship Magellan-Elcano expedition in 1518, seemingly motivated by the promise of a royal pardon for the crime of having sold a warship to a foreign power a few years earlier.

With a goal of discovering a western route to the Spice Islands, the fleet crossed what is now known as the Strait of Magellan and became the first to cross the Pacific Ocean.

But the journey was full of hardship; mutinies broke out, sailors died of scurvy, Magellan - the commander of the expedition - was killed during a battle in the Philippines, and four ships were lost. Elcano was given command of the last remaining vessel in the fleet, the Victoria.

The ship and her dwindling crew arrived in the Moluccas in late 1521, crossed the Indian Ocean, and managed to reach the Atlantic again. Finally, after sailing nearly 68,000 kilometers (42,253 miles) in three years, the Victoria returned to Spain at Sanlúcar de Barrameda on September 6, 1522.

By this time, the expedition’s original crew of 285 rugged sailors had shrunk to 18 bedraggled survivors, who became national heroes upon arrival.

Elcano's Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2019FriSep 6Elcano's DayObservanceBasque Country
2020SunSep 6Elcano's DayObservanceBasque Country
2021MonSep 6Elcano's DayObservanceBasque Country
2022TueSep 6Elcano's DayAutonomous Community HolidayBasque Country
2023WedSep 6Elcano's DayObservanceBasque Country
2024FriSep 6Elcano's DayObservanceBasque Country
2025SatSep 6Elcano's DayObservanceBasque Country
2026SunSep 6Elcano's DayObservanceBasque Country
2027MonSep 6Elcano's DayObservanceBasque Country
2028WedSep 6Elcano's DayObservanceBasque Country
2029ThuSep 6Elcano's DayObservanceBasque Country

While we diligently research and update our holiday dates, some of the information in the table above may be preliminary. If you find an error, please let us know.