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Visit El Rocio
El Rocio is in the province of Huelva in the Andalucia region of Spain.
El Rocio is considered to be one of the most beautiful villages in Spain.
Visit El Rocio, Spain
El Rocio is a beautiful little village which sits in the heart of the Donana park - an important wet-land reserve. El Rocio has white cottages, sandy unpaved roads and a kind of 'Spanish wild-west' feel about it. Lots of people get around on horseback and there is a special rail for tying your horse to whilst you stop for lunch etc.
The church of Nuestra Senora del Rocio is a lovely building with lots of arches and interesting details. It was built in the 1960s. Its beautiful white brickwork gleams out from the surrounding green marisma - the wetland that surrounds the village and is still home to wild horses. This area is the Donana National Park.
The Hermitage of El Rocio as the church is known is the home of the 'Virgin of El Rocio' the object of the massive annual pilgrimage to the town. The virgin is placed inside an incredibly ornate gold altar inside the church.
El Rocio Pilgrimage
However the main reason for El Rocio's fame is the El Rocio pilgrimage, the Romeria del Rocio. This takes place each year on the second day of Pentecost (Whitsun) and nearly a million people take part in the annual pilgrimage. It is by far the biggest and most colourful in the region. Pentecost falls fifty days after Easter and is sometime between May 10 and June 13.
The pilgrimage dates back to the 13th century, when a local hunter discovered a statue of the Virgin Mary in a tree trunk in the Donana Park. A chapel was built and local pilgrims turned up each year. By the 17th century pilgrims were turning up from the whole of Andalucia and beyond to take part in the procession carrying the 13th century statue of the Virgin of El Rocio.
Many of the pilgrims come with their families in horse drawn wagons which have been decorated for the occasion. It is a wonderful sight.
Accommodation is impossible during the ceremony; many people bring mattresses and lay them down where they can. Celebrations include parties, horse races and lots of singing, dancing and eaten. Many people are dressed in traditional costumes.
If you can't squeeze into El Rocio, then try to be in Seville the Wednesday before the celebrations as horse-riders and wagons from the Seville Brotherhood gather outside the cathedral before setting off on their pilgrimage to El Rocio. All around Andalucia brotherhoods gather in their home town and set off for El Rocio. Around 90 different Brotherhoods arrive in El Rocio and so big is this pilgrimage that many of them now have their own building in El Rocio so that they have somewhere to stay during the festival and at other times of the year.
The pilgrimages do not take the main roads to El Rocio but their routes are often close and if you are driving in the area you may be lucky enough to see one of the huge long wagon-trains on its way.
Near to El Rocio
The Donana National Park surrounding the village is a UNESCO designated park. It is an important wetland area filled with marshes, shallow streams and sand dunes. Rumour has it that the lost city of Atlantis might lie beneath the mudflats of the park!
You can find more local travel ideas in the Andalucia guide.