The Romería del Rocío is the biggest religious festival in Spain, and it is waiting for you to join it!
Discover one of Europe’s most wonderful towns!
The small town of El Rocío belongs to the municipality of Almonte, and it is located next to the National Park of Doñana, in the province of Huelva. Despite being extremely small, during Whitsuntide, the 2000-inhabitant Almonte becomes the third biggest city in Spain. Thousands of pilgrims from every part of Europe, and in particular from the South of Andalucia, gather here for the Romería del Rocío, Spain’s biggest religious festival in honour of the Virgin of Rocío.
Seven weeks after Easter, pilgrims belonging to more than 90 brotherhoods visit the Ermita del Rocío, a 1964 church home to Nuestra Señora del Rocío (Our Lady of El Rocío). This small wooden image of the Virgin usually stands above the main altar of the church, dressed in jewelled robes.
During the night between Sunday and Monday of the last week of Pentecost (in 2019, June 9th and 10th), members of the Almonte Matriz brotherhood carry the Virgin on a float. As other brotherhoods from Andalucia and Spain claim the Virgin as their own, struggles take place to defend the honour of carrying the Holy image. Among all of this, the procession of the Virgin of El Rocío takes place.
The most awaited moment of the night is undoubtedly the “salto de la verja” (the fence leap) when men, who belong to the Almonte brotherhood, jump over the grid of the altar to take the Virgin. Afterwards, the image is carried to all the brotherhoods, where the priests recite some prayers until dawn. It is only in the afternoon that the Virgin is returned to the Ermita.
As every religious mystery, the Romería del Rocío also has its own legend. It is said that an image of La Blanca Paloma (The White Dove, as the Virgin is also known) was found in the 13th century by a hunter of Almonte. The man carried the effigy home, but every time he stopped to rest, the Virgin magically returned to the marshland tree where she was found the first time.
The chapel built between 1280 and 1285 on the site of the tree is now the renewed Ermita del Rocío. A curiosity: the name White Dove refers to the descent of the Holy Spirit to the Virgin and the Apostles.
During the week of the Romería del Rocío, singings, dances, noise, colours and passion fill the streets of this little town. However, if you fancy a more tranquil procession, wait for El Rocío Chico, between August 18th and 19th. This procession commemorates the vow of the Almonte inhabitants after the end of the French reprisals in 1810.
Lastly, know that once every seven years, the Virgin of Rocío is carried 15 km north to the town of Almonte, where she resides for nine months before being returned to the Ermita, one week before the Romería.
Other things you can do in the town of El Rocío
The little town of El Rocío provides some other magnificent experiences for the lovers of culture and nature.
The wetlands in front of the town welcome different species of animals, among which deer and flamingos. The spectacular exhibition of pink feathers and majestic horns are a must-see if you are in this little town. To enjoy it at best, ask the experts of the Francisco Bernis Birdwatching Centre.
This centre provides you with a pair of high-power binoculars, with which you will be able to spot all the bird species that live in the National Park of Doñana. The building is located 350m east of the Ermita del Rocío, in the Paseo Marismeño.
Opening hours from June 1st to September 30th:
- Tuesday to Friday: 9 am – 2 pm
- Saturday and Sunday: 9 am – 1 pm, and 6 pm – 9 pm
- Monday: closed
Opening hours the rest of the year:
- Tuesday to Sunday: 9 am – 2 pm, and 4 pm – 6 pm
- Monday: closed
You can also stop by the Museum of El Rocío (Camino de Moguer), which provides an overview of El Rocío’s culture and information about the Natural Park of Doñana. Don’t miss it if you are wondering what the Romería del Rocío looked like centuries ago, or if you want to know how to build saddles and channel your inner artist since there you can also participate in a saddle workshop!
How to get to the Romería del Rocío
The bus company DAMAS provides exceptional bus fares during the week of Romería del Rocío. Buses run from the cities of Seville and Huelva to the little town of El Rocío multiple times per day. If you prefer to go by car, we suggest you take the A49 from Huelva or Seville until you reach the A483. Follow it direction El Rocío. Less than 50 km divide you from the Romería del Rocío!
Places to stay in El Rocío
To truly enjoy the atmosphere of the Romería del Rocío, book one of the holiday homes around the little village of El Rocío. The best experience in one of the best holiday homes in the province of Huelva and those in Seville is waiting for you.
The spectacular celebration of the Romería del Rocío is no longer a secret for you!
Have you been to the town of El Rocío? Are you fancying going for a visit to the Romería del Rocío? Leave a comment and tell us about your expectations!