Experiencing Spring in Spain During Semana Santa

Experiencing Spring in Spain During Semana Santa

Spring in Spain is nearly perfect.  The weather is lovely, flowers are blooming, and if you time your visit right, you can experience the amazing festival of Semana Santa.  We spent a recent spring break in Spain and absolutely loved our time here.  We think spending time in Spain in the spring is the best!

When We Went

We traveled to Spain during our spring break in April.  The temperatures were in the 60s -70s.  It was a bit too cold to swim in the ocean, but wonderful to lounge on the beach, hike, and explore villages and cities.  It also happened to be the week leading up to Easter, which is a very special time in Spain.  We share all about this Semana Santa festival below.

What is Semana Santa?

Semana Santa means “Holy Week” in Spanish, and it is the final week of Lent, which takes place the week before Easter.  Remembering the week before Easter is important to Christians as its the final week of Jesus’ life, when the crucifixion and resurrection took place.

In Spain, the week leading up to Easter is a very celebrated time.  Almost all villages, towns, and large cities participate in Semana Santa celebrations.  Our little town of Nerja, where we based in southern Spain, held a procession mid-week.  During our visit to the larger city of Malaga, streets shut down early and barriers were put up with lots of police present.  A large-scale procession took place in Malaga on Good Friday.

What to Expect During Semana Santa

The processions are a loud cacophony of brass bands and drums as well as spectators cheering along the procession route.  Incense wafts through the air and the atmosphere is entrancing.  The processions take place in the evening.  Under a dark sky, street lights shine just enough to lend light to the incredible display.  The elaborate floats of the processions are known as Tronos, which means throne, and they are usually very large in scale. 

Flower petals being thrown onto the float from a balcony above

The people who carry the floats are part of brotherhood affiliations of local Catholic churches and are known as Costaleros.   They have to all work in unison to carry the Tronos along the procession route.  The lifting and lowering of the Tronos is done by listening to coordinated bell rings.  Others also walk in the procession in beautiful dress.

Nazarenos are those who keep order during the procession.  They walk in front of the floats, usually carry lanterns, and often walk barefoot.  They wear robes and a pointed hat, sometimes a bit startling for first-time visitors.  If you know this going in, it will be less surprising to see.  And know that it is to hide the faces of the Nazarenos, representing the shame of the crucifixion.  

Our Experience

We were staying in the seaside town of Nerja during our time in Spain.  We learned that Nerja’s procession would take place on a Wednesday evening.  

Earlier in the day we had visited the Alhambra in Granada learning all about the Moorish history at this most visited site in all of Spain.  We were back in Nerja by early evening, just in time to get into place to watch the procession.

Nerja’s Old Town

The procession in Nerja took place in Old Town, beginning at the Church of El Salvador.  It was easy to find the route as spectators lined the procession route, which wound its way through Nerja’s Old Town’s alleyways.  We found a spot with the locals and took in the atmosphere.

The excitement is building!

Excitement was in the air!  The bright Nerja sun had set and now the street lights lit the way.  Soon, the procession began in these narrow alleyways of old town Nerja.  People were out on balconies throwing flowers down onto the procession as it passed by.  The beating drums set the pace for the procession.  As the float passed in front of us, we were mesmerized.  It was massive and decorated so exquisitely with gold, candles, and flowers.  In the center of it all was a statue of the Virgin Mary. 

The amazing float

As it passed by, the crowd cheered, the band played, and the strong smell of incense filled the air.  It was a magical time to experience this while standing shoulder to shoulder with the locals.

If you get the chance to experience Semana Santa in Spain, make a point to join the spectators watching the procession.  It was one of our best travel experiences!

Read more!

We have several articles on our travels through Spain in the spring:

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