El Rocio is a particular small village, with wide, sandy streets lined with houses complete with broad verandas and wooden rails for tying up horses.
It’s famous for its annual romería, the Rocío Pilgrimage at Pentecost when it is overflowing with a seething mass of a million pilgrims with horses and decorated carts.
The rest of the year it is an uninhabited village, its streets almost deserted except for mainly weekend visitors. This is because most of its larger buildings are dedicated to the various “hermandades” (brotherhoods), which number nearly 100, of Andalucía and are only used around the time of the “romería”. Most of the other houses are also only occupied by families who come for the pilgrimage.
The huge church, the Ermita or Sanctuario de Nuestra Señora de El Rocío, its size completely at odds with a village the size of El Rocío, dominates the main square. Destroyed in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, it was rebuilt in the 60s. Inside is the wooden figure of the revered Virgen del Rocío.
Around the church are lots of souvenir shops selling pilgrimage-related paraphernalia. This is also the place to buy the latest fashions for the pilgrimage. This change yearly and the only way to ensure that your flamenco attire is at the cutting edge of the Rocío trend is to buy it here and not elsewhere in Andalucía.
As El Rocío sits right on the north western edge of the Doñana National Park, it’s in an area rich in wildlife. The village itself is located on the Marismas del Rocío, a marshland area where there are wild horses and many birds, particularly in spring, including flamingos, herons and storks. Near the church running alongside the wetlands is the Paseo Marismeño, an excellent bird watching spot.
El Rocío is also a good base to explore the park. The nearest entry point to the park is only about 10km away from El Rocío at El Acebuche. About 1km south of the village just off the main A483 road to Matalascañas is the visitors Centre “Las Rocinas”, an information centre about the Park with some walks with bird watching hides.
Every spring around one million people converge on the shrine of El Rocio, at the edge of the Doñana national park, in the biggest romeria, or pilgrimage, in Spain. For an emotion-packed three days, the devotees of the Virgen del Rocio – Our Lady of the Dew – take part in a celebration which combines religious fervor and festive color. Many of the pilgrims make their way to the shrine on horseback or in brightly decorated carriages, in multi-coloured caravans that wind across the Andalucian countryside.
- – Fiesta de la Luz, first weekend of February
- – La Candelaria, will be held at the Rocío Shrine. Vigil on Saturday and Rosario of Aurora on Sunday, A presentation to the “Virgen del Rocío” of children under 3 years old.
- – Romeria del Rocio, Whit Saturday, Sunday and Monday “Lunes de Pentecontes”. On Saturday begins with the parade of the Brotherhoods. It is considered the greatest pilgrimage in Spain. It is done in honour of the Virgen del Rocio, Queen of the Marshes.
- – Saca de las Yeguas, June 26, has been celebrating for centuries, reflecting the mares and foals that are wild in the marshes and then re-marked and drop.
- – Feria de San Pedro, Last weekend of June-Fair livestock, also known as the ‘Fair of the Burros’
- – Rocio Chico, August 18 and 19, is celebrated in thanksgiving to the Virgen del Rocio.