A tour in horse-drawn wagons allows visitors to recapture the spirit of Andalusias most famous pilgrimage.
Every spring around one million people converge on the shrine of El Rocio, at the edge of the Doņana 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 Andalusian countryside.
Now travelers can capture the festive spirit of the event year round, thanks to tours offered by some of the half-dozen horse riding centers based in the hamlet of El Rocio and its vicinity.
The Aires de Doņana company organize an original excursion for groups of 15 to 70, riding on horseback and in horse-drawn carriages.
Travelers are taken in four wheel drive vehicles along the Rocina river around the wildlife rich marshes of Doņana as far as the spot known as Gato.
After a picnic of tapas and wine to the accompaniment of a typical Rociero group dressed in flamenco finery and performing the traditional songs of the pilgrimage, guests ride on horseback and carriages along seven miles of the Camino de Huelva, the route followed by pilgrims setting out from the city of Huelva for the annual pilgrimage.
The tour is a unique combination of nature experience and Andalusian folk culture, and offers a view of the region which would be difficult to enjoy from a car or a bus. In all, the journey takes around six hours, ending with a full meal of regional specialities in El Rocio. This excursion is offered six days a week from September to the date of the annual Romeria in late spring. In the hotter summer months there are shorter excursions around the town of El Rocio.
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Copyright Š 2001 An Andalusian Experience. Text by Mark Little. Photography by J. D. Dallet - A Freelance Spain production
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Copyright © 2000-2006 Mark and David Little & J.D. Dallet