Horses, Sand and Fun in El Rocío
El Rocío is like nowhere else we have visited and we’ve been to quite a few cowboy towns on our travels. The roads in the town are just sand, locals roam around on horses and restaurants have horse-height bars outside so you can sip your favorite libation without having to dismount. It’s really quite special.
Located in Huelva province in the southwest corner of Spain, the town is nestled next to the marshlands and lagoons of Doñana National Park which you can only visit with a guide. We skipped that this time but you can see flamingos and other impressive birds just chilling down in the lagoon by the main square.
Every year during Pentecost the population swells to almost a million when pilgrims from across Andalusia, and the world, make the trek on horseback in decorated carts or on foot to visit the statue of the Virgen Del Rocío. We were not there during the pilgrimage with the hoards of visitors but there was still a lot to see in this unique and beautiful town.
Most of the buildings in the center of the town are owned by Hermandads or brotherhoods. They are mostly from towns and cities across Andalusia, but other cities in Spain such as Madrid and Barcelona also have brotherhoods here too. The buildings are like small compounds with communal areas where people can feast and party and have stables for the horses. Most of the year they appear to lie empty which gives a ghostly atmosphere to the town. Just something else that is strange about this place.
Although the main pilgrimage is once a year, every weekend several brotherhoods visit the city and parade to the Hermitage, the beautiful church in the center of the town, to offer flowers to the Virgen. As the weekend approaches the town fills up, until on Sunday the parades begin. Every hour a different brotherhood descends on the church.
We stayed right at the edge of the town in the cute little campground, walking distance to town. We were lucky enough to be reunited with friends Colin and Karen from Rewind the Gap, and meet a couple of fellow travelers Kay & Mark for the first time. Hanging out and being sociable always adds to the fun of a place.
We had a great few days in this one-of a kind place. If you ever find yourself in this corner of Spain it is definitely worth a trip. And we’ll be reminded of our visit for the next six months while we continually find sand in every nook and cranny of the motorhome. Bonus!
Recommendations & Tips
We stayed at the Camping La Aldea in March 2019. It’s part of the ACSI Camping Card system - 20€ a night out of season.
You can always find details of where we stay on our overnight stays map.
There is not much in the way of grocery shopping in town. Recommend you stock up before you visit.
We had fabulous Boquerones washed down with a cold beer at Restaurant La Ermita just around the corner from the Hermitage.