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A Travel Guide To The “Semana Santa” In Andalusia

Nazarenos, Cordoba

Itinerary & Time Of The Visit

We spent 9 days in Andalusia during the “Semana Santa” (Holy Week before Easter), and decided to focus on 3 cities: Granada (2 days), Cordoba (3 days) and Sevilla (4 days). This was for us a perfect itinerary, that gave us the possibility to enjoy the 3 cities and the numerous Processions of the Semana Santa in Cordoba & Sevilla.

 

 

 

Challenges In Organizing The Trip

The Semana Santa in Andalusia, and especially in Sevilla, is absolutely unique, something profoundly intriguing, disturbing, and fascinating, an experience I did not expect to make in the heart of Europe! It is also a really busy time, and major cities are crowded, mostly with local, but also with international visitors.

Here are the main challenges that we faced and what we would recommend, based on our experience:

  • Attending the Processions– Attending the major processions is surprisingly easy if you do it well. The “Carratera Official” (the spots where you can book a sit and watch all the processions in one place) is pleasant and cheap in Cordoba (12 € for a first row seat, that can be booked early morning for the evening), and absurdly expensive in Sevilla (75 € to 150 € per seat depending on the evening, for a standard seat, where your odds of getting close to the Processions are dim). The best way to observe a Procession is to choose a spot on the way between the church where it starts and the Carratera Official, and wait there approx. 45 to 60 minutes before the procession passes by (if you come later, you might not be in the first row). And being in the middle of the crowd is an experience in itself. Plans of all Processions are available at the Tourist Information and in most hotels, with details on the time, itinerary and size of the Processions, as well as some information on the “Hermanedad”, the Brotherhoods that organizes each Procession.
  • Entrance Tickets – Book entrance tickets for major museums and sights (especially the Alhambra in Granada, the Mezquita in Cordoba and in Sevilla both the Cathedral & the Alcazar) far in advance, the sooner the better. And plan to visit those places as early as possible, when the crowd is somewhat smaller. Else, be ready to line for hours…
  • Overall Costs – This will be an expensive trip, as prices go through the roof during the Semana Santa. Read more in our Budget Guide.
  • Accommodation– Beware that accommodation will be scarce, and that prices will be the highest of the year, especially in Sevilla, where you should be ready to dish out at least twice as much as any other time in the high season! Book your accommodation as far in advance as you can…
  • Transport– Transport is easy in Andalusia. Depending on your budget, you can be on public transportation or rent a car, as we did. This will enhance your flexibility, but beware that parking in major cities will be a nightmare during the Semana Santa, especially around Easter weekend.
  • Duration Of Your Stay & Itinerary – You will not be able to do it all in Andalusia (except if you have at least 4 weeks at hand), and you will need significant extra time for the Processions of the Semana Santa, especially in Sevilla & Cordoba, but also if you are in smaller cities… So you have to make some tough choices! The ideal itinerary is difficult to define, as you could spend the whole week in Sevilla alone, attending dozens of Processions. But blending the “Semana Santa” and discovering Andalusia might be a great mix. The itinerary we chose was for us a very good compromise.

 

Highlights Of The Trip

  • The “Carratera Official” in Cordoba – We chose seats on the Carratera Official inside the gardens of the Mezquita, and had a dramatic surrounding to attend, in a first row seat, 6 Processions in a row. It was a unique experience, and we were happy that we skipped the overpriced and overcrowded Carratera Official in Sevilla. A must-do in our opinion!
  • The Processions of the Semana Santa in Cordoba & Sevilla– As mentioned above, you can attend and experience many processions on the streets of Sevilla of course, but also Cordoba and many smaller cities in Andalusia. It is something profoundly intriguing, disturbing, and fascinating, an experience I did not expect to make in the heart of Europe!
  • The Mezquita in Cordoba– This is probably one of the most unique and superb buildings I ever visited, ranking for me as high as the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat or Machu Picchu. Be there very early before it is desperately overcrowded, though!
  • The Alhambra in Granada– Unfortunately, we visited the Alhambra under the rain and somewhat too early in the season, when gardens are still somehow barren. But yes, the Alhambra is deservedly on everyone’s itinerary in Andalusia, and for sure you will not be alone there…

    The Alhambra, view from Mirador San Nicolas, Granada

  • The Alcazar & the Cathedral in Sevilla– Be ready for a long, long waiting line before entering both buildings, but yes, you cannot visit Sevilla and skip those two magnificent buildings!
  • The Old City of Cordoba – A maze of cobbled, narrow streets mostly in the shade, linking pleasant square and bordered by historic buildings… An invitation for long, aimless strolls!
  • Tapas & Bars – You cannot go to Spain without experiencing Tapas and Bars. The food is superb, the atmosphere relaxed and quite unique, a real part of Spanish culture. Andalusia has its share of local specialties, which you should not miss. Salud!

 

Photographing The Processions of the Semana Santa

Photographing the Processions of the Semana Santa is a real challenge for many reasons…

  • Go For Details
  • Trying to catch the atmosphere of the Processions will be a real challenge, as they move through a maze of narrow streets filled with people. The pictures you shoot will be “unreadable”, with no main subject and no guidance for the eye in your picture.
  • On the other hand, there is a wealth of details that call for interesting pictures. Rather focus on portraits or on details.
  • Light & Shadow
  • You will both face a lack of light and a game of lights and shadows, making it extremely difficult to have pictures that are not at the same time partly underexposed and partly overexposed.
  • Do not hesitate to use a flash (by that I mean a real, external one, that is powerful enough at several meters distance), even if your subject is more remote.

 

Conclusion

I began this article writing: “The Semana Santa in Andalusia, and especially in Sevilla, is absolutely unique, something profoundly intriguing, disturbing, and fascinating, an experience I did not expect to make in the heart of Europe!”

I am extremely surprised that the Semana Santa is not much more popular and that there are no bigger crowds of foreign visitors. It should be on anyone’s travel plans!

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