Do you remember when we went traveling during Semana Santa? We expected a week off to see a bunch of new cities and party. What we didn’t expect was thousands of people to flood to the popular cities we planned to visit, making everywhere difficult to get into and full of Spaniards and foreign tourists alike. While I do believe that seeing the traditional aspects of Semana Santa is interesting, I wouldn’t personally like to do a whole week of celebrations again.
As someone who has experienced a full Semana Santa, and felt overwhelmed with the traditional festivities, this is my advice for traveling during the Holy Week*:
1. See one or two processions: I honestly believe that these religious parades are worth seeing just for their shock factor when you see your first one. Apart from the fact that the costumes sort of look like colored versions of Ku Klux Klan outfits (or sometimes even completely white), there are other things that are interesting as well. I truly feel that it is worth it to see one or two just to get an idea of the cultural aspect of the holy week. Dani wrote a whole article about it here that I would recommend checking out to get a better idea of what I am talking about.
2. Book everything in advance: Seriously though, depending on where you are going, everything will be much more expensive during this week as Spaniards will also take advantage of their week off (or long weekends depending on their jobs) to travel to their hometowns or do some tourism. This means that buses/trains/blablacars fill up and hotels/hostels/airbnbs are packed, leaving you with few options in major cities. If you are able to plan your trip in advance, it will save you both frustration during your search and money on your trip.
3. Go to northern cities: While the strongest Semana Santa culture is in the south of Spain, especially in cities like Sevilla and Granada, and there is a heavy religious culture in Castilla y León, most cities have some sort of celebration. If you go somewhere that is not known for its Holy week, it means that everything around you will most likely be a little bit calmer and a little bit less expensive. In addition, when you take advantage of travel destinations that are ‘not typical’ for Semana Santa you also have the opportunity to experience something different. Consider Bilbao or Oviedo or Vigo for a not typical Semana Santa experience.
4. Check out small towns: I honestly didn’t think about this until a girl I know recently told me she was taking the week off to relax in a small town outside of the city. Like I said before, almost everywhere has some sort of Semana Santa celebration so you won’t totally miss out on the experience. At the same time you can take the time to unwind and connect to nature without being surrounded by mobs of people. If you rent a casa rural (a house in the countryside) you can go as a big group for pretty cheaply as well.
5. Take the opportunity to go abroad: This is my personal go-to when it is time for Semana Santa. While we do support traveling around Spain and getting to know the culture you are immersed in, I believe that you have to figure out what is best for you. On the downside, flights are a bit more expensive. However, I personally really appreciate getting away for awhile and detaching from my ‘normal’ world. This year I am heading to one of my favorite places, Lisbon, for a few days of Portuguese food and wine.
What is your Semana Santa plan? Let us know!
*Of course, this all depends on your personal travel style, so if you feel like you want to do a whole week in Sevilla, you should! This is just what works for me.
P.S. Check out this website for some city-specific trips!