One of the most exciting times of the year in Spain is in early spring during Semana Santa, or Holy Week, when religious processions take over the streets and the sounds of drums fill the air.
It's not too early to start planning your Easter holiday in Spain! Join in the festivities from Paradores luxury and historic hotels in Seville, Cuenca and Valladolid, where some of the most famous Holy Week celebrations are held.
Semana Santa in Spain's south
Seville's Holy Week celebrations are some of the world's most renowned. Members from dozens of different religious confraternities march along to sombre music in hooded robes or work together to carry massive historic statues depicting Christ, the Virgin Mary and other religious figures on their backs.
Many of the statues date back to the 16th and 17th centuries and are dressed with painstakingly embroidered capes before being loaded onto large floats made of gold and silver. Make sure that you catch the processions as they leave or return to their home churches. Traditional saetas, or improvised flamenco-style songs praising Christ or the Virgin, will be performed by people in the crowd or from one of the balconies along the route.
After spending the day in Seville, head over to nearby Parador Carmona, a historic hotel with the right atmosphere for Spain's most traditional time of year. A 14th-century Arab fortress, this Parador features a charming interior courtyard, delicate tile work and classic Spanish cuisine, including dishes such as spinach with chick peas and spices or stewed bull's tail.
Holy days in Castile-La Mancha
Another Holy Week option is Cuenca, one of Castile-La Mancha's most famous UNESCO World Heritage Cities. Parador Cuenca - a former monastery - faces the famous Hanging Houses from across the Huécar gorge, providing a panoramic view like no other of the city.
Cross the bridge into the city to celebrate Semana Santa here, where music takes centre stage during the processions. Every year, the city's world-famous Religious Music Week takes place during Holy Week, and international artists descend upon the city.
Further north in Castile y León, Valladolid hosts what is considered to be the most religiously intense Holy Week. Thousands participate in the general procession of the Redeemer's Sacred Passion, a massive march in the afternoon of Holy Friday. The main event, however, is the Sermon of the Seven Words in the city's main square, draped in black cloth for the occasion, during which a priest reflects upon the seven words pronounced by Christ on the cross as floats reflecting these themes are displayed.
Take in the swirling incense and passionate devotion from Parador Tordesillas, peacefully located in the midst of a pine forest. After a day on your feet watching the processions go by, reward yourself with some roasted suckling lamb, local cured meats and some delicious Duero wine in the hotel restaurant.