Spring on the Costa del Sol includes one of the busiest and most colourful times of the year: Easter. This major event on the religious calendar is celebrated traditionally in all the villages and towns, with solemn processions throughout the week. They will probably be unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, so with this in mind, we’ve put together a guide to Easter on the Costa del Sol.
about Easter on the Costa del Sol
Easter or Holy Week is known as Semana Santa in Spanish and runs from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. In 2023, the dates are Sunday 2 April to Sunday 9 April.
Did you know? Maundy Thursday (jueves santo) and Good Friday (viernes santo) are public holidays on the Costa del Sol, so businesses, banks and many shops will be closed over the two days.
What does a procession look like?
The Costa del Sol celebrates Holy Week with religious processions of floats, penitents and marching bands.
The floats – on the coast and in Malaga city, they’re called tronos in Spanish, while inland in towns such as Antequera, they’re pasos. Tronos are huge and take several dozen men to carry them on their shoulders. Pasos are smaller and need 10 to 20 men who walk underneath the float as they carry it on their heads.
Most processions have two floats, one with a Christ figure and one with a Virgin Mary figure. The one carrying a Christ is usually more sombre in dark colours, while the Virgin’s float tends to be covered in flowers and gilded in silver or gold. Both figures are ornate sculptures, some of which date back centuries.
The penitents – processions belong to religious brotherhoods whose members parade with the floats. They wear long robes and hats that cover their faces. Some brotherhoods wear conical hats (the Ku Klux Clan copied them) and others, particularly inland, wear hoods. The penitents carry candles or religious pennants or sceptres. You will also see some walking barefoot, some walking on their knees and some wearing chains around their ankles.
The marching bands – at least one band accompanies the procession, playing solemn music. Occasionally, the procession will stop, and a bystander will sing a saeta (flamenco lament) to the Christ and Virgin figures.
Did you know? There are silent processions with no bands, usually on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday. You’ll hear just a drum beat as the procession walks through the street.
What does the procession do?
It usually parades around the village or town from the church or shrine where the figures ‘live’. In Malaga, some processions start in a chapel and return to the figures’ ‘home’ church.
All processions last for hours (at least four) because the bearers carrying the heavy thrones need frequent rests. A large one typically moves a few metres before stopping again.
Processions is always a devout occasion and, as a result, locals take them very seriously.
Easter processions to look out for on the Costa del Sol
Everywhere celebrates Holy Week and even the smallest villages have at least one small procession. Check with the local tourist office to find out when and where they take place. All are colourful pageants and well worth seeing, but the following processions are highlights on the Costa del Sol:
Processions in Malaga city
Malaga holds the biggest processions, and they rank among the most important in southern Spain. There are several every day from Monday to Friday and a single one on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.
Easter processions in Antequera
This lovely town is home to several stunning churches and convents, so it’s unsurprising to discover that Antequera has deep Holy Week roots. Processions take place most days, and they include:
Cofradía de Abajo y Cofradía de Arriba – the two rival brotherhoods (one from up the street and the other from down the street) parade on Good Friday. The Cofradía de Abajo has 712 penitents carrying or following the three figures including a 17th-century Christ Child. They wear purple tunics with gold decorations.
Easter processions in Archidona
Just outside Antequera, you’ll find the attractive town of Archidona, known for the octagonal main square and the Nuestro Padre Jesús de la Humildad procession on Good Friday. On the way, the float “stumbles” three times, symbolizing Christ’s falls as he carried his cross. Penitents wear white tunics with dark red hats.
Easter processions in Arriate
This small town near Ronda also has a deep-rooted Holy Week tradition. The highlight comes on Maundy Thursday when 850 to 1,100 members of Los Jesuitas brotherhood parade through Arriate wearing purple tunics with white hats.
Did you know? Specialist shops sell Holy Week outfits and accessories, as well as candles and religious ornaments.
Easter processions in Nerja
This coastal resort has several Holy Week processions, most of which include the scenic Balcón de Europa on their itinerary. The Padre Jesús Cautivo is worthy of mention since the float with the Virgin figure carries candles inscribed with the names of women killed in the previous year through gender violence. Penitents following the Christ figure wear full white, while those following the Virgin have white tunics with blue capes and hats.
Easter processions in Ronda
You’ll come across Holy Week processions every day in the town. They include El Silencio on Ash Wednesday, which parades through the streets for four hours in silence, only broken by a drum beat and the sound of chains on penitents’ ankles.
Easter processions in Vélez-Málaga
This town to the east of Malaga city has a strong Holy Week tradition and is one of the best places to see processions on the Costa del Sol without too many crowds. Highlights include the Cristo del Mar on Good Friday, whose penitents wear black with burgundy details.
Easter in Rio Gordo
This village in the Axarquía region is famous for its Paso, an enactment of Christ’s life, passion and death. Most locals participate in the 3-hour performance that takes place in 17 different locations on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. You need tickets to watch – buy them online on the El Paso de Riogordo website.
Discover the Costa del Sol
Of course, Easter is just one of the events on the Costa del Sol, a destination with something going on all year round. Discover this part of southern Spain on one of our themed road trips – we have 7 to choose from, each designed for you, your people, your interests and in your time.