Nowhere lives Semana Santa, the week leading up to Easter, with as much energy as Andalucía, and visitors can observe the rituals in every corner of the region
In Huelva the Holy Week processions begin on Palm Sunday. It is a very interesting city to visit at this time of year, and nobody should miss the chance to try some of the traditional Easter cakes, as well as enjoying the religious aspects of the occasion. One of the most special processions takes place in the early hours of Good Friday, when the religious brotherhoods of El Perdón, Misericordia and El Nazareno carry their images through the streets. The latter is one of the oldest in the city, dating back to the 16th century.
Also well worth seeing are the joyful 'La Borriquita' on Palm Sunday, the solemn 'Santo Entierro' on Good Friday and the processions of the Virgins of La Victoria and La Esperanza on Wednesday.
Elsewhere in the province of Huelva, Ayamonte is also a good place to visit at Easter, as its processions have been classified as an event of special interest to tourists in Andalucía.
Holy Week in Jaén is particularly atmospheric, a mixture of history, tradition, art and religious devotion. It combines the sobriety of Castilla and the splendour of Andalucía. Crowds of people line the streets to watch the magnificent processions, and one of the most popular takes place in the early hours of Good Friday, when the image of Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno, affectionately known as 'El Abuelo' (the grandfather), is brought out from the cathedral. It is accompanied by over 7,000 penitents and one highlight is when Nuestro Padre Jesús meets the Virgen de los Dolores in Calle Amargura. This is one of the most moving moments in the processions, which have taken place in this city for 400 years.
The Easter processions are also well worth watching in towns such as Alcalá la Real, Baeza, Linares, Martos and Úbeda, all of which are classified as being of special interest.
It has to be said that Holy Week in Malaga is very special and every one of the processions is a delight to experience. Most of the religious brotherhoods also have their own 'Casa Hermandad', museums containing the beautiful floats, the cloaks worn by the Virgins, and other religious and ceremonial items.
Early in the morning of Holy Monday, thousands of people gather outside San Pablo church to see the images of Jesús Cautivo and María Santísima de la Trinidad brought from their chapel. That evening, processions of Jesús de la Columna, María Santísima de la O and 'Los Gitanos', the joyful gypsy procession which begins at Calle Frailes, take place.
Another important moment in Malaga is on Wednesday, when a prisoner is released by Nuestro Padre Jesús El Rico each year. This privilege was granted by Carlos III when there was an epidemic of cholera in Malaga and people were not able to go out. Some prisoners managed to escape from the local jail, carried the image of Christ through the streets, and then returned voluntarily to prison.
Thursday morning is also popular in Malaga, when people go to the port to watch the Legion disembark from their ship.
In Malaga province, Holy Week is classified as being especially interesting for tourists in Alhaurín de la Torre, Antequera, Archidona, Arriate, Campillos, Riogordo, Ronda and Vélez-Málaga.
Easter in Seville is unique in beauty and essence. Nearly 60 processions take place during the week, and this is not only a 400-year-old Catholic festival but also the synthesis of a whole culture centred on the essence of the human being.
The best way to see the processions is to look for some of the side streets which are off the official route but which they all have to pass through en route to the cathedral.
Good Friday and Holy Saturday are possibly the best days to enjoy Easter in Seville, but La Macarena and La Esperanza of Triana are also remarkably beautiful. Children also love La Borrequita on Palm Sunday.
Elsewhere in the province, Alcalá de Guadaíra, Alcalá del Río, Carmona, Morón de la Frontera, Coria del Río, Utrera, Écija, Marchena, Estepa, Osuna, Guadalcanal and Las Cabezas de San Juan are also especially interesting at Easter.