Religious tourism in Spain
Santiago de Compostela
León Cathedral © Turismo de Castilla y León
Spain has so much to offer when it comes to "religious tourism". A few suggestions: follow the Way of Saint James on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela; live the intense Easter Week celebrations; take part in the El Rocío pilgrimage; visit important monasteries and cathedrals, or achieve the "jubilee" (a kind of blessing granted for carrying out certain rites in Santiago)… All while you discover some of Spain's most relevant monuments.
The holy city of Santiago. Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain, is the main destination for religious tourism in Spain and marks the end of the Way of Saint James. Visiting its old town, which has the UNESCO World Heritage designation, and the route of the Way of Saint James, are unique experiences.
Spain traditionally lives Easter week in a very special way. It is celebrated in almost every corner of the country and many events have received the fiesta of international tourism interest designation. Furthermore, in Spain there are many other highly interesting religious festivities such as the Elche Mystery or Corpus Christi in Toledo.
These are special occasions where people can share their faith and enjoy a festive atmosphere. The most famous is the El Rocío pilgrimage, in the province of Huelva, but there are many more towns and villages that have their own tributes to the Virgin Mary and the saints. This is the case of pilgrimages such as Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza, San Benito Abad, the Octave of San Isidro, the Virgen de Gracia and Nuestra Señora de la Barca, amongst others.
World Heritage Monasteries
There are many monasteries in Spain that stand out for their artistic wealth. A few examples are: Guadalupe Monastery, in Extremadura; Poblet Monastery, in Catalonia; San Lorenzo de El Escorial Monastery and Palace, in Madrid; and Yuso and Suso Monasteries, in La Rioja, UNESCO designated World Heritage sites. We would also suggest you follow the Marian Route in Spain, with visits to three of the country's most traditional sites dedicated to Mary: Nuestra Señora del Pilar Basilica, in Zaragoza; Nuestra Señora de Torreciudad Monastery, in Huesca; and Nuestra Señora de Montserrat Monastery, in Barcelona.
These are the symbols of some cities, and in Spain there are cathedrals in a range of architectural styles. From the gothic cathedrals of Castile-León, including the outstanding Cathedral in Burgos, to other, Modernist buildings such as Gaudí's Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and the varied styles of those in Andalusia. Also recommended would be a visit to the cathedral in Santiago; those of Toledo and Cuenca, in Castile-La Mancha; Palma Cathedral, in the Balearic Islands; and La Almudena Cathedral in Madrid.
Religious jubilee destinations
Achieving the "jubilee" (a blessing for completing certain rites) could be another reason to discover Spain's cultural heritage first hand. Cities such as Tarragona (Catalonia), whose archaeological site has the UNESCO World Heritage designation, and Utrera (Andalusia) have been jubilee destinations recently. Besides these, Santiago de Compostela, Caravaca de la Cruz (Murcia) and Santo Toribio de Liébana (Cantabria) all have jubilee years every so often. In Seville it is the Macarena Jubilee Year until June 2014.
These are just a few of the most interesting suggestions by which to combine cultural interest and religious motivation. They are, in short, an original way to get to know Spain's traditions, history, culture and art.