El Rocio is a village belonging to the Huelva municipality of Almonte , in the El Condado region. It is located 55 km from Seville and just 20 km from Matalascanas beach. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE) of 2017, there are 1,513 inhabitants in the village , although during the Rocio pilgrimage the number of visitors reaches one million people and, throughout the year, there are hundreds of visitors who They spend the weekends there.
This small village is accessed by a road that borders the Donana National Park . When one arrives for the first time at El Rocio, its appearance is striking, the closest thing to a town in the old American West.. Rows of white houses with small facades surround the hermitage. There are no car parks (except in some authorized places), but there are posts to tie up the horses , the best way to go through its unpaved sandy streets.
Among the thousands of private houses and the houses of the brotherhoods are hidden small supermarkets, bars and restaurants, souvenir and ‘moda rociera’ shops, a pharmacy and the typical services of a town: the Town Hall, the Post Office and the Tourism, health center and even a sports center. Small hotels and rural apartments are also hidden among its unpaved streets. In the beautiful picture of the village stands out the hermitagedel Rocio, at the foot of the marsh.

How to get to the village

By car: From Huelva take the A-49 and then exit 50 towards the A-483 regional road. 11 km away is Almonte and on the A-483 are El Rocio and the access to Matalascanas beach. From Seville you have to take the A-49 and then exit 48 towards A-483 .

By plane: The closest airports to Rocio are Seville-San Pablo (64 km), Jerez de la Frontera (146 km) and Faro, in Portugal (156 km).

By bus: The Damas transport company communicates the 3 population centers of Almonte with Huelva, Sevilleand other municipalities of the province.

By train: The closest Renfe stations are La Palma del Condado (14 km), Huelva (45 km) and Seville (60 km).

The origins of the village

The village, as it is known today, has very humble origins.El Rocio, formerly called La Rocina , lived through a “very long period of marginality that goes from its origins in the primitive hermitage dedicated to Santa Maria de las Rocinas , in the last third of the 12th century , until the second half of the 20th century”, write J. Carlos Gonzalez Faraco and Michael D. Murphy in their book ‘El Rocio: the evolution of a sacred village’.
Where today some 1,900 houses congregate on land that was previously vacant and worthless until 1970 , before only a few shepherds’ and ranchers’ huts were built around the primitive hermitage.
Professors Gonzalez Faraco and Murphy point out that the first explicit references to what we know today as the village of El Rocio date back to “well into the 19th century . That primitive nucleus was El Real, a plain near the hermitage with festive-religious and commercial functions.” , since the Rocio Fair was established in 1747 during the Pilgrimage, by the Duke of Medina Sidonia .

Donana Natural Park

The Rociera village is thegateway to Donana National Park ; also Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site. Already from the hermitage it is possible to contemplate the fabulous picture of the marsh, known as ‘ La Madre ‘, and enjoy the flora and fauna of the area such as flamingos and wild horses.
The Donana region is located between the mouths of the Rios Tinto and Guadalquivir.Extensive virgin beaches bathed by the Atlantic Ocean make up its southern limit and its surface is distributed among 14 municipalities in the provinces of Huelva, Seville and Cadiz.
Within the region there are more than 100,000 hectares protected as a National Parkand as a Natural Park that can be visited, in concert, with some of the companies that carry out these itineraries. During the visit you can see the marshes, of extraordinary importance as a place of passage, breeding and wintering for thousands of European and African birds; fauna in serious danger of extinction, such as the Iberian imperial eagle and the Iberian lynx.

Acebuches and marshes

Located in the village of El Rocio and within the limits of the Donana Natural Park, is the Natural Monument Acebuches del Rocio.It is a group of specimens, most of them centenarians, distributed in what is known as Plaza del Acebuchal. The acebuche or wild olive treeIt is a tree that was formerly part of the existing Mediterranean forest in these lands. Its fruit is called acebuchina, an olive with a very large stone and not very fleshy. Since ancient times the culinary, medicinal and cosmetic properties of its fruit have been known. Their importance lies in the fact that they are preserved as a redoubt of the autochthonous Mediterranean forest and some of them are very long-lived, such as the one called El Abuelo , considered the oldest living being in Donana with an estimated age of more than 600 years.
Very close to this square is the marsh that the people of Almonte call ‘ the Mother of the Marshes’ . Here begins the Donana National Park and, except in summer , which is normally dry, it is aexcellent place to observe the birds that populate this natural space. The visit to this area can be completed with a walk through the streets of El Rocio and the entrance to the hermitage of the village.

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