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Easter is quite late in 2019 – it falls on the third weekend of April and is a great time to enjoy the spring sunshine all over Europe. But where are the best places to go during Easter? In Italy, Spain and Portugal, all Catholic dominated countries, there are processions and other religious celebrations for the holiday – as there are on Greek Orthodox Cyprus. Often, these are very colourful and traditional events that are well worth travelling for and to take part in or observe.
Here are some of our favourite places in Europe to celebrate the Easter holidays, that are easily combined with a walking trip.
EASTER IN THE CANARY ISLANDS – LA PALMA
On the island of La Palma in the Canaries, Easter is celebrated extensively. In Los Llanos for example, the Good Friday procession assembles behind the church on the Plaza in the centre of the town, shortly after sunset, and is conducted in silence but with the accompaniment of a slow drumbeat. School children, joined to each other by chains, lead out one of the statues from the church. All the statues from the church are taken from their normal place and displayed in the procession. Some people are bare-footed and in shackles and chains, and the cross is slowly carried along, flanked by people with cardinal-coloured gowns. Many of the other villages on the island have similar processions.
Learn more about our walking tour of La Palma.
EASTER IN FLORENCE, TUSCANY
Make sure you’re in Florence on Easter Sunday and be up and ready by 9am for the spectacular Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart). A tradition that goes back to the 12th Century, this is still an important Easter practise for the city of Florence. A cart is drawn by oxen from the Porta al Prato to the Church Square, now connected with the altar in the cathedral via a wire. Here it is lit by a dove-shaped rocket from the cathedral, causing a 20-minute fireworks show. The whole spectacle happens in traditional 15th century style with flowers, music, and clerics.
You can combine this Easter tradition with a week-long cycling or walking holiday in Tuscany. Follow the backroads in the early spring months and spot the first flowers come to bloom among cypresses, vineyards, traditional Tuscan architecture – and of course the delicious Italian cuisine.
Read more about our holidays in Tuscany.
EASTER IN KATO PAPHOS, CYPRUS
Outside the church of Agia Kyriaki in the coastal town of Kato Paphos, the Passion Play, or Way of the Cross, takes place. It is one of the many Easter celebrations taking place over the island of Cyprus. Most of the residents are member of the Greek Orthodox Church, which has its own Easter traditions. Normally falling at different dates than the Christian or Catholic Easter, in 2019 celebrations are one week later, with Easter Sunday falling on 28 April. Eat traditional lamb dishes and the Cypriot bread of flaounes and join any of the festive processions and performances.
Fly in to Paphos ahead of your 8 or 11 day Cyprus walking holiday and stay a few days to celebrate Easter. Then set off to explore the Troodos Mountains on foot and admire the rugged mountains, orchards and vineyards, profusion of exquisite, wild flowers and migratory birds that you can see particularly in spring.
Find out more about our walking holidays in Cyprus.
EASTER IN BRAGA, DOURO VALLEY, PORTUGAL
Braga is a short train ride from the start and end points of our 7-day Douro Rambler holiday, so it’s worth adding an extra day or two to your trip if you’re going to be there around Easter. The city hosts many concerts, dance performances, religious celebrations and street theatre activities during the Holy Week. You’ll also witness the Ecce Homo procession and many more Easter celebrations. The procession is led by coffin-bearers wearing traditional purple robes on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter Sunday. A traditional dessert to try for Easter if you’re in Porto or Braga is the Easter sponge cake of Pao de Lo.
The Douro Valley is just a 1-hour train ride from Braga and is home to the first demarcated wine region in the world. Associated primarily with Port, these days it produces just as much high-quality table wine and you can experience the importance of grapes when you stay at a beautifully restored manor that owns a small vineyard. Enjoy pretty walks in the wine county of Douro Valley in spring when nature is coming back to life and trails are usually quiet.
Read more about our Douro Rambler trip here.
EASTER IN ALGHERO, SARDINIA
Fly in to Sardinia’s Alghero airport and spend a few days to celebrate the Easter holidays. Alghero is one of Sardinia’s most famous places to go for Easter and is influenced by the Catalan culture. Celebrations revolve around the Santcristus, a wooden statue that washed ashore in 1606 and now symbolises Alghero’s religious identity. There are processions from Good Friday onwards, and on the Thursday before Easter you can witness the raising of the Santcristus at Saint Mary’s Cathedral.
These celebrations could form a fantastic start or end to your Saunter in Sardinia walking holiday. Your walks start in Santu Lussurgiu, 2 hrs away from Alghero, and take you around the Montiferru Mountain Range, Sinis Westlands, sea cliff of Su Tingiosu and many ancient sites as you follow romantic Mediterranean trails. The advantage of travelling in spring and around Easter is that you will find plenty of bird life, generally quieter trails and cooler temperatures.
Read more about our Saunter in Sardinia trip here.
EASTER IN PALMA, MAJORCA
As elsewhere in Spain, Majorca celebrates the Semana Santa (Holy Week) for Easter. The island is in a festive mood from the Thursday before Easter onwards, when the biggest processions take place. The most colourful one is the La Sang procession in Palma. Other Majorcan places to go for Easter are the churches, with performances by children and other special Easter events. On Easter Sunday you may find many people on the streets for their local pilgrimage and abundant picnics. Make sure to try the Easter pastries of panades and rubiols.
If you’re interested in visiting Palma, Majorca during Easter, you could add a day or two to the start or finish of our 8-day Sierras and Monasteries walk.
EASTER IN THE UK - WINCHESTER (SOUTH DOWNS WAY)
If you’re thinking of walking the South Downs Way, a beautiful walk across the rolling landscapes of Southern England, you could time it so that the start of your trip falls over Easter. That means you’ll be in Winchester, home to one of the UK’s finest cathedrals. What better place to experience an Easter service than in this stunning Norman cathedral built in 1093, which is the longest medieval cathedral in Europe, and also the resting place of Jane Austen.
Read more about the South Downs Way.
If you're looking to settle yourself down for a few days to get that true experience of a small place that seems to have stood still in time, there's no need to look any further. Here are 10 charming coastal villages that offer exactly that.
Often a small market square where the local delicatessen shop is your go-to point for the best cheeses, the olives served are as fresh as you've ever had and shaded terraces serve wines directly from the vineyard… all this in close proximity to our friendly guest houses and family-run hotels. These types of villages along the coastlines of Europe form a great base for a few days of exploring on foot or by bike as they are a pleasant distance to rugged cliffs, quiet beaches, inland woods and pastures, groves, and mountain foothills.
Breathe in Europe through 10 of its most charming coastal villages.
Agios Georgios tis Pegeias – Cyprus
Agios Georgios tis Pegeias is situated about 400m from the coast and has a small fishing harbour and beach area. The surrounding area is mainly agricultural with bananas and citrus fruit, a few tavernas, two churches and the ruins of an early Christian basilica.
It is locally claimed that the sunset from Agios Georgios tis Pegeias is the most beautiful on the island of Cyprus. Perhaps the best place to be to view this spectacle is above the cliff next to the St. Georges Restaurant, above the fishing harbour or on the coast itself.
Flam – Norway
When you walk down to Flam, you’ll experience a beautiful trail that follows the lush valley route through woods and pastures in Norway. There’s always the sounds of rushing waters and when you eventually drop down to the Aurlandsfjord, a branch off Sognefjord, you’ll enter Flam.
The small coastal village of Flam has several restaurants serving local & traditional Norwegian meals (think of berries and salmon) and one of Norway’s most popular craft beer breweries can be found here. Out of town, enjoy a panoramic view of the Aurlandsfjord, take one of the most scenic bicycle rides in Norway, and hop on the famous Flam Railway.
Collioure – Vermillion Coast, France
Flower-decked Collioure is a very pretty little town set against the foothills of the Alberes Range near France’s Vermillion Coast. It has an idyllic setting with sun, sea and sky attracting lots of travellers each year. The seaside town consists of two little fishing ports separated by the mediaeval castle on a spur.
Did you know? This former fishing port was the birthplace of the Fauve movement of painters in the early 20th century, led by Matisse, and today still is a colourful place attracting painters and photographers alike.
St Peter Port – Guernsey
St. Peter Port, Guernsey Island’s capital, is a bustling, friendly place with a row of attractive harbours and marinas set under a steeply terraced townscape, with some remarkably well-preserved buildings from the 1700s and 1800s. Visit Castle Cornet, the 800-year old fortress, the restored Victorian Gardens, the house where Victor Hugo stayed, or just relax along the promenade with its array of pubs and restaurants.
At certain high points in the coastal town you can see the other Channel Islands of Herm, Sark and Alderney - and the coast of Normandy in France.
Riomaggiore – Cinque Terre, Italy
Riomaggiore, perhaps the most interesting town of the five Cinque Terre villages, is occupied by little fishing and day trip boats. The Italian seaside town has mediaeval tower blocks that are crammed together overlooking an inlet of intense aquamarine colour. The buildings are all painted in bright pastel shades, complementing the natural Mediterranean light.
Bowness-on-Solway – Scotland
The views from Bowness-on-Solway on the border between Scotland and England are special for several reasons. This is the western end of the Hadrian’s Wall tour - behind are rolling hills and country lanes while in front is the beautiful expanse of the Solway Firth.
The coastal village of Bowness-on-Solway has less than 100 houses and is the site of the Roman fort of Maia.
Ajaccio – Corsica, France
Ajaccio, the capital town of Corsica, lies on the island’s rugged west coast. Although a busy cosmopolitan Mediterranean coastal town, it is a pleasant place to spend a few days. Enjoy the impressive harbour and old winding streets where you’ll have plenty of choice of little restaurants and boutique shops.
Did you know that it was on this seaside town that Napoleon Bonaparte was born? You can visit his home, which is now a museum.
St Ives – Cornwall, England
In England, magical St Ives is a town of art, ice creams and fish ‘n’ chips. Protected from Atlantic storms, St Ives was once the most important fishing port in Cornwall, but like elsewhere on the surrounding coast, by the beginning of the 20th century, the fish stocks became depleted and the fishing fleet largely disappeared.
However as early as 1811 Turner visited to paint the seascapes and by the late 1880s there were several artists installed, and the town became famous for its vibrant artists’ colony. This perhaps reached its peak during the late 1940s and the 1950s. Today their work can be seen in the St Ives Tate Gallery, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and the Bernard Leach Gallery. We offer several holidays that include a stay in St Ives.
Porto – Portugal
In Porto, famous for its port and wine, there are lots of traditional tascas (taverns) that serve marine cuisine. Explore for example vibrant Ribeira district down by the quays. The city is located right between the Green (Costa Verde) and Silver (Costa de Prata) coasts of Portugal and forms part of the Douro Valley.
To get the best idea of this Portuguese coastal city with a small-town feel, we suggest a walking itinerary taking in the famous sites such as the Cathedral and churches of 'Igreja de sto Ildefonso' and the 'Igreja Clerigos' with its monumental tower. Maybe walk along the upper and lower spans of the famous Luis I Road Bridge and admire the riverside districts of the old towns on both river banks. For those with extra time in Porto, why not take a trip across the river to the other town, 'Vila Nova de Gaia'.
Santa Caterina – Sardinia, Italy
When you descend from the Montiferru Mountains on a walking holiday in Sardinia, you’ll walk into Santa Caterina di Pittinuri, located on the coast. Santa Caterina is a quiet bay surrounded by oak forests, olive groves and quiet pastures. This is a small coastal village, with just one small shop and a couple of bars. There’s also a nice 4-star hotel located right on the coast on a cliff at the edge of the beach with an excellent restaurant overlooking the sea. What more do you need besides a good glass of local wine, fresh produce from the island and the charming village life passing by?