For the largely Roman Catholic nation of Ecuador, in which religion is a core part for many people’s lives (especially among the poor, who make up a third of the population), there is no more important religious occasion than Semana Santa, or “Holy Week,” the seven days that follow Palm Sunday, ending with Easter Sunday. And in Quito, in particular, the locals demonstrate their devotion to this week, more spiritually important than Christmas, in passionate religious pageantry.
A small town north of Quito has its own unique Holy Tuesday
On the Tuesday following Palm Sunday, Puellaro, a small community north of Quito, features its own unique pageant honoring Christ’s entry into Jerusalem through 12 platforms featuring key figures in the gospels carried through the streets and downtown.
Quito holds a Catholic ceremony dating back to the Roman Empire
A solemn ritual known as the Arrastre de Cuadras, or “Dragging of the Capes,” performed on the Wednesday preceding Holy Thursday in Quito’s Metropolitan Cathedral, begins with the Archbishop of Quito leading clergy while towards the nave while carrying an enormous black flag featuring a red cross. The priests, dressed in hooded black robes, lie prostrate on the floor of the cathedral while the flag is then waved over them, a gesture that dates back to antiquity: a flag was waved over the regiment of a fallen Roman general to transfer the general’s courage to his soldiers.
A dance company leads a candlelit procession in Quito’s historical center on Holy Thursday
The folkloric dance company Jacchigua guides a procession of faithfuls holding candles through Quito’s historic district. Company members re-enact some of the most revered icons in Catholic canon, such as the Virgin of Legarda, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and various other saints.
The largest and most haunting ceremonies of the week is on Good Friday
At noon, in a symbolic nod to the hour of Jesus Christ’s sentencing by Pontius Pilate, several hundred men known as cucuruchos in purple robes and pointed masked headdresses, along with many others dressed like Christ in his Passion carrying a heavy wooden cross, begin a long march in a Procession of the Penitents through Quito’s ecclesiastical historic district. Up to 250,000 onlookers descend upon the area to watch and to pray.
Pain is paramount
In order to identify with passion of Jesus Christ on the day of His suffering, many of the participants will go out of their way to inflict real suffering onto themselves, from self-flagellation to attaching cacti onto their exposed backs.
Women play an important part in the Good Friday march
Women dressed in their own purple robes with veils covering their faces join the parade as the ‘Veronicas,’ honoring the woman who, out of pity, gave Jesus her veil to wipe his face.
The Devils have their own procession on Saturday
In Alangasi, a community south of Quito, in a unique ceremony involving the burning of a rag—symbolizing the fires of eternal punishment as well ass exorcism—locals dressed as demons leave the church and parade through the center of town.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.