SPAIN – WALKING THE CAMINO – 13 DAYS
Walking the Camino de Santiago is a journey of the soul and spirit. For more than 1,100 years, inspired travelers have walked the Camino, accompanied by the memories of St. Francis of Assisi, John of Gaunt, Chaucer’s Widfe of Bath and even Pope John Paul, to the tomb of St. James, Son of Thunder, disciple of Jesus. Footstep after footstep, village after village, marvel at the timeliessness of your journey. There will always be an unexpectee sight on the horizon, or a chance encounter that refreshes the human spirit and causes us to pause and contemplate the simple antiquity of our quest.
DEPOSIT : To reserve your space, a $400 deposit per person is required. Final payment is due 60 days prior to the trip departure date. If applying within 60 days of the trip departure, full payment is required.
Why make a Pilgrimage to Santiago?
Those who journey to Santiago de Compostela will ask themselves this very question. There are many valid reasons: adventure, challenge, art and architectural interest, historical, religious/spiritual (including penance!), to fulfill a promise, a vow (as did the medieval pilgrims), and often, “I don’t know…I have to.”
Many modern pilgrims find themselves in a life crossroads, and seek the Camino to sort out their goals, to return to life’s basic needs, to have time to find their inner self, changed and transformed.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to make it your adventure, your pilgrimage. The advantage of choosing Walking The World tours is that you can achieve your pilgrimage in an authentic, personal way, yet have the peace of mind of knowing our experienced guides are there for you and arrangements have been made to stay in unique and comfortable lodging along the way.
Each person will find his own rhythm…and personal reward! Walking The World is proud to provide bilingual guides (native Spaniards) who really know the Camino, and food that is the best Spain offers, including our famous gourmet picnic lunches! Superb regional wines are part of every dinner. You will receive detailed route maps and directions.
Start your adventure today!
Day 1: September 4 – Leon:
(B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner)
Independent arrival in Leon and transfer to your hotel. Explore on your own. Meals: on your own (recommendations provided). At the junction of Spain’s two most historically important routes – the Roman road known as the Via de la Plata and the Camino de Santiago, Astorga has plenty of interesting sights to see, including Roman walls, an outstanding Gothic-Renaissance cathedral and the neo-Gothic Bishop’s Palace, built by famed Catalán architect Antonio Gaudí, containing an interesting Pilgrim’s Museum. Overnight in Astorga.
Day 2: Sept 5 – FONCEBADON – MOLINASECA 20.7 km (12.83 miles)
Meet your Spain-based trip leader and rest of the group at 8:30 a.m. for an orientation session after breakfast. Following this, those who wish to qualify for the Compostela – the official pilgrim’s certificate of completion awarded by the Cathedral office in Santiago – can visit the Pilgrim’s Refuge to pick up their pilgrim’s “credentials”, the document that must be stamped at churches and the like along the Way to accredit your passage along the route. We’ll then transfer to Foncebadon where we’ll start our day’s walk. Here we begin a 30 minute climb, on a lovely farm track up to one of the simplest, yet most ancient and symbolic monuments along the pilgrim’s way, the iron cross – la Cruz de Ferro. This monument is set at just over 1500 m (4920 ft) atop the mountain pass of Monte Irago, where pilgrims throughout the ages have placed stones, creating a huge mound at the base of the cross. We continue on, enjoying wonderful mountain views, passing through Manjarín, with its medieval pilgrim’s refuge, to quaint El Acebo where we’ll stop for a hearty picnic lunch. In Acebo, be on the lookout for the Church of San Miguel with its statue of Santiago Peregrino. Also, you’ll know you’re in Acebo if you pass a sculpture of a bicycle on the outskirts of town, a memorial to a pilgrim killed on the nearby roads. Continue on to the delightful village of Molinaseca. Entering Molinaseca, we’ll pass over a medieval village and by the beautiful 17th century church of San Nicolas, both offering great photo opportunities. Our plan is to arrive in Molinaseca around 5:00 p.m. Dinner will be at our hotel. (B, L, D).
Day 3: Sept 6 – MOLINASECA – CAMPONARAYA 18km (11.32 miles)
Depending on our route, our walk will take us through the medieval town of Puente Mascaron and over a medieval village to Castillo de los Templarios, a 12th century Templar castle, now a national monument. Our day will find us passing through Ponferrada, the capital of El Bierzo, with a population of over 60,000. Lunch will be a picnic in Ponferrada. The unique climate in this area is responsible for the delectable Bierzo wines. An iron bridge, Pons Ferrada, gives Ponferrada its name. This area is known historically for its iron and coal reserves. From Ponferrada, we’ll continue on through Fuentes Nuevas to our home for the night near Camponaraya. If time permits we’ll visit the Cooperativa Vinas del Bierzo, a local wine cooperative, for some great wine and pincho.
Villafranca del Bierzo, at the extreme western edge of the province, at the gates of Galicia. Traveling in our support vehicle, we’ll stop for 3 short walks to experience 3 very different stretches of the Camino. We’re headed to Pieros, where if time allows we’ll enjoy a final short walk to historic Villafranca del Bierzo, capital of the El Bierzo region. Walking distance: 14 km / 8.75 miles. Overnight in Villafranca del Bierzo (B, L, D).
Day 4: Sept 7 – CAMPONARAYA TO VILLAFRANCA DEL BIERZO 14 km (8 miles)
Today we continue our journey westward across the province of León to our night’s destination in Villafranca del Bierzo, at the extreme western edge of the province, at the gates of Galicia. Early in our day we’ll pass through Cacabelos, a once important medieval pilgrim stop. There were once 5 hospices here specifically for the care of pilgrims following the way. Just outside Cacabelos, we’ll cross over the river Cua before heading into the always beautiful rolling hills and vineyards El Bierzo is known for. Then it’s on to Villafranca del Bierzo, often known as the “other” or “little” Santiago. We’ll pass by the 12th century Romanesque Church of Santiago and its north entrance Door of Forgiveness. For those Pilgrims not able to forge on to Santiago, they could receive absolution here, the same as they could if they were actually to make it to Santiago.
We begin our morning with a walking tour of Villafranca del Bierzo (known as “little Compostela” due to its wealth of historic buildings). After a lunch of traditional Galician country fare, the journey continues with a short transfer along the Camino for an enjoyable downhill walk on lovely sections of the trail with sweeping views on the way to Triacastella. This is followed by a visit to the Benedictine Monastery of Samos, founded in the 6th century and one of the oldest in western Christendom, on the way to our overnight stop in Sarria. Walking distance: AM: 8.2km/5.1 miles; PM: 6.5 km/4 miles). Overnight in Sarria (B, L, D).
Day 5: Sept 8 – VILLAFRANCA BIERZO TO O CEBREIRO – 28.4 km (17.11 miles)
Today will include some of the steepest sections of our journey, but also some of the most beautiful, including stunning views of the Valcarce valley. In addition, today we enter Galicia, one of my favorite parts of the Camino. Our walk takes us along ancient paths shaded by birches, oaks, chestnuts and poplars up to the emblematic mountaintop village of O’Cebreiro, with a lovely 12th century Romanesque church that is the scene of a fascinating legen, and curious ancient straw-roofed dwellings called Pallozas. Towards the end of our walk for the day, just past the small hamlet of Laguna de Castilla, we’ll hit the Galicia frontier, a marker showing that we’ve left the region of Castilla y Leon and are entering Galicia. A landmark you won’t want to miss is O’Cebreiro Iglesia. This building is noted as one of the earliest surviving buildings along the Camino, dating from the 9th century. This is also the resting place of the priest Don Elias Valina Sampedro, the man who came up with the idea to mark the Camino with the yellow arrows. Picnic lunch in Vega de Valcarce and overnight in O Cebreiro.
Day 6: Sept 9 – O CEBREIRO TO TRIACASTELA – 22km (14 miles)
After a lot of uphill on yesterday’s walk, today will be mostly downhill. Of course, always take statements like this with a grain of salt. But, it’s mostly accurate! We’ll again have many splendid views of the surrounding countryside, and have many small villages to stop and enjoy the famous and delicious Galician hot soup, caldo gallego, steamed octopus – pulpa a la galega, more red wine, almond tart – tarta de Santiago, and for those hardy souls – orujo – an alcoholic drink made from distilled grape skins. On our trek today, we’ll also start to notice stone granaries called horreos. You’ll also notice that the weather changes a bit, as we’re not subject to the winds, and rain, from the Atlantic Ocean. Also, the name Triacastela means “three castles”, although none of the castles still exist today. The limestone used to build the cathedral in Santiago came from quarries near Triacastela. Picnic lunch in Fonfria. Overnight in Triacastela.
Day 7: Sept 10 – TRIACASTELA TO SARRIA (through Samos) 25 km (16 miles)
Today offers another beautiful day of hiking and a possible visit to the Benedictine monastery of Samos. Our trail takes us above the monastery, the oldest and largest in Spain, for great views and photos. Then we’ll drop down to the valley for our visit and some café con leche if desired. Sarria itself is a town of about 13,000 residents and is the last place pilgrims with limited time can hike the minimum distance to the cathedral in Santiago, 100 km, to receive the certificate of completion on the Camino. Because of this, Sarria is a major starting point for many pilgrims. We’ll notice an increased number of fellow pilgrims from here to Santiago. Picnic lunch in Samos. Overnight in Sarria.
Day 8: Sept 11 – SARRIA TO PORTOMARIN – 21.6 km (13 miles)
Today’s walk is one of the most attractive stages of the entire Pilgrim’s Way; traveling through verdant forests, grassy meadows, fertile orchards and simple stone-built hamlets. The morning section is a sustained but gentle uphill walk to our lunch spot in Ferreiros. After lunch, we’ll enjoy a lovely downhill walk to Portomarin, where we’ll spend the night
Day 9: Sept 12 – PORTOMARIN TO PALAS DE REI – 24.5 km (15.5 miles)
Today the journey continues along farm tracks and quiet country roads through the lush Galician countryside to Palas de Rei. Palas de Rei is a small village of around 2,000, with an illustrious past although nothing remains today as a reminder. Our route is noted however for hosting a number of the famous, including the holy Roman emperor Charles V, King Philip of Spain, on his way to marry Mary Tudor, and the Cemeterio de Peregrinos in Ligonde (also reportedly a stop for Charlemagne).
Day 10: Sept 13 – PALAS DE REI TO BOENTE – 20.5 km (12.2 miles)
A typical day on the Camino de Santiago, through rolling green landscapes, dotted with cows, stone walls and tiny Romanesque churches. Today’s lunch stop will be in the important pilgrim’s town of Melide, where the main branch of the earliest of all the Pilgrim’s routes – El Camino Primitivo, coming from Oviedo, capital of Galicia’s eastern neighbor Asturias, the only region in Iberia never conquered by the Moors – merges with the Camino Frances for the final push to Santiago. Although quite far inland, the town is also famous throughout Galicia for its Pulpo a la Feira – tender morsels of boiled octopus drenched in virgin olive oil, sea salt and paprika. In the afternoon, an especially enchanting stretch of forest trail awaits us. Picnic lunch in Melide. Overnight in Arzua. (Arzua itself is known for its local cheese and is the last major population center before we reach Santiago.)
Day 11: Sept 14– ARZUA T0 O PEDROUZO – 19.1 km (11.15 miles)
Today’s walk finds us on natural pathways through groves of tall Eucalyptus that provide superb shade for our steps. As our journey nears Santiago, more pilgrims join the pilgrimage as yet another northern pilgrim’s route – El Camino del Norte – meets the Camino Frances inArzua, midway through the walk. The route follows rural paths through vegetable patches, fields and oak groves, and pine woods. Picnic in O Empaime. Overnight in Lavacolla.
Day 12: Sept 15 – LAVACOLLA TO SANTIAGO – 10.3 km (7 miles)
Today the path follows country lanes and forest paths through increasingly populated countryside, until it finally reaches the top of the Monte del Gozo – “Mount of Joy”, so named for the emotion felt by those who on arriving there, were rewarded with their first view ofSantiago de Compostela. From here, we walk downhill into the city’s ancient centre, declared in its entirety a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our objective is the tomb of the Apostle St. James, in the city’s impressive Cathedral, situated on the Plaza del Obradoiro, Santiago’s grandiose central square lined with four magnificent buildings that symbolize the pillars of the city’s proud history – religion (the cathedral), tourism (the Parador), education (old university rectory) and government (Galicia’s capitol building). Today we’ll have time to attend the Pilgrim’s mass at the Cathedral and then enjoy a walking tour of Santiago. In the evening we’ll enjoy a celebratory feast. Lunch in Santiago. Overnight in Santiago.
Day 13: Sept 16 – DEPARTURE FROM SANTIAGO
Breakfast is included.
Meals – full board except on arrival day (on your own – recommendations provided) and departure from Santiago (breakfast only). Meals will include bottled mineral water and house wine at dinners. Other drinks include teas, coffee, soft drinks, beer or non-house wine. All other alcoholic beverages will be at clients’ own expense. Breakfast is usually some sort of buffet. Lunch – when weather is agreeable, lunch will often be an outdoors picnic lunch with fresh local fruit, fresh baked bread and local cheeses or cured meats, tomato salad, etc. At dinner we’ll focus on local cuisine – an appetizer, main course and dessert.
Bi-lingual tour leader who will meet the group at the Léon hotel in the morning of Day 2 and accompany you throughout the tour
Walking The World® Guide
Great fun, humor and companionship
Background information pack including local maps of León, Astorga and Santiago
Walking The World® T-shirt
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED
International or Domestic Flights
Airport transfers are NOT included in either León or Santiago