Madrid to Leon by train
(included) takes 2 hours 54 minutes. In
Leon you check into a centrally located 3-star hotel. If you arrive
early you will have a chance to see the sights of historic Leon. The Royal
Basilica of San Isidoro is one of the great treasures of the Camino and in
medieval times there were many miracles attributed to this saint. The
Cathedral with its stained glass is one of the most beautiful in Spain.
Day 2 Morning transfer by taxi (included) to Orbigo. From here your
Camino walk begins at the famous bridge where, in 1434, a knight held a
jousting match so he could escape from his "prison of unrequited love
for a certain lady". Today's walk is through pretty countryside on
quiet roads and forest paths. Your goal is the town of Astorga with
its Gaudi Cathedral, Roman ruins and shops selling Astorga's famous
chocolate. It is easy to moderate walking with a little gradual ascent. Distance 16 km.
Day 3 Today you leave Astorga on foot and walk to Rabanal.
The trail has a gradual ascent. The quaint hamlet of Rabanal is a
traditional resting place for pilgrims before starting the climb up the
Montes de Irago. Distance 21 km.
Day 4 From Rabanal you ascend the first 6 km to the
Cruz de Ferro where traditionally pilgrims dropped a stone to symbolically
lighten their load. From here the path is up and down through
fragrant pine forests then has a gradual descent to
the pretty village of Molinaseca. Distance 27 km.
Day 5 From Molinaseca you continue through the Bierzo Valley
the town of Ponferrada with its magnificent castle that was built by
the mysterious Knights Templar in the late 1200's. The nearby Basilica de
Nuestra Senora de la Encina honours the patron saint of the region. "Encina"
or "oak" refers to a legend that Christian knights discovered a
Black Madonna image in an oak tree where it had been hidden to protect her
from Arab invaders. From Ponferrada you continue through the fertile
Bierzo Valley to the medieval town of Villafranca where the Church of San
Francisco commemorates the Camino pilgrimage made by Francis of Assisi in
the 1200's. It is a long day but easy to moderate walking. Distance 28 km
Day 6 From
Villafranca to O'Cebreiro (alt 1300m)
is mostly uphill as you enter Galicia. Along the way you pass small
"castros" or forts that were, in medieval times, used by local
lords as toll-collection booths for pilgrims.
It is at misty and remote O'Cebreiro, according to local legend,
that the Holy Grail was hidden. Or perhaps it is not hidden. Some say
it is the chalice on display in a small church. This is one of the
more difficult days as it is mostly uphill. Distance 28 km.
Day 7 From O'Cebreiro the trail leads through spectacular scenery down
a gradual descent to the town of Triacastela. Here you find
that the three castles for which the town is named are gone but there are
still stone quarries. Stone from these quarries was used in building the
Cathedral in Santiago and medieval pilgrims would carry as much as they
could so their blood and sweat would be an eternal part of the Cathedral. Now
it is moderate walking with gentle rolling hills.
Distance 23 km.
Day 8 The walk from Triacastela to Sarria is through the
pretty, green Galician countryside. There is a choice of routes
today but if you choose the route via Samos you will be rewarded with the
sight of one of the most ancient monasteries in Spain - founded in the 6th
century. The monastery is worth a tour inside although its magnificent
library was damaged in 1951 by a fire when the monks' liqueur-making
apparatus exploded. Today is moderate walking with gentle rolling
hills. Distance 23 km.
Day 9 From Sarria to Portomarin on quiet trails edged by bramble
covered fences and stone walls . On reaching Portomarin one finds a lovely
lake which is really a reservoir. Beneath the waters of this reservoir
lies a medieval town although the main buildings of that town were moved
stone by stone and rebuilt on higher ground before the valley was
flooded. Today is moderate walking with gentle rolling hills. Distance 23 km.
Day 10 The trail from Portomarin to Palas de Rei is through
undulating landscape studded with oak trees and bramble. In spring the
gorse is a brilliant yellow and sublimely fragrant. A small detour takes
you to Vilar de Donas with its outstanding Romanesque church. Today
is moderate walking with gentle rolling hills. Distance
Day 11 From Palas del Rei to Arzua. On leaving Palas de Rei you
traverse an area dominated by devotion to St Julian. Legend says
that Julian was tricked by the devil into killing his parents and to
expurgate his sins he ran pilgrim hospitals. A quaint church of St Julian
that commemorates his works. At Melide, the parish church has 15th
century frescoes depicting St James, the Moor-slayer. It also has plenty
of shops, bars and restaurant scattered around the narrow streets. Melide
is famous for its "pulpo" - octopus cooked in it’s own
juice in large copper pots and sprinkled with paprika. If octopus for
lunch doesn't appeal this region is also known for its sea-food and its
cheeses. From Melide to Arzua the trail is often through shady eucalyptus
forests and lined by old stone walls and there is a nice resting stop next
to a stream before reaching Arzua. Today is long but can be broken
in half with an overnight at Melide. Distance 29 km.
Day 12 Almost there! Arzua to Rua/O Pino. On the trail
leaving Arzua you pass fields, oak groves and small hamlets. Much of the
Camino here is on farm tracks and occasionally you may have to wait while
a farmer herds his cattle across the path. Enterprising farm wives often
sell fresh-picked fruit and home-made pancakes to passers-by. Distance
Day 13 The final
day of walking. From Rua the trail
leads to San Paio. Legend says that Paio was a beautiful ten-year-old
Galician boy who was traded as a hostage to a wicked Arab Caliph and
killed. Although the boy was martyred in 925AD, his cult remains strong in
Galicia. Just past San Paio comes Labacolla (from "Lava" - to
wash and "colla" - one's bottom). Here, medieval pilgrims
performed their ablutions washing their private parts before presenting
themselves to St James. The trail leads up Monte del Gozo (Mount of
Joy) for a first sight of Santiago de Compostela. The historic route then
leads through the city gates and finally to the main plaza by the
Cathedral. Distance 19 km.
Day 14 Depart after breakfast. It is a 20 minute taxi-ride to
Santiago Airport (onward travel not included). Or, if you wish to
stay to explore the old city including the Cathedral, we can arrange for
an extra night at the hotel.
The itinerary can be modified
with extra rest days along the way or longer days can sometimes be split into
two shorter days – please ask about the price increase for customized