Camino de Santiago 
(St James Way)

Self-Guided walk 

 Self-guided Itinerary     33 nights    ( The itinerary can be customised.  Adding rest days is recommended )

Day 1  ST JEAN PIED DE PORT  Arrive in the lively French town St Jean Pied de Port which is the traditional start for the "French" Camino route.  Here, you will find the many open-air cafes filled with hikers preparing to start their journey and you will probably get to know many of them along the way. It is essential to check with the Pilgrim Office who will have an accurate weather forecast for the following day.

Day 2  ST JEAN TO RONCESVALLES  26 km  Today you are faced with the most difficult of all stages of the Camino. The Pyrenees mountains rise steeply in front of you and the Camino uphill trail looks daunting.  The "Napoleon Route" which is the route that takes you to an altitude of 1430 metres is demanding but spectacular.  It requires 20 km of ascent followed by 6 km of quite steep descent.  The good news is that on a clear day the mountain scenery is incredible and worth the effort.   
If the weather is foggy we strongly recommend you take the lower route.  The "Valcarlos Route" has only 950 metres of ascent and a more gradual descent and for much of the distance follows beside the paved road between St Jean and Roncesvalles. In medieval days pilgrims tended to take the high route to avoid bandits but now the low route is the safer option in bad weather. It isn't as beautiful but much easier.  Distance 25 km

Today's walk is much easier and mostly a gradual descent. The route passes through the towns of  Burguete (made famous by Ernest Hemingway) and Zubiri known as "the town of the bridge". In medieval times there was a legend that any animal that walked under the arches of the bridge would become immune to rabies. Other versions of the myth claimed that the bridge had supernatural power to cure all illness.  

Day 4 AKERRETA TO PAMPLONA   17 km     
The trail continues with a bit of up and down but is not difficult into Pamplona (known for its Running of the Bulls Festival).  The town has a lot of interesting things to explore so arriving with time to sightsee is a good idea, in fact, building in an extra day here is worth considering.  This city was once home to the kings of Navarre and many are interred in the Cathedral.  Pamplona is famous for its "pintxos" - snacks consumed with drinks before dinner - and after completing the first stage of the Camino you may want to indulge.  


Day 5 PAMPLONA TO PUENTE LA REINA    21 km  The walk today is moderate in difficulty with a few hills but nothing steep. From Sierra de Perdon you can see back to Pamplona and onward to Puente le Reina. The trail goes though villages like Cizur Mayor, Zariquiegui and Uterga where drinks and snacks can be found.  There is a small optional side-trip to an amazing octagonal church at Eunate that probably belonged to the Knights Templar. At the town of Puente la Reina (Queen's Bridge) you will cross the bridge that was built in the 11th century thanks to a donation by the queen. Until then pilgrims had been  exploited by ferry operators taking them across the river that was often too deep to ford. The Camino is part of this town's narrow, cobble-stoned main street. In medieval times this street was lined with businesses catering to pilgrims and today we find the much same with restaurants and shops. The hotel is right on that main street so you feel the medieval atmosphere.

Day 6 PUENTE LA REINA TO ESTELLA  24 km    Another day of moderate walking through the countryside of Navarre dotted with hamlets catering to walkers.  In the distance one sees a range of hills that were home to religious hermits in the 10th and 11th centuries.  Just outside Puente la Reina is a section of Roman road that was built about 100 AD and was repaired in the Middle Ages.  The town of Estella sits astride a craggy bend in the river and was once a major stop for pilgrims. Because of this there are many religious buildings but of more interest is usually the historic main square surrounded by shady arcades. After a long walk sitting in the square enjoying an ice cream or a cold drink is delightful.

Day 7 ESTELLA TO LOS ARCOS   21 km Just outside Estella the Camino passes the interesting Cistercian monastery of Irache that dates back to the 900's.  At the next village, Villamayor, one sees the Castle of St Esteban de Deyo atop the hill above the town. The castle is an interesting side-trip  but a steep climb. When you reach the town of Los Arcos you will find yourself in the beginning of wine country.  The La Rioja wine region is famous for its excellent red wines but also well-known for its cuisine - meat grilled over a fire of dried vine leaves, bean stews, white asparagus, potatoes cooked in Rioja wine or luscious fresh peaches with cinnamon.  At Irache you will pass the famous “wine fountain”  where Bodegas Irache Winery have a spout from which pilgrims can help themselves to a free glass of wine.

Day 8 LOS ARCOS TO LOGRONO  27 km   
The Camino leaves Los Arcos passing the chapel of St Lazarus (once a leper hospice).  From here to Torre del Rios the walking is easy but from Torres del Rio to Viana it is uphill. This is followed by a steep descent to Logrono. If you have the energy to go bar-hopping, Logrono is known for its "pinchos" and each bar tries to tempt you with its delicious recipes.  

Day 9   LOGRONO TO NAJERA   28 km  Before leaving Logrono stock up on water and snacks because there are few shops for the next 13 km to Navarrete. When you reach Navarette you may want to spend a little time wine-tasting at the many bodegas.  The walking is not difficult as you pass vineyards and orchards although there is a bit of an ascent to Navarette. At Najera take time to see the Monastery of Santa Maria, built in 1053 and burial place of many rulers of the region.

Day 10  NAJERA TO SANTO DOMINGO DE LA CALZADA   21 km   At the town of Azofra you have a choice of an easy walk into Santo Domingo or a 5km diversion through Canas where there is an interesting Cistercian monastery. Legend says that St Francis of Assisi stayed here on his way to Santiago.  Prior to the 11th century the road leading west from Najera led through tangled, bandit infested forests and it was thanks to the efforts of a monk named Domingo Garcia who cut the forest and built bridges that the road became one of the safest sections of the Camino. The town named after him emerged offering hospitality for travellers. If you enter the Cathedral in Santo Domingo you will find live chickens and learn the legend of one young pilgrim who was wrongly convicted of theft and was saved by chickens that miraculously rose from the dead. The centre of the town has scarcely changed since medieval times and it is a delight to explore.

Day 11  SANTO DOMINGO TO BELORADO  23 km    This is an easy section of the Camino - mostly flat. There are many small villages along the way so plenty of cafes and shops. Just beyond the historic village of Granon is the border between the regions of La Rioja and Castilla-Leon.  Here, the terrain gradually changes to low, tree-less hills mostly covered with wheat fields. The town of Belorado was a boom town in the Middle Ages. It declined economically over the centuries but has now had a mini-revival thanks to the Camino.

Day 12  BELORADO TO SAN JUAN DE ORTEGA  24 km    The first part of this stage is on flat ground on a path parallel to a highway.  Halfway, at the village of Villafranca Montes de Oca ("franca" refers to French pilgrims who arrived and stayed) the path begins a climb through forested "mountains" before dropping down to the village of San Juan de Ortega (St John of the nettle). This saint was a disciple of Santo Domingo and like his mentor built roads, bridges and hospitals to help medieval pilgrims. This wild location was known for bandits thus St John founded an Augustinian monastery in 1150. to offer safe haven for pilgrims. Today the quiet setting and ancient buildings provide a peaceful stop.  Perhaps try the classic pilgrim dish of bread and garlic soup.

DAY 13  SAN JUAN DE ORTEGO TO BURGOS  27 km     This stage starts by walking along the Rio Vena valley but then descends toward the city of Burgos. It is a bit of culture shock to go from a quiet country trail to the bustling urban area.  The entry to the city centre can be on a riverside path which makes it a little more pleasant.  Burgos is an interesting and historic city so is a good choice for a rest day if you would like one. Aside from visiting the beautiful Cathedral and the Monasterio de Las Huelgas, you will find a variety of restaurants and shops plus most important  - a laundromat. 

DAY 14  BURGOS TO HONTANAS   32 km  This is a long day but flat so it is easy walking.  After leaving the urban area of Burgos the Camino is through the "meseta" which is flat, open countryside filled with wheat fields. There are a few villages but little shade.  After 21 km you find the hamlet of Hornillos (population 60). It is a peaceful place that has hardly changed over the centuries and still has the atmosphere of a medieval pilgrimage stop.  If you want to cut the distance that day it is possible to stop at Hornillos but there is not much to do. Otherwise, you continue to Hontanas which is another tiny Camino village surrounded by meseta.

DAY 15  HONTANAS TO BOADILLA DEL CAMINO 29 km  A few km from Hontanas you pass under the archway of San Antonio which was part of an ancient monastery with recesses in the walls where bread was left for medieval pilgrims.  At the sleepy town of Castrojeriz you may want to climb to a hilltop castle ruin or you may prefer to quench your thirst at one of the bars.  The terrain is still quite flat with a few villages along the way to Boadilla.

DAY 16  BOADILLA DEL CAMINO TO CARRION DE LOS CONDES  25 km  Leaving Boadilla the Camino is alongside the tree-lined Canal de Castilla to the town of Fromista. At Fromista is the beautiful Iglesia de San Martin (consecrated in 1066). The town of Carrion de Los Condes retains a medieval atmosphere and was once home to 14 pilgrim hospitals. In medieval times it was  ruled by the Counts of Carrion several of whom met premature deaths thanks to El Cid after they reputedly mistreated his daughters.  It seems that mistreatment of women was endemic here as can be seen in a frieze in the church depicting the annual "tribute" of 100 maidens demanded by the conquering Moors. 

Day 17 CARRION DE LOS CONDES TO TERRADILOS DE LOS TEMPLARIOS  27 km  Much of this walk is on gravelled path that is atop the ancient Roman road leading to Astorga. There is little shade and no bars or places to buy water for the first 17 km.  The village of Terradilos de los Templarios was once a stronghold of the Knights Templar but now nothing remains but the name.

Day 18  TERRADILOS DE LOS TEMPLARIOS TO BERCIANOS DE REAL  23 km The terrain is quite flat as the Camino enters into the Province of Leon.  There are several small villages along the trail which is a gravel track some of which is next to a motorway.  After 12 km you reach Sahagun which was once the site of a Benedictine monastery and burial site of King Alfonso VI.  Today there are religious buildings to admire and also shops and cafes for lunch or drinks.  From here again the Camino runs parallel to a highway.  There is some shade from trees that have been planted along the way and there are a few villages as you follow the route to the tiny village of Bercianos (population 200). 


Day 19 BERCIANOS DE REAL TO MANSANILLA DE LAS MULAS  27 km   The flat monotonous countryside continues although now there is more shade along the path. Three small villages along the way have basic shops and cafes catering to pilgrims.  The town of Mansanilla de las Mulas (population 1900) is surrounded by a 12th century wall and has a well-preserved medieval centre.  At the River Esla there might be a chance for a swim on a hot day.

Day 20 MANSANILLA DE LAS MULAS TO LEON  18 km    After days of walking in remote countryside you may find it a culture shock to approach the city of Leon.  If you choose to walk this section after 10 km you come to the town of Arcahueja and from here the route will be through suburban and industrial areas. The reward is when you reach the magnificent historic centre of Leon.  NOTE: There are also buses from Mansanilla de las Mulas into Leon for anyone who is not committed to walk every step of the way.  There are many things to do in Leon including use the laundromats. One could easily spend a full day just seeing the
sights. 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.  Leon is famous for its cuisine and after many days on the road you may enjoy the variety of restaurants.  We recommend Leon as an ideal resting place along the Camino.

Day 21  From Leon there are three options:
Option 1:  LEON TO VILADANGOS DEL PARAMO 21 km  This walk starts at San Marcos Square in the heart of Leon's historic quarter and exits the city mostly through industrial areas. 

Option 2:  Unless you are determined to walk every step of the way you may choose to skip this section and take a local bus or taxi to Viladangos del Paramo

Option3:   It is also possible to use a taxi as far as Hospital d'Orbigo  From here the walk to Astorga is scenic and only 17 km.  This gets you to Astorga with enough time to see the town which is interesting.

The first 10 km of this stage is quite flat and not very interesting.  At Hospital d'Orbigo you find 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".   From here the walk is lovely through pretty countryside on quiet roads and forest paths with a few small ascents  Your goal is the town of Astorga with its Gaudi Cathedral, Roman ruins and shops selling Astorga's famous chocolate.

Day 23  ASTORGA TO RABANAL   21 km   
The trail now has a gradual ascent and in the distance you can see mountains on the horizon.  Just a few km outside Astorga there is an interesting diversion from the trail to Castrillo de los Polvazares which is a "Maragato village". This restored 16th century village is often used as a film location.  The train then begins a gradual ascent to the quaint hamlet of Rabanal. This is a traditional resting place for pilgrims before starting the climb up the Montes de Irago.  

Day 24  RABANAL TO MOLINASECA    26 km   
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 continues up, steep at times, then gradually down through fragrant pine forests finally descending to the pretty village of Molinaseca.  

From Molinaseca you continue through the Bierzo Valley and 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.  At Ponferrada you will want to see the castle but don't linger too long. 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.

Day 26  VILLAFRANCA TO O'CEBREIRO   28km  The way from Villafranca to O'Cebreiro (alt 1300m)  is mostly uphill and is the steepest stage of the entire Camino. You pass small "castros" or forts that were, in medieval times, used by local lords as toll-collection booths for pilgrims.  At the peak of the climb you find misty and remote O'Cebreiro with its Celtic looking huts. It was here, according to local legend, that the Holy Grail is hidden. Or perhaps it is not hidden - some say it is the chalice on display in a small church.   It is possible to break this day into two by staying at a location along the way.  It is one of the more difficult days.

You are now in the Spanish province of Galicia. 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 stone as they could so their blood and sweat would be an eternal part of the Cathedral.   

Day 28 TRICASTELA TO SARRIA  23 km   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.  At Sarria (population 13,000) you will find many walkers gathering to start the last 100 km. It is a busy town with lots of shops and cafes.

Day 29  SARRIA TO PORTOMARIN   23 km  From Sarria to Portomarin the walk is 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. This traditionally backward region of Spain was the home of the dictator, General Franco, who made many attempts to make it more prosperous but even today one observes that agriculture is old-fashioned with few tractors on small family farms.  Often the women of the farm will have fruit or home-made pancakes for sale to the pilgrims and occasionally you may have to pause to wait as a farmer herds dairy cattle across the path.

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. 

   On leaving Palas de Rei you traverse an area of gentle ups and downs. The region is dominated by devotion to St Julian.  Legend says that Julian was tricked by the devil into killing his parents and to expurgate his sins Julian ran pilgrim hospitals. The quaint church of St Julian 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 restaurants. 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 wonderful cheeses made from grass-fed dairy cattle. 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.   This day can be broken half way in Melide.

Day 32 Almost there!  ARZUA TO RUA 19 km
. On the trail leaving Arzua you pass fields, oak groves and small hamlets. Much of the Camino here is on farm tracks and the walking is quite easy.  

Day 33  RUA TO SANTIAGO 19 km.  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 this happened in 925AD, his cult remains strong in Galicia. Just past San Paio comes Lavacolla (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 great Cathedral.  Here you can collect your "Compostela" certificate.

Day 34  You did it!  It is a 20 minute taxi-ride from the city centre to Santiago Airport or a five minute taxi-ride to the train station (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. There are optional excursions to Finisterre is you want to go the final bit to the sea.

The itinerary can be modified with extra rest days along the way or in some stages longer days can be split into shorter days.


About the Camino de Santiago

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33 night itinerary
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