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
Day 3 RONCESVALLES TO AKERRETA 27
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
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.
Day 22 VILADANGOS DEL PARAMO TO ASTORGA 28.5 km 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.
Day 25 MOLINASECA TO VILLAFRANCA DEL BIERZO 28 km 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.
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.
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 27 O'CEBREIRO TO TRIACASTELA 20 km
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.
Day 30 PORTOMARIN TO PALAS DE REI 25 km 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.
Day 31 PALAS DE REI TO ARZUA 29 km 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 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