WALKERS’ WORLD
Camino de Santiago (St James Way)

Guided walk across Northern Spain

Oct 5 - 15, 2019 (10 nights)

10 Night Itinerary : 

Getting to Leon: 
 At least 7 direct trains a day run from Madrid Chamartin Station to Leon (about 2.5 hours travel time).
        

Day 1  - We meet at the Posada Regia Hotel in central Leon at 2.30 pm. After checking in we have an afternoon walking tour of this historic city to explore the old quarter. During the Middle Ages Leon was a major stop for pilgrims on the Camino to Santiago. The prosperous city accumulated a wealth of art and architectural treasures. We see the magnificent Cathedral with its stained glass windows preserved from the 13th century, the Basilica de San Isidoro with its Pantheon where eleven kings and numerous queens are buried, the Casa Botines designed by the quirky architect Antoni Gaudi  As capital of the region of Leon y Castile, the city of Leon is surrounded by land producing superb food and prides itself in its gastronomy. We sample this at our welcome dinner in a restaurant near our hotel.  Dinner included.

Day 2 - This morning we drive from Leon to start our walk at Orbigo. It was here, on the bridge at Orbigo, in 1434, that a knight, Suero, held what may have held the last great medieval tournament. Having been scorned by his lady love, Suero challenged other knights to a joust. Today, if you stand on the bridge and use a little imagination, you can almost hear the horses whinny and the clash of steel.  As we start to walk, the terrain changes from flat plains to low foothills. The clouds ahead on the horizon soon reveal themselves to be chains of mountains in the distance but the walking is still quite easy. In the afternoon we reach Astorga with its Cathedral built in 1471 and a fairytale Bishop's Palace designed by the eccentric architect Antoni Gaudi which now holds an interesting "Museum  of the Camino". There is a Museum of Chocolate that tells the story of the local chocolate industry which flourished when cocoa was first brought to Spain from the New World. The town still prides itself in its great chocolate and there are  mouth-watering window displays.
Distance 20 km or 12 km (you choose)      Dinner included.

 

 Day 3 - Beyond Astorga we begin one of the most historically important parts of the Camino over Mount Irago. Our bus takes us up as far as Foncebadon and from here we ascend to the Cruz de Ferro (iron cross) under which pilgrims of old placed a stone which they had carried from home as penance. The walk is uphill but those who want to avoid the ascent can take the bus to near the top. The surrounding terrain is rugged with lovely views and in spring the wildflowers are gorgeous. From the top we descend gradually into the lush Bierzo valley and along the way pass through the village of El Aciebo which appears to be lost in a time-warp from the Middle Ages. We continue down to the beautifully restored  old town of Molinaseca with its Roman bridge. Our reward at the end of the day is staying at the lovely Parador at Villafranca with its heated pool and spa. Villafranca is one of the most atmospheric towns on the Camino and retains much of its medieval and Renaissance atmosphere. In medieval times if a pilgrim was too frail to continue his journey the same papal indulgences were granted as if he had reached Santiago.  Distance 20 km or 12 km (you choose)  Dinner included.
 

 Day 4 -  From Villafranca our bus takes us up the OCebreiro pass where we visit the hamlet of OCebreiro. Legend says that the Holy Grail  (the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper) is hidden at OCebreiro (although many other places in the world make the same claim). We then descend into the region of Galicia. Gray and green tones predominate and one hears the "Gallego" language (local dialect). Villages are strung along this part of the Camino - sometimes just a few houses surrounding a stone church. Fields are fenced with stone and brambles and one sees the ruins of castles that once protected pilgrims. We reach the quaint town of Triacastela and then take a side-trip by bus to our accommodation at the town of Monteforte de Lemos. In a  monumental From Villafranca our bus takes us up the Cebreiro pass where we visit the hamlet of OCebreiro. Legend says that the Holy Grail complex, comprised of a castle, a monastery and the Condes de Lemos Palace is housed the Parador de Monforte and it is here that we stay the night. The origins of the complex date back to the 9th century but today it is a magnificently restored Parador hotel. Dinner included.           Distance 19 km or 12 km  (you choose)

Day 5  - 
Today we return to the Camino and stop to see the majestic monastery of Samos founded in the 6th century. The place is filled with art treasures and has a large cloister with interesting carved stones - most depict religious themes related to the Benedictines but one has an amusing hieroglyphic which, when translated, says (in Latin), "What are you looking at, stupid?" (Monks were not supposed to be looking at the ceiling). From here we continue to km 100 on the Camino where we start our walk. It is from here that those who would like to qualify for the Compostela Certificate must walk 100 km. Today's walk is on a tranquil trail through rolling countryside alongside jewel-like green fields and between stone fences covered with bramble and wild-flowers. Late in the day we reach Portomarin where we stay at the Pousada de Portomarin with its beautiful views of a lake and green hills. In 1963, during the dictator Franco’s era, the old town of Portomarin was moved stone by stone from the valley to a hill to make way for a reservoir. Franco was from Galicia and tried various improvement schemes but nothing really succeed until the revival of the Camino in the 1990’s Portomarin is known for its "queimadas" (a  drink made with flaming liqueur, sugar, lemon and coffee beans). If you sample one you are guaranteed to sleep well.  Dinner included        Distance 19 km or 12 km (you choose)

Day 6 -
Leaving Portomarin, the Galician countryside is fragrant with forests of eucalyptus and pine as the trail winds past small farms and remote churches. Our goal is the town of  Palas de Rei  - a distance of 20 km. For those who don’t feel like walking 20 km and don’t care about obtaining the Compostela certificate it is possible to stop part way and our bus will provide transportation . From Palas de Rei we are taken to the nearby town of Lugo where we spend the night. Lugo is the only city in the world to be surrounded by completely intact Roman walls and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For anyone still with energy who would like to walk the top of the walls it is a fascinating 2,117 metre circuit. For those who don’t want more walking there are laundromats and shops or you may prefer just to relax at a  cafe or take a dip in the towns hot spring pools.   Dinner included      Distance 20 km  (or less if you prefer) 
 

Day 7 - This morning we return by bus to Palas de Rei and walk to the town of Melide. Today is an easy walk with no hard ascents or descents The history of the village of Melide dates back to the 10th century. In 1320 Melide was granted the privilege of building a castle and village walls but in 1467 the town offended the Archbishop and started a series of fights against his power. Because of this, the walls and the castle were destroyed. For centuries after that, like many villages in Galicia, Melide suffered from emigration of its people to Cuba and Argentina. It is only since the revival of the Camino de Santiago  that prosperity has begun to return  Those interested in local legends learn that this stage is dominated by St Julian. It seems that Julian was tricked by the devil into killing his parents. To atone for his sin he ran a pilgrim hospital and the church of San Julian do Camino illustrates the story. But the Camino need not be about saints and legends.  In Melide we find shops, bars and restaurants scattered along 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 doesn't appeal, this region is also known for its wonderful cheeses made from the milk of Galician cows who graze on the lush grass. In the afternoon our bus transfers us back to Lugo.    Distance 14 km.  Dinner NOT included 
 


Day 8 -
Today we return to Melide and continue our Camino walk. In this stage, the way is easy with  a few gentle climbs and descents alternating with flat stretches. By early afternoon we reach Arzúa, the undisputed town of cheese. One of the better known local cheeses is "tetilla" whose shape is similar to that of a breast and nipple. The story goes that, when the Santiago Cathedral was being rebuilt in Gothic style, stone carvers were hired to carve friezes on the arched doors. One statue that resulted was that of a "well-endowed" bare breasted woman but sight of bare breasts scandalized pious church officials who ordered the statue covered. The population complied but as a sign of rebellion the local cheese-makers started making cheese in the shape of a “tetilla”.and the tradition remains today. In every story you will see cheese in the shape of a large breast complete with nipple. You will also find it delicious melted in many Galician recipes. From Arzua our bus takes us off the Camino to our accommodation at Pazo de Lestrove near Padron. The name Padron means “mooring stone” and legend claims this is where, two thousand years ago, the boat carrying St James' body arrived in Spain and moored in the river.  You can visit the local church to see the stone or you can enjoy our lovely “pazo” accommodation with its pool set in acres of pretty gardens. Once a palatial country escape for the Bishops of Santiago, the pazo dates back to the 16th century but today it is a four star hotel.  Distance 15 km  (less if you prefer) Dinner Included.

Day 9 - Today we return to Arzua and continue our walk through pretty Galician countryside. On this stage, the path  is easy on small dirt roads between villages, with a few scents and descents alternating with flat stretches. The countryside is a mix of pretty farmland and eucalyptus forests.  We pass fields, oak groves and small hamlets with cafes and bars catering to walkers. One enterprising local brewer has labelled his beer “Pilgrim Beer” in several languages. You will almost certainly meet walkers from many countries in these cafes and bars. When we reach Pedrouzo our bus picks us up and returns us for another comfortable night at our lovely pazo. Distance 19 km  (less if you prefer)   Dinner included  

Day 10 -  Almost there !  Our final stage is from Pedrouzo into Santiago. As we near our goal the way leads to the "Mount of Joy" where medieval pilgrims first caught a glimpse of Santiago Cathedral’s bell towers. Tradition says that the first one of a group to arrive at the top was nicknamed Leroy (The King). Next comes Lavacolla   (translated “lava” to wash and “colla” means “bottom”. Pilgrims stopped here to wash  (probably for the first time in months since in the 1100's soap and water were considered unhealthy).  We head for the Cathedral where those who wish can collect their Compostela certificates and we have a quick tour.  Our hotel is located nearby in the historic area and we head there for our farewell dinner.  Dessert is usually a slice of Camino cake, a delicious almond cake topped with with powdered sugar and the sign of St James' sword.
Dinner included.    Distance 19 km  (less if you prefer)

Day 11
-
Tour ends after breakfast.  Optional extra nights in Santiago can be booked so you can
explore the city’s many historic sites and its narrow medieval streets filled with shops and cafes.
Galician cuisine is known for its wonderful sea-food and its many varieties of local cheeses. You might wish to take a local bus to Finisterre which was the end of the known world in medieval times. Here, pilgrims picked up a shell as a souvenir before starting the long walk home. You don’t have to walk home - there are trains or planes from Santiago to Madrid or buses to Porto.

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