Camino de Santiago (St James Way)

Guided walk across Northern Spain

April 27 - May 05, 2024 (9 nights)

Sept 28 - Oct 07, 2024 (9 nights)

9 Night Itinerary : 

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

Day 1
 - Arrive in Leon, a remarkable city of soaring stone.  Our hotel in Leon is a lovely restored Posada in the heart of the historic quarter. Dinner included

Day 2  -  Walking tour of Leon's old quarter - the magnificent cathedral with stained glass windows preserved from the 13th century, the Basilica de San Isidoro with its Pantheon of Kings filled with golden treasures, the Hostal de San Marcos, the 16th century Palace of Los Guzmanes and the Casa de Botines, a 19th century building by the famous architect Antoni Gaudi.   Dinner not included


Day 3   - ORBIGO TO ASTORGA  This morning we drive from Leon to start our Camino walk at Orbigo. It was here, on the bridge at Orbigo, in 1434, that a knight, Suero, held what may have been 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. The tournament is still re-enacted each year by the people of Orbigo. As we start to walk, the terrain changes from flat plains to low foothills. The clouds ahead 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 baroque Town Hall and a Museum of Chocolate. The museum tells the tale 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 many mouth-watering window displays. Distance 20 km or 12 km (you choose)  Dinner included

Day 4  -  ASTORGA TO VILLAFRANCA 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 placed a stone which they had carried from home as penance.  It is  uphill but those who want to avoid the ascent can take the bus to near the top. The surrounding terrain is rugged but 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 and stopped here the same papal indulgences were granted as if he had reached Santiago.  (of course he still had to turn around and walk home)  Distance 20 km or 12 km (you choose)  Dinner included

Day  5  - SARRIA TO PORTOMARIN From Villafranca we have a short bus ride up the Cebreiro pass and stop to 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). This is one of the most scenic stretches of the Camino. The terrain is wild and rugged but then we descend into the beautiful 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 begin today’s walk at the official 100 km mark near Sarria and from here we walk to the village of Portomarin. 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. This was one of many of  Franco's improvement schemes (he was from Galicia) but nothing really succeeded until the revival of the Camino.  We stay at the Pousada de Portomarin overlooking the lake and after dinner we sample. a "queimada" (a flaming liqueur with sugar, lemon and coffee beans) and hear the local ghost legend associated with the drink. Don't worry about ghosts keeping you awake - if you sample a gueimada you are guaranteed to sleep well.  Distance 19 km or 12 km  (you choose)  Dinner included

Day 6   -  PORTOMARIN TO PALAS DE REI We follow a tranquil, hamlet-laden trail through gently rolling countryside to Palas de Rei.  The trail winds alongside jewel-like green fields and between stone fences covered with blackberries and wild-flowers. In spring the gorse is brilliant yellow and beautifully scented. In the surrounding fields one sees "horreos" (granaries) and farmers using agricultural methods that have changed little for centuries.  On reaching Palas de Rei our bus takes us on a short side-trip to the interesting town of Lugo where we stay. Lugo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Roman walls surrounding the town.   23 km  or 12 km (you choose)  Dinner included

Day 7
In the morning we return to Palas de Rei to continue walking. The trail is easy with no long ascents or descents. Those interested in local legends learn that this stage is dominated by St Julian. Legend says 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 just about saints or history. The next town of Melide has 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 for lunch doesn't appeal, this region is also known for its wonderful cheeses made from the milk of Galician cows that graze on the lush grass.  From Melide to Arzua sections of the Camino are  on farm tracks and occasionally we may have to wait while a farmer herds his cattle across the path. Enterprising farm wives often sell fresh-picked fruit and home-made sugar-coated pancakes to passers-by.  The trail passes through oak and eucalyptus forests that offer both shade and a lovely fragrance.   When we reach Arzua our bus awaits and we return for the night to our hotel at Lugo.  If there is time you may want to try a dip in Lugo’s natural hot spring pools or try walking atop the old Roman wall..  Distance 29 km or less for those who are not trying for the Compostela certificate  Dinner not included

Day 8 -  ARZUA TO RUA  On the trail from Arzua to Rua we pass fields, oak groves and small hamlets with bars catering to walkers. One enterprising local brewer has even labelled his beer “Pilgrim Beer” in several languages. The trail is undulating so there are some low hills but nothing steep or difficult.   Distance 19 km or less for those who are not trying for the Compostela certificate  Dinner included

Day 9 -  RUA TO SANTIAGO  Almost there! We are now on the last stage of the Camino from Rua to Santiago. The Galician countryside is fragrant with forests of eucalyptus and pine. By mid-afternoon we approach Santiago and the Camino leads us to the "Mount of Joy" where 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 of Mount Joy was nicknamed Leroy (The King). Pilgrims also stopped to wash at Lavacolla (probably the first time in months since in the 1100's soap and water were considered unhealthy). We head for Santiago’s main square and the Cathedral, collect our certificates, have a quick tour of the historic Cathedral then check into our lovely hotel in the old quarter
   Distance 19 km or less for those who are not trying for the Compostela certificate  Dinner included

Day 10  - Our Camino experience ends after breakfast. Optional extra nights in Santiago can be booked so you can explore the city’s historic sites and 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 want to take a local bus to Finisterre (end of the earth) which was the traditional sea-side end to the Camino. Here, pilgrims of old picked up a shell as a souvenir before they began the long walk home.  Fortunately in the 21st century you don't need to walk home - there are planes or trains from Santiago to Madrid or buses to Porto.

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