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 hours travel time).

Day 1  - We meet at the Posada Regia Hotel in central Leon at 2.30 pm. We walk to explore this remarkable city of soaring stone. Our expert local guide takes us to see the magnificent cathedral with stained glass windows preserved from the 13th century, the Basilica de San Isidoro with its Pantheon of Kings, the Hostal de San Marcos, the 16th Palace of Los Guzmanes with its balconies and courtyard and the Casa de Botines, a 19th century work by the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. Our hotel is a lovely posada in the heart of the historic quarter. Dinner included.     LEON

Day 2 - In the morning we have a short 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. Suero challenged other knights to a joust because he had  been scorned by his lady love. He won the tournament which released him from his prison of love and one can still see his gold bracelet in the museum at Santiago. Here at Orbigo the terrain changes from flat plains to gentle foothills. Clouds in the distance soon reveal themselves to be chains of mountains - the Leon Mountains to the West and the Cordillera Cantabrica to the North. At the end of the day we reach Astorga in time to see its Cathedral built in 1471, the fairytale Bishop's Palace built by the eccentric architect Antoni Gaudi and the interesting "Museum  of the Camino". But Astorga has more than history - it is known for its chocolate industry which has flourished since cocoa was first brought from the New World. Chocolate shops with wonderful displays line the main street.  Our hotel faces onto the plaza overlooking the Gaudi palace and the cathedral. Dinner included (perhaps dessert will be chocolate?) ASTORGA

Day 3 - Beyond Astorga we begin one of the most historically important parts of the Camino over Mount Irago.  Our bus takes us up to near the top of Mount Orago (those who wish can ride all the way and start their walk at the top). At the  Cruz de Ferro (iron cross) pilgrims often place a stone which they have been carrying as penance (an 11th century tradition). The terrain is spectacular and the gradual downhill walk is quite easy. From the top we descend into the lush "Bierzo" valley region for lunch in El Aciebo, a tiny village which appears to be caught in a medieval time warp. Our walk continues gradually down to the lovely town of Molinaseca where walkers can stop and dabble their feet in a stream, reward themselves with a beer in a quaint cafe and browse through the narrow streets.  At the end of the day we continue by bus to Villafranca del Bierzo.  In medieval times it was at Villafranca that sick pilgrims were allowed to quit and still receive the church's indulgence. Today, the town of Villafranca retains its medieval atmosphere dominated with its massive feudal fortress.  We stay at the newly renovated Parador with its spa and heated pool. Dinner included.    VILLAFRANCA

Day 4 - From Villafranca we have a short bus ride up the 1,293 m. Cebreiro pass. At the hamlet of O Cebreiro a mysterious legend says that the Holy Grail is hidden and many miracles are said to have taken place. This is one of the  most scenic stretches of the Camino.. Terrain is wild and rugged but we start our walk near the top and make a gradual descent. Eventually the countryside becomes more gentle as we enter beautiful Galicia. Gray and green tones predominate and one hears the Gallego local dialect. Villages are strung along 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 continue by bus to the town of Monteforte de Lemos which is off the Camino about 30 km but worth the drive. In a monumental complex, comprised of the castle, the 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. MONFORTE

Day 5  -   Today we travel by bus to Samos with its majestic monastery founded in the 6th century. The monastery 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).  Our hike begins at km 103 on the Camino (103 km from Santiago) and from here those who would like to qualify for the Compostela Certificate must walk the entire distance. Today's walk is on a tranquil trail through rolling countryside alongside jewel-like green fields and between stone fences covered with blackberries 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. The town is located in the Mino Valley and because of its bridge was an important stop on the Camino.  Portomarin is known for its "queimadas" (a flaming liqueur with sugar, lemon and coffee beans) and we hear the strange legends associated with this drink.  Dinner included. PORTOMARIN  Distance 14 km.

Day 6 - The Galician countryside is dotted with tiny hamlets and fragrant forests filled with much bird-life. Attesting to the antiquity of human settlement in the region, along the road are several significant pre-Roman settlements. We walk as far as Palas de Rei.  Legend holds that the Visigothic King Witiza (701- 709 AD) built the palace that gave the town its name. Our private bus is waiting at Palas de Rei and takes us off the Camino to the interesting town of Lugo - the only city in the world completely surrounded by in tact Roman walls - where we spend the night. The walls are a UNESCO World Heritage site and offer a 6946 ft circuit with 71 towers. Those who feel energetic will enjoy walking the walls. Lugo has an impressive Plaza Mayor which lies within the old town . This large rectangular square is close to the cathedral and  has the town's clock tower and the Casa Consistorial building. There are also numerous cafes and restaurants overlooking the Plaza. . Dinner included. LUGO    Distance 23 km.

Day 7 - Today is an easier day as we walk from Palas de Rei to Melide. The history of the village of Melide dates back to the 10th century and has been deeply linked with the pilgrimage route..In 1320 Melide was granted the privilege of building a castle, fortressing the village, and charging taxes but in 1467 offended the Archbishop and started a series of fights against his power. During this riot the walls of the village were destroyed as well as the castle. During the next centuries, like many villages in inner Galicia, it has suffered from a vast emigration of its people to Cuba and Argentina. It is only since the revival of the Camino de Santiago in the 1990s that prosperity has begun to return thanks to tourism. At Melide our bus is waiting to take us back to our lovely hotel in Lugo for the night                   LUGO  Distance 14 km. Dinner NOT included

Day 8 Today we return to the Camino where our walk starts at Melide. In this stage, the path is easy walking on a mix of soil and stone on small roads between villages, with gentle climbs and descents, alternating with flat stretches. By mid-day we reach Arzúa, the undisputed cheese capital. 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 complete friezes on the arched doors. One statue they created was of a "well-endowed" woman.  This sight of large bare breasts, however, scandalized pious church officials who ordered the statue covered. As rebellion, local cheese-makers started making their famous cheese in the shape of a “tetilla” and the tradition has continued. Tetilla is seen in most cheese shops and grocery stores, Our bus meets us and takes us to the Pazo de Lestrove near Padron. The name Padron means mooring stone and just up river is the place where legend claims St James' body arrived in Spain two thousand years ago. Under the altar in the local church is a stone said to be the original mooring stone for St James' boat.
A "pazo" was a country estate of the Spanish nobility and the one where we stay was built in the 1600's as a retreat for the bishops of Santiago. Recently the 4 star Pazo de Lestrove has been converted to an atmospheric country hotel. PADRON    Dinner included  Distance 15 km

Day 9 - This morning we start at Arzua and from here walk through pretty farmland and eucalyptus forests to Pedrouzo. Here our bus picks us up and returns us for another comfortable night at the Pazo de Lestrove. Distance 19 km  PADRON
 Dinner included

Day 10 - Today we do the final stage of the Camino starting from Pedrouzo. Just outside Santiago the Camino leads 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 was nicknamed Leroy (The King). Pilgrims also stopped to wash at Lavacolla (probably the first time in months).  It is a  tradition that walkers head for the Cathedral on arrival.  We stay at a 4 star hotel - formerly an 18th century Jesuit residence located in the old quarter near the Cathedral. Dinner included. SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA  Distance 19 km

Day 11
- Tour ends after breakfast. If you would like to stay for another day or two to explore Santiago's historic sites, extra hotel nights can be arranged. You may want to spend time exploring the interior of the famous Cathedral as well as the Cathedral Museum. The museum is fascinating with its many gold and silver artefacts that have been collected over the past thousand years.
It is fascinating to wander Santiago's narrow medieval streets filled with shops and cafes or you can take a local bus to Finnisterre. For those who can't take extra time to explore it is just a twenty minute taxi ride to the Santiago Airport for a flight to Madrid or there are trains from Santiago to Madrid. .

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