El Camino: The Pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.
The Pilgrimage Route to Santiago can be a life changing experience. Walk the Coastal Camino or the traditional French Route. Cross the Pyrenees into Navarra through the vineyards of Rioja, onto the plains of Castilla and into the mountains of Galicia before reaching glorious Santiago de Compostela. There is history, architecture and spirituality to be found along the way. We can carry your luggage or drive you along the Camino. Here’s a sample.
The most well known of the roads to Santiago de Compostela, the French Way, begins on the north face of the Pyrenees in the stone village of Saint Jean Pied de Port in the divided kingdom of Navarra. Wander its cobbled streets before ascending into the Pyrenees. Walk from the mountain pass into Roncesvalles, the setting for the epic Song of Roland that chronicles Charlemagne’s great defeat in which the heroic Roland was killed. Pick up your pilgrim’s credentials. You may like to walk the first leg on the Spanish side or continue directly to historic Pamplona.
The pilgrimage route has several major stops in the Rioja wine region. We pass through the important pilgrimage town of Estella after visiting the octagonal church in Eunate and crossing the 11th-century bridge that gave the town of Puente la Reina its name. Make your way to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, where the Cathedral still houses a live hen and rooster as a reminder of a medieval miracle.
Burgos, home of El Cid is set high on Spain’s central plateau. The town’s Gothic cathedral is one of the largest and richest in Spain. Filled with treasures, it dominates the center of town. There are many other sights to see. After a guided tour of the Cathedral discover the lively center of town.
En route to Leon stands the lovely church of St. Martin in Fromista. Founded in 1066 it is one of the purest examples of Romanesque architecture to be found on the pilgrimage route. Leon itself is home to a stunning cathedral considered the greatest gothic building on the Peninsula filled with masterful carvings and awe inspiring stained glass windows, dating from the 12th to the 16th centuries. The Parador Hostal de San Marcos is a converted pilgrim’s hospital originally the headquarters for the Knights of Santiago whose moral duty was to protect pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The architect Antoni Gaudi spent some time in the area and left behind the restrained Casa de Botines, one of the few works he did outside of his native Catalonia.
The 11th-century monastery San Isidro el Real houses the best-preserved group of Romanesque frescos in situ. Morning visit to see the treasures. Continue west into El Bierzo, a rich agricultural region which produces wood-fired peppers, chestnuts, cherries and pickled figs. The regional capital, Villafranca, also has an interesting winemaking community.
Ascend into the beautiful heather covered mountains of Galicia to O Cebreiro, thought to be the place where the Holy Grail was brought by Pilgrims. It remains a quiet village of circular granite dwellings of Celtic origin topped by straw roofs. The modest 9th-century church guards the 12th-century gold chalice used at the communion miracle in 1300 as well as a reliquary given to the church by Ferdinand and Isabella when they made the pilgrimage in 1486.
Walk the 18.5 km Barbadelo – Portomarín A lovely start to the Camino. Today is a gentle walk through farmland, small villages with Romanesque churches and chestnut trees. In the curious village of Portomarín note the 13th-century church of San Nicolas, a temple-fortress which belonged to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. It was reconstructed stone by stone when the village was relocated due to the building of a reservoir.
24k walk from Portomarín – Palas de Rei
Today’s route is dotted with Romanesque architecture. Palas de Rei was an ancient celtic settlement and then a stop on the Roman route between Astorga and Leon. The Church of San Tirso, with its Romanesque portal is the only vestige of its historic past.
15k walk Palas de Rei – Melide The way is flanked by eucalyptus and oaks until it turns into the mysterious and spectacular forest of Fangorn. In Laboreiro, look for the transitional Romanesque church of Santa María with its open nave and circular apse. In front of the church is the 12th-century former pilgrims hospice. Nearby is an unusual granary that looks like a big basket. Cabazos were used to keep corn. They were precursors to the more common hórreos.
12 km walk Melide – Arzúa Melide, in the geographical center of Galicia, is where two routes come together – the French route and the Camino Primitivo. A 14th century crossing is considered the oldest in Galicia. You are going to start to see a lot of octopus being served. It is a specialty here. Overnight: Casa Milia, Castañeda
Meals, Breakfast, Dinner
20 km walk Arzúa-Arca Almost there!
19 km walk Arca-Santiago. This afternoon you reach your destination: Santiago de Compostela! Walk the final stretch from Monte Gozo, the point where the cathedral spires come into view, down into the town of Santiago following in centuries of pilgrims' footsteps. Visit the dramatic Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and the streets and squares surrounding the Cathedral. From the stunning Obradoiro Square to the tiny streets lined with traditional silversmiths’ workshops, Santiago is a delight. The secrets and stories of the history of Santiago come alive. Lunch will be a feast of seafood and Galician specialties at a lively spot on the Rua do Franco.
Overnight: Meals, Breakfast, lunch, Dinner
Explore Santiago. After you get your Compostelana, walk past the workshops of the jet artisans, through the lively open-air market and into the neighborhood of the seashell sellers whose traditional low dwellings have semi enclosed wooden balconies. The route is lined with palaces, towers and monasteries.
Transfer to airport.