Camino de Santiago
Traversing sunflower fields, medieval cities, rolling vineyards, and olive groves, the Camino de Santiago is one of the most renowned pilgrimage routes in the world. Walking the entire route could take as long as two months, so we handpicked the very best of the Camino and created one unforgettable experience (including unique, top-notch accommodations). Discover the earliest evidence of humankind in Europe at the Atapuerca historic site. Be transported by soaring naves and ornate stonework of countless Gothic cathedrals and churches. Sample regional specialties as you walk through seven unique landscapes: the rugged Pyrénées; the plunging green hills of Basque country; the golden stone houses and vineyards of La Rioja; the red brick of León; the umber plateau of La Meseta Central; the mist, mountains, and wine arbors of Briezo; the lush greenery and Celtic influence of Galicia; and—finally—the urban grandeur of Santiago de Compostela!
From our blog
Itinerary and Accommodations
Arrival in Pamplona
You are met in Pamplona by a Representative who transports you northwest to the tiny town of Roncesvalles, nestled just under the Ibañeta Pass, the crossing of the Pyrenees between France and Spain. A feeling of anticipation and excitement is palpable in this hamlet that was purpose-built as a waypoint on the Camino: this is the first stop in Spain for those pilgrims, peregrinos in Spanish, who began the Camino Francés in St. Jean Pied de Port, France. Surrounded by tranquil forest, the route actually passes through your historic hotel complex, a former ecclesiastical residence. In addition to its significance with the Camino, Roncesvalles was also the site of the battle between Charlemagne and the Basque tribes who defeated him and killed the legendary Roland in 778.
This historic hotel in a beautifully renovated 18th-century former ecclesiastical residence was one of the original hostels, or hospitales, built along the Camino de Santiago to shelter pilgrims. Still owned by the church, the Camino actually traverses the structure and its surrounding grounds and extensive outbuildings. The careful renovation preserved the wood floors, beams, and exposed stone and has been artfully combined with modern chrome fixtures, tile, and minimalist decor and fabrics. The restaurant is the Navarre region’s first Slow Food establishment. Roncesvalles is a tiny town at 3,000 feet, just below the Ibañeta Pass of the Pyrenean border between France and Spain.
Roncesvalles to Bizcarreta; easy to moderate, 7mi/3hrs, 470-ft elevation gain, 900-ft elevation loss
After a copious buffet breakfast, your first steps on the Camino de Santiago literally start at your hotel and lead out through the hamlet of Roncesvalles. With the Pyrenees and the French–Spanish border at your back, the walk descends gradually throughout the day from its starting elevation of 3,000 feet to the town of Bizcarreta, the walk’s end at about 2,500 feet. Passing through a mixed forest and by a Gothic pilgrim’s cross, in a few miles you emerge at the tiny town of Burguete, one main street of Basque-influenced sturdy beamed houses. This is the trout fishing area that Hemingway described in The Sun Also Rises. Although you are officially in the Navarra region of Spain, the heavy stone architecture, traditions, and language are strongly influenced by the Basque region to the north and west. You finally come to the town of Bizcarreta, which in the 12th century had a pilgrims’ hostel and was a Camino stopping point, before a 30-minute transfer to your night’s lodging in the vibrant city of Pamplona. With an intriguing old quarter, lovely parks, and main square, the capital of Navarra is of course best known for the running of the bulls through its historic center, which takes place during the San Fermín festival in mid-July.
An 18th-century aristocratic residence in the heart of Pamplona’s old town, this four-star hotel is perfectly located to discover the historic city on foot. The palace has a fine-dining restaurant featuring updated seasonal Basque cuisine and the Taittinger Bar, in a unique partnership with the French Champagne producer. Spacious plush rooms, with classic décor and colors, overlook the Consejo Square, or the inner courtyard, which houses a unique fountain and collection of antique carriages.
Uterga to Cirauqui; easy to moderate, 9mi/4hrs, 700-ft elevation gain and loss
A 20-minute transfer takes you to the start of the day’s walk in the town of Uterga. You’re still not far from the Pyrenees, but you have passed from an Atlantic-influenced geography to a more Mediterranean feel of open vistas with olive groves and vineyards. The peaceful small towns you walk through today are built of the region’s golden stone, in the late summer matching the hue of the grain fields nearby. From Uterga you come into the village of Muruzábal with its Baroque-era palace, now a wine cellar. Crossing some quiet roads, you enter Puente La Reina, the day’s recommended lunch spot, with its 11th-century Romanesque six-arched bridge, built specifically for pilgrims to cross the Arga River. The route departs the town past the 13th-century Santiago church and follows along the right bank of the Arga. After the wine town of Mañeru, one of the Camino’s most picturesque views opens up—a trail winding up through vineyards to the hilltop medieval town of Cirauqui. A short and steep ascent leads to the ancient walls surrounding the town and you make your way the San Román church. In Cirauqui, a peaceful, authentic place, there is time for refreshment, perhaps at a small bar, as you await your transfer to a new region. Surrounded by vineyards, with dramatic limestone hills in the distance, your hotel is in the town of Briñas in the wine-growing region of La Rioja, and from your historic home you can stroll along the Ebro River to several wineries.
Señorío de Briñas
In the heart of the Rioja wine-making region, this family-owned hotel in a 15th-century palacio, (palace) offers simple, individually decorated guest rooms with terra cotta floors, and unique furnishings that create the feel of an authentic country home. In season, you may enjoy a glass of wine on the quaint outdoor patio. A short stroll along the Ebro River brings you to a handful of bodegas—wine cellars—that offer wine tastings; alternatively, a private wine tasting can be arranged at your hotel with advance reservations (at an additional cost).
Ermita de Valdefuentes to Ages; easy to moderate, 6mi/3hrs, 160-ft elevation gain, 250-ft elevation loss
This morning an hour transfer brings you to start the walk at a hermitage just off the main Camino path. A gentle climb on a gravel trail soon transitions to a wide, packed forest road. In the past, this remote and isolated wooded plateau was one of the Camino’s most dangerous sections—now this forest of pine and oak, habitat of deer, wild boar, and raptors, is a tranquil haven. The route continues past the 11th-century monastery complex of San Juan de Ortega, and then into a forest before arriving at the traditional town of Agés. Nearby is the archaeological site of Atapuerca, recently designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, containing evidence—fossils and stone tools—of the earliest known Hominins in Western Europe, dating to an estimated 1.2 million years ago, and predating the French site of Lascaux. There is time to learn more about this site tomorrow. A short transfer of approximately 30 minutes takes you to the medieval historic heart of Burgos, where you refresh at your hotel before strolling out to choose from the city’s many dining options. You have entered the region of Castile and León and have the opportunity to sample the traditional cuisine of this region, named “Spanish Gastronomy Capital” of 2013.
Hotel La Puebla
This intimate boutique hotel in a renovated 19th-century building in the historic center of Burgos offers modern guest rooms individually decorated with soft earth tones combined with original architectural touches. Helpful concierge service can help recommend bars and restaurants nearby, as well as arranging bicycle rentals. One of six Spanish candidates for European Capital of Culture in 2016, Burgos has an incredible depth of history, scenic walks along the Duero and Arlanza Rivers, and rich gastronomic traditions of the Castile region. Located in the old quarter of Burgos and easily accessible on foot from the hotel are the UNESCO World Heritage site cathedral, the Casa del Cordón palace, the Plaza Mayor main square, the Museum of Human Evolution, and the statue of El Cid.
Castojeriz to Itero de la Vega; easy to moderate, 7mi/3hrs, 440-ft elevation gain, 500-ft elevation loss
This morning you are free to explore the culturally rich city of Burgos, integral to many key events in Spanish history. Most of the city’s sites can be reached easily on foot from your hotel in the picturesque old quarter. Serving for five centuries as the capital of the joint kingdom of Castile and León, Burgos was long an important stop on the Camino and is also home to one of the jewels of Spanish Gothic art, the Cathedral of Santa María, also a World Heritage site is well worth visiting. Another Gothic architectural gem is the Palace of the Constables of Castile—or, in Spanish, Casa del Cordón—where Columbus was received by the king after his second voyage to the Americas. A visit to the recently opened (in 2010) Museum of Human Evolution is a must (closed on Monday), especially to learn more about the nearby prehistoric archaeological finds of Atapuerca through fascinating state-of-the-art exhibits (in English). Burgos is also the home town of “El Cid,” the 11th-century warrior and Spanish national hero, who is memorialized on a mounted statue. After this morning’s explorations and lunch, you transfer 45 minutes farther along the Camino, where you begin the day’s walk at Castojeriz. This last town in Burgos province was also an important waypoint along the Camino, and once the site of several pilgrim hostels; its hilltop castle ruins attest to its long history. The route this afternoon involves a moderate climb and descent, and features wide-open scenery, with windmills on the far horizon. You make your way to the hamlet of Itero de la Vega, where you are met and transferred about 30 minutes to your home for the evening, a true culinary destination.
Estrella del Bajo Carrión
In a small pueblo (village) between the cities of Burgos and León, a three-sister team provides a warm welcome to guests at this hotel, which their father founded over 30 years ago. With a true country-house feel, guest rooms (all with balconies) and common areas are modern and elegant, artfully white with fresh flowers and unique architectural touches. The on-site fine-dining restaurant makes the hotel a weekend destination for foreign and local visitors. Using all local and seasonal ingredients, traditional dishes have light and creative touches, such as grilled octopus with rosemary potatoes and red pepper aioli. Breakfast is a delight of homemade juices, breads and pastries, and jams of local fruits and berries. In addition to the dining room, the hotel features a library, billiard and wine room, and a willow-shaded terrace for breakfast or drinks al fresco.
Luyego de Somoza
Villares de Orbigo to Astorga; easy to moderate, 9mi/4hrs, 650-ft elevation gain, 530-ft elevation loss
A delicious breakfast of homemade baked goods and jams fuels the day—which begins with a 75-minute transfer to the trailhead—and the picnic lunch from the kitchen of your last hotel will also be a treat. You enter yet another one of the varied regions on the itinerary—the terrain here has a more Mediterranean feel, with an underlying geology of red stone that supports vineyards and forests of conifers and oak. The oak translates into delicious local hams, as acorns are the preferred diet of pigs. The village of Puente de Orbigo, meaning “the bridge of the Orbigo” (the river that flows here), indeed has a Roman-era bridge. You may be able to spot a stork’s nest on the town’s Santa Maria church. You also pass the 18th-century St. John the Baptist church as you head into the village outskirts, where irrigation ditches crisscross plentiful vegetable farms. After passing the cross of Saint Turibius, the region’s 5th-century bishop, you descend toward San Justo de la Vega as you make your way toward the city of Astorga. In addition to Roman ruins and a fine cathedral, Astorga is perhaps best known for containing one of only three buildings designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí outside Catalonia. The Episcopal Palace was built between 1889 and 1913 and is an example of Gaudí’s distinctive Catalan Modernism style. A transfer takes you to your beautifully renovated historic hotel, with its own antique shop and a magnificent dining room, where you are free to sample a few local specialties or treat yourself to a real feast.
Luyego de Somoza, Spain
This boutique hotel constructed in a restored home has spacious, individually decorated guest rooms with polished wood floors combining Spanish antiques with exposed beams and brick. Common areas include a fireside living room with inviting couches, a relaxed café for drinks or light fare, and a dramatically lit fine-dining restaurant. An antique shop is also on the premises. Using local and seasonal ingredients, the hotel’s elegant restaurant is especially known for mushrooms prepared traditionally, perhaps sautéed, in soups, crèpes, salads, or with foie gras. Traditional regional dishes accompanied by an extensive wine cellar include lamb, frogs’ legs, excellent local ham, and fresh river fish.
Las Herrerias to O’Cebreiro; moderate, 5mi/3hrs, 2,000-ft elevation gain
A transfer of about two hours brings you west again today to the walk’s start in the hamlet of Las Herrerías, and just past it the Barrio de Hospital, which housed a medieval hospital for English pilgrims. As you move toward Galicia, the landscape takes on a more “Celtic” feel; leaving behind Mediterranean vegetation, you are entering countryside that evokes the British Isles—verdant pastures, ancient stones of gray granite. Most of the day’s walk is a long uphill, a challenging but important stage for all pilgrims at it leads to the long-awaited for province of Galicia. You are able to warm up on the paved flat terrain of the lush valley alongside a bubbling stream, before beginning the steady ascent. Camaraderie and excitement also grow steadily amongst walkers on this wooded path bordered by moss-covered stone walls and shaded by chestnut trees. After the village of Faba, where you may choose to have lunch or a drink, the wooded area transitions to wide-open vistas of the forests along the Atlantic coast. The ascent eases up as you reach the village of Laguna de Castilla, also with a bar and hotel, and soon after, you cross the border from the province of Léon into Galicia. You are rewarded at the conclusion of the walk at the town of O’Cebreiro with wonderful open views over Galicia, as well as the Royal Saint Mary’s Church, built on the foundations of a pre-Romanesque church. Predating the Camino was a Roman road, and even earlier than that, the pallozas—prehistoric stone homes—you see nearby. Your drive down from O’Cebreiro toward your next accommodation provides stunning views of the mountains of Léon, which, depending on the season, might be snowcapped.
Casa Grande da Fervenza
O Corgo, Spain
A beautifully restored 17th-century miller’s residence within a biosphere reserve is a peaceful haven in the Galician countryside. The hotel grounds and gardens along the river include both an outdoor swimming pool and a river bathing area, and a canoe and bicycles are available for rental. Individually decorated guest rooms feature unique antiques, hand-embroidered linens, polished wood floors, and exposed beams and stone. With an excellent wine selection, the fireside fine-dining restaurant offers updated Galician cuisine from a wood-fired oven, featuring dishes such as suckling pig, lamb, and capon.
Santiago de Compostela
Sarria to Ferreiros; easy to moderate, 8mi/3.5hrs, 1,020-ft elevation gain, 170-ft elevation loss
Although it’s your final stage on the Camino de Santiago, for many pilgrims this is their first. From the day’s starting point in Sarria, it is 100 kilometers to Santiago de Compostela—the minimum distance completed consecutively to achieve the “Compostela,” the official certification of completion of the pilgrimage. Pilgrims have their Camino “passports” stamped along the way at the major local churches or official hostels. You’re likely to meet many walkers and pilgrims today—people from around the globe sharing this long walk and truly creating a unique camaraderie. You begin on the main street and encounter steep stairs that bring you to the town center and the hilltop Convent of Magdalena, dating from the 15th to 18th centuries. The Way then descends to the Rio Pequeño, which you cross over via the medieval Ponte Áspera bridge, and continues through fertile pasture and small vegetable plots. Depending on the season, in Peruscallo you may be able to buy fresh berries from nearby small farms. Your driver meets you in the town of Ferreiros, allowing you to avoid outlying neighborhoods and bringing you into the final stage just at the edge of the city of Santiago de Compostela.
You are dropped off at your hotel, where you can refresh before setting off again to find the trail of scallop shells embedded in the cobbled streets, flanked by stone archways, until you arrive at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela—a breathtaking sight both in its grandeur and in the sense of overwhelming accomplishment it inspires in the walkers and pilgrims who have arrived here from the many Camino routes. The peregrinos’ final steps lead to the statue of Saint James at the cathedral entrance. You may choose to attend an evening pilgrim mass, although the famous botafumeiro—a Galician term for the large incensory suspended from the ceiling—is only used at the daily noon mass. Construction of this cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site, began in 1075 over the remains of a pre-Romanesque church. Expansion and embellishment continued from the 16th through the 18th centuries as the cathedral gained importance as an Episcopal see and place of pilgrimage—the third-most-important destination for Christians after Rome and Jerusalem.
After the excitement, you might be ready to retire at your hotel in a quiet neighborhood of the historic district. A celebratory drink is in order—the final punctuation to completing a truly fascinating walk through living and ancient history. You can step out later for dinner in Santiago, exploring its intriguing medieval streets and enticing restaurants.
Santiago de Compostela, Spain
This family-owned-and-operated boutique hotel located in a quiet corner of Santiago de Compostela’s historic center has been renovated to seamlessly blend minimalist decor and soothing colors with the building’s stone walls and exposed beams. A personal greeting from the owners and a welcome drink in the adjoining garden of a sister property provide an insider feel to the historic pilgrimage destination city of Santiago. The capital of the autonomous region of Galicia, the entire old town has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its wealth of historic buildings. Santiago’s narrow granite-cobbled streets invite exploration while providing plenty of stopping points at myriad cafés, tapas bars, and restaurants.
Santiago de Compostela
After breakfast at your hotel, you can depart at your leisure, however it is highly recommended that you spend an additional day or two in this fabulous city. If your schedule permits, you may want to explore the cathedral museum, the open air market, or join the 12:00 p.m. pilgrim mass (arrive early!) and maybe get a chance to observe the unique and dramatic tradition of the cathedral’s botafumeiro incensory. You might complete your journey with another exclusive experience by joining a guided tour of the cathedral rooftops.
A NOTE ABOUT TRANSFERS
The Camino de Santiago itinerary has been designed to capture the highlights of this well-known pilgrimage route that in total extends over 500 miles in northern Spain. In order to cover this distance over seven diverse regions, focus on the key cultural and historic locales, and stay in perfectly paired accommodations, daily transfers have been integrated to transport you to each walk’s start and from each walk’s end. Ranging from 20 minutes to two hours, t he scheduled transfers allow you time to see even more of the countryside and—combined with Spain’s long days—still permit a very relaxed schedule. Please n ote that our local drivers may only have a limited command of English. While they are friendly and professional, they are by no means intended to be your guides. Country Walkers assures you that the tour logistics have been carefully crafted to b ring you a unique experience, achieving a balance between prime walking, accommodation, and dining and a minimum of driving as well as ample free time over the entire length of this historic route. Therefore, the transfers, which are schedule d well in advance, cannot be changed while on tour.
Bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites, and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, weather, or transportation schedules. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. If you are currently booked on a Country Walkers adventure, an itinerary has been sent to you for your exact departure date. Please call Country Walkers at 800.464.9255 if you have any questions about the exact itinerary or hotels selected for any of our tours.