Medieval pilgrimage route, artistic treasures, northern Spain's grand tour!
Following scenic country roads, agricultural fields and forest tracks as well as crossing villages and cities born of the Camino de Santiago, it is difficult to imagine a better way to enjoy Spanish (and European) art, history, culture, and geography than to embark on this magnificent way. According to legend, around the year 812, a religious hermit discovered the long forgotten tomb of the apostle James by following a falling star. His chance finding gave birth to what would become Santiago de Compostela as millions of devout men and women came to venerate the saint’s bones throughout the Middle Ages. In the last twenty years the monumental route has struck a chord not only with pilgrims but also walkers from over sixty countries with diverse backgrounds and motivations. In 1987 the Council of Europe proclaimed the Camino as Europe’s First Cultural Itinerary.
On our 11-day tour we’ve selected the most beautiful and representative sections of the Camino. Starting in Roncesvalles (on the France-Spain border), we will cover the Camino Frances thoroughly as the route passes from the wooded Pyrenees of Navarra to the fertile wine territory of La Rioja, the rolling wheat fields and high tablelands (meseta) of Castilla and León and then to verdant rolling Galicia.
Each region also offers its own gastronomic highlights which we’ll take great pleasure in introducing you to. Expect to enjoy a magnificent array of wildflowers in the spring and early summer. On our last night we stay in the spectacular, world-famous 5-star Hotel Reyes Católicos located at the foot of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
CAMINO FRANCÉS: FROM RONCESVALLES (NAVARRA)
11 days & 11 nights
Walking Days: 11
Total Distance: 77.7 miles / 125.4 km With optionals 99.5 miles / 161.4 km
(In the itinerary everything is optional. If you don't feel like walking any section, of course, that is up to you. If you did all of the walking - scheduled sections plus sections marked optional - then your total distance would be the 'With Optionals' figure).
Groups: If you have a group of six (6) or more and the dates are not available when you would like to travel, contact us and we can try and schedule a tour adapted to your dates.
Custom Camino Tours: We also organize youth, church, school or private tours of the Camino. Contact us for more information. We´re happy to work with your budget.
Weather: In April and early May expect some showers, temperatures from 10-20ºC / 50-70ºF and varying conditions. In June expect sunny skies and temperatures from 15-30ºC / 60-80ºF. Early September is normally warm and clear though a rain shower is possible.
On the On Glory Roads: Camino de Santiago tour you will not be eligible to receive the Compostela Certificate. We walk more than 100km but not the LAST 100km which is the key. As an alternative, we can arrange for you to walk with us through Day 10 of the tour and then you can walk the last 100km independently to earn the Compostela. Please contact us if you would like more information on how this would work. On our 7-day Compostela Tour from León to Santiago, you will be eligible to earn the Compostela Certificate.
What is & isn't included:
Trip price includes accommodations (double occupancy), all meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) each day, except 3 dinners (Burgos, Logroño and Molinaseca), all entry fees, pre-departure information, experienced guides, support vehicle, all transportation during the trip.
Airfare to Spain is not included nor is insurance or transportation to and from the starting (Pamplona) and ending (Santiago de Compostela) points, or personal amenities.
The single supplement fee is €320 for this tour. On Day 3 in Logroño we offer an optional visit to a Rioja winery with a commented tasting - price per person 20€, minimum four participants for the optional to run.
Day 1 - Pamplona
Walking Distance: 5.1 miles / 8.3 km
After meeting at our hotel in the heart of Pamplona’s historical district, we’ll head up to the Pyrenees and the French border. From there we’ll descend on foot to Roncesvalles, the tiny hamlet where the medieval epic Song of Roland places the defeat of Charlemagne’s army and the death of Roland. The 12th Century Pilgrim’s Blessing from Roncesvalles is found in the Stories & Legends page. Our walk will continue through the forest to Burguete, a typical Navarran mountain village and Hemingway’s preferred stop over for trout fishing (see The Sun Also Rises). Upon return to Pamplona, we’ll dine in one of the city’s award-winning restaurants specializing in elaborately prepared pinchos or finger foods. Walking Distance: 5.1 miles / 8.2 km
Day 2 - Estella
The day starts with a walking tour of Pamplona paying special attention to the famous streets associated with the annual 'Running of the Bulls'. We’ll pass the town’s 14th C Gothic cathedral. Afterwards the walk quickly leaves behind the city and enters tranquil rolling prairie as we ascend to the Sierra del Perdón. We’ll picnic on local specialties and then briefly visit the enigmatic, 8-sided Romanesque church of Eunate. We continue to Puente la Reina, famous for its perfectly balanced 11th century stone bridge. You’ll enjoy an afternoon walk to Cirauqui where the Camino unites with a section of 1900-year-old Roman road and then off to the hotel set on the outskirts of Estella. Walking Distance : 6.1 miles / 10 km With optionals 8.3 miles / 13.5 km
Day 3 - Logroño
The day starts in Estella, a lovely small town split in two by the Ega River and surrounded by conic, wooded hills topped with castles (or their ruins) and churches attesting to its long history as a crucial center of commerce. After visiting Estella’s most important monuments, our walk enters a dense forest of evergreen oaks, passes through fields of red poppies, wheat, grapes and white asparagus; the latter a local specialty grown underground.
After lunch we’ll walk through Torres del Río and past another architectural wonder of the Camino : the 12th century, 8-sided Holy Sepulchral Church. We’ll continue on to Logroño, capital of the La Rioja region - home of some of Spain’s most celebrated red wines. Enjoy dinner on your own tonight. Walking Distance : 5.7 miles/ 9.3 km With optionals 8.8 miles / 14.3 km
Day 4 - Santo Domingo de la Calzada
From Logroño we shuttle to Nájera born out of red earthen cliffs and where a 11thC apparition of the Virgin Mary in a cave led to the construction of a spectacular monastery. From here we'll walk among cultivated fields of wheat and wine, past villages and perhaps encounter a flock of sheep before reaching Santo Domingo de la Calzada. We'll stay in the town's luxurious parador, a stone's throw from the Cathedral which we'll visit after some relaxing free time in this small town. 5.9 miles / 9.6 km with optional 9.6 miles / 15.6 km
Day 5 - Burgos
Today's walk ascends and traverses the Montes de Oca, densely populated by oaks, pines, birds and small mammals. This section was dreaded in the Middle Ages as a particularly dangerous hang-out for bandits and wolves and many pilgrims lost their way in the forest. A 12th century monk, San Juan de Ortega, constructed a monastery (by the same name) in the heart of the lonesome area in order to assist pilgrims.
After reaching the monastery on foot w'`ll visit the saint's tomb and point out a mysterious Romanesque capital which depicts the Nativity and draws hundreds of people each Spring and Fall. Shuttle to stately Burgos, built along the Arlanzón River. Guided walking tour of the magnificent Gothic Cathedral. Dinner will be on your own tonight in this enchanting Castilian city and final resting place of Spain's great epic hero, El Cid. Walking Distance : 9 miles / 14.6 km
Day 6 - Carrión de los Condes
The meseta (high tablelands) walk is a true highlight. Surrounded by interminable fields of cereal grains and with no signs or sounds of civilization to distract you, we’ll walk to our picnic spot, a small outpost in the middle of nowhere. We’ll shuttle to Frómista and visit one of Spain’s most pristine example of Romanesque architecture. You’ll have the option of reaching Frómista on foot along a 17th century canal. Shuttle to Carrión de los Condes where we sleep and dine in style at the exclusive San Zoilo monastery. Walking Distance: 8.9 miles / 14.4 km With optionals 12.3 miles / 19.9 km
Day 7 - León
The sun will rise upon our backs as we wend our way through cultivated wheat fields and pass from village to village in the gently rolling Leonese countryside. We’ll visit a well preserved 3rd century AD Hispanic Roman villa whose mosaics and architectural floor plan are quite remarkable.
Once in León city, founded as a Roman outpost, we’ll have a guided walking tour of the old quarter housing two jewels of Romanesque and Gothic architecture (San Isidoro and the Cathedral). The latter is particularly famous for its luminescent 13th to 17th century stained glass windows. Walking Distance: 6.5 miles / 10.6 km
Day 8 - Molinaseca
Beginning in Puente Orbigo, we’ll cross its long, stone bridge witness to various bizarre encounters including a 15th century knight, Suero de Quiñones, who in a demonstration of his unrequited love challenged all the knights who passed the bridge to a joust during a 30-day period.
From the bridge we’ll walk to the Cruz de Santo Toribio overlooking Astorga, a strategic Roman crossroads (classified as an urbs magnifica by Pliny).
After the picnic we’ll stop for coffee in Astorga before heading up into the desolate Leonese foothills in an area called the Maragatería, a rural area dotted with small villages.
From the semi-abandoned village Foncebadón, the walk ascends to the Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross), one of the Camino's most emblematic points.
Day 9 - Samos
Drive through Ponferrada past the Templar castle and then on to our trailhead at the hamlet of Herrerías to walk one of the Camino's most challenging and celebrated sections. We ascend along a corredoira, a stone pathway, among chestnuts and then open countryside, through two villages finally reaching Galicia and the pass of
Here, we'll visit a pre-Roman style dwelling, a palloza, and have our delicious picnic including hearty Galician bread and outstanding Cebreiro cheese. We'll continue to Samos, famed for its Benedictine monastery founded in the 6th century. Today, it's a mix of Renaissance, Baroque and and Neo-Classic styles.
Enjoy a quiet afternoon in the village of Samos at our riverside hotel with an optional visit to the monastery. Walking Distance: 5 miles / 8.2 km With optionals 10.3 miles / 16.7 km.
Day 10 - Arzúa
Galician landscapes are rolling, green, forested and largely rural. On today’s walk we’ll pass through various rustic hamlets on ancient pathways.
Stone dominates in architecture and village life is largely agricultural. We’ll pass Portomarín a town flooded in the 1950s to make way for a damn further downstream. Our gentle afternoon walk takes us through fragrant eucalypt forests before we continue on to Arzúa. Tonight’s quarters are in a lovely country mansion, a fine example of Galician noble's homes of the 18th century. Enjoy a cooking class with the owners tonight! Walking Distance: 11.9 miles / 19.3 km
Day 11 - Santiago de Compostela
Today the journey comes to an end in Santiago. We’ll walk through woodlands and farms before shuttling to the city gates to reach the main plaza on foot in time to attend the 12 Noon Pilgrim’s Mass (if you choose to). If in luck, the Cathedral’s special incense burner, the Botafumeiro, will swing at the end of the Pilgrim’s Mass. In the afternoon we’ll have a walking tour of the town and explain the pilgrims’ most important rituals.
We’ll say farewell to one another in the exquisite Reyes Católicos Parador over dinner and then enjoy a well-earned slumber within its luxurious walls. Walking distance : 4 miles / 6.5 km With Optionals 4.9 miles / 8km
Isolated coastal walks, abundant and varied seafood, ancient mountain villages, Celtic remains!
The region’s geography has historically imposed isolation upon Galicia leading to its singular character today: a well-conserved prehistoric past (petroglyphs, dolmens, and castros, Celtic remains), a high dispersion of the population (of the 63,000 communities in Spain more than half are Galician but only account for 6% of Spanish territory), the development of an unique language - Gallego, an economy based primarily on the exploitation of the sea and soil, an original vernacular architecture (country mansions, roadside crosses, granaries, monasteries) and an endless number of legends, fiestas and traditions uniquely Galician.
We start on the region’s largely desolate Costa da Morte (Death Coast) and spend 3 ½ days exploring its most famous granite mount and an unforgettable section of coast characterized by long stretches of white sand beach, pine forest, small fishing villages and pounding waves. We then move to the region’s extreme east along the Sierras Ancares and Courel and pass the other half of the journey walking along densely wooded river paths, visiting and learning about villages (and their traditions) that have one foot in the medieval past and the other in the present, and exploring the area’s gentle heights. Also expect to savor the freshest seafood and shellfish prepared with simplicity and extraordinary good taste, thick vegetable soups, a wide assortment of rich crusty breads and smoked, smooth and creamy cow´s milk cheeses as well as spring fed and mountain raised beef and pork stewed and roasted to perfection.
8 days & 8 nights
Walking Days: 7
Total Distance: 57.9 miles/92.5 km With optionals: 62.1 miles / 99.3 km
Groups: If you have a group of four (4) or more and the dates are not available when you would like to travel, contact us and we can try and schedule a tour adapted to your dates.
Tour size: For logistical reasons, this tour is limited to a maximum of 7 participants.
Weather: In June some rain showers during the week are likely and temperatures range from 15-23C/60-75F. In July and August expect sunny weather from 60-80F/15-30C with a chance of showers some time during the week.
What is and isn’t included:
Trip price includes accommodations (double occupancy), all meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) each day (except one lunch and one dinner), all entry fees, pre-departure information, experienced guides, support vehicle, all transportation during the trip. Airfare to Spain is not included nor is insurance or transportation to and from the starting and ending point (Santiago de Compostela). The single supplement fee is €120 for this tour.
Departure Dates 2018
3-10 July 2018
BOOK NOW FOR 2018
Day 1 - Santiago
After a brief introduction to the tour, we'll take a walking tour through the magnificent Romanesque and Baroque Cathedral, the medieval quarter and then through the Museo do Pobo Galego (the Museum of the Galician People). We'll also offer an optional ascent to nearby Monte Pedroso which affords beautiful views of the city and its surrounding valleys and hills.
At dinner tonight expect to enjoy your first sampling of Galicia´s specialties, such as pulpo (octupus), steamed mussels, clams in fisherman´s sauce, empanada (stuffed bread), razorshells, green peppers from Padron, tortilla español (potato pancake), and more...Walking Distance: 2.8 miles / 4.5 km With optional 5.9 miles / 9.5 km.
Day 2 - Finisterre
We leave Santiago and head west to the Costa da Morte and the small fishing village of O Pindo. From the village we ascend to A Moa (2056’/627m) the highest spot of the mysterious and magical granite Monte Pindo, called the Celtic Mt. Olympus and famed for the numerous legends associated with it.
Throughout the ascent we’ll have spectacular views of the coast and ocean. We’ll picnic on top and then continue our loop walk descending above the canyon of the River Xallas, the only river in Europe which ends as a waterfall to the ocean. After the walk we transfer to nearby Cape Finisterre, Spain´s historical land´s end. We spend the night in a renovated historical building with views to the ocean and the castle of San Carlos. Tonight we dine in small local restaurant specializing in the locally caught seafood and then head to the lighthouse for the sunset. Walking Distance: 6.2 miles / 10 km.
Day 3 - Laxe
From Finisterre we´ll shuttle to Laxe stopping en route to visit the 12th century Moraime monastery and the enchanting Our Lady of the Boat Sanctuary located on the edge of the sea in Muxia. In Laxe, a fishing village in the middle of the Costa da Morte, we begin our walk. From the port we ascend out of Laxe and then maintain the ocean on our right side, sometimes within feet of us, the rest of the way. Reaching the long, pristine white-sand Traba Beach, we’ll picnic and then continue along narrow fisherman’s trails.
Only 30 years ago they were used by milkmaids carrying the daily load on their heads between Laxe and Camelle. Our day’s destination is the hidden fishing village of Camelle, home to one of the Death Coast´s most eccentric individuals - Man, the Aleman. Unfortunately, Man died in 2002 but his bizarre open-air museum still stands. We´ll return to Laxe and offer an optional excursion to a nearby megalithic dolmen (burial chamber) and a stroll along Laxe´s pier to watch the arrival of the fishing boats and the unloading of the daily catch. Walking Distance: 6 miles / 9.3 km With optional 7.1 miles / 11.4 km
Day 4 - Laxe
We´ll shuttle back to Camelle and continue our coastal walk observing the abrupt and dangerous rocky outcroppings off-shore that are responsible for the area’s most dramatic shipwrecks.
The trail passes the English Cemetery where in 1890 the English vessel the Serpent went down with all 175 hands except three. We’ll also pass the Monte Branco (White Mount) so named because its sides are made from the sand blown up the hill during the fierce winter winds. Finally we reach the stately lighthouse of Cape Vilano and picnic at its base. The adjacent islands are home to numerous rare and endangered sea birds.
Continuing to seaside Camariñas, we´ll make a stop to visit the workshops of the lacemakers where they practice this centuries old art. Upon return to Laxe you can enjoy the village on your own or join us for an excursion to the medieval castle of Vimianzo where local artisans have set up a crafts faire to demonstrate the production of the region´s handicrafts: wooden shoes, baskets, ceramics, silver and jet jewelry, linen, stone carving, lace and leather crafts. Dinner on your own. Walking Distance: 8.3 miles / 13.3 km
Day 5 - Piornedo
We’ll round out our walk along the Death Coast by returning to the Cabo Vilano lighthouse and walking to Camariñas along the coast, passing the 18th century Sovereign Castle (now in ruins). The castle’s stones were used to build the village’s port. Walking Distance 4.8 miles / 8 km. Saying goodbye to the coast we head inland to the eastern sierras stopping for lunch in Betanzos, a lovely riverside town that maintains its medieval urban plan (1.5 miles / 2.4 km).
A bit later we stop for coffee in Lugo and take the unique opportunity of circumnavigating the city along the top of its still intact 2nd century AD Roman walls, named in 2001 a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walking Distance: 1.4 miles / 2.2 km Once installed in Os Ancares, in our mountain lodge. Walking Distance: 7.7 miles / 12.6 km.
Day 6 - Piornedo
Today’s inspiring loop explores the Ancares Ridge around its most emblematic peaks offering unbeatable views. We’ll share the mountain walk with local bovine, roe deer and the path will be dotted with dozens of different wildflowers. We return to Piornedo, called the pre-Roman hamlet, where only a few years ago its inhabitants lived in pallozas, circular stone-based dwellings with thatch roofs divided internally with space for both the human and animal occupants. We will visit a palloza museum, discuss the mountain culture and then dine on interior Galicia’s hearty cuisine. Walking Distance: 11.5 miles / 18.5 km
Day 7 - Vilamor
We head south to the next most important range O Courel and enter the steep Devesa da Rogueira forest, the only one of its type in Galicia that is a mix of both Atlantic and Mediterranean ecosystems due to its unusual geographic and climatic conditions.
As a result the forest is home to a vast range of plant and animal species.
We’ll picnic at an unique spring, famed for its medicinal properties, with two distinct water outlets from the same rock but with a distinct odor, color and taste. One is iron based and the other limestone. Tonight we lodge in a casa rural, a rustic home converted into charming lodging in the heart of unforgettably rustic Vilamor which sits high above the Lor River. Walking Distance: 9.3 km / 15 miles
Day 8 - Santiago de Compostela
The last day we set out from our lodgings and head down an ancient path used by villagers following the Lor River’s serpentine twists. We'll linger in chestnut forests, reach mountain hamlets, cross over home-fashioned wooden bridges, continue through narrow canyons and even head to the ruins of a castro, a pre-Roman village strategically located high on a rocky outcropping surrounded on three sides by the Lor River. Return to Santiago and farewell dinner in the historical quarter. Walking Distance: 5.4 km / 9 miles.
Galicia - Photo credit: Jose Placer
CAMINO DE SANTIAGO: On Glory Roads
The Road to Santiago rarely fails to impress: the constantly changing landscapes, diverse flora and fauna; the encounters with unique and inspiring people; the varied legends of pilgrims past and present; the countless artistic and historical treasures found at every turn; the possibility of enjoying both silence or the animation and color of a Spanish fiesta; or the knowledge that your footsteps join those of millions before you across a thousand years of European history.
We walk in the shadows of this past and seek as well to understand those created in the present on our walking tour along this great medieval pilgrimage route.
COMPOSTELA TOUR: León to Santiago
Join us for this special 7-day tour starting in León and continuing through the rural Galician countryside. You will be eligible to earn the Cathedral’s certificate of completion, the Compostela, as we walk the last 100km over 5 of the 7 days.
Enjoy bucolic country lanes, enchanted forests and countless hamlets as we wend our way over the rolling hills to the ancient city of stone, Santiago de Compostela.
GALICIA, Celtic Spain: From Sea to Mountain
Wedged in between the roaring Atlantic and the gentle eastern sierras in Iberia’s northwest corner, Galicia is a magnificent combination of rolling, irregular countryside, 750 miles of breathtaking coastline, numerous deeply penetrating fjord-like estuaries as well as mixed forests and winding rivers.
On the tour we explore the wild coastline, the sea an ever-present right hand companion, as well as Galicia’s mountain, valley and river systems with delightful walks in forests rich in flora and fauna.
We'll pass small, rustic villages, archaeological ruins and witness traces of antique ways of living and working.
On this 7 day/night walking tour we roughly follow the medieval pilgrim's way from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela taking in the area's beautiful green mountain and valley landscapes as well as spending two nights on Galicia's spectacular southern coast in Baiona. We stay in three UNESCO world heritage towns - Porto, Guimaraes and Santiago de Compostela.
BASQUE COUNTRY & PYRENEES: Europe's Oldest Culture
Straddling the gentle western Pyrenees, this region is home to Europe´s oldest living language and civilization, breathtaking coastal and low mountain trails, prehistoric remains, sensational award-winning food prepared with charateristic Basque flare and charming seaside towns and high country villages.
Also included in our itinerary is a visit to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
Learn about Basque history, culture and folklore, enjoy lush coastal and hill trails, and treat your palate to a gastronomic odyssey.
PICOS DE EUROPA: Heights of Emerald Spain
Lofty green and grey, the Picos de Europa play sentinel to the Cantabrian Sea only nine miles away. Surrounded by thick stands of beech and oak, sculpted by four strong river systems and modified by hundreds of years of shepherding, the ever changing limestone Picos offer a unique environment and a wide variety of walking opportunities through lunar-like high mountains, crystalline glacial lakes, lush woodlands, winding rivers, high open pastures and alpine meadows. We’ll explore the National Park’s most stunning trails and introduce you to the shepherding traditions that have made the Picos famous worldwide for their pungent blue cheeses.