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
Walk last section from León through green Galicia, earn the Cathedral's Compostela certificate!
Compostela - León to Santiago de Compostela
Due to the popularity of the Compostela tour in 2004, Nancy and Jose have decided to continue offering the special 7-day tour from León.
Walking the last 100km will allow you to earn the Cathedral`s certificate of completion, the Compostela.
Come join us and we`ll show you the highlights of the Camino and many of its special secrets in this delightful rural corner of Spain, Galicia.
We will start in León, visit the highlights of this historic pilgrimage town and then head off the next day towards Galicia. Our Day 2 morning walk heads through the Leonese meseta, or high tableland.
In contrast to the days to come, here the scant villages are adobe, the land flat and dry and the red earth dominates - it`s fascinating to observe the abrupt change in the landscape, cuisine, villages between León and Galicia.
We will end the day in Cebreiro, a small hamlet located on a mountain pass and linked to the pilgrimage since the 10th century.
From Days 3 through 7 we will be walking the last 105 km of the pilgrimage route, a beautiful, hilly section through rural, bucolic Galicia. Each day (Days 3 to 7) we`ll give you a map and description of the easy-to-follow trail so you can either walk on your own, meeting up with the group for lunch, or with Nancy. The shuttle will be available at lunch time and in case of need.
We offer various cultural activities to enhance the overall experience such as visiting Leon’s magnificent cathedral with the best collection of stained-glass windows in Europe after Chartres, Lugo`s 1800-yr-old, intact Roman wall, as well as a still active 10th century Cisterician monastery.
In Galicia we will pass through countless hamlets connected to one another by ancient dry-stone walls separating the trail from an endless patchwork quilt of worked fields and cow pastures. We`ll enjoy the hearty Galician fare - including leafy green soup, called caldo gallego, creamy cow`s milk cheeses, thick, round loaves of wheat, rye and corn meal bread, outstanding Galician veal and pork, seafood and greens – cabbage, broad beans, swiss chard and leeks. We`ll stay in small, simple hotels and lodgings located on the pilgrim`s trail (except one day) so that you can have the comfort of walking directly to your bed at the end of the day and starting out on foot in the morning.
A little bit more about the Compostela:
To receive the Compostela Certificate pilgrims must complete the last 100km (62mi) of the pilgrimage, carry with them a Pilgrim’s Passport which you will get stamped on a daily basis, and then, once you reach Santiago, you’ll go to the Pilgrims’ Office to register yourself, fill out information regarding your journey and motivation. After this process the Pilgrims’ Office staff will give you the Compostela if you’ve met all of their requirements. To find out more information about the Compostela, the Pilgrims’ Office, the Cathederal, services for pilgrims, etc, please go to their website: https://peregrinossantiago.es/eng/pilgrims-office/welcome/
7 days & 7 nights
Level: Medium (Due to the length of the walks and the hilly countryside. In general the trails are groomed but some sections will be uneven earth and stone).
Walking Days: 7 Total
Distance: 78.3 miles / 126.9 km With optionals 83.2 miles / 135.1 km
Reyes Católicos Parador Supplement: The last night of the tour we will be staying in a simple monastery- hotel in the historical quarter with a great location and easy access on foot to all monuments and points of interest. If you would like to stay instead in the 5-star Parador Reyes Católicos hotel, we can try to arrange lodging there. The supplement to stay at the Parador can vary between 150-200 Euros/double room or 130 -150 Euros/single room depending on the season and availability. Please contact us early if you are interested.
Custom Camino Tours: Please contact us if you have a group of six or more to discuss options to run a custom trip for your friends and/or family.
Weather: In April and October expect temperatures in the 40-60F/ 5-15C with high chance of rain showers though it could also be simply partly cloudy and more temperate. Temperatures in May and September tend to be about 10F/5C warmer than April and October. Expect a combination of sun, showers and clouds. July is typically sunny and warm (60-80F/15-25C).
What is and isn`t included:
Expert guides (Nancy & Jose), support vehicle, all ground transport from the start in León to the finish in Santiago de Compostela, lodging in double occupany accommodation, all meals (except two dinners), the Pilgrim`s Passport, daily maps and descriptions of the sections to be walked, optional visits and entry fees to museums visited. Airfare to Spain is not included nor is insurance or transportation to and from the start (León) and end (Santiago de Compostela) points. The single supplement fee is €130
for this tour.
Day 1 - León
We`ll meet at our hotel in León`s historic quarter and, after our introduction, take a walking tour of the Romanesque San Isidoro church, famed for its Romanesque paintings, and then the French-influenced Gothic Cathedral where the 2000 sq meters of 13th-17th C stained glass windows inevitably impress. After walking to the San Marcos pilgrim`s hospital, located on the banks of the Río Bernesga and noted for its Renaissance facade bedecked with shells, we`ll return to the historic quarter for dinner enjoying delicious regional specialties. Walking distance: 3.2 miles / 5.4 km
Day 2 - O Cebreiro
From León we`ll shuttle to Puente Orbigo, famed for its many-arched medieval bridge and 15th century knight`s tournament which put the small town on the European map. We set out from the bridge and picnic en route. Afterwards we briefly visit the once great Roman way-station, Astorga - more recently famous for its chocolate and sweet treats. From Astorga, we`ll shuttle to the base of the Cebreiro mountain pass. Those who would like to hike the 5.3mi/8.5km uphill to our lodging in Cebreiro may do so - this section is one of the Camino`s most celebrated. Enjoy either free time in this rustic village known for its pre-Roman style thatch dwellings (called pallozas) or the uphill walk before we meet for dinner to enjoy a hearty Galician meal. Walking distance: 7.7 miles / 12.5 km With Optionals 12.7 miles / 20.7 km
Day 3 - Portomarín
Today we start the last 100km to Santiago from Sarria enjoying a beautiful section of rural lanes, small country churches, thick oak and chestnut groves and numerous hamlets active with farm-life. We`ll picnic en route and continue to Portomarín located on the banks of the Río Miño. In the 1950s the town was moved uphill to make way for a hydro-electric plant created further downstream. Walking distance: 9 miles / 15 km.
Day 4 - Palas de Rei
From Portomarín we`ll set off into the woods on our journey towards Palas de Rei. On the hilly walk we`ll continue through field and forest passing countless granaries, hórreos, and way-side crosses or cruceiros (usually depicting on once side Christ and the other the Virgin), both very characteristic of the Galician landscape.
Free time. Optional visit to the Roman city of Lugo to see its intact, 1800-yr-old Roman fortification, named in 2002 an UNESCO World Heritage Site, and visit the Cathedral. Walking distance: 15.2 miles / 24.5 km With optionals 16.7 miles / 27 km
Day 5 - Arzúa
The walk sets off from Palas and ends up at a small medieval (and recently restored) pilgrim`s hospital and bridge spanning the Río Iso from where we`ll shuttle to Arzúa. En route we`ll pass through the bustling small town of Melide and visit its small ethnographic museum.
Today we also pass from Galicia`s Lugo province to Galicia`s A Coruña provice. The chestnuts and oaks give way to eucalyptus. Free time and dinner on your own tonight. Walking distance: 16.2 miles / 26 km.
Day 6 - Arca
After returning to where we left off yesterday (3km from Arzúa), we`ll continue our trek to Arca, the largest community before Santiago, immersing ourselves in the fragrant eucalyptus groves. We`ll picnic en route.
After arrival in Arca you`ll have free time. Optional visit to the grandiose Monastery of Sobrado, Galicia’s first Cistercian monastery and dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Renovations in the 17th and 18th centuries amply embellished the façade, church and side chapel. Walking distance: 13.6 miles / 22 km
Day 7 - Santiago de Compostela
We`ll set out in the cool morning air to make the last and final stage of our journey to reach the famed city of Santiago.
En route we`ll stop for our picnic on the Monte del Gozo (Mount Joy) from which the spires of the Cathedral are first visible. After arrival in the Cathedral square we`ll check into our hotel.
Afterwards we`ll offer a guided visit of the Cathedral and city. Free time. Tonight we`ll say farewell to one another at one of Santiago`s famed restaurants. Walking distance: 13.3 miles / 21.5 km
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.