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The Smart Camino: Pilgrimage in the Internet Age

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Wednesday, 20 September 2017 13:53

The Smart Camino: Pilgrimage in the Internet Age

Video of Nancy’s talk: The Smart Camino: Pilgrimage in the Internet Age (Jan 2017, London)
By Nancy L. Frey
September 2017

In January 2017, I gave the keynote address at the Confraternity of St James’ Annual General Meeting in London titled The Smart Camino: Pilgrimage in the Internet Age. In the talk I briefly review some general changes I’ve noticed over the last 25 years and then present my research on the incorporation of new media technology into the Camino and how this has impacted being a pilgrim. The rise of the Internet is the single most important change in the Camino during this period and has dramatically impacted how people engage with the pilgrimage experience before, during and after the Camino is over.

The video is long. To help facilitate listening to the parts that are of most interest, I’ve broken down the video into segments and themes. Please let me know if you have any questions or observations.

0:00-1:00 - Intro to video
1:00-4:35 - Intro about talk and Nancy’s 25 years’ experience on Camino
4:35-5:30 - Nature of change on Camino
5:30-22:15 - General Changes on the Camino over the last 25 years
     • 6:55 - Pilgrim’s Office and Statistics
     • 7:45 - Numbers
     • 8:27 -  Sex
     • 8:50 -  Internationalization
     • 10:11 - Mode of Travel
     • 10:50 - Roads Traveled and Development of other routes
     • 11:44 - Acquisition of the Compostela Certificate & Certificate of Distance
     • 14:18 - Motivations and Expectations
     • 16:33 - Infrastructure
     • 17:50 - John, the Pilgrim Helper and Red tape
     • 18:29 - Equipment
     • 19:13 - Invasion of our Attentional Space
     • 19:42 - Graffiti & Pokemon Go
     • 21:08 - The Cathedral: Security, protecting patrimony and limited access
     • 21:33 - What happened to the wild dogs?
22:15-23:38 - Changes related to Internet Age. Tech is a tool but not a neutral tool.
23:38-26:44 - Pilgrimage/Camino is a Rite of Passage with three stages: Prep, During, Return. “While the physical component has remained relatively the same, for most people the mental component has changed dramatically…” The Camino in the Cloud.
26:44 – 35:47 - Stage 1: Preparation for the Camino in the Internet Age. Anxiety is normal. Information overload, we overly complicate the Camino, developing pilgrim identity pre-Camino
     • 33:12 - What to take and packing lists
35:52 – 1:02:15 - Stage 2: Being on the Camino
     • 35:52 - Outcomes of preparation and spectrum of mobile tech usage
     • 38:45 - Experience of time and place impacted, Incorporation of “Tech time”; bracketed time away disrupted, stay inside comfort zone
     • 42:56 - Internet age pilgrims have new needs and new neediness; my sacred tech time; increase virtual connections and decrease face-to-face connections
     • 47:10 - Impact on Camino community and social relations
     • 49:53 - Relationship to Home; the importance of “missing” and “longing”; collaborative pilgrimages
     • 53:48 - Digital Detox pilgrimages
     • 56:25 - Shift in thinking and expectations about “what is the Camino?”; controlling the Camino and fear management; “not having a bed” anxiety; having a “Trip Advisor” Camino; dilution of the power of our experiences
     • 1:00:30 - Tech industry encourages us to trust tech and not ourselves; WiFi App; Progressively outsourcing skills to phone and atrophying those abilities within ourselves.
1:02:15-1:05 - Reaching Santiago – transition point; experiences mediated by phones; losing trust in our memories; capturing moments vs contemplating moments
1:05-1:11 - Stage 3: The Return Home
1:11-1:14:59 - Conclusions

Published in Latest
Tuesday, 15 November 2016 10:32

R&K Know Before You Go Galicia

R&K Know Before You Go Galicia

The travel journal Roads & Kingdoms asked Nancy to write an insider article about Galicia in their "Know Before You Go" series for the November 2016 launch of their book Grape, Olive, Pig. Here's a link to her article:

View Article

Published in Latest
Monday, 20 July 2015 14:45

Ginnie's Scallop Shell

May Camino 2003

There are some people you never forget! Virginia and George Havens traveled with us 12 years ago in May 2003 along the Camino de Santiago. They formed part of a special group that came together as strangers and ended up sharing many wonderful moments and developing friendships that still endure today. I have a photo of that memorable group taken at the Camino’s literal high point – la Cruz de Ferro (the Iron Cross). Looking at each face brings back a flood of memories. Some of them went on to travel with us two or even three times. Others we have kept in touch with via email and holiday cards.

One such special couple is Virginia and George. At the time they were a spry 78 and 79 and they are still going strong! Jose and I fondly remember how beautiful Ginnie was always lovingly cared for by George. Ginnie’s a birder and I can still remember hearing about her work with birds and building birdhouses. As we walked she’d point out birds I couldn’t even see. Many times over the years I have wished she were along on other walks to keep teaching me!  On that trip we also discovered that Ginnie and I and another woman on the trip, Nancy Grandfield, are all Kappa Kappa Gamma sisters. That was a great coincidence! At the end of walk, during our final dinner at the Parador in Santiago de Compostela, George got up, ordered champagne for the group and gave a very special and meaningful toast! What a couple!

Over the years we have kept in touch and George sent me an email telling me about Ginnie’s continuing education through Case Western Reserve University. He wrote:

Her latest [class] was Sports History which required writing a short paper on an object related to some athletic activity (baseball bat, football, etc.). Ginnie chose her scallop shell and we thought you would enjoy seeing her report to which she attached a copy of the Camino certificate that you gave us.

We did enjoy seeing her report and asked if we could have permission to publish it here with a photo of Ginnie. We hope you enjoy this as much as we did! We greatly enjoy seeing how the Camino continues to evolve in people’s lives and can inspire projects such as these 12 years later! Buen Camino, Ginnie and George!

The Scallop Shell
By Virginia C. Havens

The symbol that evokes memories of achievement, endurance and adventure is the white scallop shell hanging on a cord at my desk. This type of shell was first worn on the hat of St. James, patron warrior saint of Spain, and today it signifies a completed pilgrimage walk on the Camino de Santiago across Spain.

Virginia Havens 2015First, a brief history of St. James, a disciple of Jesus, and this 500-mile trek to Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. James came to Spain shortly after the crucifixion to spread Christianity. On returning to Jerusalem, he was beheaded by Herod and his body sent in a casket by the other disciples back to Spain for burial. After some 800 years, the burial spot was forgotten and unknown, but on a certain night the field was illuminated by the stars and with this guidance the burial casket of St. James was unearthed and discovered. This startling discovery resulted in a sacred pilgrimage to this holy site that drew pilgrims from all over Europe.

The Camino starts in eastern Spain in the Pyrenees Mountains that separate France and Spain. It descends through Roncesvalles (a historic location where Charlemagne once fought the infidel Moors) then on to Pamplona. Logrono, Burgos, Leon, Bierzo, Arzua to Santiago to be blessed in the great cathedral there. In the middle ages, pilgrims walked the 500 miles across Spain seeking redemption and a spiritual encounter with St. James, and receiving forgiveness for their sins. This walk along this ancient road became a venerated tradition and Santiago became a popular pilgrimage destination. Last year over a million individuals were reported to have traversed the Camino and then received the scallop shell to reward and verify their experience.

In my years of reading I would come across references to this famous “road” and I would think “Oh the experience of walking it...walking, thinking a and meditating” with all of Spain stretching out before me, all open, no restrictions, no time table...just me and the world.   

In 2003 my husband and I decided to tackle the Camino, at least a part of it. We would do 100 miles in 12 days in an arrangement that extended across the entire road, but avoided the less interesting parts. It was for me a magnificent experience and the shell recreates memories of golden wheat fields filled with red poppies, impressive ancient buildings, bridges and churches, warm and kind mountain people, owls and great beech trees and exotic foods. And then the memory of walking 8 to 10 miles each day on weary, weary feet, then the last demanding push for 12 miles up an almost unending mountainside on a never-to-be-forgotten day.

What are the lasting, indelible effects of such an experience? First of all, I am always aware of having the gumption to do such a trek at a senior age. Then having the courage to cross the ocean, plant my feet on strange soil and move out on a 100-mile effort, and accomplish it. It was a singular decision in my life – that produced a bold, unique and highly satisfying experience that confirmed my commitment to an adventurous life. It reinforced my love and appreciation for Spain. It left me with regrets that we were not able to do the tough trek to the Everest base camp at 18,000 feet in Nepal (which we had planned) and on to the Antarctic in the footsteps of Shackleton.


Published in Latest

by Nancy L. Frey, PhD

Oldest Known Pilgrim's Scallop Shell in Santiago de Compostela

One of my favorite objects on display in Santiago de Compostela's Museo de las Peregrinaciones (Pilgrimages Museum) is this scallop shell dated to before 1120. Identified as "Vieira de peregrino (Pectem maximus) " (Pilgrim's Scallop) the room text tells us it: "was found in a burial place in a plot that was later occupied by the north central nave of the Romanesque cathedral of Santiago. Therefore, it is prior to 1120. The scallop shell is the symbol of the pilgrimage to Santiago, taken by pilgrims on their way back home to the most remote places in Europe." We are looking at the oldest known scallop shell used by a pilgrim to the shrine of St James in Santiago de Compostela.

Published in Latest
Tuesday, 03 March 2015 13:08

On Foot in Spain

"You have led one of, if not the, most profound experience in my life - taking me on a physical journey and also assisting, in many ways, my soul searching quest."
Dick, Compostela April 2005

Nancy and Jose - You are a "dream team." Our sincere thanks and appreciation.
Bob and Marilyn, Camino May 2015

Nancy and Jose

Cultural anthropologist Nancy Frey PhD, and writer, mountaineer Jose Placer!
Both Nancy and Jose have always held both walking and learning close to their hearts.
Their paths crossed while Nancy was conducting her doctoral dissertation research on the Camino de Santiago in the hamlet of Roncesvalles (Navarre) and Jose was just beginning a 450 mile walk across Spain.
Their paths rejoined a month later in Santiago de Compostela and since then have not diverged.

Together they co-authored the chapters on Galicia, Cordillera Cantabrica (Picos de Europa) and the Camino de Santiago for Lonely Planet’s Walking in Spain (1999 and 2003) and co-authored Lonely Planet's 1st edition of Walking in Scotland (2001).
Nancy and Jose started On Foot In Spain Walking & Hiking Educational Adventures in 1999. They have three children, Jacob (8), Marina (3)and Sam (born 11/27/06), and live on the Galician coast.

Nancy L. Frey, PhD

Nancy on top of Mt. Dana, Yosemite circa 1978Nancy’s love of hiking grew from annual summer trips to Yosemite led by a Dad who always knew the name of every tree and who reveled in leading his children to inspirational points. Thus it wasn’t too surprising that when she selected her subject material for her doctoral dissertation in cultural anthropology (UC Berkeley) one very attractive element of it was the prospect of traversing the north of Spain on foot.

Since her first walk in 1993, Nancy has walked the Camino de Santiago numerous times and cycled it as well. In her book on the modern day journey, Pilgrim Stories: On and Off the Road to Santiago (UC Press, 1998), Nancy brings to life the contemporary way by discussing pilgrims' motivations, mishaps and discoveries while walking as well as providing insights into why the route is so popular today.

Nancy has also lectured for ElderHostel and Smithsonian Institution on their educational tours in Spain, Portugal and France. She has also taught a course on the Camino de Santiago at the University of Santiago and is currently researching the relationship between landscape and experience.
In her free time she enjoys reading, swimming, SCUBA diving, kayaking, tending her flower garden and cooking savory pies and tarts.

Jose Daniel Placer
Jose Daniel PlacerA native of Santiago de Compostela, Jose received his law degree from the University of Santiago and then made a 180 degree turn away from lawyering and back to his real passion: children and the outdoors.
He has taught outdoor education and coaches soccer, basketball and volleyball.
With Europe as his backyard, Jose has hiked extensively both within and beyond Spain since he was a teenager.
Despite having enjoyed the Italian Dolomites, and hiking in the Alps while studying law at the University of Passau in Germany, his favorite stomping ground continues to be Spain’s Picos de Europa.
Jose especially enjoys writing short stories, carpentry, restoring furniture, working his garden, kayaking and mountain biking.

on Foot in SpainEach time we set out on a trail we go with the idea that to walk is to learn. Slowing down to the rhythm of your feet inevitably brings more to your immediate attention and consequently allows for greater speculation and wonder.

On our journeys into northern Spain’s exceptionally beautiful back roads we want to give you the opportunity to challenge yourself physically (without overdoing) and at the same time pique your curiosity by pointing out the not so obvious as well as providing insights into the wonders of the everyday.

Art, architecture, anthropology, folklore, history, Spanish fiestas, cuisine - we interlace them all into each day of your tour. Our carefully designed walks, combining charming accommodations in rural inns, monasteries, and hotels with the finest in local cuisine, will immerse you in the riches of northern Spain’s culture life and landscapes.


On Foot in Spain Family On Foot in Spain Family
2010                                                                                             2017

To read about the On Foot Family story, please read here.


Find out more about On Foot in Spain......contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in Latest
Friday, 07 November 2014 11:21

On Foot in Spain endorsed by Lonely Planet

Published in Latest
Friday, 03 January 2014 14:38

Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve

In December 2013 the BBC aired a three part pilgrimage documentary with adventure traveler and writer Simon Reeve as the presenter. I was consulted by the BBC for their film preparation as an expert on the Camino de Santiago and then interviewed by Simon Reeve in Santiago de Compostela in June 2013. A small part of that interview appears in Episode 2 of Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve in which Simon covers pilgrimage in northern France, along the Camino de Santiago, and then, finally, in Rome. In this clip from Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve, Episode 2, I answer Simon’s questions about Santiago de Compostela as a pilgrimage city, about Santiago or St James as a multi-faceted figure (Apostle, Pilgrim and Warrior) and about the sticky issue of whether or  not the bones of the Apostle James are really in Santiago de Compostela or not.
For more information about the full episode, please see the BBC website. This segment in which Nancy Frey appears with Simon Reeve is reproduced with permission from the BBC.

Here is the direct link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01kqjg3/episodes/guide.

Published in Latest

Boots Marina de Almeida PradoBrazilian photographer Marina de Almeida Prado joined us in June 2012 along the Camino de Santiago.
Here she shares with us and comments on some of her favorite photos from her pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago. To see more of her work, please visit her website.

Marina de Almeida Prado's Photo Essay on the Camino (2012)

In September 2010, exactly on the 14th, I woke up thinking about the Camino. I knew absolutely nothing about the Camino. I only heard of a few people who had already done it. I eagerly started researching. But a few days later I was completely discouraged, because in my current life with a son, husband, job and home, the thought of leaving everything for 40 days off was just impossible.

One day, just because I couldn’t get it out of my mind,  I posted the word "CAMINO" on Facebook  and immediately a friend  asked: Did you do it? I said no and that I would love to do it but 40 days was not feasible. And she told me, there were other ways to do the Camino and told me about the website www.onfootinspain.com.

She told me: “Choose which way and how many days you want to do it.  I recommend it!”
My contact with Nancy began on the same day, but due to lack of vacancies, I waited until June 2012.

And on June 3 I left for Spain. This would be my first trip all alone after 12 years.  A very special moment.  I chose the route "On Glory Roads," The Camino de Santiago From Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela in 12 days.

I’m a photographer and I took all my equipment with me. But I wanted to photograph every second of the journey  and by the third day I opted to take pictures with  my Iphone 4S so I could use the effects of Instagram and immediately post all my emotions to the world.
There were places and people during my journey that touched me so much. During my time on the path, away from my daily life, I realize what a very privileged person I am. What a great life I have and that I am a truly blessed human being.

One thing I can say for sure: after 12 days in the company of 11 wonderful Australians, 1 American (Nancy), and 2 Spanish guys  (Jose and Sam), something very special was born inside of me. Unforgettable!

I’ve attached some of my favorite photos. Click here to follow the link to the gallery. Here are my comments about some of the photos:

Romanesque bridge of Puente la Reina
I couldn’t believe how gorgeous this bridge was. The water reflection was just amazing! The most beautiful bridge I’ve ever seen!
The second most beautiful view of my path. I felt like standing there, time stopped.
This moment was my favorite, because this view is the winner! I could feel the immensity, the liberty. My freedom!!
On the path, lots of stones piled up. These really impressed me.
Jose’s Picnic Bar
The picnics were always a pleasant surprise, with different kinds of cheese, cold cuts and salad every day. A moment we all look forward to! And,the pilgrim bar, long-awaited throughout the path by all of us!
Real Monasterio San Zoilo
Another very special moment in my path...The deepest blue sunset of my journey. The view from my bedroom window.  I think I could grasp the meaning of blue.

Cruz de Ferro
I was very touched when I arrived at the Iron Cross. One of the simplest and most meaningful moments of the Camino.
Iron bucket
For a moment, this iron bucket made me go back to my childhood at the farm.
Close to Cebreiro. A very special place.
The mass, the smell, the people and the place. Pure emotion.
Marina de Almeida Prado
Fotógrafa -  MAP . PHOTO
+ 55 11 999102932

Published in Latest

Nancy’s Book Review

Walking Your Blues Away. How to Heal the Mind and Create Emotional Well-Being by Thom Hartmann (Vermont: Park Street Press, 2006).

A pilgrim on the Camino has marked the way with an arrow pointing towards a heart. Things of the heart are ahead.I was gifted this book by a body worker[1] who walked with us along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in 2005. After sitting on the shelf unread for at least a year, the right moment finally arrived to crack open the pages. It’s a quick read and easy to access. The most compelling parts are when Hartmann discusses how walking is a potentially healing activity for emotional trauma. This concept immediately began to resonate with my own anthropological work on the contemporary reanimation of the medieval pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago in Spain, which culminated in my book Pilgrim Stories. On and Off the Road to Santiago (UC Press, 1998). In the late 1980s people from many different backgrounds, countries, walking experience and belief systems (and frequently without a religious motivation) began to take up the traditional symbols of the Santiago pilgrim, the scallop shell and staff, and set out on demanding journeys walking westward across northern Spain (and even the far corners of Europe) to reach the tomb of the apostle James the Greater in Santiago de Compostela. Every year since then, more and more people undertake this walking journey and come home with positive stories of self-discovery, personal triumph, transformation and, even, change.

I found over and over again during my research that many people were led to walk the Camino (a personal journey that can range from one day to four months depending on the walker) to work through their own personal issues. Many were at a breaking point – graduate from college, mid-life crisis, retirement – or had experienced a loss – divorce, death, employment.  Whereas many pilgrimage sites, framed within a more religious context, are sought out by pilgrims to heal the suffering body, I found repeatedly that along the Camino, as they walked, people were healing the suffering soul.  In Pilgrim Stories, I write:

The journey of the Camino can reveal wounds – loss, failure, fear, shame, addiction – left festering from daily life. Experiences along the way often act as the catalyst that allows them to be exposed. It has been, and appears to continue to be, a road for hopes and miracles of fulfillment of a different order. Some pilgrims, acknowledging this themselves, refer to the Camino as la ruta de la terapia, the therapy route (Frey, p. 45).

Through the walking experience people opened themselves up, usually without any perceived intention on their part, to a whole series of unforced emotional experiences.  Time and again, people recounted thinking of people that had not been in their conscious thoughts for years, developing a more active dream life as well as feeling ‘more deeply’ while on the road.

In my book, I discuss this process of opening as part of the elimination of the distractions/stressors of daily life. When life is reduced to its basics and your mind is not absorbed with the minutiae of running a busy  life, full of obligations and demands, all of sudden there is space for feelings, emotions, memories to come to the surface. While walking (though also many times during sleep and dreamtime), pilgrims described to me how they came to new insight, resolution or clarity regarding issues from the past. The walking became a healing process for both known and unknown or conscious/unconscious (prior to beginning the Camino) issues from the past.

In Walking Your Blues Away, Hartmann has added a new dimension to my understanding of this healing process on the cognitive level with his discussion of ‘bilateral therapy’ – the alternating stimulation of the right and left lobes of the brain ‘while thinking of a problem or issue’ (p. 30). Stimulating both the thinking and feeling parts of the brain with the bi-lateral movement, the person is able to process the experience in such a way that it is moved from the forefront of memory to the past thereby reducing its negative hold on your psyche.  Apparently most of our memories are processed during our REM sleep – another form of bi-lateral stimulation. Sometimes, though, the memories are too big/painful to be worked through in REM. Bi-lateral therapy works to simulate the same type of memory processing so that painful experiences can be worked through and moved into the past. Hartmann explains, “With the walking therapy…in most cases this recognition that the experience is in the past happens during the walk itself.  That is the key indicator that the session has been successful” (p. 13). By  applying bilateral theory to walking (an activity that requires the constant stimulation of the brain’s left and right hemispheres with its side-to-side motion), Hartmann offers an excellent way for people to heal themselves without having to resort to traditional ‘talk therapies’,  or even any kind of verbalization of the trauma or painful memories.  He posits that perhaps we have been healing ourselves, since the dawn of time before we had experts – psychotherapists, psychologists, shamans, etc. – by engaging in our most fundamental human activities: walking and thinking.

His work is strongest when discussing the history of bilateral therapies and the application of them to walking based on his own experience and practice. Bilateral therapy has its origin in the development of healing techniques derived from hypnotism first recognized as therapeutic by Mesmer in the 1700s. He describes the fascinating story of Freud’s initial usage and success with bilateral therapy and hypnotism before he abandoned this path in favor of psychotherapy when hypnotism was discredited in Europe and America in the 1890s. His middle chapter on cultural bi-lateralism is over generalized and I found it to be an unnecessary distraction to the larger theme.

The last three chapters provide concrete advice on how to utilize his technique not only for resolving past trauma or negative feelings around a nagging issue but also as a means to increase creativity, motivation and physical health.  His technique is thoroughly described and is easily accessible to the lay person.  It consists of five steps very briefly summarized here (pp. 62-67):

1 – “Define the issue”. Figure out what’s bothering you and picture it in your head.

2 –“ Bring up the story”. Flesh out the issue and determine its level of strength inside of you.

3  – “Walk with the issue”. It usually takes less than 30 minutes to get resolution.

4 – “Notice how the issue changes”. While walking observe how your feelings around the issue shift.

5 –“Anchor the new state”. Review the transformation of the feelings to fix it in your mind.

He encourages a positive and optimistic viewpoint and helpfully reminds the reader: “Remember: There is no failure. There is only feedback. Learn from the feedback and continue on.” (p. 65)

His ideas resonate with my own observations of how people experienced the walking along the Camino. It was very common for those walking to come to some kind of resolution or decision. Many people wanted to do something more creative with their lives upon return home. Others spoke about returning to the Camino to ‘recharge their batteries’ – that the walking along the Camino gave them mental and physical energy that they felt lacking in their daily lives. Perhaps it was simply engaging in this process of bi-lateral movement while walking that allowed people to stumble along the path to their own healing process. In 2008 I interviewed a modern-day Camino legend, John the English gentleman who aids wayward pilgrims in his campervan, for a chapter I wrote for Lonely Planet’s 7th edition of Spain. He had a nice of way of describing the same process of healing. I asked him why he thought people were walking to Santiago today and he responded :

“My impression is that a very large proportion have suddenly been confronted with a grave problem with home, work, family, career, their physical health or love life…and they are so overwhelmed by their everyday preoccupations that they don’t know what to do about it. Walking the Camino is a unique kind of therapy. I call it ‘Self-administered Ambulatory Psychotherapy’. Troubled minds heal themselves – by walking the Camino de Santiago. (Spain, 7th edition, article: Camino de Santiago by Nancy Frey, p. 125, Lonely Planet, 2009).

John has also observed the healing quality that is experienced by those who walk this historical pilgrimage path. Intuitively people have sensed that walking to Santiago will be good for them and have heeded that call to go, once again, the ‘human speed’.

Hartmann’s book and technique will potentially be very helpful to people who walk (or those who don’t but who would like to) and who would like to more consciously make their walks productive for healing, creativity and focused thinking. While for many people the bi-lateral movement brings about the healing without realizing it, by having the technique available, it can potentially help people focus on problem solving as well as ‘anchor’ the new state so that the change is more lasting. In Pilgrim Stories, I write: “While it will not determine outcomes, making the pilgrimage can help the participant on a personal level to ‘rework the past’ and possibly ‘move toward a renewed future’ (Frey, p. 46). This sentiment is in essence the point of Walking Your Blues Away – it takes a very basic human activity and explores its great potential for healing and future well-being. Go take a walk!
[1] Thank you Erin Susan Parks for bringing this book to my attention.  Erin is the owner of LMT Massage for Optimal Living in the Atlanta area.

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 31 July 2012 20:43

Camino de Santiago

Camino de Santiago

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.


11 days & 11 nights

Level: Easy-Medium

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).

Departure Dates 2018
2-12 May 2018
6-16 June 2018
Price: €3475 *(Click here for Discount Information)*

Departure Dates 2019:
8-18 May 2019
5-15 June 2019
25 Sept-5 Oct 2019

Price: €3475 *(Click here for Discount Information)*

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.

Note about the Compostela Certificate: Some tours guarantee that you can acquire the Compostela Certificate without offering you the possibility of correctly doing so. The Compostela is a document given by the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago de Compostela to pilgrims who state a religious/spiritual motivation and who have walked the last 100km (62mi) continuously on foot (200km on bicycle). It is not sufficient to do the distance piecemeal from Roncesvalles to Santiago. If you have any questions in this regard, please write to us or the Pilgrim`s Office directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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.

Daily Itinerary

Day 1 - Pamplona
Walking Distance: 5.1 miles / 8.3 km
Walking in SpainAfter 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
Santo DomingoFrom 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

Carrión de los CondesDay 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
 MolinasecaBeginning 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.

 Samos picnicDay 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.

ArzúaDay 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

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