Walking the Camino in Spain: Our Camino – 500km 23 Days: In early medieval times there were four main cities (in France) from which pilgrims began the long and arduous journey to Santiago de Compostela. These cities, Paris, Vezelay, Le Puy and Arles are still important starting points for this pilgrimage. As well as the famous clergy and rulers who journeyed to Santiago, there were many simple, unrecorded folk who managed to scrape together the money and the energy to undertake this once perilous route.
We decided to begin our journey in Pamplona, as the first day’s walk over the Pyrenees sounded too daunting. The Camino was everything we thought it would be and more. The mystery of our destination kept us intrigued. What would we find? What would happen to us?
- Where to Start: Pamplona, Spain.
- How to get there: Train from Madrid.
- How to get back from Santiago: Fly out of Santiago’s Airport, or train back to Madrid.
1. Pamplona to Burgos
Day 1&2. Begin from Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (27 km). The Bridge of the Queen. This part of Spain can be very hot in the summer months.
Day 3&4. Estella (21km) One of the most elegant towns along the Camino.
Los Arcos (18 km). A mysterious town with a good refugio.
Day 5&6. Logrono (24 km). Another fine Roman bridge to cross.
Najera 26 (km). A town built in a split of a rock. A good refugio here.
Day 7&8. Santo Domingo De La Calzada (21 km).
Try the restaurants here, they’re excellent.
Belorado (21 km). Another good refugio after a full day of walking.
Day 9, 10, 11. San Juan De Ortega (23 km). Out in the middle of the old medieval forest areas, this is a rare opportunity to stay in an old monastery.
Burgos (23 km).
Burgos is a place to take a rest day (Day 11). The refugio is in the centre of a park, just the thing for a day off.
Bus to Leon: From Burgos the pilgrim enters the Meseta – 160 km of wide open flat spaces, which end a little after Leon. We took a bus to Leon.
2. Leon to VillaFranca
Day 12 & 13. Leon. Arrive in Leon with its glorious light filled Gothic cathedral. Its stained glass windows are considered to be some of the best in the world. There may be time to visit the Hospital (now parador) of San Marcos, once the headquarters for the Knights of Santiago. And if possible visit the superb Real Basilica de San Isidoro and to see the Crypt and Pantheon of Kings.
Villadangos (19 km). Today we walk to Villadangos del Paramo, with its historic Church of Santiago.
Day 14 & 15. Hospital Del Orbigo (11 km). A shorter walk today to give us an early rest. Puente del Orbigo is the longest original bridge on the Camino, subject of one of the most romantic legends of the Way.
Astorga (17 km). Our journey takes us to Astorga, where the Camino Frances meets up with the Via Del Plata. We visit the Cathedral with its Museum of the Way, Gaudi’s Palace, and the Museo Romano. For those with a sweet tooth there is a museum of chocolate.
Day 16 & 17. Rabanal (21 km). The next few days are a little more challenging – across the mountains to Ponferrada. We walk through the old region of the Maragatos, a mysterious, race of muleteers to Rabanal Del Camino. We visit Santa Maria with its Romanesque Templar origins.
Day 18 & 19. El Acebo (18 km). From Rabanal and Foncebadón we climb to the emblematic iron cross called Cruz de Ferro, with an enormous mound of stones placed by pilgrims at its base. We then enjoy a fairly level section through heather and broom before descending quite steeply into the lovely little stone village of El Acebo.
Ponferrada (14 km). We enjoy a gradual descent through the hills to the larger town of Ponferrada. Here we visit a fabulous Templar Castle, and if time also the Basilica de la Encina (has Statue of the virgin) and the Museo del Bierzo.
Day 20. Villafranca Del Bierzo (20 km)
A longer walk today brings us to the foot of a mountain range. At Villafranca we visit the Church of Santiago with its Puerta del pardon. The Church of San Francesco was reputedly established by St. Francis when he journeyed to Santiago.
Day 21 & 22. O Cebriero (27 km). Bus to La Portela. The stiff walk up to the ancient village of O’Cebreiro, just on the Galician side of the León-Galicia border is one of the most famous stages of the entire Way. We visit the Church of Santa Maria Real.
Triacastela (21 km). We climb through the pass at Alto San Roque. The Church of Santiago in Triacastella is another attractive church along the Way.
Day 23 & 24. Sarria (24 km). A beautiful stretch of walking today – although it passes through extremely rural areas with very few services. Samos Monastery is historically very important. The Sarria Churches of Santa Marina and El Salvador are worth a visit.
Portomarin (22 km). Portomarin has a great location and Pilgrim’s atmosphere. A nice place to relax, read, and update your journal. We walk across the Mino Bridge and visit the Church of St. Nicholas.
Day 25 & 26. Palas De Rei (25 km). Out in the countryside again. We pass small hamlets and Eucalypt stands to arrive at Palas de Rei. There is a Pilgrims’ monument there.
Arzua (28 km). We hike through rolling rural terrain. Much of the walk to Melide (wonderful square and church) is on quiet surfaced country lanes, dirt and cobbled paths and medieval bridges. Then on to the bustling town of Arzua.
Day 27. Arca (21 km). Other northern pilgrim’s routes merge with the Camino Frances in Arzúa – we will notice more pilgrims from here on. Walk through Ste. Irene and another Eucalyptus Forest.
4. Santiago de Compostela
Day 28. Santiago (17 km) – our destination!
Our last stretch before arriving in Santiago.
Day 29, 30, 31. Exploring Santiago. There are many things to do once you reach Santiago de Compostela. First of all is to receive your Compostela Certificate from the Pilgrims’ Office. Apart from being a beautiful city in its own right, there are churches, museums, and exhibitions many of which offer a pilgrim discount. And if you’re not too exhausted, there is some lovely walks around the parks, through its ancient cobbled streets, and even onwards to the coast at Finisterre.
The Cathedral. You will spend some hours here, appreciating the vast church. Here you have the opportunity to Hug the Apostle. There is also a great rooftop tour. Take an English language tour of the city and enjoy the restaurants.
Eventually you will have to return home. You will still be on the Camino for some time yet, even after you come home.
santiago – walking the pilgrim path
Food: The best value meal on the Camino is the Menu del Dia, a three course offering which includes bread, water and wine. The Spanish regional foods are to be enjoyed and there are other options on the menu. Most tavernas can cater for vegetarians or people with other food preferences.
When to go? The northern spring or autumn seasons are recommended as accommodation is easier to obtain and the tourist numbers are lower.
Walking Gear: Good walking boots and socks are critical. Your boots should have been worn in. Take appropriate rain gear. Make sure it’s made from a breathable material such as Gore-Tex.
Our Take: This is a once in a lifetime journey through northern Spain, following in the paths of pilgrims throughout the ages. Food, history, culture and fellowship. Bring your camera. Be prepared for rain and wonderful walking. The Way is well marked. In following the Camino, you become a part of this tradition.
Santiago – Walking the Pilgrim Path: ISBN -0-9578968-1-6 (140pp):
A personal account of the unique and surprising Road to Santiago.
To be a Pilgrim
We’ve put together our experiences of life on the Camino to help you plan your journey. This book gives you a sense of what to expect on your own journey to Santiago de Compostela. Santiago – walking the pilgrim path includes:
- Camino History.
- Spanish Culture and Food.
- Pilgrim Information.
- The Story of the Knights Templar.
- Sites to Visit.
- Suggested Itinerary.
- Challenges and Rewards.
- Price includes Post.
We post you a copy of Santiago – walking the Pilgrim Path once we have received your payment through Pay Pal.