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The history of the Camino de Santiago (“Way of Saint James”) goes back over a thousand years to the 813 AD. Teodomiro, the bishop of Iria Flavio (just outside Santiago de Compostela), informed King Alfonso II of Asturias that a tomb had been discovered containing the remains of the apostle Santiago (St. James). St. James had been decapitated in 44 AD in Jerusalem, but his followers had stolen the body and transferred it by boat to Spain, burying it at Iria Flavio. Once word was out that the remains of the saint had been found, a pilgrimage began to pay homage at this holy site. The Cathedral of Santiago, consecrated in 1128, stands over the tomb of the apostle and the faithful have been flocking here ever since, following a series of well-worn paths known collectively as the “Camino de Santiago” which stretch across northern Spain. On the Camino we will meet fellow-walkers from all over the globe, and one of the highlights of this holiday is likely to be the wealth of tales and experiences that we share with them as we walk. Meeting local people, too, forms a rich part of this adventure – on the Camino villagers feel pleased and honored to see pilgrims pass through their village. As for traffic, all you are likely to encounter for much of the way are herds of gentle, lazy cows as they return to their village barns in the late afternoon.
Spain Camino de Santiago itinerary
Meet your group at 16:00 in the lobby of your hotel, the Posada Regia. in León, a city endowed with many impressive monuments, from outstanding medieval to avant-garde modern buildings. The most notable are the Gothic cathedral, with its superb stained-glass windows, the Basilica of San Isidoro, housing tombs of the Kings of León and fine Romanesque paintings, and the old monastery of San Marcos. We will visit all these sights – as well as the elegant Calle Ancha where our hotel is situated – as part of an introductory walking tour before reconvening for dinner later for tapas in one of the of the city’s many lively bars. Overnight Leon. Hotel, visits and dinner included.
We begin with a visit on the Camino at the bridge of Órbigo, a Gothic structure which has survived the ravages of time, floods and retreating armies to appear to modern-day pilgrims more or less as it would have done in the 15th century. Indeed, during the week we will walk over many noble bridges, pass stone pilgrims’ crosses, and see countless churches, monasteries and chapels, both ornate and simple, manifestations of the devotion of the centuries of pilgrims who have passed this way. From here we’ll drive into the Roman town of Astorga and visit the Bishop’s Palace built by the famous Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi, as well as the impressive Cathedral. Next stop on our drive is the little village of Rabanal del Camino, a picturesque village at the base of a gentle climb up to the Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross). It is a little higher up from Rabanal that we begin our 6km walk up to the Cruz de Ferro the walk ending, some 14kms further on, in the town of Molinaseca where we’ll be driven to our hotel (Hotel El Castillo) in the center of Ponferrada. Dinner will be in a local restaurant, a town favorite, and we’ll be able to enjoy some local wines from the Bierzo region. Overnight Ponferrada. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
After breakfast we’ll take a drive to the town of Cacabelos where we can sample some local wine and enjoy a local specialty, empanadas – pastries stuffed with meat or fish. From there it’s a short distance to the town of Villafranca del Bierzo, an old town steeped in the traditions of the Camino and possessing one of the most important Romanesque churches along the Camino: la Iglesia de Santiago. Our walk today begins in the nearby town of Ambasmestas and takes us out of Castilla y León and into Galicia, ending at the old Celtic village of O’Cebreiro. This 13 km stretch is considered to be one of the most beautiful along the Camino, with paths winding through gentle rolling countryside and a landscape that is truly pastoral. After lunch we have a short transfer to our hotel (Casa Caxigueiro) just outside of the town of Sarria which lies on the Camino itself. Before dinner we’ll visit the nearby monastery at Samos where you might like to join the monks in evening prayers, a chanted plainsong which is beautiful to hear. Tonight we will enjoy a home cooked meal in our hotel. Overnight Sarria. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
As our hotel is on the Camino itself, today we walk straight out of the front door and begin our 22 km walk to the town of Portomarín. We will really be getting a feel for the Camino at this point as we start to mix with the other peregrinos (pilgrims), swap stories, and marvel at the various reasons that people choose to undertake the Camino de Santiago. Today’s walk goes through some gorgeous rural areas of Galicia, dotted with abandoned hamlets, and some of the nicest scenery along the entire Camino. We end our walk at our hotel (Santa Marina) in the delightful town of Portomarín where we’ll enjoy Mario’s hospitality, great food, and great local wine – direct from the owner’s bodega! Overnight Portomarín. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
We begin another beautiful walk today, a slightly longer one of 26 kms, to the town of Melide. After a very short transfer, we begin walking from Ventas de Naron, passing through various towns of great interest including Brea, Palas de Rei, and Coto. In Melide we will have the chance to sample some of its famous pulpo a la gallega (octopus Galician style). We will then carry on the short distance to our beautiful hotel (Hotel Carlos 96). Here we can relax right on the Camino, have a drink on the beautiful terrace, or rest our (probably by now weary!) feet. Overnight Melide. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
From our hotel we can walk right back to the Camino and begin another beautiful walk of 25 kms to the small town of Salceda. We are getting ever closer now to Santiago and you can feel the anticipation in the air among your fellow peregrinos, as the end of the Camino nears. The beautiful church in Boente is worth a visit, as is a short stop in Arzúa for a glass of wine and a chat with the locals. From Salceda we have another short transfer to our beautiful hotel (Paso de Sedor), just off the Camino and where Joaquin will look to our every need and fix us up with some of the finest cooking in Galicia. Overnight near Arzúa. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
Journey’s end, Santiago de Compostela, is one of Spain’s most attractive cities, rich in atmosphere and tradition. A university city and a site of pilgrimage for over eleven centuries, it has been the site of dynamic exchanges of ideas and culture, a destination for many outsiders, and yet at the same time it represents an area of Green Spain – Galicia – which historically has been profoundly rural and conservative. An interesting paradox behind a fascinating, proud city. The very beautiful walk today passes through eucalyptus forests, over medieval bridges, and then through the outskirts of Santiago as we slowly weave our way through its ancient streets to the glorious Plaza de Obradoiro and the final destination for all pilgrims. We have made it! After enjoying the imposing scene and soaking in the atmosphere around us, we have just a short walk to our hotel (Hotel La Herradura) for some rest before a wonderful dinner in one of many excellent restaurants in Santiago. Overnight Santiago. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
After a leisurely breakfast we will be met by a local guide who will take us on a stunning two hour visit of the beautiful city of Santiago de Compostela. The Plaza de Obradoiro, the Cathedral, Puerta de la Platerias, and the Plaza de la Azabacheria are just a few of the gems that we will see as we discover the history of this ancient city. At 12 noon we will bid farewell to our traveling companions as the tour ends. Breakfast and visits included.
Activity Level 3+ = Moderate Plus:
In general: This is a Moderate tour for fit hikers who will find them a satisfying workout and challenging but do-able for not-so-fit hikers who invariably feel a great sense of achievement at the end of the tour!
Terrain: Rolling to hilly terrain with frequent steep ascents and descents. The "+" indicates that they also involve more rugged, rocky, or steep terrain than the 3 rated tours.
Actual walking time: between 2-5 hours per day, mostly in the morning but also in the afternoon.
Distances: Usually between 8 and 12 kms/5 and 7 miles. Max distance is 16 kms/9 miles.
Surfaces: Trails consisting of compact earth, gravelly earth, and sometimes dirt-gravel roads and frequently on rocky and uneven trails. Ancient stone staircases and trails with stone steps are often present.
Footing: Good, but you have to pay attention to where and how you place your feet. Proper hiking shoes with thick soles with good treads are required. Sport sandals, running shoes and tennis shoes are not adequate.
Specifics: This trip is rated moderate with some challenging stretches. We cover about 22 kms per day, which amounts to 5-7 hours of walking per day, but there are options to do fewer miles and the trip is van supported.
Hiking Poles: Highly recommended but not required, and if you habitually use hiking pole you will regret it if you don’t have them.
Compared to the Cinque Terre: The Cinque Terre is the perfect example of a 3+ rated tour. Our most common comment about the Cinque Terre walk and other tours rated 3+ is “More challenging than I expected but I am glad I did it”.
Other: This tour is appropriate for “sporty and fit” first time “hikers” who enjoy walking and who have good balance and who are coordinated. People with hip and knee issues might find a 3+ tour challenging because of the terrain and the duration of the hikes.
Moderate Plus Tours: Amalfi is the easiest of this group, then Dolomites Lite, then Cinque Terre. Sardinia, Northern Greece Meteora and Zagori are about the same, and then Andalusia.
Trip Cost includes: All accommodations (7 nights in 3-star hotels); 7 breakfasts and dinners; all luggage transfers; guided visits and entrances in Leon and Santiago; bilingual guide(s) and the use of a van depending on group size.
Booking: e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a booking contract (or use the 'Contact Us' link at the top of this page), or click on the 'Book Now' button to the right.
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Getting There: the trip starts in León, which has a regional airport with flights from Barcelona. The airport is 6 km from the center of the city, a journey which you can make by taxi or bus.
Air: for airport information please see León airport's website.
Rail: trains from Madrid on the fast ALVIA service take around 3 hours. From Barcelona the journey time by ALVIA is 8 hours, and there is also a sleeper train which takes roughly the same time. For more information, see the Spanish train service (RENFE) website.
Getting Away at the End of the Trip: The trip ends in Santiago de Compostela around noon, after a guided visit of the town. From the Santiago de Compostela airport (10 km from the city center) you can take flights to Madrid and Barcelona for onward connections, and there are also direct international services to Paris and Rome. Another option is to fly from the airport of nearby A Coruña (1 hr by local train from Santiago), from where there are international flights to London and Lisbon, as well as various domestic services. By train from Santiago, you can travel to Madrid on the TALGO service (8 hr 30), and there are also bus services covering this and other destinations.
If you book a trip with us you will receive detailed information about how to get to the start of your trip, or feel free to e-mail us with any specific travel questions.
I was inspired to do this walk after watching the movie \The Way\ so the tour was always about the walk for me. However, the tour exceed my expectations. Not only was I expecting to come across some beautiful countryside but we shared the journey with a beautiful group of people on our tour, including our guides. It was truly a great accomplishment for me and a lifelong memory. Meeting people from all over the globe, sharing stories while walking was all very inspiring and spiritual. This tour is a must if you enjoy walking!!!
Awesome trip! I went to spend time with friends, experience the local culture and spend time in the great outdoors! I wasn't expecting a spiritual journey but quickly found myself caught up in the magic of the Camino! The people we met and the stories we shared lifted my spirits and buoyed my soul! Customwalks.com took care of the details so we could simply enjoy the experience. Make the journey..you won't regret it!
The walk was beautiful, we spent a night in an amazing 11th century home with murals on the walls and a mystical, foggy morning in the woods the next day! We had a wonderful group of traveling companions and had a great time together!
by Lydia from USA Pittsburgh