WALKING THE WORLD®
THE PILGRIMAGE WALK TO
SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
The Pilgrims’ Way to Santiago, or “Way of St. James”, is a journey of the soul and spirit that takes the traveler in the footsteps of millions who traveled from all over Christendom to venerate the tomb of the Apostle St. James – Santiago. The site, now known as Santiago de Compostela, came to be Christianity’s 3rd Holy City, along with Rome and Jerusalem, and St James became the Christians’ patron saint and inspiration in their long struggle to re-conquer Spain from the Moors.
Although it was not the first route used for the pilgrimage, the accessible terrain found along the “French” route that we follow led to it becoming the most popular of the various pilgrim’s ways to Santiago de Compostela over the centuries. As a result, many towns and villages sprang up along the Way to attend to the needs of the continuous volume of pilgrims, creating a superb legacy of wonderful historic and artistic monuments dedicated to the apostle.
Our journey begins in the historic city of León, former capital of the independent Christian Kingdom of León, the most important in the Iberian Peninsula during the early stages of the Reconquest of the peninsula from the Moors. The Moors came to occupy most of northwest Iberia at its height in the 10th and 11th centuries. León was a key way station on the Camino de Santiago and its development is inextricably linked with that of the pilgrimage. Today, it is the modern capital of the most northwesterly province in Spain’s Autonomous Region ofCastilla y León, but retains a wonderful walled old town, mostly restricted to pedestrians only, with superb historic buildings and a vibrant pilgrim’s atmosphere.
As we trace the Camino ever westward, we experience a dramatic change in terrain and ecosystems. As we leave León across the last of the high plains of Castile,an area that is arid and searing hot in summer and windswept and frigid in winter, we traverse a suddenly mountainous and unpopulated terrain leading to El Bierzo. This is a pocket of fertile valleys on the far northwestern edge of León province known for its great wine, fruit and vegetables. Our passage through this progressively wetter and greener environment takes us up and over the steep hills guarding the misty emerald landscapes of Galicia, whose rolling rural terrain and temperate Atlantic climate and vegetation accompany the final stages of the pilgrimage.
Our daily walks take us through beautiful rural landscapes and ancient villages and past Romanesque chapels and magnificent churches. Every day you will share the trail with fellow pilgrims from around Spain, Europe and even further afield, and inevitably, you will soon find yourself imbued with the unique and magical spirit that pervades the entire‘Camino de Santiago’ experience.
Our itinerary covers approximately the last 300 km of the route, taking you to the most emblematic spots along the Way – true jewels of Spanish art, architecture and history. Taking advantage of our support minibus, we have selected the most attractive sections of the trail to walk on the first 3 days between León and Sarria. From Sarria, we’ll walk the rest of the way to Santiago, in order to cover the final 100 km of the Way and thus qualify for the official pilgrim’s certificate on arrival at the holy city. Daily distances might seem challenging, but completing our itinerary along the Camino de Santiago is well within reach of anyone who maintains a moderate level of fitness. The support minibus will be used to transfer you and your baggage throughout the tour and give you a lift if needed.
Your leader will meet you in León and accompany you throughout the tour until your departure from Santiago airport. Weather permitting, with the aid of the support vehicle to carry supplies, the leader will also arrange delicious daily picnic lunches, typically fresh salad, cheeses, dried meats and local bread, or take you to a warm and dry place to eat localtapas. Evening meals offer tasty regional dishes, and like lunch, feature the best of each local area’s ingredients. The support vehicle also carries bottled water and fruit for snacks, and makes stops at strategic points along each day’s walk to supply the group as needed.
Finally, this guided itinerary also includes informative two hour tours in León and Santiago with English-speaking state-licensed local guides, experts in art and history, as well as entrance fees to the museums and other sites visited during such tours.
Day 1 – LEÓN:
(B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner)
Independent arrival in León and transfer to your hotel, located in the heart of the historic quarter of León. Explore on your own. Overnight in Leon. Meals: on your own (recommendations provided).
Day 2 – LEÓN TO ASTORGA:
Meet your Spain-based trip leader and rest of the group at 8:30 a.m. for an orientation session after breakfast. The pilgrimage begins with an inspirational visit accompanied by a local guide to Leon’s great Cathedral with its fabulous stained glass windows, considered one of the world’s masterpieces of Gothic art; and the Royal Basilica of San Isidoro, to see the remarkable frescoes in the “Pantheon of Kings”, one of Spain’s great Romanesque treasures. Following this, those who wish to qualify for the Compostela – the official pilgrim’s certificate of completion awarded by the Cathedral office in Santiago – can visit the Pilgrim’s Refuge to pick up their pilgrim’s “credentials”, the document that must be stamped at churches and the like along the Way to accredit your passage along the route. After a light tapas lunch, a short transfer takes us to the famous bridge at Puente de Orbigo. From here we begin our first walk of the tour heading across the typical rolling heaths of La Maragatería, as this area of western León province is known. Our walk, broken up by occasional vineyards and vegetable patches, takes us into the historic town of Astorga where the group will spend the night. As the junction of Spain’s two most historically important routes – the Roman road known as the Via de la Plata and the Camino de Santiago, Astorga has plenty of interesting sights to see, including Roman walls, an outstanding Gothic-Renaissance cathedral and the neo-Gothic Bishop’s Palace, built by famed Catalán architect Antonio Gaudí, containing an interesting Pilgrim’s Museum. Walking distance: 15 km / 9.3 miles. Overnight in Astorga (B, L, D).
Day 3 – ASTORGA TO VILLAFRANCA DEL BIERZO:
Today we continue our journey westward across León to our night’s destination ofVillafranca del Bierzo, at the extreme western edge of the province, at the gates of Galicia. Traveling in our support vehicle, we’ll stop for 3 short walks to experience 3 very different stretches of the Camino. After spending the early part of the morning exploring Astorga, a very short transfer brings us to the start of the day’s walk in the beautifully preserved typical stone village of Castrillo de los Polvazares. Our route follows heather-lined paths and lanes to El Ganso where we stop for a tasty lunch. We then continue by vehicle a few miles, through Rabanal del Camino to the crumbling stone hamlet of Foncebadón. Here we begin an easy 30 minute climb on a lovely farm track up to one of the simplest, yet most ancient and symbolic monuments along the pilgrim’s way, the iron cross – la Cruz de Ferro. This monument is set at just over 1500 m (4920 ft) atop the mountain pass of Monte Irago, where pilgrims throughout the ages have placed stones, creating a huge mound at the base of the cross. We continue by vehicle with wonderful mountain views, passing through Manjarín,with its medieval pilgrim’s refuge, quaint Acebo and busy Ponferrada, with its famous Templar Castle. We’re headed to Pieros, where if time allows we’ll enjoy a final short walk to historic Villafranca del Bierzo, capital of the El Bierzo region. Walking distance: 14 km / 8.75 miles. Overnight in Villafranca del Bierzo (B, L, D).
Day 4 – VILLAFRANCA DEL BIERZO TO SARRIA:
We begin our morning with a walking tour of Villafranca del Bierzo (known as “little Compostela” due to its wealth of historic buildings). We then take a short transfer to the starting point of the morning stage, an uphill (at times steep but never “off-trail”) walk along ancient paths shaded by birches, oaks, chestnuts and poplars up to the emblematic mountaintop village of O’Cebreiro way, with a lovely 12th century Romanesque church that is the scene of a fascinating legen, and curious ancient straw-roofed dwellings called Pallozas. After a lunch of traditional Galician country fare, the journey continues with a short transfer along the Camino for an enjoyable downhill walk on lovely sections of the trail with sweeping views on the way to Triacastella. This is followed by a visit to the Benedictine Monastery of Samos, founded in the 6th century and one of the oldest in western Christendom, on the way to our overnight stop in Sarria. Walking distance: AM: 8.2km/5.1 miles; PM: 6.5 km/4 miles). Overnight in Sarria (B, L, D).
Day 5 – SARRIA TO PORTOMARIN:
Now the pilgrimage begins in earnest, as we’ll walk the entire way from Sarria to Santiago – all 112 km! Today’s walk is one of the most attractive stages of the entire Pilgrim’s Way; traveling through verdant forests, grassy meadows, fertile orchards and simple stone-built hamlets. The morning section is a sustained but gentle uphill walk to our lunch spot inFerreiros. After lunch, we’ll enjoy a lovely downhill walk to Portomarin, where we’ll spend the night, perched on the banks of the MiñoRiver. Walking distance: 21.5km/13.4 miles. Overnight in Portomarin. (B, L, D).
Day 6 – PORTOMARIN TO PALAS DE REI:
Today the journey continues along farm tracks and quiet country roads through the lush Galician countryside to Palas de Rei. On the way, we will make a detour to visit one of the finest and most interesting Romanesque churches in Galicia, Vilar de Donas with our lunch spot nearby. Walking distance: 23.9 km/14.8 miles. Overnight in Palas De Rei for the next 2 nights (B, L, D).
Day 7 – PALAS DE REI TO CASTAÑEDA:
A typical day on the Camino de Santiago, through rolling green landscapes, dotted with cows, stone walls and tiny Romanesque churches. Today’s lunch stop will be in the important pilgrim’s town of Melide, where the main branch of the earliest of all the Pilgrim’s routes – El Camino Primitivo, coming from Oviedo, capital of Galicia’s eastern neighborAsturias, the only region in Iberia never conquered by the Moors - merges with the Camino Frances for the final push to Santiago. Although quite far inland, the town is also famous throughout Galicia for its Pulpo a la Feira – tender morsels of boiled octopus drenched in virgin olive oil, sea salt and paprika, which we naturally taste for lunch. In the afternoon, an especially enchanting stretch of forest trail awaits us. You will spend the night near the tiny hamlet of Castañeda. Walking distance: 21 km/13.1 miles (B, L, D).
Day 8 –CASTAÑEDA TO RUA:
As the journey nears Santiago, more pilgrims join the pilgrimage as yet another northern pilgrim’s route – El Camino del Norte – meets the Camino Frances in Arzua, midway through the walk. The route follows rural paths through vegetable patches, fields and oak groves, then pine and eucalyptus woods. Walking distance: 22.6 km/ 13.9 miles. Overnight in Rua (B, L, D).
Day 9 – RUA TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA:
Today the path follows country lanes and forest paths through increasingly populated countryside, until it finally reaches the top of the Monte del Gozo – “Mount of Joy”, so named for the emotion felt by those who on arriving there, were rewarded with their first view ofSantiago de Compostela. From here, we walk downhill into the city’s ancient centre, declared in its entirety a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our objective is the tomb of the Apostle St. James, in the city’s impressive Cathedral, situated on the Plaza del Obradoiro, Santiago’s grandiose central square lined with four magnificent buildings that symbolize the pillars of the city’s proud history – religion (the cathedral), tourism (the Parador), education (old university rectory) and government (Galicia’s capitol building). In the evening the group will enjoy a celebratory feast. Walking distance: 21.4 km/13.4 miles. Overnight in Santiago (B, L, D).
Day 10 – SANTIAGO & END OF TOUR:
In the morning, you will have a guided tour of the Cathedral and surrounding area with a local licensed guide. The tour ends at 12:00 noon (B).
For those with time, we can arrange 1 or more extra nights in Santiago to give you time to explore the town of Santiago de Compostela..
May 12-22, 2014 &
September 2-12, 2014
$3,395 (U.S. Funds)
$480 (U.S. Funds)
Santiago de Compostela, Spain
- Santiago de Compostela, Spain
- Meals – full board except on arrival day (on your own – recommendations provided) and departure from Santiago (breakfast only). Meals will include bottled mineral water and house wine at dinners. Other drinks include teas, coffee, soft drinks, beer or non-house wine. All other alcoholic beverages will be at clients’ own expense. Breakfast is usually some sort of buffet. Lunch – when weather is agreeable, lunch will often be an outdoors picnic lunch with fresh local fruit, fresh baked bread and local cheeses or cured meats, tomato salad, etc. At dinner we’ll focus on local cuisine – an appetizer, main course and dessert.
- Bi-lingual tour leader who will meet the group at the Léon hotel in the morning of Day 2 and accompany you throughout the tour
- Walking The World® Guide
- Great fun, humor and companionship
- Background information pack including local maps of León, Astorga and Santiago
- Walking The World® Hat
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED
- International or Domestic Flights
- Airport transfers are NOT included in either León or Santiago
Walking and Terrain:
You should be prepared to comfortably walk 4 – 6 hours a day with walks ranging from as little as 5 miles, up to 15 miles a day over varied terrain. The route covers many “flattish” sections, but there will be a good number of daily up hills and down hills, with surfaces ranging from grass or dirt farm tracks, to quiet surfaced country roads and occasional steep and/or rocky sections. There will also be some stretches on compacted dirt tracks – specially prepared for Pilgrims over recent years by the local governments. The morning walk (climb to O’Cebreiro) on Day 4 is challenging. Day 5 has a few mildly challenging sections. The last four days (6 – 9) are over relatively easy terrain.
On days 2, 3 and 4 you will walk only the most attractive sections of the trail, and will cover the remaining distances by vehicle. From Day 5 (Sarria) onward, the objective is to walk the entire way to Santiago – approximately 111 km / 69 miles, required in order to qualify for the official pilgrim’s certificate—la Compostela – on arrival in Santiago.
On most days of this tour (except the morning of Day 4) the support vehicle is never more than approximately 45 minutes away (often closer) offering the possibility of taking a rest or ride.
Note Concerning Luggage and Porterage:
Guides and the bus driver will load luggage into and unload luggage from the bus, they do not carry bags to client’s rooms or even into the hotel. Porterage is commonly provided only at few hotels, such as Paradors.
You should be prepared to manage your own bag to and from your room. If you do feel that you will need assistance with this, please let us know ahead of time and we’ll arrange some help, although at a small extra charge.
PASSPORTS/VISA. You will need a valid passport but you do not need a Visa for Spain.
Also, leave a copy of your passport with family or friends at home and make sure you bring a photo copy of your passport and other important documents with you.
Of course no passport is needed for an American citizen travelling in the United States. Still you will need valid identification and it’s always a good idea to leave some duplicate or other identification at home with others or family.
PLEASE REMEMBER TO MAKE SURE YOUR BOOTS ARE WELL BROKEN IN BEFORE WE LEAVE AND THAT YOU ARE WALKING EACH DAY BEFORE THE TRIP.
NO SMOKING is allowed on Walking The World trips.