Viva España: El Camino de Santiago
Are you tired of the same holidays, the same hotels, the same sights and tourist attractions? Do you want to do something life-changing instead? Of course you do! So, why not join the hundreds who have walked Spain’s stunning El Camino de Santiago (‘the way of Saint James’) and are living happier and more fulfilled lives because of it?
To challenge your mind and body, and cleanse your soul, Whereabouts Holidays presents our selection of walking holidays in Spain - El Camino de Santiago.
Whether you’re religious, or not, a lover of walking, art, architecture, travel, mind-blowing landscapes, photography, fitness, meeting new people, Spanish history and culture, adventures or having the best pub stories, this will be like nothing you have ever done before. Each of our El Camino walking holidays will take you on a pilgrimage to one of España’s most breath-taking works of art and architecture.
This iconic route will allow you to truly open your eyes to quite how much your body can achieve and how much you can do when you set your mind to it. There is evidence to suggest that humans on the move are happier and more peaceful.
Whilst you’re not having to live without your iPhone, your flushing toilets and your hi-speed WIFI for your whole life, like so many people in our world, an experience lasting between four and 18 days inclusive might just be the techno/materialism detox you’ve been craving.
Think of it as a period of blissful escape and recuperation from your hectic day-to-day life; which simultaneously enables you to become a fitter, stronger, more stoic and better-travelled individual. What’s not to love? All you have to do is decide how long you wish to spend exploring this wonderous place. Our walking holidays in Spain on El Camino de Santiago, are available in three packages of different lengths but all have a ‘medium’ ranked difficulty.
Walking Holidays Spain – El Camino de Santiago
‘Camino de Santiago’ (7 Nights)
The shortest of our packages, this trip lasts seven nights, in which you will walk the final 113km of this famous route.
After your individual journey to the Sarria on day 1, the second day of your trip finds you on the first leg of your journey. To ease you into your experience, this trek from Sarria to Portomarín is more downhill than up and is only 4.5 hours.
Day 2 is a treasure trove for history, architecture lovers and the religious. Explore Santiago de Barbadelo, with a sleepy little romantic church which dates back to the 12th century. Its artistic porches are adorned with flowers and scallops, the symbol of the Camino. Meanwhile, the church of San Xoan e San Nicolas with its interesting structure will put your childhood pillow forts to shame.
Also venture through The Pre-Romanesque church of Santa Maria de Loio – the only remaining vestige of the Monastery where the “Orden of Santiago” was born: 12 knights that swore to protect pilgrims from Muslim raids.
If you’re lucky enough to have your days align with the 9th of the month, you can attend the fair of the 9th day of Portomarín: every 9th day of each month, there is a livestock and trade fair. Immerse yourself in the local culture and maybe mingle with some of the locals. If you’re feeling a little peckish, why not buy some delicious Portomarín almond cake? Maybe even treat yourself and wash it down with the speciality Brandy of Portomarín: (Augardente de Portomarín) which is sold directly from the harvesters to the consumer. Give the traditional dish of Portomarín, fried eels, a try?
Or sample some local cuisines in one of the many excellent restaurants. After this stop, lovers of archaeology should take a short detour to visit the archaeological remains of the Celtic fort (Castro) in the excavation process. Day 3 kicks your experience up a notch, with its longer route and predominantly uphill pathway. This slightly more challenging journey takes you from Portomarín to Palas de Rei and is more than worth the effort.
For five and a half hours walking, you will be able to take in an overflowing fountain of natural beauty. The stunning landscapes are green and blue, often dotted with colourful flora and foliage. Day 4 takes you to your next village: Castañeda. On this day you travel a very do-able 150m downhill spread across 28km from Palas de Rei – Arzú. pass Leboreiro with its old pilgrims’ hospice to Mélide and try the Galician delicacy “Pulpo á Feira” (octopus). It’s back downhill on day five, for five hours to Lavacolla.
On the way, you will pass many small villages, which are hidden in eucalyptus forests. Finally, you reach Lavacolla, the starting point of the last section to Santiago. Day six directs you along Rio Lavacolla, where pilgrims wash before meeting the apostle, and on to San Marcos, the last village before you reach Santiago.
In and around today’s gentle 2.5-hour journey, there is plenty of time for individual exploration – you will also start to see the stunning cathedral in the distance. Monte do Gozo (Hill of Joy) is a hill you will pass in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. At 370 metres (1,210 ft), it is the pilgrims’ last stop before reaching the cathedral, with about an hour’s walk still to go. On your last scheduled day, you will finally reach the much-anticipated and awe-inspiring cathedral of Santiago.
More than 75,000 Christians visit this sacred site and, after attending a beautiful and peaceful pilgrim mass, you are free and encouraged to explore the historic old city. The memory-making doesn’t have to stop here. Instead of flying home the next day, you are very welcome to extend your holiday for as long as you wish. Maybe take your time uncovering some more of the hidden, and not so hidden, treasures that Spain has to offer.
The ‘long Camino de Santiago’ (13 Nights)
The next option you might want to choose is the ‘long Camino de Santiago’. This tour is just under double the length of its predecessor and packs a whole lot more into your Camino. If a week is too short for you to really appreciate the details of the trek, and you aren’t wanting the full 19-day shebang, but you want to push yourself that extra bit further – this route is for you. On day one, you arrive in Astorga, a walled old town known for its medieval history.
Here you can see The Episcopal Palace, designed by modernist Antonio Gaudí and ‘Los Caminos Museum’, with its fascinating, religious artefacts. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, why not visit the Museo del Chocolate to pick up some snacks for on the road, or as a present for loved ones? Day two moves you from Astorga to Rabanal del Camino, this might be a shorter trek, but don’t forget to take food and fill your water bottle before leaving Astorga. It is 20.2km uphill all day, so get ready to feel that in the morning.
Also, ensure that you have money to last two days until Ponferrada. There are a few villages where you will certainly get water, but food cannot be guaranteed until Rabanal. Now you can celebrate your arrival in the Taberna El Trechuro with fabulous artisanal beers, made by the owner. You walk from Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca, (26.5 km.) on day three. This idyllic and serene village is home to 818 inhabitants and plays host to a beautiful little bridge where you could take some fantastic photos in the reflection of the water.
Moving swiftly on to day four, which takes you to Villafranca del Bierzo – the last important town in Leon that is crossed by the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela. Its rich monumental heritage, and the influence of the St. James pilgrims, have made it an important tourist centre. Its old town has been declared Property of Cultural Interest. Why not bask in the sun or swim in the sea on Playa Fluvial, or enjoy a glass of wine? On day five, you walk from Villafranca del Bierzo to O´Cebreiro, which is a (not to be sniffed at) 30.9km.
This tiny, picturesque mountain village hosts the Romaría Virxe do Cebreiro festival in early September which is dedicated to the patron saint of O’Cebreiro. There is also an annual gastronomic festival dedicated to O’Cebreiro cheese, taking place in April. The ethnographic museum is a must-see and the Queixo do Cebreiro (the local soft creamy artisan cheese), is to die for and is perfect with honey or a slice of quince jelly. If you fancy, you can pop over to pay your respects to Don Elías Valiña Sampedro, who was responsible for the rediscovery of the Camino de Santiago and O Cebreiro’s characteristic ‘pallozas’ (traditional mountain dwellings of pre-Roman origin, unique to this region) and heritage. On your 6th day, you will walk 20.7km from O´Cebreiro to Triacastela.
This charming little village has no more than a thousand inhabitants, making it a fab location to make new friends as there are usually more caminantes than inhabitantes! The gorgeous local restaurants serve up a mixture of Mediterranean and European cuisine. The remaining days in the itinerary are the same as the smaller package deal:
• Day 7 Walk Triacastela to Sarria, 25km
• Day 8 Walk Sarria to Portomarin, 23km
• Day 9 Walk Portomarin to Palas de Rei, 26km
• Day 10 Walk Palas de Rei to Arzúa, 29km
• Day 11 Walk Arzúa to Rua, 17km
• Day 12 Walk Rua to Santiago de Compostela, 23km
• Day 13 Rest day in Santiago de Compostela and enjoy the history and culture of this fabulous city
• Day 14 Return
The ‘full Camino de Santiago’ (18 Nights)
The final option available for this historic route is the ‘full Camino de Santiago’, which adds an extra five days of walking, touring and experiencing this idyllic locale. This is nearly three times as long as our shortest options and is for those who really want to push themselves that little bit harder.
People interested in this package should be prepared for a slight challenge, but one that is worth it for the experience. The first thirteen days of this route follow the same itinerary as the long Camino de Santiago. On day fourteen though, instead of returning home, you’ll get the chance to finish off the route and take in the full splendour of one of the world’s most famous pilgrimage sites.
To start, you will depart the beautiful city of Santiago de Compostela and walk 22.4km toward Negreira, a peaceful town made famous by the pilgrim’s route. For the sightseers amongst you, the most notable monument in Negreira is the Pazo de Coton, a medieval fortress located in the centre of town. There are many spots along the river here that are perfect for a quiet evening spent with a glass of wine.
The morning after on day 15, you will journey another 18km from Negreira to Santa Mariña. The route here traverses a lush, remote region filled with the calming influence of nature. There aren’t any major towns or cities on this route, but the small hamlet of As Mariñas has some noteworthy sights including a Romanesque church, ancient granaries and a stone cross. Day 16 will see you travel to Oliveiroa on a 15km walk across some of the routes most stunning scenery. The village itself is a quiet place, but perfectly complements the region’s natural qualities.
In terms of sightseeing, the whole area is littered with streams and small forests, and of course, there’s the quaint village of Oliveiroa. After stopping here for the night, you will then embark on the penultimate walk to Ces, another remote area teeming natural beauty. The final day of walking will cover the remaining 21km from Ces to the final destination, Finisterre. Our endpoint is a truly stunning place, rich with cultural and spiritual significance.
There are a number of places to visit while you’re visiting. The many beaches dotted around the coast are a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Those interested in the religious significance of the trip may want to check out some of the religious stones that call Finisterre home, including the “holy stones”, the “stained wine stones”, the “stone chair”, and the tomb of the Celtic goddess Orcabella.
It’s not just the wonderful sights that capture people’s hearts though. The significance of completing such a historic trail can only be appreciated when you reach this point. This package includes 18 night’s accommodation in twin or single rooms, 18 breakfasts and 16 dinners (not in Santiago) during your stay.
We also provide luggage transfers between the hotels while you travel and detailed maps with your trail clearly marked, plus instructions on how to get to your hotel and local recommendations for you to spend your free time.
A telephone number will be provided just in case you do happen to run into any problems on the road. Once again, that needn’t be the end of your walking holidays in Spain.