Spilling over the Pyrenees from France into Spain, the network of trails that make up the Route of St. James—or El Camino de Santiago—converges at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. For more than a thousand years, pilgrims have trekked over the high plains of Castilla and the hills of Galicia, some to honor the Apostle James; others in the midst of their own spiritual journey. The route has given rise to historic and religious sites that represent centuries of European architecture at its best. Set out from Pamplona to discover the longest pilgrimage route in Europe, experiencing the most picturesque and poignant sections of this UNESCO World Heritage site on foot.
Arrive in Pamplona and transfer to our historic hotel, once a haunt of Ernest Hemingway. After an orientation, set out on a walk through the old city and the streets made famous by the running of the bulls. Meet up for a welcome dinner tonight.
Gran Hotel La Perla (D)
Descend out of the foothills of the Pyrenees to La Rioja, one of Spain’s most celebrated wine regions. In the capital city of Logroño, we get the first stamp in our “credencial” at the Plaza de Santiago. Then begin our journey along El Camino, walking through the vineyards to the village of Navarrete. In the afternoon, visit the Yuso and Suso monasteries of San Millán de la Cogolla, a World Heritage site considered the birthplace of the Spanish language. Stop for a wine tasting at a local bodega before settling into our hotel. (8 miles hiking, 4 hours)
Parador Nacional de Santo Domingo de la Calzada (B,L,D)
Our route today rises onto the Meseta Central, high plains that stretch across much of central Spain. We’ll pick up the trail in Atapuerca and make our way towards Burgos. Walk right into the center of the ninth-century city, a former capital of the kingdom of Castile and home to the Spanish national hero El Cid. Set out on a guided tour of the old town and its 13th-century Gothic cathedral, a World Heritage site. (12–13 miles hiking, 5–6 hours)
NH Collection Palacio de Burgos (B,L,D)
Continue across the Meseta, rambling through the endless green and gold fields of the Tierra de Campos. This land is filled with the history of La Reconquista, when Christian kingdoms succeeded in retaking areas of the Iberian Peninsula controlled by Moors. Arrive in the town of Carrión de los Condes, where we’ll stay the night in a historic monastery. (11 miles, 5 hours hiking)
Hotel Real Monasterio San Zoilo (B,L,D)
Start off from the medieval city of Sahagún and head west to the village of Bercianos del Real Camino. Drive on to León for lunch and spend the afternoon discovering the city’s historic sites, including its remarkable cathedral, filled with more than 100 stained glass windows. Enjoy dinner on your own in town this evening. Our home here is a spectacular Renaissance convent. (5–6 miles hiking, 3 hours)
Hotel Real Colegiata (B,L)
Today’s hike begins at a Roman bridge in the village of Hospital de Órbigo. Follow country roads and take in the view from El Crucero de Santo Toribio, a stone cross that has marked our trail for centuries. Descend to Astorga, and explore the town’s fascinating architecture, from Romanesque and Gothic churches to a palace designed by Antoni Gaudí. Continue west to Villafranca del Bierzo for the night. (11 miles hiking, 5 hours)
Parador de Villafranca del Bierzo (B,L,D)
Hike into the northwestern region of Galicia, known for its Celtichistory and rolling hills. We’ll tackle our first serious ascent, climbing nearly 1,200 feet during our last four miles. Follow forest paths and switchbacks past thatched houses and stone villages to reach the hilltop hamlet of O Cebrerio. See the oldest intact church on El Camino, and leave a coin at the village cross for good luck. We’ll spend the night in a Benedictine monastery in Monforte de Lemos. (7–8 miles hiking, 4 hours)
Parador Nacional de Monforte de Lemos (B,L,D)
Travel to the town of O Pedrouzo, where we’ll set off on the final leg of our hike along El Camino de Santiago. From Monte del Gozo, catch a first glimpse of the towers of Santiago’s cathedral. Continue into the heart of the city to Plaza do Obradoiro at the foot of the cathedral—the endpoint of the pilgrimage route. (12 miles hiking, 6 hours)
Parador de Santiago - Hostal dos Reis Católicos (B,L,D)
Journey to Cabo Fisterra, the western most tip of Spain and a continuation of El Camino for many pilgrims. Return to Santiago for a guided historical tour of the cathedral and the city’s old quarter, a World Heritage site. Or enjoy time to explore on your own before our farewell dinner. The next morning, transfer to the airport for your flight home.
Parador de Santiago - Hostal dos Reis Católicos (B,L,D;B)
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