The Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, is one of the three great pilgrimage routes of medieval Christendom. More than a thousand years after its inception, the Camino still carries thousands of pilgrims a year from all over Europe, and further afield, to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Saint James’ resting place in northwest Spain. Pilgrims began to make their way to Santiago in the 9th century, and as their numbers grew, so did the churches, chapels, hospitals, hostels, and inns. This, along with the construction of roads and bridges, and the clearing of wide swaths of woodlands, helped to make the pilgrims’ progress easier and more secure.
We begin our journey in Bilbao before transferring to southern France, where we join the Camino in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. From here, we walk and hike along the French Way, on sections of the Camino that highlight the most scenic mountains, hills, and plains of northern Spain to Santiago and on to Finisterre — or Land’s End — on the Atlantic Ocean. As we advance westwards across the Iberian peninsula, we follow in the footsteps of millions who have gone before us, visiting monuments and churches that have borne witness to the passage of multitudes. Along the way, we enjoy the company of other pilgrims sharing a common endeavour, and have the opportunity to reflect on the significance of the Camino’s history and our own exterior and interior journeys.
We meet our guide in the late afternoon in Bilbao. After a brief orientation, we walk a short distance along the River Nervion and enjoy lovely views of the Guggenheim Museum en route to visiting its collections with a local art historian. After our visit, we'll enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant before retiring to our hotel to rest up for our first day on the Camino.
Hotel Barceló NerviónBilbao
Design, technology, art, and sustainability characterize the Barceló Bilbao Nervión hotel, which reopened its doors in 2013 after reinventing itself as a modern eco-urban establishment. The hotel stands in the heart of Bilbao, only a 10-minute walk to the Guggenheim Museum. The hotel offers an excellent and varied menu in its Ibaizabal restaurant and also in the hotel’s café, famous for its creative signature tapas to enjoy at your table or in the wine room.
Bilbao to Saint Jean Pied de Port and Roncesvalles
After breakfast in Bilbao, we transfer to the village of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (Saint John at the foot of the pass), where we have an opportunity to walk around this beautiful riverside town, visit the pilgrim information center and obtain the first stamp in our pilgrim's passport.
Our hike begins on a well-trodden, grassy footpath in the alpine pastures of the Pyrénées Atlantiques at an altitude of 4,000'. We traverse emerald-green, sheep-grazed hillsides, skirt the peak of Leizar Atheka, and continue through a beechwood forest before completing our climb to the top of Lepoeder Pass. Our descent down a stony track into Roncesvalles, where we will spend our first night on the Camino, provides splendid views of the Erro Valley. Before dinner, there is the option to attend the mass and blessing service given for pilgrims in the 12th-century Royal Collegiate Church of Saint Mary, and perhaps enjoy a pre-dinner drink on the hotel terrace.
This restored medieval hospital is situated beside Roncesvalles Monastery, an important point on the Camino de Santiago. Hotel Roncesvalles combines original stone walls and wooden ceilings with elegant, modern décor. Amenities in the 16-room hotel include a restaurant, lounge bar, and large terrace.
Roncesvalles to Pamplona
After breakfast, we transfer from our hotel in Roncesvalles to the Camino trailhead in the nearby village of Bizkarreta. Our walk this morning is considerably flatter than yesterday's stretch, as we gradually leave the Pyrenees behind us. We begin in the Erro valley, traversing the village of Lintzoain, and then ascending again to Carrovide. We then descend through the Erro pass, with its panoramic viewpoints, and continue downhill to the town of Zubiri — with its gem of a 12th-century Romanesque bridge. The name Zubiri is derived from the Basque (or Euskera) language meaning "village of the bridge."
There may be time before dinner to take walk around the old center of Pamplona and the course of the famed San Fermines bull run, celebrated annually in July.
Hotel Palacio GuendulainPamplona
Set in the former royal residence of Queen Isabella II, and located in the center of Pamplona, this 18th-century palace hotel is a 2-minute walk from San Nicolás church, and a 7-minute walk from the Pamplona Cathedral. Features include beautiful communal spaces decorated with historical paintings, elegantly furnished rooms, a lounge bar with a terrace, hallways displaying royal exhibits, and a garden courtyard.
Pamplona to San Millán de la Cogolla
Our trailhead today is in Zariquiegui, a short transfer west from Pamplona. From here, we make a brief, gentle but steady climb through wheat fields to the Alto del Perdón, the Mount of Forgiveness. At an altitude of 2,500' we find pilgrim sculptures by Vicente Galbete, aligned windmills, and splendid views both behind us toward Pamplona and onwards to Puente La Reina, our destination this afternoon.
The small town of Puente la Reina, or "the Queen's Bridge," allows us to walk the Camino along the Calle Mayor and across the stunning Romanesque bridge that gives the town its name. We complete today's stage by transferring to the village of San Millán de la Cogolla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This evening before dinner we'll tour the upper monastery of Suso. San Millán was a local 6th-century hermit-saint who retired to follow a life of contemplation in a hillside cave above the village that would eventually take his name. Devotees of San Millán and pilgrims traveled to visit his burial place in Suso until the 11th century when his remains were moved downhill to Yuso, a newer, larger monastery, befitting a saint of his importance. San Millán's nomination as patron saint of Castile, after the battle of Simancas in 923 AD, had already ensured his veneration throughout Spain, although this would decline gradually as the cult of Saint James developed and the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela gained momentum.
Hosteria del Monasterio de San MillánSan Millán de la Cogolla
Originally part of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, this 4-star historic hotel is housed within Yuso Monastery, a UNESCO Heritage Site. It preserves some of Spain’s oldest manuscripts in Spanish and Basque. Elegant rooms at Hosteria del Monasterio de San Millan provide views of the monastery and surrounding mountains. The Hosteria features a restaurant known for local specialities best complemented by wines from Rioja. Located in the monastery’s former kitchen, the on-site café serves snacks and drinks.
San Millán de la Cogolla to Burgos
This morning we begin our day with a tour of the Yuso Monastery, the larger and newer monstery adjacent to our hotel.
After our visit, we transfer to the Camino trailhead in the Montes de Oca, and enjoy a hike on forested paths to San Juan de Ortega. We ascend on steep trails until we reach the high, flat meseta of Castile, the great central heartland of Spain.
A short drive after our afternoon hike brings us to Burgos, founded and fortified in the late 9th century to contain the advance of the Moors, who had landed in southern Spain in 711. It is now an important provincial capital with a magnificent Gothic cathedral.
This evening is free to visit the Burgos Cathedral independently, dine on your own, explore Burgos, or simply rest and relax at our lovely hotel.
Palacio de los BlasonesBurgos
A haven of rest and relaxation, this 4-star hotel will offer total renewal just steps away from the citys numerous attractions. The hotels terrace affords stunning views of the cathedral and the churches of San Gil, San Nicolas and San Esteban, and the restaurant serves creative regional cuisine. Guest rooms offer modern, simplistic style, and charm, and service is warm and personal.
Burgos to Carrión de los Condes
Our hike today begins at the trailhead of San Bol and continues across a high plateau of cultivated farmland, offering nothing for company except ourselves and the wind. Here, we may come to understand another aspect and the wider significance of a pilgrimage.
Our route continues through Hontanas, named and appreciated for its many fontanas, or springs. It is known as the site of a former hostel for pilgrims, and also for San Antón, with its ruined 12th- to 14th-century monastery dedicated to Saint Anthony of Egypt. Monks of the order of Saint Anthony administered the hospital here, specializing in the care of medieval patients afflicted by Saint Anthony's Fire, or ergotism, then a common illness caused by eating contaminated grains. We complete our hike today in the village of Castrojeriz, where we find a fortress rebuilt by the Visigoths and later invaders, which bore witness to countless battles between Moors and Christians. Our journey concludes with a transfer to the town of Carrión de los Condes.
Hotel Real Monasterio de San ZoiloCarrión de los Condes
Set in a former monastery in Carrion de los Condes, the 4-star Hotel Real Monasterio de San Zoilo is accented by beautiful gardens. Featuring stone arches, drapes, and beamed ceilings, guestrooms have a rustic feel accompanied by modern conveniences. Restaurante Las Vigas serves traditional Spanish dishes made from local produce, as well as a daily breakfast.
Carrión de los Condes to León
This morning's hike begins from our monastery accommodation as we head toward the hamlet of Calzadilla de la Cueza. Calzadilla is derived from calzada, a causeway or paved road, in reference to the Roman road on which Calzadilla sits. This was a branch of the Via Aquitania that once connected Burdigala to Asturica Augusta (now Bordeaux and Astorga). Here, the Camino runs straight and true, along parts of the old Roman road and across the aptly named countryside Tierra de Campos, "land of fields." The mountains of the Pyrenees and the hills of La Rioja are well behind us now.
After a short transfer and arrival in León, we enjoy a guided tour of the city, founded by the Seventh Legion in Roman times. Here we visit perhaps the most astonishing of all Gothic cathedrals, with walls seemingly composed almost wholly of stained glass, much of which is original.
This evening, after dinner, we have the option to attend Compline with other pilgrims from all over the world and receive the Sisters' blessing for pilgrims at the nearby Benedictine monastery of Santa María de Carbajal.
Hospederia Monástica PaxLeón
Hospederia Pax is located just steps away from the city’s numerous attractions, in the main wing of a restored monastery that is still active. Enjoy traditional Leonese cuisine in the hotel restaurant, and mingle with pilgrims at the on-site hostel.
León to Villafranca del Bierzo
This morning we advance westward and transfer to Astorga for a short visit to Gaudí's monumental Episcopal Palace, before starting our hike in Castrillo de los Polvazares. Castrillo is the first stop on the Camino after Astorga, the point at which the Camino Francés (the French Way), and the Vía de la Plata (the Silver Way) — the pilgrimage route connecting southwest and northwest Spain — meet. Castrillo's location determined the occupation and employment of most of its inhabitants. Called arrieros, or muleteers, for centuries they transported wine, salted goods, dried meats, and grain between inland Spain and the coast to the north. The muleteers' thick-walled stone houses, pierced by wide doors that allowed easy access and exit for carts, carriages, and mules, face each other across austere cobbled streets, enlivened only by the passage of pilgrims and the setting sun.
After lunch, we stop at the Cruz de Ferro, a huge iron cross where pilgrims traditionally leave a stone they have brought from home, symbolizing the shedding of the past and future rebirth. We complete our traverse of the Montes de León, before descending into the Bierzo region. Here, we end the hiking portion of our day with a vineyard visit and wine tasting at Palacio de Canedo en route to our Parador Hotel in Villafranca del Bierzo.
Hotel Parador de Villafranca del BierzoVillafranca del Bierzo
The modern rooms at Parador de Villafranca feature stylish décor with parquet floors. Each offers views of the gardens, terrace, mountains, or the town of Villafranca del Bierzo. Enjoy a refreshing swim in the hotels two swimming pools, and relax in the bar and lounge. The hotel restaurant serves traditional Spanish cuisine, specializing in local cured meats, cheeses and pastries.
Villafranca del Bierzo to Monforte de Lemos
This morning we transfer to the hamlet of Las Herrerias at the foot of the Cordillera Cantábrica, a mountain chain which separates Castilla-León to the east, and Galicia — the last autonomous region of Spain we will visit — to the west. A steady but comfortable climb through fields, mixed woodland, and across hillsides covered with heather and bracken, brings us to O Cebreiro at nearly 4,500', the highest stopping point on the Camino Francés in Galicia.
After lunch close to the pass with stunning views to either side, we walk through beautiful high countryside, losing some altitude as we reach Linares — named for the flax that used to be grown there — only to regain it on our way to Alto do Poio. From here, we transfer via Samos, renowned for its 6th-century monastery, to Monforte de Lemos, a hilltop settlement already inhabited in pre-Roman times by the Lemavos. The city has a rich artistic heritage characterized primarily by its medieval fortress, the palace of the Counts of Lemos and a Benedictine monastery. Our parador hotel occupies parts of these last two buildings and some of Monforte's other attractions include its status as wine capital of the Ribeira Sacra wine-producing region and its old Jewish quarter.
Parador de Monforte de LemosLugo
Located in northern Galicia in the town of Monforte de Lemos, this Parador Hotel is in a former 17th-century Benedictine Monastery. Enjoy surrounding views of the town and countryside and well-appointed rooms in this historic setting.
Monforte de Lemos to Santiago de Compostela
On the last stage of our pilgrimage, we transfer from Monforte de Lemos to Vilei. Our trail alternates between paved walkways and the occasional footpath, through bucolic countryside and quiet, unspoiled hamlets until we reach Ferreiros. After some light refreshment, we transfer to the outer part of the old city of Santiago de Compostela, and walk the last stretch of the Camino Francés to the cathedral itself, before continuing the short distance to our hotel for the last two nights of our journey.
Later today, we will have a guided tour of central Santiago de Compostela, surely one of the most beautiful and historic monumental cities in Spain, and its cathedral, still the annual destination for thousands of pilgrims who travel from all over the world to complete this historic walk. Tonight we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
San Francisco Hotel MonumentoSantiago de Compostela
Located near the cathedral in the center of Santiago de Compostela, this property is housed in a converted 18th-century Franciscan convent, whose origins date back to 1214. Today, the San Francisco Hotel Monumento is a charming, 4-star hotel surrounded by gardens, with an indoor pool and hot tub. Rooms at the hotel are spacious and elegant, and the restaurant serves creative regional dishes with fresh produce from the hotel gardens.
Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre
Our hike today is an epilogue to the Camino de Santiago. We will make a special pilgrimage to Finisterre, Land's End, one of the westernmost points in peninsular Spain, and the final destination of pilgrims wishing to reach the Atlantic Ocean. Finisterre has long been a place of pagan worship even before Roman times. According to legend, Finisterre is also the site of Ara Solis, an altar linked to the adoration of the sun and supposedly destroyed by the Apostle when he built the hermitage of San Guillermo, of which nothing remains.
We finish our journey at the lighthouse with views of the Atlantic and a final seaside lunch. Tonight we return to Santiago de Compostela and celebrate the end of our pilgrimage with a typical Galician-style dinner.
Depart from Santiago de Compostela
Our tour officially ends today after breakfast. You may choose to extend your stay independently in Santiago de Compostela, and perhaps attend a mass service at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, or begin your journey home (albeit not on foot!).
Please note that this is a typical itinerary, and actual activities may vary due to weather conditions, local events, and to allow serendipity to play a hand in your experience. Accommodations are as outlined in the itinerary, although we reserve the right to change these or the order visited should the need arise.
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Accommodations (hotels, tents, cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. A single supplement is paid by participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability. If you reserve at least 120 days prior to departure, you may be eligible for a reduced or free single supplement.* This is generally limited to the first one or two solo travelers to reserve, and the reduction is outlined in the pricing for each trip. Please note, free or reduced single supplements are not combinable with other offers or promotions.
If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we will try to match you with a roommate of the same gender. If you reserve at least 120 days ahead and a roommate is not available, you will only be charged a “forced” single supplement in the amount of 50% of the standard single supplement* (unless otherwise noted in the detailed itinerary). Single accommodations are limited so you are encouraged to reserve early!
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Boundless Journeys' trips are designed for energetic and flexible individuals who like to be active and have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. Spain: Hiking the Camino de Santiago is rated 3, moderate, on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the most strenuous). The hikes on this trip average of 3-6 hours a day, on a combination of dirt and grass trails, paved roads, and rocky paths, with some steep ascents and descents.
It may be possible to shorten some walks with private transportation to/from the group. Depending on group size and fitness level, your guide(s) will present at least two options on various days, one shorter and one longer.
Bilbao, Spain at 4:30 p.m.
Santiago de Compostela, Spain; after breakfast
Most Convenient Airport: Bilbao Airport, Bilbao, Spain (airport code BIO) or Madrid Barajas International Airport Madrid, Spain (airport code MAD), for arrival. Santiago Airport, Santiago de Compostela, Spain (airport code SCQ) for departure.
Meeting Time and Place: Your guide(s) will meet you on the first day of the trip at 4:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Hotel Barcelo Nervion in Bilbao.
Departure Time and Place: The trip will end after breakfast at the Hotel Monumento San Francisco in Santiago de Compostela. From there, taxis are available to the Santiago Airport (SCQ), or the Santiago de Compostela Railway Station. The transfer takes about 20-30 minutes.
Given that you will be traveling almost 500 miles from the Pyrenees through northern continental Spain, and west to the Atlantic Ocean, you can expect a variety of weather conditions. Sun and warm temperatures typically prevail in June, however, you should come prepared for a variety of conditions, as we will walk and hike in the rain, unless it is hazardous to do so, and we will encounter some long stretches with little to no shade. In June, average temperatures along our route typically range from the low 50's to the mid-70's.
You may obtain more detailed weather information on www.weatherbase.com.
June and September are considered some of the best months to walk the Camino de Santiago. During these month, the weather is generally warm or hot, everything is open, and the trails are not as busy as they are in July and August.
The delights of Spanish cuisine are as wide and varied as its landscapes. Hearty stews, steaks, black pudding, lamb, cured meats, and fine red wine are staples in the north. Trout, tuna, cod, and a variety of cheeses are present in most menus, and fresh vegetables are typically in plentiful supply. We generally dine at small restaurants in the villages we visit that offer authentic and delicious cuisine. Dinner in Spain is late, and we eat on the "early" side at 8:30 p.m. Local wines and beer are included with dinner each evening. Vegetarians can be accommodated with advance notice, though choices tend to be much more limited; culturally, meat and fish are key components of Spanish cuisine.
Exact travel distances will depend on where we start and/or stop walking each day, with an approximate drive time of 1-2 hours daily.
Our tour is designed to highlight the "best of" moments along the entire length of the (French) Way of St. James over 12 days, including scenic hikes, delicious regional cuisine, and cultural landmarks. While you will receive a Pilgrim's Passport and be encouraged to collect stamps along your journey, please note that in order to receive the Compostela certificate one must walk (at minimum) the last consecutive 100 km, which our tour does not do, since the terrain and landscape is rather monotonous.
Nick is a U.K. ex-pat residing in Barcelona and has been guiding and designing active cultural tours in Spain for nearly 20 years. His passion for Spanish culture and heritage have, at times, led him to writing, translating, editing, publishing, and teaching, including time at the University Complutense in Madrid.
Nick’s ample experience and a love of all things Spanish (especially food and wine), make him a fantastic traveling companion on our Spain tours, where guests continuously comment on his extensive historical knowledge and friendly manner.
With a Boundless Journeys guide, your experience is that of friend and local adventurer. We believe strongly in working with local guides, experts in the areas to which we travel, and they hold the keys to unlocking the hidden delights of your chosen destination. Although you will never know they are at work—the mark of a truly great leader—our guides make magical things happen and add a dimension to your trip that you could not experience on your own. Over the years we have forged bonds with some of the best guides in the world, and we typically work with a small team of guides in each region. You will be informed of the guide for your trip one month prior to your departure.
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Moderate hiking, 3-6 hours a day, on a combination of dirt and grass trails, paved roads, and rocky paths, with some steep ascents and descents.
This trip can be your own adventure by taking over one of our scheduled dates, or we can request a fresh one.
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