On this guided Paradores cycling tour of the Camino de Santiago and Galicia, you will have the opportunity to stay in these exquisite hotels, while cycling the historical and cultural route of Santiago de Compostela and the rolling green landscapes of the province of Galicia. Beginning in Leon, this guided tour is designed to take you from parador to parador and cathedral to cathedral with the added assurance that our experienced Bike Spain guides are always close at hand for support and assistance.
This cycling tour follows the ancient pilgrimage trail across the rolling plains of Castile-Leon, once the historic seat of the Spanish Empire, over the mountains, into the more isolated and culturally independent Galicia and all the way Finisterre, or what the Romans called the “end of the earth.”
Along the 250 km biking trail from Leon to Santiago, we will soak up the history of the region as we stay in distinguished and luxurious paradores, sampling some of the best examples of Castilian and Galician food and wine.
Day 1: Leon
Accomodation: Hotel Real Colegiata de San Isidoro
From Madrid, we’ll travel by van through the Sierra de Guadarrama and over the fertile plains of Castile to the historic city of León, founded in 68 B.C. and home to the cathedral with the most beautiful stained glass windows in Spain. On the way, we will stop for lunch in Rueda, famous for its exquisite white wine, Verdejo. We’ll spend the late afternoon visiting the Cathedral, wandering around the winding, slate-paved streets of the Barrio Húmedo (renowned for some of the best tapas bars in Castile); and, before dinner, we’ll head to the Madres Carbajales convent to get that all-important piece of documentation that will record our pilgrimage – the Credencial del Peregrino.
Day 2: Leon – Villafranca
Accomodation: Parador de Villafranca
Today we will hop in the van and travel to Astorga, famous internationally for the Archbishops’ Palace (designed by Antoní Gaudí, creator of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia), the Town’s Cathedral…and some of the most delicious chocolate! From here, we will move from the rolling hills of Castile into the mountains that mark the beginning of the end of the Camino! From here we hop on the bikes and take the road to the highest point on the Camino, a gradual climb of 800 meters/2,624 feet (which also means a stunning twelve-kilometer descent to Molinaseca and through to Ponferrada!) After visiting the Templar Castle in Ponferrada, we’ll travel by van to the town of Villafranca del Bierzo, where we’ll stay in the renovated Parador of Villafranca, complete with indoor and outdoor swimming pools for the best respite from the trials of the road trip.
Day 3: Villafranca to Monforte de Lemos
Accomodation: Parador Monforte de Lemos
This stage of the Camino is considered to be the most difficult by Camino riders, who regularly share survival stories of how they managed to climb up to the peak of O Cebreiro. You don’t have to ride that section – the minivan is there for the less macho cyclists among us – and anyway, it’s worth saving your energy for the brake-burning 25 km descent that follows. After visiting the restored village and mountaintop chapel at O Cebreiro – spiritual home to the recent Camino renaissance – we’ll get on the bikes and enjoy the downhill ride into the hamlet of Triacastela. We’ll ride through (and visit) the Monastery of Saint Julian in Samos, then trace our way along backcountry roads through pine and eucalyptus forests, away from the main Camino route and pedal through to Sarria (where we’ll have our lunch break).
From Sarria we will transfer by van to our Parador in the charming town of Monforte de Lemos which is well-known for its regional red wine.
Day 4: Monforte de Lemos to Santiago de Compostela
Accomodation: Parador de Santiago GL
The final day of biking is short but tough. After a morning transfer from the Parador in Monforte to Arzua, we’ll bike the final kilometers of the Camino through rolling countryside, past Lavacolla hill, where pilgrims would tidy themselves up before attending the Pilgrim’s Mass at the Cathedral. From there, it’s on to the Monte do Gozo, where you get your first glimpse of the end of the road: the Cathedral of Santiago. It’s a quick 4 kilometer ride into the center of Santiago itself, where narrow, winding streets reach the Praza do Obradoiro, home of both the Cathedral of Santiago and the Parador, the former Palace of the Catholic Kings. After visiting the Pilgrims’ Affairs office, where we’ll receive the coveted Compostela certificate (making us official pilgrims) we’ll have a farewell dinner and a walk though the lamp-lit streets of the Old Town.
Day 5: Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre
Accomodation: Parador de Santiago GL
On the final day of our tour, we will hop in the van one last time and take a ride out to Finisterre, a final destination for the pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. Along the way we will pass through a number of small, picturesque villages and the beautiful lush green scenery that Galicia is so famous for. In Finisterre we will have time to explore this quaint fishing village and its narrow streets at the “end of the earth” and enjoy the view of the breathtaking coastline here. At the end of the day we will return to our Parador in Santiago for the last night of our tour.
Day 6: Departure
Whether your plan is to return home or continue your travels in Spain or elsewhere in Europe, Santiago is a great stepping off point. Its small but new international airport is very well connected to Spanish destinations and to nearby European ones like London and Paris. Flights out are generally very well priced for those who plan in advance. Meanwhile, for those of us who do not choose to part ways in Santiago, after breakfast, we’ll bid farewell to our Camino adventure and return to Madrid by van (7 hours). Our route whisks us through the mountains of southern Galicia, through Ourense and back across the golden plains of Castilla-León
Hotel Real Colegiata de San Isidoro
Located in Leon’s historical centre, in the heart of one of the most outstanding Romanic complexes in the Peninsula.
Parador de Villafranca del Bierzo
At the entrance to Villafranca del Bierzo, town of churches, monasteries, convents and fine buildings, stands this Parador.
The leading tourist accommodation in the fascinating El Bierzo district. It is surrounded by mountains covered with cherry and fig trees, slopes dotted with chestnuts, poplars and small farms.
Parador de Monforte de Lemos
The historic site of San Vicente do Pino is located in the uppermost part of the town of Monforte de Lemos.
It is made up of the keep, San Vicente do Pino Monastery and the palace of the counts of Lemos, which houses the Parador de Monforte. The monastery dates back to the 9th century, although the current structure was built in the 17th century in the neoclassical style.
Parador de Santiago-Hostal Reis Catolicos
The Parador de Santiago, known as the Hostal dos Reis Católicos, is a blend of history, art and tradition, the dream of pilgrims and emblem of Santiago.
It is located on Obradoiro Square near the cathedral, creating an area of spectacular beauty in one of the most visited provincial capitals in the world. A stay at this Parador means a visit to a truly unique and exclusive location.