This walking tour follows the ancient pilgrimage trail across the rolling plains of Castile-Leon, once the historic seat of the Spanish Empire, over the mountains and into the more isolated and culturally independent Galicia.
Along the walking trail from Leon to Santiago we soak up the history of the region as we stay in distinguished and luxurious Paradors and we sample 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 – Astorga
Route: 17 km (10 mi.) walk from Hospital d’Orbigo to Astorga
Accomodation: Hotel Via de la Plata
An easy first day on the Camino de Santiago that will allow you to fully enjoy the monumental city of Astorga, located on the border of the “paramo” to the mountains of León. Astorga has a great history, having been founded by the Romans in the 1st century B.C. It became a very important communication hub and a mining center during Roman times. Astorga is where the Southern Camino de Santiago coming from Seville along La Via de la Plata merges with the French way.
Day 3: Astorga – Villafranca
Route: 19 km (12 mi.) walk
Accomodation: Parador de Villafranca
From Foncebadon, you’ll leave the territory of Astorga and enter El Bierzo. The Camino climbs through rolling mountains to the Cruz de Ferro, a symbolic five metre monument, crowned with an iron cross sitting upon a heap of stones. After visiting the cross, you’ll venture into the village of El Acebo, where you will stop for lunch. The Camino winds it way down to the picturesque village of Molinaseca, known for its pretty riverside location and Romanesque bridge. From here you’ll be driven to your hotel for the evening, the Parador de Villafranca.
Day 4: Villafranca – Monforte de Lemos
Route: 21 km (13 mi.) walk
Accomodation: Parador Monforte de Lemos
This morning you’ll venture to Galicia via O Cebreiro, a stunning mountain village in a region of outstanding natural beauty. From O Cebreiro, you will pass through the ‘Serra de Ranadoiro’ (Ranadoiro Mountains) and, after crossing the Alto do Poio, you will descend into the village of Triacastela. Here your guide will be waiting to drive you to the lovely Parador de Monforte where you will have dinner this evening.
Day 5: Monforte de Lemos – Arzua
Route: 19 km (12 mi.) walk from Melide to Arzúa
Accomodation: Hotel Pazo Santa Maria
Following a relaxing morning and perhaps a quick tour of the Rio Sil’s lovely gorges, you’ll be driven to the lively market town of Melide to begin today’s short walk. Melide is a great place to try Galicia’s classic dish of octopus in one of the many “pulperías”. From here the Camino crosses several streams and follows a forest track bringing you to the village of Boente with its church of Santiago. Next is the pretty medieval village of Ribadiso and finally the town of Arzúa. In Arzúa, you should visit the churches of Santa María and A Magdalena.
Day 6: Arzua – Santiago de Compostela
Route: 14 km (8.5 mi.) walk from Amenal to Santiago
Accomodation: AC Palacio del Carmen
Parador Option: Parador de Santiago
Today your journey ends exactly where it should—in the impressive shadow of the medieval Cathedral de Santiago, the legendary resting spot of Saint James the Apostle, and the pious place where pilgrims both ancient and modern complete their act of devotion.
Today you’ll make the final journey into Santiago. You will have a short morning drive to Amenal, where you’ll start your day of walking. Your next point of interest is Lavacolla, where pilgrims used to wash themselves in the river in preparation for their arrival in Santiago. Rows of tall eucalyptus trees line your journey to Monte do Gozo (“Mount of Joy”) and it is from here that will catch your first glimpse of the Cathedral of Santiago. When you arrive in the city, you will get a chance to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site’s architecture and delight in the wonderful atmosphere of this spiritual and cultural mecca. Should you want to be in Santiago in time for the noon Pilgrims mass, it will require an early start as the journey time to this point is around four hours. Tonight you’ll enjoy a celebratory dinner with your guide.
Day 7: 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.
Hotel Via de la Plata
This modern hotel was built in 2011, on the stones of the convent of San Francisco.
Its design gave priority to the space in the rooms, their equipment and the welcoming and contemporary decoration. The banquet rooms, in a separate building, are connected to the hotel by means of a walkway with double doors so nothing disturbs the rest.
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.
Hotel Pazo Santa María
The Hotel is a stately building whose origins date documented in the first half of the eighteenth century.
In 2005 began his rehabilitation, carried out with the respect and affection it deserves preservation of historical heritage but at the same time, progress has incorporated all the amenities. Pazo Santa María has 16 lovely bedrooms located either in the Pazo’s main building or in the annexes (small individual “cottages” with ground-level entryways leading to beautiful bedrooms with baths).
Parador de Santiago – Hostal dos 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.
The hotel 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.