This cycling tour follows the ancient pilgrimage trail across the rolling plains of Castile-Leon, once the seat of the Spanish Empire, over the mountains, and towards the final destination of Santiago de Compostela.
During the 240km ride we soak up the history of the region, stay over in exclusive lodging and sample authentic cuisine and wine from the Castilian and Galician regions.
Day 1: Leon
Accommodation: Parador de León
You will meet your guides in Madrid and we’ll give you a lift through the Sierra de Guadarrama and over the fertile plains of Castile to the historic city of León, founded in 68 B.C. León’s cathedral has the most beautiful stained glass windows in all of 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 (known for some of the best tapas bars in Castile). 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
Accommodation: Hotel Via de la Plata
We’ll start our trip winding westward through small towns whose economies, for centuries, were dependent on the pilgrims making their way westward along the Camino. Today’s riding is a good warm up for the next couple of days, as we go through the western plains of Castile towards the mountains that mark the limits between Castile and Galicia. Your hotel for the evening is the town of Astorga, famous for the Archbishops’ Palace (designed by Antoní Gaudí, creator of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia), the Town’s Cathedral, and their flavorful chocolate.
Day 3: Astorga – Villafranca
Route: 59.7 km
Elevation: +805 m
Accommodation: Parador de Villafranca
Today we move from the rolling hills of Castile into the mountains that mark the beginning of the end of the Camino! Since it’s our first day of serious climbing, we’ll take to the road and ride to the highest point on the Camino, a gradual climb of 800 metres/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.
Day 4: Villafranca – Monforte de Lemos
Accommodation: 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 sections just like this. Plus, 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, we’ll get on the bikes and enjoy the downhill ride to the town of Triacastela. We’ll ride through (and visit) the Monastery of Saint Julian in Samos, then trace our way along back country 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 historically converted luxury Parador (hotel) in Monforte de Lemos which is well-known for its regional red wine.
Day 5: Monforte de Lemos – Arzua
Route: 48 km
Accommodation: Hotel Pazo Santa Maria
Central Galicia is covered with dense pine forests and eucalyptus groves, which will provide shade as we trace our way through tiny villages spread along the Camino, many of which don’t have much more than a couple of residents and a lot of cows!
Luckily Galicia is criss-crossed by country roads, giving us the opportunity to get off the beaten path. We’ll discover some hidden routes that take us away from the crowds of the Camino. We’ll ride along peaceful paths with fabulous views and historical castle ruins. We’ll have lunch on the grounds of the Palace of Ulloa (made famous by Emilia Pardo Bazán, a genius of Galician literature). That night, we’ll stay in Arzúa, within a close distance of Santiago de Compostela.
Day 6: Arzua – Santiago de Compostela
Route: 36 km
Elevation: +523 m
Accommodation: Parador de Santiago
The final day of the tour is short but tough. We’ll bike the final kilometers 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 towards 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 7: Departure
Whether your plan is to return home or continue your travels 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 cities 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.
OPTIONAL: One extra day to the Galician coast. Finesterre was thought to be where the world ended when the sunset on the horizon over the Atlantic. It has remained significant over the centuries for the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Surrounded by brilliant blue waters and an authentic fishing village, Finesterre and its lighthouse is the km 0 of Camino. It is a valuable reward to end your trip by including an extra night in the Parador Santiago. Ask for a price quote.
Parador de León GL San Marcos
Located in Leon’s historical center, directly in the heart of one of the most impressive Roman complexes of the Peninsula.
The convent of San Marcos is one of the greatest architectural gems of the Spanish town of Leon, together with the Cathedral, the San Isidoro Basilica or the Casa Botines. It has now become a Parador and is one of the most important monuments of the Spanish Renaissance.
Hotel Via de la Plata
This modern hotel was built in 2011, over the stones of the convent of San Francisco.
The hotels design gave priority to the space in the rooms, the furniture and the welcoming contemporary decoration. If offers the rest you deserve while enjoying the best location in the historic district.
Parador de Villafranca del Bierzo
Villafranca del Bierzo is a town full of churches, monasteries and convents. Right at the town entrance stands this converted historical building, known as a Parador in Spain
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.
San Vicente do Pino Monastery and the palace of the counts of Lemos 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
This elegant hotel dates back to the first half of the eighteenth century.
The Pazo Santa Maria complex comprises of various historical buildings which in themselves amount to a small village. Pazo Santa María has 16 lovely bedrooms located either in the main building or in the small individual annex cottages.
Parador de Santiago – Hostal Reis Catolicos
The Parador de Santiago is a blend of history, art and tradition. It is the emblem of the city and the prefect nights rest for pilgrims.
The hotel is located in Obradoiro Square near the cathedral, creating an area of spectacular beauty in one of the most visited provincial capitals of the world. A stay at this Parador means a visit to a truly unique and exclusive location.
An unbeatable cultural and historical cycle journey along the Way of St. James
13 Sept 2020, 27 Sept 2020, 11 Oct 2020, 25 Oct 2020, 14 Mar 2021, 28 Mar 2021, 11 Apr 2021, 25 Apr 2021, 09 May 2021, 23 May 2021, 06 Jun 2021, 20 Jun 2021, 04 Jul 2021, 29 Aug 2021, 12 Sept 2021, 26 Sept 2021, 10 Oct 2021, 24 Oct 2021
We loved the trip and rate it a 10. We thought the friendly, personal service was great and overall the trip was a very good
value. We enjoyed all of the
hotels and restaurants. We particularly enjoyed the Pulperia where we had lunch as we reached Santiago, and restaurant in Santiago were we had the final dinner. We liked trying some of the traditional Spanish foods that Pablo recommended
We really enjoyed Pablo and Juan. They treated us more as friends than customers.