Walk the end of the Road of St. James pilgrimage route! Follow in the footsteps of countless pilgrims who have followed this route to Santiago de Compostela, the “Field of Stars”. The Road has something for everyone: a physical challenge, cultural learning, a group experience, a personal journey… what will you discover along the way?
Highlights of this route: Talking with the pilgrims from all over the world. Soaking up the special feeling of the thousand-year-old Road, rich in cultural and spiritual traditions (the Way of St. James is a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Looking for “horreos” – traditional wooden corn cribs that come in different styles. Octupus in a certain bar in Melide – it’s good elsewhere, but this is one of the best places, with the traditional wine in pottery saucer-cups. First sight of Santiago. The thrill of reaching the “0” kilometer marker in front of Santiago’s beautiful Cathedral. And if you dare…. take a tour of the Cathedral’s rooftops!
What’s different about the way we usually organize our trips on the Road? Most travel companies do an upscale Road, lodging their travelers in nice bed and breakfast places along the way. And while they’re lovely, most of these nicer places are not right on the Road. That means at least one transfer every day (sometimes two) and it means that most pilgrims on group trips are outside the pilgrim atmosphere during the evening and night.
We prefer to stay right ON the Road, and even if the accommodations are not quite as charming they’re all more than adequate, double rooms with own bathroom, good food, etc (we do not stay at the pilgrim refuges, reserved for self-contained pilgrims and sometimes not terribly comfortable). Staying in towns on the Road lets our pilgrims mix with the other pilgrims, having a beer or wine while comparing stories about the joys and trials of doing the Road (blisters, big hills, rainbows and magical forests, bread and cheese, private jokes…..). Additionally, staying on the Road minimizes the van transfers, which we think gives a better feeling of travelling the distance on foot. And that’s what the Road is all about!
Dates: June 10-18, 2022 Can’t go in June? September 30 – October 8, 2022
Holy Year on the Camino in 2021-2022! That’s a special celebration for years when St. James day (July 25) falls on a Sunday; due to leap year, that happens in a wacky sequence of 6 – 5 – 6 – 11 years. This tradition was decreed by Pope Calixto II in 1122 (same year the current Cathedral was completed), with the first Holy Year in 1126. Traditionally a pilgrimage in Holy Year has a higher meaning for Catholics, but even for non-Catholics Holy Year is special. There will probably be extra cultural activities along the way all year, and most importantly, pilgrims can enter the Cathedral in Santiago through the Holy Door. That door is in the Cathedral apse, directly behind the main altar, and is only open in Holy Years. NOTE Technically Holy Year it should have been 0nly 2021, but given the complications for travel in 2021, and the possible need for people to give thanks or to heal, the Pope has extended Holy Year to the end of 2022.
Price: 1,760 euros (about $2,000 at early February 2022 exchange rate)
What’s included: 8 nights hotels in double room with bathroom, 7 dinners, 8 breakfasts, private bus first two days (warmup walk and first full walking day), luggage van with group other walking days (you only carry day pack, we meet van several times during day), pilgrim shell and passport, experienced Spanish-speaking guide, taxes. Not included: lunches, one dinner, personal expenses like drinks or coffee, transportation away from Santiago. SPECIAL NOTE: due to changes in public bus schedule this year and COVID-19, we have a private bus from Madrid to Ponferrada, official starting point for our journey.
Group size: minimum 6, maximum 10 people
NOTE: this trip is seven days walking Sarria-Santiago, a slightly more relaxed trip than the six-day version.
Note for 2020-2022: COVID-19 in Spain: Spain was hard-hit in spring 2020 and had strict lockdown for two months and gradual release in June, second wave in the fall which was pretty much under control by late November. As of February 2022 Spain’s vaccination rate is one of highest in Europe – 82% for the country and another 5% partly vaxxed – that percentage is on total population which includes kids under 5 years old who still cannot be vaccinated, so vaccination rate of eligible population is higher. There is very little anti-vax feeling in Spain, which will help the rest of the process go smoothly. Hotels and transportation have health measures in place that will probably continue for 2021 and perhaps into 2022, at least for transportation. Health officials will probably recommend or require masks in some situations (especially indoors and on public transportation), and recommend continued precautions like hand-washing and personal distancing until contagion rates are under control for a sustained length of time. There are some requirements for visitors travelling to Spain which are being updated as situation changes: most important to note is that all visitors must be fully vaccinated, and if initial round of vaccines is more than 270 days before travel, also must be boostered. Visitors also need to fill out an online health form. This page is probably the best to watch for current information https://travelsafe.spain.info/en/
NEWS! want to walk the continuation of this classic route, from Santiago to the Sea? (Finisterre and Muxia)?
Check out that trip at http://www.apinderinspain.com/santiago-to-the-sea
Trip description: Day “0”: Bus Madrid – Ponferrada with a rest stop on the way. After a quick lunch in or near Ponferrada our private bus takes us most of the way up Cebreiro pass, the last big climb for pilgrims and entry to region of Galicia. We’ll walk up the last part of the pass to Cebreiro town, short but mostly up with beautiful scenery (this walk is entirely optional, anyone wanting to relax can go up in the bus). In Cebreiro town we’ll hear the legend at the church, get our shells and one of the prettiest passport stamps on the Camino. After some time to explore the village, our bus takes us to Sarria. Day 1-6: Walk towards Santiago de Compostela, stamping our “passports” as we go. Along the way we’ll see the landscape change from mountain to lowlands, the trees from chestnut and oak to non-native eucalyptus and the houses change from slate roofs to tile roofs. We’ll share the Camino with people from all over the world – you’ll soon recognize the people in our “bubble” (those traveling in our time-space), whether by a snazzy backpack, a limp, a funny hat or an infectious laugh. The Camino being the Camino, sometimes there are mind-blowing coincidences in these casual encounters – or deep thoughts shared with an almost-stranger. Day 7: Our last walking day. We’ll get an earlier start so we can enjoy Monte del Gozo and our first sight of Santiago. At Monte del Gozo we’ll do our last pilgrim ritual and get our last stamp before starting down the hill into the city. The modern outskirts are not thrilling but soon we’re in the old town, then reach the big square in front of the Cathedral. After some time for photos and a bit of celebration, we’ll head to the pilgrim office to present our passports and get our certificates – only people who have walked 100 kilometers or cycled 200 kilometers are eligible for the official certificate. After that we check into our hotel and we’re free until dinner. There are lots of shops with souvenirs, nice silver jewelry and pilgrim mementos. Recommended but not obligatory: hug the Saint (the Santiago statue behind the main altar) and attend the evening pilgrim mass, usually at 7.30pm. With any luck, we’ll see the huge “botafumeiro” incense burner swing in the transcept. Celebratory dinner in the evening. Day 8: Trip ends after breakfast.
Distances: Warmup walk on day “0” is just under 3 kilometers / 2 miles. Days 1-7: total distance is about 105 kilometers / 65 miles in 7 days. Daily distances vary depending on placement of hotels and logistics: 5 days under 15 kms / 9 mi + 1 day 15-20 kms / 9-12mi + 1 day 20-25 kms / 12-15mi. Last distances sound long? Don’t worry! This is not a race, we have all day, and just knowing the van is with us all day lets you take the challenge with no worries.
Terrain : Galicia is rolling, with lots of small to medium ups and downs. Nothing huge, and not difficult if you pace yourself right. Most of the last 100 kms is on good dirt road or asphalt, with some trail. Some places can be muddy if it’s rained recently, good to have dry socks with you at all times. We’ll be in and out of forest, first oaks then eucalyptus: some days are quite shady and others quite sunny.
Weather: Galicia is one of Spain’s cooler and wetter regions. In May-June and September – October temperatures will probably be in the twenties celsius / seventies farenheit, though it could be cooler or warmer. There is some chance of rain (where not?) but rain in Galicia is usually a soft, intermittent drizzle, not a downpour, and would probably not be all day nor every day.
Special note: bring a stone from near your home, the size of an unshelled almond or walnut. You’ll leave it on the trail as part of one of the last pilgrim rituals. Some people like to bring stones in the name of other people, to send Camino prayers / special thoughts / Camino energy (whatever your spiritual traditions), then leave the personal stone on the trail with those thoughts – or maybe take back home, hopefully infused with Camino feelings.
Santiago Cathedral: Major restoration / cleanup happened to make the Cathedral ready for Holy Year. Special in Holy Year: enter through Holy Door on east façade, directly behind the main altar: this door is only open in Holy Years. Pilgrim ritual in the Cathedral: “hug the saint” behind the main altar, pay your respects at the tomb under the main altar – try to go at an off hour to avoid long line. Highly recommended (many people miss this): visit the Corticela chapel by the north door, it was originally a separate church (you can see that from the outside), incorporated into the Cathedral in the early 18th century, though it still technically functions as a separate parish.
Portico de la Gloria and other tours: The famous Pórtico de la Gloria (just inside the west façade) has also been completed and they’re doing visits for small groups, for now only in Spanish (they’re working on that), : TIP: Reserve early, space is limited. // Tour scheduling still to be determined: the Cathedral also used to have truly fabulous tours on the roof (several times a day) and under the floor (once a day), also other tours like the North Tower or the Tribuna balconies. Most of these were on hold during restoration, and now seems still on hold due to COVID-19, but when they start up again these are very worthwhile. Tours are usually in Spanish though they try to do tours in English if there is enough interest, it is worthwhile dropping in at the visitors’ center on Obradoiro to ask about that. Spanish speakers can reserve ahead. More info at https://tickets.catedraldesantiago.es/en-GB/venta-de-entradas
Camino Chaplaincy (Anglican / Episcopalian) services in English, get more info https://www.facebook.com/CaminoChaplaincyCoE/?__tn__=%2Cd%2CP-R&eid=ARBRy0Kgmt4Uxr2TNYimelo9MRtnkOX5nYFN1gt9yr-WZ-5RV8W1wA8ui1c6-HP5z9AB3XrWYQ_KTwvt
Want more info? Contact Anne at bridgetospain (at) yahoo.es
Camino reading list: click HERE