El Camino – the way to Santiago (2021)
Sunday, June 28 - Saturday, July 11 2021
Ever since Saint James the Apostle’s remains were discovered in 812, millions of people have made the journey to the town of Santiago de Compostela to see his tomb. Now, with Vacations BWD, you have the opportunity to follow in their footsteps so you too can enjoy those unique experiences.
Your trip will concentrate on the last 100km (65mi) of the Camino from Sarria to Santiago, along with several stages beforehand between León and Sarria. On this journey we will travel over mountains, through forests and along rivers and lakes, all of which provide a fabulous setting for our adventure through northern Spain.
This itinerary is complemented by a wonderful selection of hotels which include country villas, Galician manor homes and historic buildings. To enhance your Camino experience even more, most of your dinners, 11 of 13 evenings, are included to not only make your days more relaxing, but also to give you the opportunity to try traditional dishes and local wines.
From your arrival in Madrid to your departure in Santiago you will be accompanied by a Travel Director whose knowledge, personality and experience will ensure the smooth running of your Camino
This Itinerary, along with the accommodation, dining and personnel attentions all combine to create a truly memorable holiday experience. For those who wish to walk the Camino in a safe, comfortable and enjoyable way, this trip is for you.
NOTE: Because of the nature of this trip, it will be limited to a maximum of 15 guests.
Itinerary (click day to see full itinerary)
Today we all gather in the Spanish capital to meet our Travel Director as well as our fellow travelling companions. After a short Welcome Meeting, we visit the oldest district of Madrid where we see Plaza Mayor, Plaza de la Villa and the impressive San Miguel Market. It is then off for a Welcome Drink in a nearby tavern before we move onto our Welcome Reception, located in the heart of the Old Town, for a wonderful meal local dishes, wines and beers.
This morning we board the AVE, Spain’s high-speed train, passing the plains and fields of the region of Castilla y León and onto the historical city of León. On arrival, our Local Guide will show us the highlights of this wonderfully historic city including its 12th century cathedral, St. Isidoro Basilica and Antonio Gaudi’s Casa Botines. The evening is free to explore the Old Town with its wonderful bars, cafés and restaurants centred around Plaza Mayor.
Hotel: Hotel Real Colegiate
Walking Distance: 17km (10.5mi)
After breakfast we are transferred to the Rabanal del Camino where we will start walking to El Acebo de San Miguel. Our journey will take us through the beautiful district “Maragateria” and into the wine growing region of El Bierzo. Today we pass Cruz de Hierro, the highest point on the French Camino, a spot commemorated with the iconic “Iron Cross”, where for centuries, pilgrims have been leaving stones to symbolically unburden themselves for the journey and adventures ahead. Upon arrival in El Acebo de San Miguel we are transferred to our hotel for the next two nights which is located amongst the vineyards of the Bierzo wine region.
Hotel: Palacio de Canedo
Walking Distance: 13km (8mi)
Wonderful scenery awaits us today as we are transferred to Ambasmestas where we will begin our walk through the northwest of El Bierzo to the Galician town of O Cebreiro. En-route we pass through Vaga de Valcarce, beautifully located on the Valcarce river, along with the picturesque Herrerías and La Faba before continuing to O Cebreira. Once there, we stop to see their famed pallazas, thatched covered stone huts that people have lived in for centuries. We are then transferred back to our stunning hotel outside Villafranca del Bierzo. Tonight, before dinner, we will enjoy a tasting of several wines from the Bierzo region.
Hotel: Palacio de Canedo
Walking Distance: 18km (11mi)
Small villages and a very rural Galician countryside dotted with farms and small holding is the theme for today. We begin by crossing the village of Triacastela, after which we ascend to the peak of Riocabo to enjoy the wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. Our journey then continues as we pass through wonderful natural oak forests and tiny villages such as A Balsa, Furela and Aguida, with next to no commercial businesses, on our way to Sarria.
Hotel: Hotel Alfonso IX
Walking Distance: 21.5km (13mi)
This morning we depart Sarria on foot passing the convent of La Magdalena, which was founded as an early 12th century hospital for pilgrims, and crossing the medieval bridge of Ponte da Áspera. Upon leaving the town we walk through one the most beautiful caballeiras, or oak forests, on the itinerary. Our route also takes us past ancient hamlets and Romanesque churches, most dating back to the middle ages, such as Ferreiros, Mirallos and Viachá. We finish our walking for the day passing the Belesar reservoir and into the beautiful Portomarin with its spectacular location on the banks of the Minho river. With our journey for the day now over, we are transferred to Lugo for a well-earned two-night stay.
Hotel: Pazo de Orbán
Today is set aside to recharge the batteries and what better place to do it than beside the Minho river in Lugo. After a breakfast we see the Roman Walls, a UNESCO World Heritage site that completely surrounds the town, Praza Maior with its impressive Concello do Lugo (Town Hall), the 12th century Cathedral as well as the Bishops Palace. The rest of the day is free to relax and maybe try some of the towns famed cuisine — the city motto is “Y para comer, Lugo” (and to eat, Lugo) or wines from the nearby Ribeira Sacra wine region.
Hotel: Pazo de Orbán
Walking Distance: 25km (15.5mi)
This morning we transfer back to Portomarin to continue our journey towards Santiago de Compostela. After crossing the Torres river, we pass Castromaior and see its “castro”, the wonderfully preserved ruins of a Celtic hilltop village, before heading to Hospital de la Cruz which once housed a hospital for the pilgrims. We continue past O Lameiros with its famed 17th century stone cross, Ligonde, which housed the monarchs Charles I and Phillip II on their pilgrimage, and onto Palas de Rei.
Hotel: Complejo La Cabaña
Walking Distance: 15km (9mi)
Our walk today takes through the beautiful village of Galician village of Pontecampaña with its wonderful stone cobbled lanes and onto Leboreiro, one of the most spectacular hamlets of the day. After a break to admire this wonderful village we continue to Furelos, where we cross the 900-year-old Puente de Furelos, and onto Melide, a town known throughout Galicia for it’s octopus. We then transfer back to our hotel
Hotel: Complejo la Cabaño
Walking Distance: 14km (8.5mi)
Departing Melide, we cross the Raido river passing beautiful forests which are a wonderful combination of oak tree with pine and eucalyptus, and onto Boente. After a short stop in this picturesque hamlet, which is divided into two, Boente da Riba and Boente da Baixo, we head to Ribadiso, with its traditional slate covered homes on the banks of the river Iso. We finish our day in Arzúa, located in the province of A Coruna and known throughout the region as “tierra del queso” (land of cheese) because of its locally produced Arzúa-Ulloa.
Hotel: Pazo de Sedor
Walking Distance: 19km (12mi)
As we leave Arzúa, we also leave behind the Fuente de los Franceses (French Fountain) and head towards As Barossas where we pass the chapel of San Lázaro and the monument to the priest Ramón Pazos Seaje. Our wonderful journey continues through Calzada and onto picturesque forest tracks littered with tiny hamlets of no more than a few residents. After passing A Rua, a charming hamlet of traditional stone houses, we continue into the rural province of O Pino and the town of O Pedrouzo before returning to our hotel.
Hotel: Pazo de Sedor
Walking Distance: 21km (13kmi)
Our final day of walking sees us travel on tranquil leafy tracks as we pass through the village of Lavacolla, which in days past was where pilgrim stopped to wash themselves from head to toe in order to arrive in Santiago clean. We continue onwards and enter the city of Santiago de Compostela at Monte de Gozo, where from a small hill we have wonderful views of the city and the distant towers of the cathedral. Our journey comes to a finish at the Cathedral of Santiago which is also where our hotel for the next two nights is located, the Parador de Santiago de Compostela.
Hotel: Parador de Santiago de Compostela
Today we attend the Pilgrims Mass in the Cathedral to officially put an end our Camino. Afterwards, we collect our well-earned certificates and then head to typical taverna to celebrate like true Galicians. The rest of the afternoon is free to wander this amazing town, or simply savor and reflect on the journey we have made over the last two weeks. This evening we have a Farewell Dinner in a rustic local restaurant to reminisce about a wonderful trip and to cement new found friendships.
Hotel: Parador de Santiago de Compostela
Our Camino has finally come to an end, after breakfast complimentary transfers to the airport, or train station, will be offered for those wishing to take advantage of them.
- 13 nights accommodation including country villas, Galician manor homes and historic buildings
- 13 full buffet breakfasts
- An experienced Travel Director who will accompany you the entire trip
- Services of a professional Local Guide in León
- An experienced local guide in León
- All transfers to and from hotels (except arrival day in Madrid)
- 11 three course evening meals highlighting local dishes with at least two included drinks
- Porterage (1 large bag) at all hotels
- Luggage transfer each day to the next hotel
- Wine tasting in the Bierzo wine region
- Tips for staff at all included meals
What’s not included
- 2 dinners
- 13 lunches
- Any sightseeing not mentioned in the itinerary
From the man in the front seat
I have been thinking about organising a trip along the Camino for many years, and although the itinerary almost picks itself, a style which would be both comfortable and enjoyable has always eluded me. After a lot of research, I finally came up with an itinerary that I’m truly happy with. Not only the pace at which we travel, but the hotels in which we stay and the meals which we have organised. There is no optional package or any hidden costs, all that I believe should be included is. As most dinners, 11 out of 13, are included I have not included lunches. Many of you will probably only have something small, but those who want something more, can try the lunch menus that many places along the route offer. I have also left two nights, on days where we don’t walk, free to go and explore by yourself.
Surprising to many, there are several Caminos, and although they all end in Santiago de Compostela, they all begin in different places. I have chosen the most well-known one, The French Camino. Although we won’t be walking all 780km (500mi) of it, as you would need around 5 – 6 weeks, we will be walking the last 100km (65mi) into Santiago from Sarria which enables us to claim the Camino certificate. To add to the experience, I have also included a few of the more scenic walks, stages in Camino terminology, prior to Sarria for you to get a real feel for northern Spain and what it has to offer.
I wanted to guarantee the quality of our accommodation, and with many of the stops along the Camino being very small, the selection of hotels available is limited and with many of questionable quality. As a result, and because the distances are relatively short, I have made several two-night stops and included transfers to and from the hotels at the start and end of our day. By doing this I can guarantee quality accommodation as well as reducing the amount of days spent packing and unpacking.
Spain in general and northern Spain in particular is renowned for its gastronomy, so to maximise your experience, wonderful menus have been chosen to highlight the cuisine of that particular area. All meals also include at least two drinks which give you the chance to sample some of the local wines and beers each night.
To make your journey more comfortable, each day that we change towns, your luggage will be transferred to the next hotel and delivered to your room for your arrival. All you will need for each day is a simple back pack which has only the items you need for that particular journey. You will not have to carry all your possessions each day along the Camino.
I hope you like the itinerary I have planned, those wishing to join us I can guarantee our two weeks together will be remembered for a very long time.