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The Camino de Santiago - the Way of St. James - is the pilgrimage route across northern Spain's Basque Country. Part of this route is paved; part of it is unpaved (see slideshow above.) Ride to the shrine of the apostle in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela on this 14-day tour. Pedal from Pamplona - in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees - to Galicia, on the west coast. Sample the wines of Rioja. Tour Burgos' gothic cathedral and the tomb of Spain's favorite son, El Cid. Bicycle the wide-open plains of Castilla Leon. Explore the region's shopping capital. Join the pilgrims near the end of the journey. Raise a toast to the awesome sight of the exquisite cathedral in Santiago de Compostela: an incredible finale. Lodging is included for this last night; sleep in, enjoy breakfast and then head to the airport on the 15th day.
*E-bikes: Electric-assist bicycles are available as an option for an additional $400.00 for the tour.
**Note: click 'Show All' (in orange, below this paragraph) for more detail about each day.
Meet your fellow pilgrims this afternoon at Hotel Europa, home for tonight and tomorrow. After introductions and an orientation, head out for a tapas dinner to kick things off!
Overview: The Camino de Santiago - the Way of St. James - is the name of the pilgrimage route to the shrine of the apostle St. James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela - in Galicia, northwest Spain. Our tour begins in Pamplona (famous for the Running of the Bulls). Rolling through the storied hills of the Spanish Pyrenees, never-ending vistas of grape vines signal transition into the wine rich region of Rioja. Sample from the Pilgrims' Wine Fountain. Tour the Gothic cathedral in Burgos and the tomb of Spain's most famous son, El Cid. Now ride into Castilla Leon: wide open plains, farmland and grassy hills as far as you can see. Take a day to relax and explore the shopping capital of Leon, an ancient, amazing city. (The cathedral's stained-glass windows are massive - the second largest collection in Europe - and took 300 years to complete.) Ride to Galicia's mountains and forests near the end of your pilgrimage. Closer to Santiago, the number of pilgrims on the trail increases; they've been walking for a month! The awesome sight of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela signals the completion of our adventure. Have a farewell dinner to celebrate and bid your fellow pilgrims "Buen Camino."
Today: Meet us this afternoon in the salon at Hotel Europa, your lodging for tonight and tomorrow. After introductions all 'round and an overview of the week, head out for a fun tapas dinner to kick off the journey!
Ride Roncesvalles to Pamplona - 31 miles.
Transfer to Roncesvalles on the French border in the Spanish Pyrenees. Head for the pilgrims' office. Get your Pilgrim's Passport and your first official Camino de Santiago stamp. Ride out of the mountains, through the village near where author Ernest Hemingway fished the streams for trout. Have lunch in Zubiri, next to the river where Martin Sheen drops his backpack into in The Way. Bicycle the paved path next to the river back to our starting point in Pamplona. Enjoy dinner in an unforgettable setting, hosted by Nunci, owner of Restaurant San Ignacio.
Pamplona to Estella - 33 miles.
Ride out of the ancient city of Pamplona past the Town Hall, start line for the running of the bulls. A ridge line of windmills draws closer as we climb to the viewpoint at Alto de Perdo. Enjoy a long downhill all the way to lunch in Puente La Reina. Picnic under a bridge built by the Romans that has stood for well over a thousand years. Wind your way into Estella, through small towns and the beginnings of vineyards. Explore the town before savoring a dinner prepared by one of the most passionate chefs in all of Spain.
Estella to Logrono - 30 miles.
Ride up, down, and all around, dipping and diving through the vineyards of Rioja. Little pueblos spot the countryside; walkers scatter across wide-open fields. Storks nest on the church in Los Arcos, signaling our picnic spot for lunch. Bicycle the paved trail into Logrono, lined with statues welcoming us and saluting the efforts of the 'peregrinos' (pilgrims.) Tonight: Relish the hustle and bustle of wealthy Logrono and the "foodie nirvana" of the Tapas Tour.
Logrono to Santo Domingo de la Calzada - 32 miles.
Making your way out of the city of Logrono, take the trail past a popular fishing spot. Ride past a vineyard with an unusual scarecrow: a bird-of-prey sound machine to keep the crows away. Explore Naverette's hilltop church, with a breathtaking surprise inside. Traverse the vineyards of a large regional co-op. Bask in the sun at the lunch stop in Najera, next to the river in the heart of town. Do your best not to overeat (good luck!) Tonight's dinner in The Parador in Santo Domingo de la Calzada - a former pilgrim's hospital - is always stunning.
Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Burgos - 45 miles.
Take an epic route today: Santo Domingo to San Juan de Ortega sees the ecosystem change from grassy farmland to mountains and trees. Pass through Atapuerca, the UNESCO World Heritage site whose caves cradled the remains of the earliest-known human beings in Europe. Be welcomed by the high-plains city of Burgos and its over-the-top Gothic cathedral. Tonight: The gravel-voiced waiter and his perfect steaks at Meson La Cueva come highly recommended.
Burgos to Carrion de Los Condes - 56 miles.
Pedal wide gravel paths meandering across high plains. Skies as big as Montana's fill the landscape as we make our way to the warm hospitality of La Taberna for a hearty and well-earned lunch. Count the kilometers through more wide open space and waves of grass broken by stone villages from Fromista to Carrion de los Condes.
Carrion de Los Condes to Leon; 59 miles.
Hit the halfway point in the journey just before lunch today. Watch birds of prey hunt over the corn fields as you pedal toward Leon. The high-speed train to Madrid zips by, full of people preparing to start their pilgrimage there. Stay right in the ancient city, just a couple of blocks from the cathedral. Ice cream shops beckon after a long day in the saddle. Feast on Italian fare tonight: the friendly staff at Baccolino will make you want to come back again every day for the rest of your life.
Enjoy Leon: The sights. The sounds. The shopping!
Enjoy a well-earned day off the bike in Leon. Shopping, massage, sightseeing, relaxing - all await today. It's a fun city with centuries of history to explore. Spend the morning walking from cafe to cafe sampling coffee and pastries. Explore the city while doing a little shopping. Have lunch outside at a sidewalk cafe. Tour the cathedral in the afternoon. Maybe try a little more ice cream or have a massage before meeting for dinner in our our private dining room at La Posada Regia ...there's lots fit in on this day off.
Leon to Rabanal del Camino - 44 miles.
Back in the saddle, leave the city behind. Roll through Hospital de Orbigo with its well-preserved Roman bridge. Stop for a riverside lunch in sight of the cathedral in Astorga. The house next door - designed by famed Spanish Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi i Cornet - is one of his most beautiful private residences. Head into new scenery on the exit from town: lavender fields and mountain scrub trees. Spend tonight in the tiny town of Rabanal del Camino, with fewer than 100 year-round residents. Enjoy views of tomorrow's mountains, beckoning from every window.
Rabanal to Villafranca del Bierzo - 39 miles.
Start the morning with a brisk climb up to the Cruz de Ferro, the highest point on the Camino de Santiago. Legend has it that if you add a stone that you've brought from home, you may leave your burdens here and prepare for rebirth on the remainder of your journey. Didn't bring a stone from home? It's okay to bring one from a little closer. Traverse the ridgeline on the way to a stop at the colorful Refugio in Manjarin. Welcomed by a bunch of friendly dogs and cats, stop for a photo, and some refreshments. Enjoy the 20 kilometer downhill to lunch in Molinseca. Visit the Templar castle in Ponferrada before rolling through cherry orchards into Villafranca de Bierzo.
Villafranca to Sarria - 46 miles.
Ride the most mountainous day of the journey today. Begin with a mellow hour of cruising through a deeply-cut valley leading towards the pass. Settle in for the long steady climb up to Cebriero. What a feeling of accomplishment - and a healthy need for a hearty lunch! The three-course lunch at the top of the mountains will do the job nicely, thank you. Roll through the hills after lunch, past the Albergue in Tricastella, welcoming cyclists with a bicycle hanging on an exterior wall. Continue riding the path as it slices right through farms - with chickens running everywhere - on the way to the transportation hub of Sarria. Feeling brave? A Fred Flintstone steak can be yours for dinner! Tonight's restaurant specializes in char-grilling very ample portions to perfection.
Sarria to Melide - 38 miles.
Deep in the heart of Galicia, the hills are a mixture of forests and centuries-old family farms separated by stacked rock fences. The scent of eucalyptus fills the air; its bark blankets the trail. Portomarin, our lunch town, sits on top of a hill next to a former lake that is now a lush valley. Stay tonight in Melide, just a short 52 kilometers from tomorrow's destination, the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
Melide to Santiago de Compostela - 38 miles. A certificate, a final celebration! Buen Camino!
You're almost there! The feeling of enthusiasm is palpable. Cross several small stone bridges over tiny streams on today's. Eucalyptus forest thickens, shading the trail as you near the final hill up to the airport. The last few miles seem endless - then suddenly you arrive at the John Paul II Monument at Monte do Gozo. This signals the first glimpse of the city. Get your final stamp here, then coast downhill into Santiago. The square in front of the cathedral is alive with activity. Your fellow pilgrims arriving there congratulate each other and take photos. Set your bike down for a bit. Explore the cathedral - final stop on your journey - before going to the Compostela Office to get your certificate for completing The Camino de Santiago. Tonight: farewell dinner. Toasts and tales of The Way amongst each other, as well as the tables around us. Lodging tonight is included, so plan to sleep in before your departure anytime Saturday. Buen Camino, Amigos!
Sleep in, enjoy a leisurely breakfast and then head to the airport anytime you wish.
As an optional extra, a person traveling solo on any inn-to-inn trip may reserve a room for his or her exclusive use. This will guarantee you a private room and private bath every night. Unlike other tour companies, if you're willing to share a room, there is no extra charge for coming solo, no matter when you sign up for the tour - even if you wind up with a private room by default.