Spain: Camino de Santiago
15 Day Inn Tour
The Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, or just The Way, has been a pilgrimage for millions of people for more than a thousand years. Ever since the remains of St. James the Apostle were said to have been found here in 813AD, pilgrims have made their way to the sanctuary at Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. Come with us as we follow this extraordinary path by bicycle, feeling the weight of history increase every day as we approach our destination.
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Rolling hills with a couple longer climbs and some flat sections. Moderate to advanced cycling level. Leisurely level with an e-bike. About 10% of the roads are unpaved, hard-packed dirt.
14 nights lodging, 13 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 10 dinners, snacks, van support, hybrid bicycle, and trained bilingual guides.
Hybrid bike is included. Road bike or E-bike is $175.
Fly round-trip to Madrid or Barcelona, Spain. Then take the train to Pamplona. At the end of the tour, take the train or fly back to Madrid or Barcelona for your return home.
DAY 1: We’ll meet at 4:30pm for a bicycle fitting in Pamplona. Famous for the running of the bulls, it is a beautiful city with narrow streets and medieval churches. If you arrive early, stroll through Taconera Park as a cure for your jet lag. The peaceful gardens in the middle of town are filled with deer, peacocks and swans.
Before dinner tonight, we’ll walk together to the Cathedral of Pamplona and pick up a pilgrim passport with our first stamp. We’ll collect stamps throughout the tour as proof of the places we’ve visited using our own power. 0 miles.
DAY 2: After breakfast, we’ll begin our pilgrimage by cycling out of town into the rural countryside. Our first stop will be the 12th century Church of Saint Maru Eunate. Standing mysteriously alone in the middle of a cornfield, the octagonal church’s original purpose is still unknown. From there, we’ll cross a bridge in the town of Puente la Reina. Considered to be the finest medieval bridge in Spain, it was built to help pilgrims cross the river during the 11th century.
Sometimes we’ll cycle beside the walking pilgrims and other times we’ll choose to take a lesser-traveled road. There is no one official way, as options and detours have changed the route over the centuries. Our pilgrimage will represent a moment of time in a long stream of history.
Tonight we’ll stay in the center of the old town of Estella. It was founded in 1090 when a shower of stars reportedly fell night after night in the same spot. After curious shepherds discovered a statue of Mary in a cave there, the King promptly built a church and the town. 33 miles.
DAY 3: Today’s bike ride takes us through rural Navarre and Basque farmland. We’ll spend the night in Laguardia, just off the Camino in Rioja wine country. An advantage of cycling over walking is our ability to detour and not miss some of the important places in Spain. Rioja wines are considered some of the best in the world. 39 miles.
DAY 4: We’ll spend the first part of the day exploring Rioja wine country, cycling past vineyards and wineries. Then it’s back to the Camino to our overnight in a former pilgrim’s hospital in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The town was founded by the energetic hermit Santo Domingo, who built a bridge, road and hospital for the pilgrims. The King took notice of his good works and commissioned a great cathedral. It’s now home to a hen and rooster in honor of a miracle that is said to have occurred here 600 years ago. 38 or 62 miles.
DAY 5: Today’s beautiful ride takes us through the Goose Hills. Yellow arrows and scallop shells carved into stone mark our way. We’ll end the day in the great cathedral city of Burgos. Stunning from the outside, the grand cathedral sits in the center of the town’s square and a short walk from our hotel. Dinner is on your own tonight so you can stroll the streets like the Spaniards stopping for tapas over and over again along the way. 56 miles.
DAY 6: After breakfast, we leave Burgos on a bike path. The day begins with rolling hills but turns into the flattest section of the Camino. We’ll cycle past fields of grains and sunflowers and see wind farms in the distance. We’ll stop to admire the tiny 11th century Romanesque church of San Martin full of beautifully detailed sculptures and then stop at the huge church of Santa Maria la Blanca. It is only fitting that we’ll end our day at a 12th century Benedictine monastery that has been turned into an inn. 60 miles.
DAY 7: Our first stop on today’s route is also one of the most famous on the Camino. It was here on the banks of the Cea River where Charlemagne fought the Moors in the year 778. More than 40,000 knights died. A grove of poplars sprang up from the knight’s lances that had been planted in the ground the night before the battle. The grove still exists today! Thinking about the history of the place can give you chills. We’ll end our cycling in the beautiful city of León. 65 miles.
DAY 8: We will enjoy a layover day in León to visit the sites and give our legs a rest. Our hotel is a short walk to the stunning León Cathedral. More than half of its exterior walls are made up of extraordinary stained glass. You can roam inside on your own, rent an audio guide and learn how the radiant windows were specifically constructed to filter light during different times of day.
You can also visit the Pantheon of the Kings of León to see some of the finest Romanesque frescos in Spain. In contrast, be sure to check out the Casa Botine by modernist architect Antoni Gaudi in 1891. Many of his buildings are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites. When you’re done sightseeing, you can stroll through the narrow lanes of the Barrio Humido (humid quarter) named for the large number of colorful bars lining the streets. 0 miles.
DAY 9: We’ll head out after breakfast cycling along the Orbigo River. You should see cabbages in the fields and hops on the vines along the way to Astorga. It’s the animated clock tower in the main square that will captivate you. If you’re a Gaudi fan, you’ll see another one of his creations – the Episcopal Palace – in Astorga too. 41 miles.
DAY 10: We leave the Maragateria region behind and head into Galicia today. It is here where you’ll probably feel the Camino the strongest. We’ll cycle through tiny villages virtually unchanged since the Middle Ages. 42 miles.
DAY 11: Our most challenging climbing of the tour occurs today as we cross the Galicia Mountains. Many pilgrims unburden themselves by leaving a stone they’ve carried on the Camino at the Iron Cross, marking the highest point of the journey. We stop just over the pass in the tiny hamlet of O Cebreiro. You may remember seeing the charming thatch roofed stone houses here in Martin Sheen’s movie “The Way.” 25 miles.
DAY 12: After a hearty breakfast, we descend into lush countryside, stopping in the town of Molinesca for a swim in the river. We’ll also pass through the town of Sarria where many other pilgrims often join our route. Sarria is about 100k from Santiago de Compostela which is the minimum that can be walked to get a certificate. We’ll overnight at a hotel overlooking the Miño River in Portomarin. 43 miles.
DAY 13: We cycle through rolling farmland today where little has changed in centuries. Inheritance laws have required farms to be divided among the heirs, so they’ve become smaller over time – too small for machinery. Farming is still done the same way as it has been for generations. We’ll overnight in the town of Castaneda, which was once the site of furnaces that produced lime. Pilgrims carried stones from nearby quarries to the furnaces to help construct the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. 39 miles.
DAY 14: The excitement in the air will be palpable today as we make our final way to Santiago de Compostela. We’ll cross a river where pilgrims were once forced to undress and bathe in order to be clean “for the love of the Apostle.” We’ll catch our first glimpse of the spires of the cathedral just beyond this spot.
Then we’ll cycle beside the walking pilgrims as hundreds of us stream toward the grandiose cathedral. We can feel the Tree of Jesse, touch heads with Master Meteo, embrace the silver bust of St. James and then kneel before the small casket with his remains. Our journey is complete.
You can take your passport filled with stamps to the side of the cathedral for your certificate. We’ll celebrate our accomplishment at dinner together tonight. If your departure plans allow, try to attend the special daily pilgrim mass tomorrow at noon. 29 miles.
DAY 15: The tour ends today and we’ll say good-bye. You’re free to take a 20-minute taxi to the airport or train station to head home. 0 miles.