XPR The Way Of Saint James Tour

Walking El Camino de Santiago

The Way of Saint James Tour & the Guggenheim
TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Magnificent Guggenheim Museum; Hemmingway's Pamplona; Spectacular walks on Way of St James; Tiny hamlets, mountain scenery; Strolling on Santiago's cobblestone streets

  • DATES & PRICES
  • FULL ITINERARY
  • MAP & HOTELS
  • TRIP INFORMATION

Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices below are per person, twin-sharing costs in US Dollars (USD). Pricing does not include airfare to/from the tour and any applicable taxes. For single supplement rates and taxes (if any), please refer to the entries under the blue box below.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Thu 25 Jul 2019Fri 09 Aug 2019 $4490 USD
Thu 23 Jul 2020Fri 07 Aug 2020 $4490 USD

Optional Single Supplement: $959 USD (number of singles limited).


Tour Overview


The Way Of Saint James has captured the imaginations of active travellers since the Middle Ages.

Spain itself has a spectacular past that seems to be alive today; ancient Roman bridges still being used just blend into the modern countryside and those who depend on the structures don't think twice before crossing them.

On our Way Of Saint James Tour take an enlightening trek on the Way of Saint James to a mediaeval castle that stands just outside one of the quaint villages, or visit a church and see ancient relics that all seem to have elaborate stories behind them.

The achievements of today are also just as impressive; an excursion to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao allows us to view some of the most influential European and American art from the 20th century, like the works of Picasso, Mondrian and Ernst.

In this country, the only thing that rivals humankind's achievements are those of Mother Nature.

When we take a 3 km walk along the rim of the tremendous Lumbier Gorge or look down at the view from the top of Montes de Leon, we realize that nature's artistic merit is itself nothing short of a masterpiece.

Our tours along the Way of Saint James are moderate hikes that require a degree of physical fitness.

Regions visited: Western Europe
Countries visited: Spain


Testimonials


(Winnipeg, MB, CA)

Friendly, respectful of various personalities, very good sense of humour. She controlled the group without coming off as being bossy.

Full Itinerary

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Day 1 Arrive in Bilbao, Spain
We arrival in Bilbao and transfer to our hotel.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to extremely limited accommodation along el Camino, our hotels may be located in the general vicinity of the overnight points indicated on our itinerary (with the exception of major centres like Bilbao, Leon, and Santiago).

Overnight Bilbao.

Included Meal(s): Dinner

Day 2 Bilbao & The Guggenheim
Today we have a guided half-day "panoramic" tour of Bilbao, including the newest and biggest attraction in town, the Guggenheim Museum.

The 31 329 sq m (349,000 sq foot) colossus is one of the focal points of a $1.5 billion redevelopment plan for the city. The Frank Gehry design features a 50 m- (165 foot-) high atrium -- more than one-and-a-half times the height of the rotunda of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York. Stretching under the bridge and incorporating it in its design, the museum reanimates the promenade with its towering roof, reminiscent of a blossoming "metallic flower." The museum is devoted to American and European art of the 20th century, featuring the works of such renowned artists as Kandinsky, Mondrian, Picasso, Ernst, Pollock, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, Serra, and others.

We will likely finish at the museum so that those who want to linger after the formal guided portion of our visit may do so.

Overnight in Bilbao.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 3 Bilbao - San Sebastian - Pamplona
Today we travel to Pamplona, located within the region of Navarre. The city is be best known for the tradition of the running of the bulls which occurs in July every year as made famous by Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises."

En route we stop at San Sebastian, the undisputed queen of the Basque resorts. Set around the deep, still bay of La Concha and enclosed by rolling low hills, it's beautifully situated; the old town sits on the eastern promontory, its back to the wooden slopes of Monte Urgull, while newer development has spread along the banks of the Urumea, around the edge of the bay to the foot of Monte Igueldo and on the hills overlooking the bay. We have time for lunch and some exploration before continuing to Pamplona.

We have a walking tour of the old fortress city of Pamplona (Iruna), said to have been founded by the Roman general, Pompey. In the ninth century it became the capital of Navarra. This otherwise quiet city explodes into life in July during the fiesta of Los Sanfermines, with its dare-devil bull running. From the old city walls (murallas) we can get a good overview of Pamplona. The nearby cathedral, which is built in ochre-coloured stone, looks down on a loop in the Rio Arga. We visit the Museo de Navarra, a museum of regional archaeology, history and art. Exhibits include Roman mosaics and an 11th-century, Islam-inspired ivory casket. There are murals painted during the 14th-16th centuries, a portrait by Goya and a collection of paintings by Basque artists.

Overnight in Pamplona.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 4 Pamplona - Eunate - Puente la Reina
This morning we leave Pamplona and make a stop at the spectacular Lumbier Gorge. You will be struck by the power of the water and the erosion which, over millions of years, has managed to carve these ravines in the mountain. They are inaccessible spots with vertical walls, deep rivers, rocky places furrowed with cracks and caves, the refuge of many animals and birds. We'll walk along the rim for about 3 km (flat surface).

We continue to Santa de Maria de Eunate, a striking octagonal Romanesque church built by the Knight Templars and rising romantically in the middle of the green fields. Today we begin our walk along el camino from the church to the proud village of Obanos, where many houses still preserve the Coat of Arms (2 km, mostly flat). From Obanos, the trail brings us to Puente la Reina (3 km).

Puente la Reina, an evocative medieval town built for pilgrims at the meeting point of two Spanish pilgrim routes. The camino Frances from Roncesvalles, France and the camino Aragones converge at Puente la Reina's 11th century bridge. The town retains its original vocation and the genuine atmosphere of a place of pilgrimage.

DAY SUMMARY: 8 km (5 mi) of easy walking.

Overnight in Puente la Reina.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 5 Puente la Reina - Maneru - Lorca - Puente la Reina
We stroll the timeless main street, cross the thousand-year-old bridge that spans the green Arga River, and hike el camino along the Raga for a while (flat), and then uphill towards the village of Maneru (approx 90 min). After Maneru, the trail meanders through a lovely patchwork of vineyards and orchards up to the hilltop village of Cirauqui, with its remarkable collection of both civil and religious buildings. From Cirauqui, we follow and ancient paved road (downhill) lined with cypresses and we cross the Roman bridges still in use to reach the town of Lorca. We return to our hotel in Puente la Reina for the night.

DAY SUMMARY: About 15 km (9.5 mi), rolling terrain.

Overnight Puente la Reina.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 6 Puente la Reina - Estella - Laguardia
This morning we drive to the town of Estella for a one-hour walking tour around town. This town is also known as Estella la Bella for its beauty and was also a favourite pilgrim stopover. The creation of the town in 1090 is associated with a mysterious statue of the Virgin found in a cave nearby. The town is full of Romanesque religious buildings dating from the 12th and 13th centuries. We walk to the Monasterio de Irache a 10th century Benedictine monastery, for a look at its Fuente de Vino, a wine fountain built by the monks of Irache to refresh passing pilgrims.

From Azqueta we hike to Villamayor de Monjardin, passing through Fuente de los Moros (slight uphill). In Torres del Rio we pause to visit the Eglesia Santo Sepulcro, a 12th century gem of Romanesque architecture and a highlight of our day. We continue our walk through tiny villages and end in the fortified Basque village of Laguardia, where we spend the night. This is a rather long stretch with lots of sun exposure, though it is almost completely flat.

DAY SUMMARY: Today's walk is about 14 km (8.75 mi).

Overnight Laguardia.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 7 Laguardia - Burgos
Today we travel to Burgos, set along the Arlanzon River, for a well-deserved rest day. The promenade along the river is one of Spain's prettiest, and we have the afternoon to enjoy this setting and (possibly) visit Burgos's diaphanous Gothic cathedral and castle ruins above town.*

Burgos preserves one of the greatest collections of Gothic art and monuments in southern Europe, yet it has also had a long role as a military camp, from the days of El Cid in the 15th century to General Franco, who during Spain's Civil War made Burgos his capital. It was here that Franco held his infamous trials of 16 Basque separatists. The Kingdom of Castile was born in the town of Burgos, and its castle stands on what was the Moorish frontier in 884. Old Castile and Leon, which we visit in a few days, encompass two ancient kingdoms on Spain's Meseta, a semi-arid expanse of dun-coloured plains spotted with patches of mountains.

* NOTE: The castle maybe closed during our spring departures, in which case we will be able to admire from exterior only. Our summer and fall trips should be able to visit the interior.

NON-WALKING DAY.

Overnight Burgos.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 8 Burgos - Carrion de Los Condes
We drive to the 14th century remains of the Monasterio de San Anton and then pick up El Camino and walk to the medieval castle and village of Castrojeriz (flat, 3 km). El Camino follows the regular asphalt road on this section, but there is little traffic and the road is lined with poplar trees. We enjoy the fine Gothic church called Santa Maria del Manzano, named after a local apple tree where a statue of the Virgin was found. Those who like can take an optional scramble up the castle (45 minutes, steep, but well worth it!).

Afterwards we drive to Boadilla del Camino, where we check out some interesting dovecotes, then continue our walk to the town of Fromista (flat, 6 km), a key stop since the days of the Codex Calixtinus. Here we visit its perfect Romanesque church, the golden St Martin, founded in 1035 and restored in 1893 by the arch restorer in France, Villet-le-Duc. The church is now a national monument. The barrel-vaulted interior is loaded with extraordinary sculptural detail full of occult and medieval symbols.

From Fromista, we drive to our hotel in the ancient town of Carrion de los Condes, with its two 12th century Romanesque churches. Our accommodation here is a beautiful monastery that has been converted into a hotel. In Spain, a number of historic buildings of notable architecture have been converted into fine hotels and are known as Paradores.

DAY SUMMARY: Total walking, 9 km (5.6 miles).

Overnight Carrion de los Condes.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 9 Carrion de Los Condes - Leon
After a leisurely morning in Carrion de los Condes, we leave the mountains and drive across the treeless plains of Castile to visit the engaging city of Leon, for a non-trekking day. Within the two cities it encapsulates, ie the old medieval part and the modern one that stretches alongside the river, there is an extraordinary historical and artistic heritage. The Roman and medieval walls in between help to highlight the beautiful contrast between the old quarter and the squares, known as the Plaza Mayor and the Plaza del Mercado, and the avenues, modern buildings, parks and gardens that lie to the west. The three most characteristic monuments that stand out for their great artistic value in Leon are the Cathedral, the Collegiate Church of San Isidoro and the Convent of San Marcos.

NON-WALKING DAY.

Overnight in Leon.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 10 Leon - Villafranca del Bierzo
We drive to the village of Santa Catalina de Somoza to begin our walk to El Ganzo (5 km, slight incline), where on the main street we can visit a craftsman who makes walking sticks from local beech trees. We begin our hike here climbing a path through the forest to emerge in a moor of heather and Scotch broom. We stop to enjoy views from the top of the Montes de Leon.

Our hike takes us up to the town of Rabanal del Camino (slight rise, 7 km), where the bus picks us up and drives us to the stunning Cruz del Ferro. From here we walk downhill to Manjarin (2km) where the bus will pick us up and drive us to Acebo for a visit. We depart Acebo by bus and drive down a steep switchback road (5km) to Compludo where we can see a medieval-era forge still in use. Later, we drive to the charming town of Villafranca del Bierzo, capital of a former station on the pilgrim's road to Santiago. Villafranca del Bierzo was built in the 11th century at the confluence of two rivers and is surrounded by mountains. As its name suggests, it was founded by the French and in its heyday had six pilgrim hospices and eight monasteries.

DAY SUMMARY: Today's hike is about 16 km (10 miles).

Overnight Villafranca del Bierzo.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 11 Villafranca del Bierzo - Trabadelo - O Ceibreiro - Lugo
The lush Cordillera Cantabria mountains are the last barrier before Santiago. Here in a very rural stretch of Galicia, we find Spain at its most Celtic. We hike today on a part of El Camino that rarely coincides with any roads and is especially pleasant. The first 3km (1.8 mi) are steep, then the route levels off to a gentle incline for about 6km (3.7 mi). The final 3km is a gentle descent to Trabadelo. For those not wanting to climb, there is another option along the little used road below that winds through the valley.

Our bus picks us up at this point and takes us to the mystical Celtic village of O'Ceibreiro, which once ranked with Roncesvalles as a resting place for pilgrims. A Benedictine monastery, Santa Maria del Ceibreiro, was built here in the 9th century over an ancient Celtic temple. O Ceibreiro and the mountains to the north form part of the Reserve Nacional de Os Ancares, partly a hunting reserve of roebuck and boar. We continue by road to Lugo, a town with largest intact Roman
walls in Spain.

DAY SUMMARY: Today's hike is about 12 km (7.5 mi).

Overnight in Lugo.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 12 Lugo - Portomarin - Palas de Rei
We drive to Ferreiros, with its Romanesque churches and many rural villages, where we begin our relatively easy day's walk (mostly flat). This stage is one of the most beautiful because of its mountain scenery and countryside. We pass down through the Mino Valley we will arrive to Portomarin, passing through small hamlets along the way.

We finish our day at nearby Palas de Rei, an important town in the Middle Ages located on El Camino.

DAY SUMMARY: Our hike today is about 12 km (7.5 miles).

Overnight in Palas de Rei.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 13 Palas de Rei - Lavacolla
Palas de Rei is an excellent starting point for today's on-foot exploration of more Galician countryside. We follow lovely backroads that pass through hamlets and farms flanked by grain silos in granite. We will see the first forest of eucalyptus, which heralds the proximity of the ocean. The churches here are small and very moving, and numerous religious crosses along the way testify that Christianity is deeply anchored in the land of Galicia.

We walk downhill to Leboreiro, a medieval village famous for a 14th Century miracle in which the Eucharist was transformed into actual flesh and blood. We continue on mostly flat ground to Melide from which we drive to Lavacolla. We have relatively easy walking today despite the length of 16km (10 miles).

DAY SUMMARY: 16km (10 miles), well-trodden easy terrain.

Overnight in Lavacolla.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 14 Lavacolla - Santiago de Compostela - Santiago de Campostella
This morning we see Santiago from the ancient pilgrim overlook above town, and then make our final hike, about 9km (5.6 miles), following El Camino into Santiago itself, where all roads lead to the vast central plaza and extraordinary cathedral containing the remains of St James. We walk uphill for the first hour or so to Monte de Gozo then downhill for about 2 hours into Santiago.

Santiago is one of Spain's most beautiful cities, built of golden granite and declared a national monument in its entirety. It's a wonderful place to walk, with its arcades and flagstone streets, and we have the afternoon free to enjoy the town.

Overnight in Santiago.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 15 Santiago de Compostela: City Tour
This morning we have a walking city tour of Santiago, a UNESCO World Heritage city. Our tour begins at Obradoiro Square where some of its more prominent monuments can be seen: the Archbishop's residence which preserves some 12th century lounges; the Town Hall, former Raxoy Palace, with its classical facade; the San Jeronimo College, whose facade shows Roman influences.

We also include the city's famous cathedral, a truly grand building adorned with many statues of St James in his familiar pilgrim guise with staff, broad-brimmed hat, and scallop-shell badge.

We also visit the Cathedral Museum, the Cloister and finally, the Platerias Gate, the only Romanesque one that is still preserved; and we take a guided tour of the Cathedral roofs,* which allows us to climb to the very top of the building and look out over the historic centre from the heights. To do so we make for the Gelmirez Palace, located to the side of the Cathedral in the Plaza del Obradoiro square. We pass through the interior of the Gelmirez Palace, past the Cathedral gallery (above the Gloria doorway) and up to the roof of the cathedral.

* Impending maintenance on the roof has been announced starting from late winter 2018, and it is unclear as to how long a closure may last. Please be advised that this element may not be possible if the roof tour is unavailable for your chosen departure.

Overnight in Santiago de Compostela.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 16 Departure
Departure from Santiago.

BUEN VIAJE!

Included Meal(s): Breakfast

Tour Map

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.


Hotel List


The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.


Antigua Bodega de Don Cosme Palacio

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Laguardia
Country: Spain

The art of the vine is ever present here; even the rooms are named after a particular type of grape.
... include the living room furnished with interesting antiques pieces, a fine little bar and library. This sum of great wine, food, lovely rooms and decor makes for a winning combination and it comes as no surprise that the Don Cosme Palacio is widely considered to be one of the best bodegas in the region.


Read More.

Hotel Cordon

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Burgos
Country: Spain

Located at the heart of the city, next to the House of the Cordon, where the Catholic King and Queen
... Columbus back from his second trip to America, this hotel provides the traveller with the peace and quite silence of a walking area. In less than five minutes guests can reach the famous gothic Cathedral of Burgos and the futurist Museum of the Human Evolution.

Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

Villafranca Del Bierzo Parador

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Villafranca Del Bierzo
Country: Spain

Villafranca del Bierzo is the centre of a lovely region and also a stop on St James Way. The hotel's
... imitates the lines and shapes of nearby Galicia. The wooden floors lend elegance and comfort to the bedrooms and other rooms of the hotel. The lounge, one of the most attractive spaces in the Parador, is welcoming and comfortable.


Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

Complejo de Cabana

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Palas De Rei
Country: Spain

La Cabaña (the Cabin) as its name suggests is a charming hotel built completely of wood. It is situated in
... grounds, surrounded by gardens, pines and chestnut trees. The Camino de Santiago passes right by the property.


Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website

Hesperia Gelmirez

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Santiago de Compostela
Country: Spain

This cozy hotel is situated in the heart of Santiago de Compostela, near the railway station and just 10 km
... the airport. An ideal base from which to tour the splendid historical and cultural features of the city. The hotel boasts 138 fully-equipped rooms with heating, telephone, television and satellite TV.

Read More.

Click here to visit hotel website


Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Inclusions

Breakfast and dinner (hotels & local restaurants) daily. All accommodation, transport, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters. Airport transfers for land & air customers and for early arriving / late departing land & air customers who book their extra hotel nights through us.

Exclusions

International airfare to/from the tour. Tour Leader gratuities, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), international air taxes (if applicable), excursions referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Optional trip cancellation insurance. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs and shopping.

Seasonality and Weather

In this northerly part of Spain, one can experience cold and wet weather into the spring and even in late summer/early fall. As such, we plan this trip for the summer months when we can expect warm fine days and cool mornings/evenings. In this part of the country, showers can occur at any time but are least likely in summertime. This also means that the trail will be busy with other hikers; however, this is likely going to be the case on a pilgrimage route! Meeting other "pilgrims" along the way is actually a big part of the fun!

Transport and Travel Conditions

Ground transport throughout by private air-conditioned motor coach, 24 seats depending on ultimate group size (see 'group size'). Road travel is not particularly arduous as there are plenty of stops of interest and distances are not great. Moderate walks on rolling terrain, well-worn paths, 3-6 hours per walking day. Vehicle support for luggage--you carry only your day pack.

Am I suitable for this tour? Please refer to our self-assessment form.

Accommodation

Well-located, air- conditioned, mid-range hotels and inns (3 star) throughout. All hotels have en suite bath, though some may have shower only. Porter service is sometimes available though you should be independent with your luggage. Single rooms are limited and likely smaller than twins. PLEASE NOTE: Due to extremely limited accommodation along el Camino, our hotels may be located a few kilometers outside of the overnight points indicated on our itinerary (with the exception of major centres like Bilbao, Leon, and Santiago).

Staff and Support

Tour Leader throughout, driver.

Group Size

10-16 (plus Tour Leader)

XPR TRIP DETAILS

DURATION16 days

TOUR STARTBilbao

TOUR ENDSantiago de Compostela

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