– EL CAMINO WALK, SPAIN –
DEPARTURE DATE: To Be Advised
TOUR CODE: XXXX
Meal Plan – B: Breakfast L: Lunch D: Dinner
**Please note: Even though this is stated as a walking pilgrimage, the group will be supported with a bus to carry luggage and transport pilgrims who may require respite at times along the way.
Upon arrival at Madrid’s Barajos airport we will be met and transferred to our centrally located accommodation to rest and prepare for this special walk.
Madrid overnight (D)
MADRID TO LEÓN
We depart this morning from Madrid and travel to León. On our arrival in Leon, we will visit the city with a local guide. León amasses some of Spain’s most important historic-artistic monuments, like its Cathedral Santa Maria de León. A Gothic gem and a masterpiece of architecture with the best collection of stained-glass windows in Europe (only after Chartres), it is also known as the House of Light. Next to the Cathedral, there is the Roman Saint Isidoro Basilica (eleventh and twelfth century), where the Saint Isidoro of Seville’s tomb is kept; and the Saint Marcus Monastery, with its fantastic front in Plateresque style bedecked with shells (the symbol of the pilgrim). We will then stop briefly to each obtain our Pilgrim’s Passport and first accreditation stamp before heading back through the narrow, winding streets into modern León to arrive at our accommodation.
León overnight (BD)
LE ÓN TO VILLADANGOS DEL PARAMO
The Road to Compostela comes out of the past and stretches through a thousand year history of the pilgrim’s journey. During the Middle Ages the Shrine of St. James became the number one pilgrimage site outside of Rome. According to tradition, St. James the Apostle travelled to Spain in 40 AD to spread the Gospel to the far west. He died a martyr after returning to Jerusalem. His remains were brought back to Spain and are today held in the high altar of the Cathedral. Countless pilgrims have made the journey from Madrid to the Pyrenees to Compostela along an historic path which has changed little since the time of the beginnings around the year 1000. Despite wars, floods and famine through the ages, the Old Pilgrim’s Way has survived and at its end Santiago de Compostela has earned the distinction of being a true pilgrimage destination. Modern day pilgrims who walk this sacred road become, whether they know it or not, a part of history.
In the spirit of St James the Apostle we become authentic pilgrims journeying along both the outer road and the inner road within. Depart León and continue our journey this morning along the Route towards Trobajo del Camino, with its small chapel dedicated to the Apostle Martyr. Then we will arrive at La Virgen del Camino, where legend states that the Virgin appeared in front of a shepherd in 1506, and asked him to build a shrine.
The Route takes us to the end of the stage: Villadangos del Paramo; this town of Roman origin, was the site of a battle that took place between the Queen Doña Urraca of León and her husband, Alfonso I of Aragón, in the year 1111. In the Middle Ages there was a hospital here. Pilgrims can take a quiet walk round the streets and pray at the Parish Church, which contains an image of the Apostle Santiago from the 18th century.
Leon overnight (BD)
VILLADANGOS DEL PARAMO TO ASTORGA
In the morning we will depart towards the city of Astorga. Our walk takes us through the Leonese meseta, or high tableland. In contrast to the days to come, here the land is flat and dry and the red earth dominates – it’s fascinating to observe the abrupt change in the landscape, cuisine and villages between León and Galicia.
At the end of our walk, we will have enough time to enjoy the city of Astorga. This historical and religious city, called Astúrica by the Romans, once had 25 hospitals. On it converge the French and the Plata Routes to Santiago. The extraordinary Gothic Cathedral of Santa Maria from the 15th century presides over the town. The Episcopal Palace or Gaudí’s Palace houses the Museo de los Caminos, which displays pieces from all churches related to the Route to Santiago.
Astorga overnight (BD)
ASTORGA TO RABANAL DEL CAMINO
In the morning we will depart towards the town of Rabanal del Camino. Along the way today we will pass through the town of Castrillo de los Polvazares that has an outstanding architectural heritage and where the genuine atmosphere of the region of “Maragatería” is almost preserved in time. The remains of a Roman encampment are worthy of note. Before we arrive to Rabanal del Camino we will see a big house that was the Hospital for Pilgrims in medieval times. There is also a house called the Four Corners that is said to have given shelter to Felipe II on his walk. We can later take some time out in the small chapel of San José or in the local Parish Church.
Astorga overnight (BD)
RABANAL DEL CAMINO TO PONFERRADA
After leaving Rabanal del Camino the route continues westward across the region of Leon. The first village that appears is Foncebadon, the one-time important centre in the Middle Ages that has now been abandoned. Here took place a Council in the 10th century, before the hermit Guacelmo founded a hostelry for pilgrims a century later. Some kilometres off the municipality, surmounting a peak that the Romans dedicated to Mercury can be seen the Ferro Cross, on top of a stick fixed to a big heap of stones. Traditionally pilgrims bring a stone from their places of origin and deposit it on the heap.
The end of today’s journey brings us to Ponferrada. This town, with prehistoric and Roman antecedents, had two access points in the Middle Ages. One was via the Roman bridge spanning the Boeza River, sunk in the 18th century; the other was via the path of the Gallegos and then, crossing the river by the Medieval bridge of Mascarón.
At the end of the 11th century, the Bishop of Astorga, Osmundo, commissioned the building of a new bridge, “la Pons Ferrata”, a pass with iron banisters which gave name to the city. Later on, between the 11th and 14th centuries, the Castle of the Knights Templar was built. At the end of the 15th century, the Catholic Monarchs commissioned the construction of the Hospital de la Reina, next to the fortress. In this monumental town also stand the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Encina, from the 16th century (built to commemorate the apparition of the Virgin in a grove of Holm oaks) and the Baroque Church of San Andres, from the 17th century, which is home to an outstanding retable from the 13th century, “The Christ of the Wonders”.
Ponferrada overnight (BD)
PONFERRADA TO VILLAFRANCA DEL BIERZO
Today part of our journey will follow the old Roman road that connected Ponferrada with the silver and gold mines located in Las Médulas. We will walk towards Columbrianos. Pass through Fuentesnuevas, with the Chapel of the Campo and reach Camponayara, an important halt along the Route. In the Middle Ages it had two hospitals.
The Route follows its course towards Cacabelos, where the first thing that appears into sight is the Chapel of San Roque; then the Church of Santa María, containing a carving of the Virgin from the 13th century. The neoclassical Sanctuary of the Quinta Angustia from the 18th century is also worthy of note, as well as its Hospital for Pilgrims.
Today’s journey finishes at Villafranca del Bierzo, a town founded in the 11th century, where the Cluny Order had an important representation. We can enjoy the Collegiate Church of Santa María, built between the 13th and 16th centuries; the churches of Santiago (12th century) with its statue of St James wearing full pilgrim regalia, and San Nicolas, as well as the Agua Street, full of palaces and emblazoned houses. The Castle-Palace of the Marquisate is also worthy of being visited.
Villafranca del Bierzo overnight (BD)
VILLAFRANCA DEL BIERZO TO O CEBREIRO
Our pilgrimage adventure continues this morning as we walk through the Ancares Valley area. We will be able to see the Castles of Sarracín, of which some ruins can be seen, and Veiga; both castles are connected to Celtic legends. Later we will enter Galicia by Lugo, not far from Santiago. The first village in the region of Lugo along the Route is O Cebreiro, with an altitude of 1,300 metres and home to pre-historic Celtic huts with straw roofs (pallozas). Finally we come to the ancient Sanctuary of O Cebreiro. Here we will celebrate our group Mass in the pre-Romanesque Church (9th-10th century) and see the renowned Paten of Santo Milagro(Eucharistic Miracle from the 13th century) and a precious Romanesque carving of Santa Maria la Real.
O Cebreiro overnight (BD)
O CEBREIRO TO TRIACASTELA
Although the walk is shorter in distance today, it is good to note that much of it is downhill and to take care as many injuries come in walking downhill rather than uphill.
This morning our path takes us past the ancient parish Church and on a brief uphill climb to Alto de San Roque, where an impressive pilgrim monument overlooks Galicia and its deep valleys.
In Galicia we will pass through countless hamlets connected to one another by ancient dry-stone walls separating the trail from an endless patchwork quilt of worked fields and cow pastures. We’ll enjoy the hearty Galician fare – including leafy green soup, called caldo gallego, creamy cow’s milk cheeses, thick, round loaves of wheat, rye and corn meal bread, outstanding Galician veal and pork, seafood and greens – cabbage, broad beans, Swiss chard and leeks.
On the way we pass through Fonfria, another Galician village. Finally we arrive at Triacastela, town of the three castles – none of which are standing today. This was an important stop for pilgrims coming off the mountain.
Triacastela overnight (BLD)
TRIACASTELA TO SARRIA
This morning we will walk via the tiny village of Samos, wrapped around the enormous Benedictine Monastery that we will visit and where we will celebrate Mass. Continuing on the Route we will pass through a picturesque scene full of oaks and chestnut trees.
The end of the stage brings us to Sarria. It was in this town that Alfonso IX died in 1230, while making the pilgrimage. Visit the old quarter which retains a strong medieval character. We will also see the Church of Salvador, with a Romanesque ground plan and Gothic façade; the small chapel of San Lazaro; the hospital of San Antonio, which today houses a Court; and the remains of its old fortress, from the 14th century.
Sarria overnight (BD)
SARRIA TO PORTOMARIN
Today’s section of the Camino is considered to be one of the most picturesque. Walk through bucolic countryside, traversing enchanted forests and small patches of farmland to the banks of the Mino River. En route we will pass the 100km marker – a milestone for pilgrims who travel the Camino.
Our walking trip for today will finish in Portomarín, picturesquely situated on a hilltop. The old Portomarín, which dates back to the Roman Age, was an important halt along the route in the Middle Ages and lies beneath the waters of the dam built in 1962. Before flooding the town, many monuments were moved, stone by stone, to higher ground. Such was the case of the church-fortress of the Knights of San Juan of Jerusalem, who once ran the old hospital that lay beneath the waters of the Miño River, along with the old Medieval and Roman bridges.
The municipality also has the Church of San Nicolás, from the 13th century; the portal of the church of San Pedro, from 1182; the Count’s House, from the 16th century, and the Palace of Berbetoros, from the 17th century.
Portomarin overnight (BD)
PORTOMARIN TO PALAS DE REI
Passing through small villages decorated with cruceiros (carved stone crosses that mark the way to Santiago) and containing only a dozen houses, we will meet other peregrinos on today’s hilly walk.
Although we all share a special quest and a sense of camaraderie with fellow pilgrims from around the world, there are always moments of solitude to contemplate this special journey. The undulating countryside is studded with meadows and forests of eucalyptus and pine as we approach Palas de Rei. This was once an important town in the Middle Ages as it had a Royal Hospital. The Church of San Tirso now stands on its lands, with a Romanesque portal.
Palas de Rei overnight (BD)
PALAS DE REI TO ARZUA
Today we set off walking along quiet paths through hamlets and woodlands, crossing an occasional stone bridge along the way. Stop to admire the tiny 12th century church dedicated to St Julian, one of the many Romanesque treasures along the Camino. We then continue on to Melide, a small town with a wonderful square and church. This town is crucial to the Route, because it is the place where the French and the Oviedo Routes converge. We are likely to see more peregrinos as we continue along our way.
At the entrance to the town there is a crossroads from the 14th century, one of the oldest in Galicia. The present Parish Church was the former church of the Monastery of Sancti Spiritus. It contains stately sepulchres.
Today we also pass from Galicia’s Lugo province to Galicia’s A Coruña province. We will have lunch altogether in a typical restaurant of Melide where we will taste its magnificent “pulpo a feira”. A medieval bridge leads pilgrims to Ribadiso, before arriving at Arzua, the next halt on our journey. Surrounded by a beautiful scenery stands the Gothic Chapel of Magdalena, the only part of the old Augustinian monastery that has come down to us. The little town is famous nowadays for its Galician cheese factories.
Arzua overnight (BLD)
ARZUA TO ARCA DO PINO
Before departing Arzua we will celebrate Mass in Arzua Parish Church with its statue of St. James and the chapel dedicated to St. Lazarus just outside the village. Here we leave behind the last major centre of population on the Camino until Santiago. Wander through the picturesque village of Calle, with its traditional stone houses. Onwards to Salceda where we see a monument to Guillermo Watt, a pilgrim who died at this spot only a day away from his earthly destination on pilgrimage.
Continuing on we climb up through magnificent eucalyptus woods en route to Arca do Pino.
Arca do Pino overnight (BD)
ARCA DO PINO TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
‘This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad’ (Ps 118:24).
Excitement mounts as the trail brings us closer to our destination. Walk through rolling terrain towards Lavacolla, where medieval pilgrims traditionally bathed in the river to purify themselves before arriving in the holy city of Santiago. From here we will begin to ascend the Monte del Gozo, “Mount of Joy”, the point where pilgrims first catch sight of the spires of the Cathedral of Santiago, these days surrounded by the bustling, new city of Santiago de Compostela.
On approach to the centre, we will pass through the city’s walls and under the Arch of Obispo drawing us forward into the great Obradoiro Square. Here we have finally arrived at our destination, St. James Cathedral for the traditional Pilgrim’s Mass, ready to receive a deserved grace and special blessing.
Santiago de Compostela overnight (BD)
SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
The city of the apostle is full of historical buildings and other attractions and is thus the ideal place for a quiet unhurried walk of discovery through streets, squares and nooks, to be taken as a reward for the effort of reaching this city of St James.
This morning we will visit and celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of St James, one of the finest examples of architecture in all of Europe. As pilgrims we have the opportunity to climb the stairs behind the high altar to visit the crypt where the relics of St James are preserved, touch the central pillar (Portico de La Gloria), view the ‘botafumeiro’ and admire the wealth of medieval art inside the Cathedral, before visiting the cloister museum. Afternoon at leisure.
This evening we celebrate the end of our pilgrimage with a special meal at a local Spanish restaurant.
Santiago de Compostela overnight (BD)
DEPART SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
For more information phone Marguerite on 0487 29448.