Camino de Santiago - The Way of St James
Since the middle ages the Camino has been considered one of the holiest pilgrimages in the world. Legend has it that the remains of the apostle St James, having been carried by boat from Jerusalem, were interred in Northern Spain, at what is now Santiago de Compostela. For centuries Christians have journeyed here to pay homage, nowadays these pilgrims are also joined by explorers from all around the world, drawn in by the fascinating history of the route. You will join the Pilgrim's Way in Sarria, from where you follow the iconic scallop shell route markers all the way to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, thus completing the last 100km stretch that qualifies you for the 'Compostela' pilgrimage certificate.
Armed with your 'Pilgrim's Passport' you will enjoy filling with stamps each day at small cafes and Romanesque churches.
DAY 1 Meet at Santiago Airport and transfer to Sarria. On arrival you will check in at your hotel and meet your guide for a short tour of the town. Sarria was a major medieval centre for pilgrims and an opportunity to buy your own scallop shell to hang from your back pack ready for your journey. At dinner you will receive your Pilgrim's Passport from your guide and meet your group.
DAY 2 After breakfast you collect your first stamp from the hotel to confirm your starting point. Crossing the beautiful Bridge of Aspera you climb up along a 'corredoira' through ancient woodlands. Passing rural stone hamlets, orchards, vineyards and pretty forests you reach the high point of the route. Pena dos Corvos (660m) with panoramic views over the reservoir highlighting rural Galicia at its best. Descending into the Rio Mino valley the route is on quiet country roads and natural pathways. A modern bridge over the deep Mino basin announces your arrival into Portomarin. The imposing church of San Nicolas, in the main square and the smaller church of San Pedro were moved stone by stone from the old to the new Portamarin. This is where you spend the night. Distance 24km, time 6 hours walking.
DAY 3 The walk today has varied landscapes as you contour around the reservoir, this area was the seen of a bloody battle in 840 between the Moors and Christians, pass the tiny stone chapel Capela de Magdalene. Climbing the ridge beyond the tiny hamlet of Ventas de Naron, arrive at the high point of the route in Sierra Ligonde (720m). A gentle climb around the side of Rosary Heights drops down to your overnight stay at Palas de Rei. Distance 25km, time 6 hours walking.
DAY 4 Leaving Palas de Rei a woodland path brings you to the camino village of San Xulian with its tiny 12th century church, close to the banks of the Rio Pambre. Climb gently through ancient oak woods you ascend The Pass of the Oxen, the scene of a bloody battle, and reach Campanilla (515m) and the high point of the day. Crossing a medieval bridge you enter the village of Leboreiro with its 13th century Romanesque church with its attractive carvings. A large monument of the sword of Santiago starts a short section which crosses the Rio Furelos, followed by a final short climb before crossing into the old quarter of Melide. Huddled around the central square is the austere church, Sancti Spiritus, once a 14th century Augustian monastery. Melide is a delightful spot to spend some relaxing time, with its narrow winding streets and many little cafes and restaurants serving local specialities such as the renowned octopus. Distance 17km, time 4 hours walking.
DAY 5 After breakfast you leave Melide on a cobbled pathway past St Mary's Romanesque church and San Lazaro, former leper hospice. Progress across several river valleys to the village of Boente where the friendly priest offers blessings to passing pilgrims. The village of Castenada used to fire stones that were used in building the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.. After a short climb up to 440m you drop down crossing the Rio Iso, over its historic bridge, arriving in the medieval village of Ribadiso and into Arzua. The village has two churches and is the last major town before journey's end. Distance 15km, time 4 hours walking.
DAY 6 An ancient track from the historic quarter of Arzua town, leads through attractive woodland and streams interspersed with the tiny hamlets of Raido, Cortobe, Fondevila and Ponteladron. After the village of Salceda, there is a monument to Pilgrim Guillermo Watt who sadly died here, only a day away from his goal of Santiago. Continuing to the top of a gentle climb (540m) is the beautiful 18th century chapel of Santa Irene with its unique carvings. Make your way downhill, through a small eucalyptus wood to arrive at the pretty village of Rua. Distance 20km, time 5 hours walking.
DAY 7 As you get closer to Santiago there is a converging of pilgrims, asphalt and expectancy as the mood starts to intensify. After the village of Amenal you pass Lavacolla, historically this was where the pilgrims washed and purified themselves before entering Santiagp. One last climb brings you to Monte del Gozo at 370m and here you get your first glimpse of the towers of the cathedral at Santiago. The final 4kms become more urban and downhill all the way into the magnificent centre of Santiago, along beautiful Rua de San Pedro and Porta do Camino which lead to the Cathedral of Santiago. Head to the Pilgrim's Office where you present your Pilgrim's Passport and receive your final certificate. Check in to your hotel and freshen up before heading into Santiago to explore this special city. The centre has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you now get the chance to visit the cathedral. In the evening you may wish to join the special Pilgrim's Mass, lasting 30 minutes. A farewell drink with your guide before you head out to enjoy the numerous restaurants. Distance 22km, time 5 hours walking.
DAY 8 After breakfast it is time to say goodbye and you at transferred to Santiago Airport.
Departures – various dates in 2018. Price from £1225 per person based on two people sharing a twin/double room, single rooms are available on the payment of a supplement. Offers are subject to availability and can be withdrawn without notice.
Please Note – walking boots are essential. Walks cover between 15 and 25 kilometres per day. Maximum group size is 14
Included – 7 nights accommodation
7 breakfast, 6 lunches, 6 dinners.
Tour guide Transfer meeting selected flights
Not Included – Holiday Insurance
Items of a personal nature I.e. drinks, laundry, telephone calls
Porterage and gratuities Travel from the UK