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The Crux Of The Camino

  • Overview
  • Accommodation
  • Itinerary
  • Fares

A journey overview

  • San Sebastian
  • Saint Jean Pied de Port
  • The Pyrenees
  • Roncesvalles
  • Pamplona
  • La Rioja
  • Burgos
  • Carrión de los Condes
  • León
  • Astorga
  • Canedo
  • Sarria
  • Lugo
  • Arzúa
  • Santiago de Compostela

19 Days Walking Journey
  • Departing:
  • 14 May 2023 Less than 5 places remain

We set forth upon the epic Camino de Santiago, taking us through lands inspired by ritual and legend. Our journey grants us the opportunity to walk over 200 kilometres of the Camino’s most striking sections. Enjoy this authentic experience as part of a small group of no more than 18 guests.

The Crux of the Camino Map
Aerial image of El Camino Trail Aerial, Spain
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

The Good Life Made Easy

As we follow this most fabled pilgrimage, our private courtesy vehicle accompanies us at all times. Stocked with food and drink, it also stands ready to chauffeur you directly to the hotel at any time, no questions asked.

Leon Camino Sign in Field, Spain
Bodega Irache Wine Fountain, Spain

Vigour From the Vine

At the halfway point between Pamplona and Elciego, a roadside fountain can be found dispensing a steady stream of the local wine. Said to grant strength to weary pilgrims, a tasting of the elixir is heartily encouraged.

Grapes on vine
Alley of wine barrels at Elciego

Savour Regional Flavours

In Elciego, celebrate with a Michelin-starred meal, set within iconic wine estate, Marqués de Riscal. After learning the secrets of the resident winemaker, depart for the celebrated La Rioja wine region.

Itinerary

Tour Manager - Gordon Higman

Tour Doctor - Dr Ralph Levin

As Your Tour Manager, Gordon Higman Welcomes You On This Journey

Your Accompanying Tour Doctor For This Journey is Dr Ralph Levin


A geographically gifted city, San Sebastián’s beaches line the Bay of Biscay. We land here for a short hedonistic stop before the walk begins in earnest, which offers us a chance to contemplate the adventure that lies ahead. For the next two nights, we call San Sebastián’s Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra home. It is set directly on Playa de la Concha, said to be Europe’s best city beach. Take a stroll along the sand before sitting down to a classically Basque dinner in our hotel’s dining room. 

San Sebastián is also Spain’s gastronomic capital. We explore the old city and treat ourselves to pintxos washed down with Txakoli, a fruity, quaffing wine. Spend the afternoon at leisure, perhaps taking advantage of San Sebastián’s renowned beaches. This evening, the traditional cuisine of the region is enhanced by produce selected from our restaurant’s own garden at Zelai Txiki. 

We cross the border today and arrive in the town of St Jean Pied de Port, starting point for the Camino Francés route. On our first day of the walk, we cross the Pyrénées range, climbing from 200 metres above sea level to just above 1,400 metres. This will be the most difficult day, not just because our feet are unpractised. The rolling landscape reveals more of itself the higher we go, its beauty distracting us at opportune times. Upon reaching Roncesvalles Pass, we are again in Spain. Dotted around each bend, we find farms owned by the umpteenth generation of each family. We are invited inside several to sample their delectable sheep’s cheese, ham and produce, many of which are on regular order by the chefs of Basque Country’s numerous Michelin-starred restaurants. From here, it is downhill into town and the beckoning hospitality of the Hotel Roncesvalles. 

Between Roncesvalles and Zubiri, the countryside undulates in a manner more forgiving than yesterday’s route. We follow the trail along forested terrain, which soon opens up to more pastoral scenes and the occasional village. In the last hour of this section, we descend 200 metres in elevation to Zubiri, then drive to Pamplona, bypassing the less inspiring portion of this walk. We rest this evening in the Gran Hotel La Perla. 

While you have the choice of walking any section of today’s journey, our recommendation is to rest your feet and feast your senses on the grand churches dating from the Middle Ages. Highlights are the Gothic Church of the Crucifix and the Moorish-inflected Church of Santiago el Mayor. Celebrating our efforts thus far, we also indulge in a wine tasting, relishing the oak and vanilla flavours characteristic of the region. Tonight, our residence is the flamboyantly modern Marqués de Riscal Hotel in Elciego, and we crown the evening with an exquisite dinner at the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant. Here we dine, not on mere dishes, but what Chef Juan Bautista Peñas calls ‘proposiciones gastronomicas’.

Winemaking in La Rioja originated with the Phoenician settlers who once called it home. Today, we delve into this pre-Camino aspect, meeting master winemakers at renowned vineyards and new, inventive ones. Sample their creations as we go. Then follow your own path for a while, with an afternoon at leisure. We reconvene for dinner this evening at Hospedería de los Parajes, its hearty regional meals perfectly paired courtesy of an extensive wine list. 

A morning drive places us in Villafranca Montes de Oca in the region of Castilla, with peaceful views to be savoured. Interestingly, for travellers past, this was a treacherous stretch where bandits and thieves lay in wait. Arriving in San Juan de Ortega, we drive on to Atapuerca, where Europe’s oldest human remains were found. We travel on to Burgos, where the best examples of Gothic architecture are to be found. Most impressive is the town’s cathedral and, at its centre, the tomb of El Cid, military genius and national hero. Our residence tonight is the Palacio de Burgos, near the Plaza Mayor. Dine in one of Burgos’ many tapas bars this evening, and savour a selection of dishes sautéed, smoky or spiced.  

Today, our vehicles transport us from Burgos to Hontanas. From here, our journey continues part of the way across the Meseta, the plateau that is Spain’s heartland. While it is flat and easy walking, there is little in the way of shade. We soon reach Castrojeriz, notable for its castle ruins. In Carrión de los Condes, on the edge of the Meseta, we find our home for the night, the Real Monasterio de San Zoilo. Extraordinarily historic, the 10th-century complex features a cloister with 200 carved arch keystones. This evening, dine on the famed lamb at the rustic Mesón de Villasirga. 

Today we investigate more of Spain’s past, as told by its architecture. In Quintanilla de la Cueza, we visit an ancient Roman Villa, La Tejada. While its roof has crumbled, its intricate mosaic floors remain as captivating as the day they were made. In Sahagún, we see the original mudéjar-style buildings – it was here that Muslim and Christian influences first combined, before spreading throughout the country. León welcomes us in the afternoon. Founded in the first century BC, there is a wealth of sights and sounds to discover. Tonight’s residence is the lovingly restored convent, the Parador de Leon. It may be a challenge deciding where to dine this evening, as we choose from León’s wealth of gastronomic options. 

The path out of León now runs through industrial areas, which is why we choose to drive today, making our way to Puente Orbigo, famed for its arched bridge. From here, today’s leg is a moderately challenging one, to the town of Astorga, which we break up with a picnic lunch along the way. Our further efforts are rewarded with a satisfying tapas dinner on reaching our destination. Tonight, half our group will spend the night at Posada Real Casa de  Tepa, with the remainder residing at nearby Hotel Via de la Plata.

Our vehicle takes us the short distance to Rabanal del Camino. After the last two days, our legs are ready for some work. With the Meseta behind us, the land becomes a little more lush, and the path a little less straight. We pace ourselves as we navigate gradual inclines on our way to Cruz de Ferro, the route’s famous iron cross. From here, our ever-reliable vehicles drive us the rest of the way to rural Canedo, a short detour from the Camino, where the Palacio de Canedo welcomes us for the night. The walk will have whet our appetites for the chef’s tasting menu and wines from the hotel’s estate. 

In the morning, we survey the Templar ruins of Sarracín Castle . Then, a new province calls. With Kerry-esque green hills and misty lakes, Galicia is a mirror of the northern British Isles, in culture and in landscape. The high point of today’s walk is at its end – O Cebreiro is an ancient Celtic town where time has stood still for more than 1,500 years. Here we marvel at pallozas, low stone huts with sweeping circular roofs. To top off a remarkable day, we join the Benedictine monks of the Monastery of St Julian of Samos for evening vespers, an unbroken tradition since the sixth century. Tonight, we rest at the Hotel Alfonso IX in Sarria.

Those determined to earn their Compostela must walk the rest of the way. We collect, in our pilgrim’s passport, a stamp at each town, proof that we are committed to our challenging journey. On our way to Ferreiros, our courtesy vehicle stops momentarily so we can see the 12th-century Iglesia de Santiago, one of Galicia’s premier Romanesque churches. We then arrive in Ferreiros, where we begin our day’s walk. Eucalyptus and pine trees line the trails as we head toward Ventas de Narón. Along the way, we are also met with the sight of several hórreos, Galician grain storage buildings, dotted along the route. Tonight, we take our rest at Hotel Mercure Lugo.

A short drive takes us to Ventas de Narón, from where we walk to O Coto, sustained by our picnic lunch en route. Along the way, the pretty countryside distracts us at regular intervals. Old villages, once hubs of activity, lie quietly along our path; our peace disturbed only by the occasional bird or chatty walker. On reaching O Coto, our trusty transport delivers us to nearby Lugo, where we dine in one of its charming restaurants . Suitably nourished, we return to Hotel Mercure Lugo for a restful sleep.

The starting point of today’s walk is O Coto. We soon reach the enchanting hamlet of Leboreiro, known for its ancient, yet modest, church, the Igrexa de Santa María de Leboreiro. About halfway along our route, we arrive in Boente, whose residents are renowned for producing the finest local cheeses. A sample or two may just be the perfect supplement to our picnic lunch. Our walk concludes at the Church of Santa Maria Magdalena in Arzúa. The rest of the afternoon is ours to enjoy at leisure, before we are conveyed to this evening’s residence, Pazo de Brandeso. Tonight’s meal is enjoyed in our accommodation’s elegant dining room. 

Our westward journey continues as we set out on our walk from Arzúa, the hamlet of O Amenal today’s goal. We enter and depart the forest at regular intervals and reach the small town of Boavista, enjoying a light lunch along the way. O Amenal welcomes us and we take the rest of the day at leisure. Our vehicles then return us to Arzúa, where our vitality is restored in one of the town’s finest restaurants. We then enjoy a second night at Pazo de Brandeso. 

We have 14 kilometres left to go. One hour from Santiago de Compostela, we reach Monte do Gozo, where we glimpse our first sight of the grand cathedral’s spires. We feel an emotional tug – we are on the finishing stretch. Modern roads give way to winding medieval lanes as we enter the old city, then suddenly, from the square of Obradoiro, we see the cathedral itself, soaring from the ground. We have arrived. With reverence, we enter via the Portico of Glory, itself a microcosm of the bible in exquisite stone. We each take a moment, coming to terms with the magnitude of our endeavour. This evening, we select from Santiago de Compostela’s many first-rate restaurants. The magnificent Parador de Santiago, built by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, is our home for two nights. 

One final ceremony marks the end of our journey – the legendary pilgrim’s mass at the cathedral. It features the incredible Botafumeiro, a giant thurible, or incense burner on chains. Weighing 80 kilograms when full and 21 metres at maximum swing, it requires eight men to operate. They pull on it in unison, swinging the thurible above the congregation’s heads and perfuming the air. Tonight, we indulge ourselves with a private dinner within our hotel, calling for multiple toasts to our incredible experience. It would not be amiss to say that we have grown in wisdom and resilience, and lighter in spirit.

We enjoy a final morning at leisure before our rewarding adventure concludes. 

Brochure

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