Our trip begins in Bilbao, Spain with a 5:30pm group rendezvous at our hotel. Following introductions and an orientation, we stroll along the river and through the old city center to a local tavern. Tonight we dine on Basque pintxos, small plates of traditional foods made with local, fresh ingredients. Dinner included.
Departing Bilbao, we drive westward along the rugged Atlantic coast and cross into the province of Asturias. Enroute to Llanes, we visit a cave with prehistoric art; it's part of the UNESCO World Heritage collection of cave sites throughout this region of Spain. In Llanes, we explore the town?s twisting streets and have lunch by a seaside market. A historic and traditional fishing port, Llanes had an economy based on whaling for eight centuries. This afternoon's hike begins our journey along the Camino del Norte. We follow scenic clifftop paths over rolling pastureland and sandy coves to stretch our legs and become acquainted with the terrain. All meals included.
Cave visit: 1 hour; Hiking: 5.6 miles, 3 hours; elevation gain/loss: 525?; Driving: 2.75 hours.
Note: Approximate total vehicle transfer times are listed for each day; these drives are typically broken up with a morning transfer, hiking and lunch, and an afternoon transfer.
This morning a short transfer brings us to the start of today's hike on the Camino. We walk along coastal paths and gently undulating green meadows that link hidden coves, rocky bays and beautiful beaches. We enjoy lunch at a spot overlooking a pretty inlet and then transfer to Oviedo, the capital of Asturias. We meet a local guide to tour Oviedo?s impressive San Salvador Cathedral. This UNESCO World Heritage complex is home to several revered relics of the Kingdom of Asturias, including the Cloth of Oviedo (also called the Sudarium). The cloth is believed to have been wrapped around Jesus? head in the tomb. We overnight in Oviedo. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 7 miles, 3 hours; elevation gain/loss: 755?. Walking/sightseeing: 1 mile, 1.5 hours; Driving: 1.5 hours.
We begin our hike along the Camino Primitivo, the oldest of all the Camino pilgrimage routes. The landscape becomes increasing hilly and forested, with country lanes creating patterns through the pastureland. Our hike takes us towards Tineo (2,139?), set high in the hills above the Narcea River valley. Following a picnic lunch, we resume our hike uphill through dense, mixed forest, ending at an abandoned 12th-century Benedictine Monastery that once played an important role in providing aid and support to pilgrims on their way to Santiago. After exploring the ruins we transfer to our hotel in Tineo. All meals included.
Hiking: 10.3 miles, 4.5 hours; elevation gain/loss: 1,350?/1,590?; Driving: 1.25 hours.
Today's trail is perhaps the most spectacular of the entire Camino Primitivo. Our hike takes us uphill through one of Spain's most uninhabited regions. Heather and gorse bracket the forested mountain trail as we make our way up to an isolated pass (3,760?) where we enjoy sweeping views and may see wild horses grazing on the hillsides. We then transfer to the tiny parish of Berducedo for lunch. We finally enter Galicia on our way to Lugo, whose 3rd century Roman walls surrounding the old town are a UNESCO World Heritage site. We tour the historic walls and take in the panoramic views of the city before visiting the cathedral. A mix of Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque and Neoclassic styles, the basilica is an outstanding example of the architectural influences that shaped the buildings of Galicia. Overnight in Lugo. All meals included.
Hiking: 4.1 miles, 2.75 hours, elevation gain/loss: 1,795'/321?; Walking/sightseeing: 1 mile, 1.5 hours; Driving: 3 hours.
We begin our day with a visit to a museum and the aging ruins of a Celtic-Roman hillfort settlement. Our last hike on the Camino Primitivo follows forest paths through tiny hamlets that are scattered about the Galician countryside. We have lunch in Melide, a town where the Camino Primitivo and Camino Frances merge into a single Way. In Melide's historic center, we are often greeted by the aroma of fresh-baked melindres (sugar-topped pastries), and amendoados (almond cakes). Our afternoon hike on the Camino takes us through eucalyptus and oak forests, and past small churches and tiny villages. This section of the Way highlights the difference in the numbers of pilgrims on the Camino Frances compared with the two northern Caminos we've experienced so far. All meals included.Hiking: 6 - 7.9 miles, 3 hours; elevation gain/loss: 755-935'/558-705'; Driving: 2.5 ? 3.5 hours.
After a morning hike on the Camino, we transfer to Monte del Gozo (Mount of Joy). Located on the outskirts of Santiago de Compostela, this hilltop viewpoint provides pilgrims with their first glimpse of the city?s famous cathedral spires. Our hike continues to Plaza del Obradoiro, Santiago's grandiose square. The afternoon is free for a late lunch and exploration. We regroup later in the day to tour the area surrounding the cathedral with a local guide. And this evening, we have the option to attend the pilgrim?s mass at the cathedral, and perhaps witness the swinging of the Botafumeiro. At just over five feet in height and 180 pounds, this incense censer is one of the largest in the world. Dinner is on your own tonight, allowing more time to explore the wonders of the city. Breakfast included.
Hiking: 5.9 miles, 3 hours; elevation gain/loss: 730?/930?; Driving: 1.25 hours.
An early visit to Santiago?s bustling market allows us to see, smell and taste fresh produce of every imaginable variety. There is an incredible selection of seafood, meat, poultry, vegetables and fruit. We drive to Cape Finisterre, the final destination for many pilgrims who walked the Way of St. James. The Cape is also the historical ?Land?s End? reached by pagan pilgrimages predating Christianity. Hillside trails lead out to the cape and lighthouse. We marvel at the spectacular views of the Costa da Morte (Coast of Death), so named for the innumerable shipwrecks over the centuries. After a hearty seafood lunch we return to Santiago, and the afternoon is free to discover the sights of the city. This evening we meet for a celebratory dinner at one of the area?s finest restaurants. All meals included.
Hiking: 3.2 miles, 2 hours; elevation gain/loss: 705?/410?; Driving: 3 hours.
Our tour concludes with breakfast. Transfer on your own to Santiago?s airport, or continue your explorations of this marvelous region of Spain. Breakfast included.