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 into the region of Cantabria. We set out for a hike that introduces us to the coastal trails of the Camino del Norte. Our seaside route links golden beaches popular with surfers. We continue to the Celtic region of Asturias and our overnight base of Llanes. A walking tour through the town?s twisting streets brings us to our lunch spot by a seaside market. A historic and traditional fishing port, Llanes had an economy based on whaling for eight centuries. We continue our explorations with a hike along the Camino, following scenic clifftop paths over rolling pastureland and sandy coves. All meals included.
Hiking: 8.5 miles, 4.75 hours; elevation gain/loss: 755?; 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.
We continue our hike on the Camino, following coastal paths through gently undulating green meadows that link hidden coves, rocky bays and stunning beaches. We lunch by a pretty inlet, then transfer to Oviedo, the capital of Asturias. A local guide provides a tour of 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 (2139?), set high in the hills above the Narcea River valley. Following 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: 10.3-12.8 miles, 5-6 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 (3760?) 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 visit a museum and the aging ruins of a Celtic-Roman hillfort settlement before setting out on our final hike along the Camino Primitivo. The trail 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, 3-3.5 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 do 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. There is free time this afternoon for a late lunch and explorations. We regroup to tour the area surrounding the cathedral with a local guide. This evening, we have the option to attend a pilgrim?s mass at a 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. The remainder of 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.