This cycling trip takes you from the Gothic Cathedral of Leon to Santiago, final destination of the world's most popular walking route: you will travel through ever-changing sceneries, from the open plains and wheah fields of Castilla to the green, vineyard-dotted hills of Galicia. You may follow the pilgrims' tradition by laying a stone under the Cruz de Hierro or immerse yourself in medieval legends, visiting Templars' strongholds and ancient churches where the Saint Graal is said to be enshrined. You will finally reach your final destination: Plaza del Obraidoro, where travellers from all around the world meet to celebrate the end of their journey.
Your journey starts in Leòn, which you can easily reach from Madrid, Oviedo or Valladolid: to make your holiday unforgettable fom the very first day, visit the beautiful gothic cathedral or the Saint Isidor's museum, where according to the legend the Saint Graal is enshrined. We suggest trying the local specialties for dinner: local pork roast is celebrated even in ancient literary texts, but if meat is not your thing you may appreciate the delicious goat cheese.
In your first day of cycling you will test your bicycles with a gentle, easy ride through golden wheat fields and quiet villages until entering the Margateria region. In its capital, Astorga, the Camino de Santiago crosses the Via de la Plata. This city was considered an important trading point during the Roman Empire and houses many artistic beauties: from the colourful marble walls of the cathedral to the spectacular, modernist, Palacio Episcopal, designed by Gaudì.
Make sure you eat enough for breakfast, as today's ride will test your legs: from Astorga you will ride up the Bierzo hills to the Cruz the Hierro, the highest point of the French Camino, at almost 1507 metres altitude. Follow the tradition and lay a stone as a record of your passage before enjoying the 20 km descent to the stone bridge that leads to Ponferrada.
Today's ride is a relaxing one, so that you will have enough time left to visit Ponferrada, founded by Romans to exploit coal mines in the nearby hills. Immerse yourself in the legend of Tempars with a visit to the 8000 square metres castle which used to be their stronghold, before proceeding to Villafranca del Bierzo. This village represents an important gateway to Galicia and was especially known for its hospital, which used to welcome and assist injured and sick pilgrims.
After a relaxing day, here is the toughest climb of the entire Camino: the old national road leads to 6km of steep uphill along a dirt road, taking you to O Cebreiro (which can be avoided through a longer alternative). You will notice some peculiar stone buildings along the way: these elliptical houses with straw roof are the Pallozas, left to these territories by the Celtiberian pre-Roman tribe. Once in the village of O'Cebreiro, do not forget to visit the Church of Santa Marìa la Real, where the Caliz de Milagre is said to be guarded.
Todays's ride will lead you through the lush green Galician countryside: from the mountain of O'Cebreiro you will descend to Tricastela, where according to the tradition pilgrims take a stone to bring to Santiago. You will then proceed to Sarria, Galicia's most important pilgrim centre besides Santiago, where you may follow the Rua Mayor from the city center to the castle: if you'd rather have a little relax, we suggest a walk through the antiques shops of the city center.
The first part of the ride will lead you through quiet, shady countryside roads to Portomarin: you may stop in one of the many villages along the way, carachterized by typical Galician stone houses. From Portomarin you will ride through an ever changing landscape: grassy fields, woods and streams, through stone bridges and villages. Palas del Rei, founged in pre-Roman age and an ancient Celtic stronghold, unfortunately offers little evidence of its glorious past: you may relax and drink a cafè con leche before reaching your hotel with a little variation from the official itinerary.
Shortly after Coto, some signs indicating the progressive distance from Santiago will give you a foretaste of your arrival, but don't rush: today's route is easy and well-shaded, through oak forests and aromatic eucalyptus plants. You may stop for a short break in Melide, the city where the French Camino meets the Primitivo one, or in Lebroreiro to find out what a cabazo is before proceeding to Arzua, 40 km before your final destination.
Today's itinerary runs through oaks, pines and chestnut trees, before entering an eucalyptus wood. This stage is especially full of streams, and very varied: you will cross modern areas, such as the regional airport, and ancient little gems such as the village of Lavacolla, where pilgrims used to wash and get themselves ready for the arrival. You will experience the same joy in seeing Santiago from the summit of Monte Gozo, the Mount of Joy, before finally reaching Plaza del Obradoiro, the final destination of pilgrims throughout the ages. You can choose to rush and get your Compostela or visiting the Cathedral first: if you arrive before noon, do not miss the moving pilgrim's mass, in which the priest announces the number of pilgrims arrived in Santiago on that day.
You can choose to leave Santiago or stop for an additional night and visit the keenly awaited goal of your walk. You may visit the Renaissance cloister of Collegio Fonseca, which houses the university library, or take a picture to the picturesque spiral staircase of the Saint Domingo de Bonaval convent, which also houses a nice museum. If you don't know where to stop for lunch, we suggest the General Markets, where you can buy local specialties directly by their producers. To celebrate the end of your walk, spoil yourself with a great dinner crowned by a glass of Orujo!
9 nights in *** hotels, b&b and agriturismos
Hotel Real Colegiata is located in the historic centre of Leon in the 11th-century San Isidoro Colegiate complex, with its basilica, cloister and museum. All rooms feature stone walls and views of the Roman Wall or the cloister. These are comfortable and well-finished with free Wifi, TV, air conditioning. Breakfast is good and varied.
Hotel Posada Real Casa de Tepa is next to the cathedral and Gaudì Palace and situated in a restored 18th-century palace. Rooms are elegant, comfortable and spacious with free Wifi, air conditioning/heating, TV. Besides the structure has a large garden and a library with fireplace.
This hotel has been recently renovated and offers basic accomodations, but clean and well-finished. Staff are helpful.
This Hostal is located in the historic center of Villafranca del Bierzo in Plaza Major. Rooms are well-furnished and elegant and some of these have view on the square. Comforts are free Wifi, satellite TV, air conditioning/ heating. Staff are welcoming.
An hostel with country accommodation located in Piedrafita do Cebreiro. The hostal has a traditional restaurant.
This hotel is located in a quiet area of the town. This is the ideal stay for relax after long walking distance. Rooms are confortable. The hotel has a restaurant.
A Parada das Bestas si located amidst the Galician countryside and offers comfortable rustic-style accomodation, but not very spacious with wood-beamed ceilings and exposed stonework. Comforts are free Wifi, TV, air conditioning/heating. The restaurant proposes local cuisine.
Pazo De Santa Maria is an 18th-century property, set in 35,000 m² of gardens. The structure has original stone walls and wooden beams with rooms well-finished, comfortable and clean. There is free WiFi in common areas and rooms, relaxing lounges, with a library and an open fireplace. Owners are helpful and courteous.
This hotel is located close to the traditional Food Market of Santiago, the Belvis Park and the "Puerta del Camino", one of the entries to the old town.
Arrival to León
Departure from Santiago de Compostela
GPS tracks available on request.
· 9 nights in *** hotels, b&b and agriturismos
· 4 dinners (Ponferrada, O Cebreiro, Palas de Rei, Arzua)
· luggage transfers
· detailed maps and itinerary description
· luggage/medical insurance
· 24h telephone support
Price does not include
· Trip to reach the arriving and leaving points
· meals, where not otherwise stated
· visits and entrance tickets - tips
· personal extras
· anything not mentioned in the "price includes" list
· single room supplement
· bicycle rental
· cancellation insurance