Camino del Norte

Day 18 - Villaviciosa to Gijon, Camino Norte, Northern Spain


The Camino Norte is one of the 7 main pilgrim routes crossing Spain, all of which end in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. They have been in existence for at least 1,000 years.

We had previously followed the Camino Norte from Irun on the Spanish/French borders to where the path splits near Gijon, then followed the Camino Primitivo to Santiago. We now decided to return to where the Camino splits and follow it along the north coast to Ribadeo, then inland to Santiago. A distance of 250 miles/402km, taking about 2 weeks. The route is marked by shells, or yellow arrows-pointing the way. We had booked the first 3 nights’ accommodation, but after that it is nice to see where we end up. Well, that is the plan.

We left where we were staying near Malaga, catching a flight to Astoria, then a bus to Gijon ( €9.00 each). We had booked the conveniently situated Hotel Covadonga for 2 nights, €71.00 for a double en-suite, meeting the very helpful and friendly owner. Gijon has a beautiful harbour and old town situated on a headland, with fabulous views. We had a few hours spare, so wandered around, visiting the ruins of the old fort and fascinating Roman Baths. There are also plenty of restaurants, and we called into Carrefour to purchase food for the following day.

Up early, the first thing to do was to return to where the Camino splits. We caught the 6.15am bus from Gijon to Villaviciosa, fairly early as it is quite a long day and rain was forecast for later. We had checked the bus timetable on the alsa bus website buying a ticket in advance (€3.50 each, in hindsight unnecessary as there were only 3 people on the bus). We were staying 2 nights in Gijon so unusually; we only had a day pack with us.

We arrived in Villaviciosa in the dark, had a walk round, then went to the lovely La Rotella café for breakfast. Villaviciosa is a very pretty town with historic buildings and interesting information boards. It is in the centre of an apple growing region, the apples being used to make cider. We walked past the Church of St Maria, and picked up the Camino arrows, following them out of town, down Calle Cavanilles in the clear country air at 7.40am.

It was very quiet, and we passed through a couple of small hamlets before forking right off the main road just before the Rio Valdedios, at this point there is a free water tap on the side of a house. At 8.30am (2.5miles) we reached a sign where the Camino splits left down the Primitivo via Oviedo, or straight on along the Norte via Gijon. This is where we stood 4 years ago and decided to turn along the Primitivo, this time we headed straight on. There is a lovely little chapel here, maps of the route, and shells for sale.

We continued towards Gijon via Grases, and 5 minutes later there is another split, not indicated on the road but mentioned in the guide book. We had decided to follow the book and take a short cut via the Vv10 and not going through Nievares. We passed lovely houses, then went under the motorway (9am) with a Camino arrow, then re-joined the other path, going up a steep hill through pretty forests-a 400m climb to Alto

de la Cruz. The path continues along a road VV9 (9.15am) signed to Peon (Pion). The countryside is very pretty with wide views, and fields with apple and lemon trees, vines and lilac, as well as some hens and cattle grazing. We arrived in Peon at 11am, and sadly the only bar Casa Pepito was shut (opens at 12), it is a massive unit with a big beer garden, so obviously very popular at some point. We sat on their handy picnic benches to eat our sandwiches.

We continued up the road, then right, up and over the hill, with the first views to Gijon. Arriving at bar le Curbiello at 12pm we called in. This is a bar in a great location which had so much potential. It was run by a very old lady, there is a small shop with no prices, or menu and a locked outside toilet. It does get good reviews online-perhaps we missed something. However, it did have some fabulous hand drawn maps on the walls showing local walks, and we were pleased that it was open and could get coffee.

We resumed our walk, eating more of our picnic on a handy bench just before the motorway (1pm). Going over the motorway we arrived at Deva, where again there is a choice of 2 routes. However, we had read the guide book in advance and decided not to take either path and to go a different way, taking in one of the most spectacular buildings in Astoria. I am not sure why the new route would not go this way. The Laboral Ciudad de Culture is said to be the largest building in Spain, and has a tower similar to the Giralda in Seville. It was built in the 1950s, used as a school, then abandoned and now restored as a cultural centre, with a tourist information office. There is a botanical garden here too. It is definitely well worth a detour; after visiting the buildings and café, we re-joined the route.

We decided to take the most scenic route into Gijon, so we followed a path by the River Piles, passing the sports ground, arriving at the very pretty beach of Playa de San Lorenzo at 3.30pm. After a few miles of walking along the prom we arrived in the Plaza Mayor, and cut through the old town to finish the walk by the Ocean Bar and handy Carrefour supermarket. We shopped for supplies for the next day and returned to our hotel just before the rain began.

As usual in Spain we struggled to find food before the normal Spanish dining time of 8pm or later. We went to Pizzeria Vista Hermosa, very good food, good value, and open early. We sampled the local cider here too, at only €2.70 for a 75cl bottle. In Gijon there is a very handy Decathlon City shop in the centre of town.

The region is famous for Asturian cider- spot the large barrels in the fields. A small amount is poured at a time from a great height to get some air in it, which is then quickly consumed.

Distance 18 Miles (29.5km)

Duration of Walk 8.5 Hours

Average Pace 17 Min/Mile

Steps 36,900

Elevation Gained 2,335 feet (712m)

Websites used

€71 for 2 nights, for a double en-suite room great building pizza


Day 19 Gijon to Aviles, Camino Norte, Northern Spain


In the guide book, this is described as one of the least scenic days of the Camino Norte, with walking through the town, and passing a couple of huge steel works. However, we like to think it is worth having an open mind and see an interest in everything, there was more countryside than we thought on this section too. Bad weather was forecast, so we had bought another umbrella in the very convenient Decathlon City shop the night before. Leaving relatively late at 8.15am we went to Cafe Cortina for coffee and toast, it is cash only and it is a bakery too. Most cafes were still shut, and given the number of party revellers still out from the previous night not behaving well, we were not surprised.

Leaving the cafe at 8.45am, we spotted our first pilgrims of the day. We had our waterproof jackets, ponchos, hats, gloves and buffs on, and an umbrella each, but the rain poured down for most of the day. As well as waterproof covers on our rucksacks, everything inside is in dry bags, as the rain eventually does seep in. The Camino is easy to follow, firstly near the sea, then through the town, passing many shops and cafes. Gold shells have been placed on the pavement and yellow arrows; both show the route.

After 2.5 miles the end of the town is reached by the final cafe-Ruta de la Plata, in hindsight I would have visited here instead of the cafe in town, as the next 5 hours it was very wet with little shelter. Crossing the railway line, an enormous steel works appears, complete with loud noise. We really pitied anyone living near here, with air and noise pollution, busy roads and a railway to contend with. The path along the road is well signed. At 10.10am we stopped on a bench in a bus shelter to eat our croissants.

The well sign-posted path continues uphill along country lanes to Monte Areo recreational area before finally levelling up, then proceeds through a forest. We followed a sign up a side track off the main Camino to Dolmen de San Pablo, but unfortunately could not find it, so turned back around-not helped by the very inclement weather. The path descends passing some brightly painted houses, then crossing some very pretty countryside, under a railway tunnel, before turning right at a church just before the motorway. After five minutes, we were lucky to find a bench in another bus shelter to sit on and eat our lunch. We had bought our usual lunch of bread, cheese, ham and fruit in Carrefour City the previous night. The rain continued to pour, and we were joined for a short time by 4 pilgrims who had met each other along the way. They were from Holland, Germany, Italy, and Argentina, and conversed to each other in English-handy for us. We continued along the side of a main road, before happily arriving at a bar in a petrol station on the main road for coffee. This was a very welcome break, with a friendly owner. He felt sorry for us being so wet, and very kindly offered us a lift to Aviles. We had to decline, as to us that is not the way of the walk. But each to their own!!

After negotiating more roundabouts, the outskirts of Aviles were reached, then we passed more shops and cafes. The path turns right, on a bridge over the railway line, then left besides a fast-flowing river on one side and another enormous steel works on the other. Finally, the arrows go left up the bank of the river and turn right across a bridge. Our hotel the Puente Azud came into view-indeed all painted blue. (3.30pm) At

€45 night for a double ensuite room, it seemed good value, with a very friendly owner too. We had booked the hotel in advance through their website. We had tried a few weeks previously to book a room in Aviles, but really struggled. It turns out there was a big cycling event on that weekend, which was the reason for shortage of accommodation.

We were so happy to arrive at our destination. It had been such a wet and cold day, 8C° at some points. The weather forecast had been quite correct, fortunately we had taken waterproofs. Many of the paths had huge puddles right across them, necessitating walking through wet grass to try to avoid them. We were very happy to be wearing boots and both had dry feet. We saw some pilgrims in trainers and really pitied them.

To find the dolmen, we should have checked where it was in advance. There were various confusing signs in the area, and it was pouring in rain, so we left before finding it.

Distance 16 Miles (26km)

Duration of Walk 7.20 Hours

Average Pace 17 Min/Mile

Steps 37,116

Elevation Gained 1040 feet (317m)

Websites used Dolmen Hotel €45.00 for a double en-suite room.



Day 20 Aviles to El Pito, Camino Norte, Northern Spain


We were hoping for a dry day after yesterday's deluge. We left our hotel which was on the outskirts of Aviles at 8.00am, walking the 15 minutes to the city centre. We took our time to look round, there are some beautiful old buildings and churches, sadly just off the Camino. It was just a shame that we did not have time to wait to watch that day’s cycle race. We continued uphill past some new flats, into the countryside once more, then left down a beautiful track (9am). The old Camino went through Salinas with its beautiful beach, we had thought of going that way but unfortunately there was no sign of that route.

Continuing, we arrived in the town of Piedras Blancas, eating our breakfast in the first café we came to-Cafe bar la Galerna (4.4 miles 9.45am). Rounding the corner, we came to lots of cafes and a Coviran shop open-even though it was a Sunday. Leaving town, we twice lost the path, back-tracking on ourselves, asking a few locals the way, a couple of whom did not seem to have heard of the Camino. Once more we were in a very pretty forest with birdsong, lots of people were out probably because it was a Sunday. We had lovely views all around, going under the motorway viaduct, then climbing once more. (8 Miles). We stopped on a bench to eat some lunch, (as usual bought the previous day) near the church in La Ventaniella. We continued over a main road, then went left through a lovely forest with the smell of eucalyptus. (1pm). We went downhill from the forest with lovely views over the Rio Nalon estuary, then over the medieval bridge to El Castillo de San Martin. It is worth taking a short detour to the right to look at the old castle and the embarkation point for pilgrims crossing the river by boat, prior to the bridge being built. The path in and around Soto Del Barco is slightly confusing, mind the busy roads too. There are a couple of cafes here-nice for a break. We followed the old road past a large hotel, before crossing the bridge. The pilgrims we had met that day were staying in Muros de Nalon, stopping as soon as they arrived at the first albergue. However, the nicer part of the town was on the other side of the main road and railway, with a lovely main square, town hall and another albergue.

At that point we booked Hotel Vitorio (€45 for a double en-suite) in El Pito on further 2.5miles. We walked down through a beautiful forest, over a stream, then up the other side, where much logging had been carried out. We checked in at 4.30pm, it is a very nice clean hotel with a very friendly English-speaking owner, with a pool open in the Summer.

It had been a sunny day with some cloud, 14°, with beautiful views across to the snow-covered Pico mountains on the horizon, and views north to the sea. Fortunately, the weather was so different from the previous day.

El Pito is a small town with a few interesting buildings. It is sometimes possible to visit the Quinta de Selgas Palace, with its pretty gardens, and art collection. Check out the school which is sometimes open as a museum, and a pretty church. We ate dinner at Sidreria Taperia with lovely food served.

Distance 18 Miles (29km)

Duration of Walk 8.53 Hours

Average Pace 18 Min/Mile

Elevation Gained 2,132 feet (650m)

Websites used hotel Restaurant for dinner palace in El Pito


Day 21 El Pito to Ballota, Camino Norte, Northern Spain

Be aware of a 15 mile day with limited food, we had bought provisions the previous day. Hotel Vitoria may provide breakfast, but not when we stayed, probably as it was out of season. In El Pito the restaurant is shut in the morning and there is no shop. The weather forecast was looking good as we left Hotel Vitoria at 8am. There are a couple of interesting buildings in the village, a massive school, a stately home (currently closed, but which used to be open to the public) and a church. The path turns left just after the church, at a junction that was easy to miss. The path is then relatively easy to follow, along tracks, and very quiet roads, past the Parador Apartment block, across the road and twice under the motorway.

We arrived at a large, sadly disused Hotel Marino next to La Magdalena station at 9.30am. Shame as the hotel had superb views across to a massive motorway viaduct, mountains and down to the sea. We went down towards the beach, but never reached it and up to the top of the track. (10am, 4.5 miles), in hindsight we should have detoured to the beach. We stopped to eat the bread and cheese we had purchased the day before. It was hot now, so we bought drinks from a conveniently placed drinks machine (coke €1.50) before turning right along the road. Continuing through the forest and along more quiet lanes we arrived in Soto de Lunes, which has been a sanctuary and refuge for pilgrims since the Middle Ages (11.45am, 7.5 miles). We stopped at the first cafe we had seen all morning for coffee and toast. This is a lovely town with an array of accommodation, Día supermarket, a souvenir shop and a pharmacy. We continued following paths, and small roads. The path then splits either going 19km over the mountains apparently with superb views or the route that we took through very small villages near the coast. After passing through a very dark wet long tunnel under the road (1.00pm) we were treated to lovely sea views. The villages are very pretty, with a little shrine in Novellana (1.40pm, 251km to Santiago) We stopped at Bar el Roxu for coffee and coke, sitting outside with views to the sea from terrace. (11 miles). Continuing along a road, there was a sign to the right-1km to Playa de Silence-again in hindsight we should have gone, but as we did not know the distance we were walking that day we continued. The path now descends and ascends steeply through the forest. Each valley had a fast-flowing stream, which we paddled through with our boots on, we were very lucky that the water was not deeper. The paths were very muddy probably due to the previous rain; we had seen some pilgrims in trainers, we were not sure how they got on with mud and streams.

We arrived at Casa Fernandes, Ballota at 3.45pm, and decided to call it a day. Fortunately, they had rooms available, €50 for a double en-suite, including breakfast. There is a large bar selling a variety of sandwiches and tortilla. I think the next accommodation was in Cadavedo another 5 miles away.

A delicious 3-course dinner was served at 8.15pm (€12 with a drink). We met some new friends-Joshua and Patrick, who had walked a few days or a week at a time from Maastricht, the Netherlands starting in 2008. Next year they will finish it. We also met Swiss brothers, Raymond and Reine, who in their mid-70’s had a few years ago started their walk in Switzerland, again taking a few weeks at a time.

It was a lovely day, with some nice villages and great views. I would really recommend staying at Casa Fernandes, with rooms overlooking the sea, lovely food and very friendly owners.

Distance 15.5 Miles (24.5km)

Duration of Walk 8 Hours

Average Pace 19.3 Min/Mile

Steps 33289

Elevation Gained 2145 feet (654m)

Websites used Hotel



Day 22 Ballota to Luarca, Camino Norte, Northern Spain

After a lovely buffet breakfast at 7.30am, we left at 8.15am continuing along quiet roads with pretty views over hills and the sea. The path descended to a stony shore with great views, more muddy paths followed. At 10.30am we arrived in the pretty village of Cadavedo, with many horreos. There are about 100 of them scattered around this area, built on stilts to protect the crops stored inside from rats and other pests. They are found though Galicia and adjoining areas. We popped into la Regalina café for more toast and coffee, just as our Dutch friends were leaving. There is a useful shop next door, a pharmacy and plenty of accommodation in the village. We left at 11am, following more muddy paths, quiet roads, over a large roundabout in the shadow of the motorway, and stopping at another café-Hotel Canero (12pm, 9.5 miles). We ate a delicious snack of omelette with bread €7.00. Maybe one thing we have learnt from many days of walking is to stop at a café when you see one open, as you never know where the next one will be.

The path continues along the road, on a sharp right-hand bend was an arrow indicating a path to the left, which we followed along a track, then under a railway bridge. We realised we had gone the wrong way not seeing any further arrows, so returned to the main road. We met people later who had also gone the wrong way. After passing under the motorway, we were treated to great views to the beach-Playa de Cueva. We could hear thunder in the distance, even though the sky looked clear. A little while later a big thunderstorm arrived, we were very lucky to find a bus shelter with a bench to sit on whilst the storm was at its worst.

It felt like a long way to the centre of Luarca, the outskirts start a few miles before the centre, the path didn’t seem to follow the most direct route either. The arrival in Luarca is spectacular, with a fabulous view over the fishing harbour. Take some time to wonder around. We happened to see our Dutch friends again joining them for a few drinks, before checking in at Hotel de Luarca (6pm), which we had booked in the afternoon. This is in a stunning100 year old building, the furniture seemed that old too, we felt bad to arrive with our rucksacks and boots. The first thing we did was to visit the laundrette (€9.00 for a wash and dry). We ate dinner at one of the few places open-Hotel Baltico overlooking the harbour whilst the rain continued, making the paths even muddier. We shared a mixed salad, beefsteak and chips €23.00, before being joined by our Dutch friends again.

Distance 17.5 Miles (28.5km)

Duration of Walk 8.3 Hours

Average Pace 17.5 Min/Mile

Steps 36365

Elevation Gained 1700 feet (520m)

Websites used hotel Dinner


Day 23 Luarca to La Caridad, Camino Norte, Northern Spain

We left the hotel at 7.45am following the signs up the steep cobbled streets, the very impressive views improved as we went higher over the town to the 34 arched railway viaduct. We had followed this narrow-gauge railway for a few days, and would follow it for a few more. More fabulous views followed, over the town, harbour and sea. We followed Camino Real de Santiago, then turned right and we were soon out of town, with the sounds of cockerels, birds and dogs, and passing a ruined church. We had views to the wind farms on top of the hills, and back over the sea.

The route meanders along over a railway bridge (8.20am) passing a lovely Church (9.20am) with views down to the sea. We followed a track round a hill (9.30am), we re-joining the main road (10.10am), then turned left along a road by the large motorway viaduct, before turning right past a beautiful garden. We reached café El Salon in Villapedre at 10.45am (3 hours after leaving) and stopped for a lovely breakfast of toast, orange, and coffee €4 each. The path turns left over the railway, past houses, through fields, crosses a bridge, then goes uphill again along a road, then re-crosses the railway line, passing a beautiful church unusually surrounded by fields in Pinera (11.55am). We could see the rain and clouds up ahead and hoped that is where they would stay.

Arriving in the large town of Navia at 1.10pm (13 miles) (where our Dutch friends were staying), we called into the supermarket, and ate our food by the river, whilst booking that nights’ accommodation. .

We had decided to spend a night in Ribadeo, so had planned our days distance accordingly. Crossing the bridge (2pm) turning left, then right, through the fields and over the railway once more, we arrived in the pretty village of Larrio with a church. We called into Restaurant Mayce, which is just off the path on the main road, for another coffee. Spot the numerous wooden pilgrimage crosses in the area erected in 1993. We arrived at Hotel Casa Xusto, in La Caridad at 4.45pm, another old stunningly beautiful hotel. (€64 cash)

It is a relatively big town, but very quiet. We walked round the town at 7.15pm, looking for some food. We came across one restaurant that allegedly served food from 8pm (but which did look very shut) and gave up and went to Día supermarket instead. We went back our room and ate a delicious dinner of salad, bread, salmon, yoghurt and fruit.

Distance 19.5 Miles (31.7km)

Duration of Walk 9.18 Hours

Average Pace 17 Min a Mile

Steps 40678

Elevation Gained 1830 feet (558m)

Websites used Hotel in La Caridad


Day 24 La Caridad, to Ribadeo, Camino Norte, Northern Spain

Because it is the last day of walking by the coast, we decided to take the variant near the coast through Tapia, instead of the older route via Tol. We also took smaller variants off main path to visit the coast. We were looking forward to arriving in Ribadeo, and crossing the river into Galicia.

We left as usual without eating breakfast at 7.45am, it was a lovely morning as the rain had cleared. We followed the signs through quiet countryside and along empty lanes, crossing the main road we reached the ruins of Ermita de Porcia at 9.00am (3 miles) then went over a bridge. We took a variant path to the right, following a sign to Tapia on the Senda Costera (GR. E-9). We reached Playa de Porcia, a beautiful spot and sat on a handy bench eating some food that we had bought the previous day. Returning to the main Camino passing a church and bandstand at 10.15am (6 miles). There are a few more routes all along here down to the sea, but having done one we opted at this point to continue. If we had stayed in Tapia we would have done more. If hungry (as no cafes have been passed) there is a large Alimerka store on the main road (7 miles).

On the outskirts of Tapia there is a beautifully located Albergue Peregrinos, which unfortunately had a sign saying permanently closed (11am). Tapia was a fairly disappointing town; the harbour was pretty but the rest seemed very modern. We walked down to the harbour; all the cafes were closed. Back through town, we went to El Moderna for coffee and toast (11.30am), the first open café for 9 miles. We then called into one of the few open churches of the whole route and went to Día shop to buy some lunch.

We left town along the main road by the beach, then turned right at Hotel Xungueira 12.30pm (10 miles) passing through Villamil (1.15pm) where there is a very small shop. Ribadeo appears in the distance with the hills behind. We turned right 150m to a beach, again we sat on the only bench to eat our sandwiches. It was a completely deserted bay, except for one friendly local who spoke to us for a while. At 2pm (13 miles) we reached the most beautiful Playa de Penarronda, one of the best beaches we have seen with gorgeous sand, cliffs and turquoise water. We walked along the boardwalk uphill to Hotel Parajes for coffee. We could have stayed all day, but had places to be.

We arrived at the 600m long bridge to Ribadeo at 3.15pm (15.7 miles) over the Ria de Ribadeo. It is very high up above the water and could be considered scary by some, but it did have barriers on both sides of the pedestrian walkway. We met one pilgrim who hitched a lift over the bridge. Before the bridge was built pilgrims would have cut south through Vegadeo, bypassing Ribadeo. We were expecting a big Welcome to Galicia sign, as in the other provinces, but there was none. There seemed to be various Camino routes through the town, we went under the bridge, followed the river, then went up and down narrow steps, eventually arriving at the very impressive Plaza de Espana with many interesting buildings at 3.55pm. We checked into Hotel Linares at 4.05pm.

It had been a fabulous day, with sunshine and great scenery, excited to be arriving in Galicia. The route now turns south-west towards Santiago 186km/ 115 miles. to go. We felt like we were nearly there!!!

Distance 17 Miles (27.7km)

Duration of Walk 8.2 Hours

Average Pace Min/Mile 18

Steps 35297

Elevation Gained 770 feet (235m)

Websites used Hotel


Day 25 Ribadeo to Lourenza, Camino Norte, Northern Spain

It was sad to be leaving the sea, but we were looking forward to the mountains, and with mixed emotions having just a week left before arriving in Santiago. Note in Galicia the scallop shells indicating the direction to walk, face the opposite way to the rest of the walk, but we found them facing in either direction (maybe causing some confusion). Remember to follow the arrow, and ignore the shell, just use the shells as guidance that you are on a Camino. Cement posts also indicate the distance remaining to Santiago-from here a very accurate 187.990km.

Leaving at 7.45am, we followed Ganzoles Road, passing the old church of Capela de San Lazaro re-built in1844, and were soon in the countryside again, walking uphill, passing notice boards with local walks on. We stopped at a picnic bench by a cemetery with fabulous views back to the town and large river estuary. We entered forest with a river valley to the left, with birds’ song, eucalyptus trees, bracken, and electric pylons. We passed a handy bus shelter with bench, (9.00am), before passing through the little village of Vilela. We arrived at bar A Pena next to albergue A ‘Pena-Vilela, all closed unfortunately, but again with handy picnic benches. As is common in a lot of rural Spain, bars are closed with no opening hours displayed. We continued, going slightly off the Camino to Casa Domingo-cafe, San Vincent, on the main road (LU133). It is not signed on the path and when we arrived it looked shut. We were the only customers, ordering delicious toast and coffee, before leaving at 11.10am (6 Miles), then walking along the road through the village. We re-joined the main Camino at 11.30am, where the Camino crosses the road and takes a left downhill to Puente Arante-the low point of today’s walk. I was expecting an old bridge, and was disappointed, we passed a lovely white church with a bench, before turning right uphill at the end of the village.

Continuing along quiet lanes, tracks, through forest we arrived in Villamartin Grande at 1.30pm. We had thought of staying here at Tentempe, as it gets very good reviews. But even though the day was hot we continued, dropping into the Tentempe shop to buy some drinks and delicious cake. We followed the road downhill to Gondan and sat on a picnic bench in the shade outside the albergue-which looked like it had been shut for years. (2.15pm, 13.5miles), and booked that nights’ accommodation. Through San Xusto, with another shut albergue, but an open bar- Bar a Curva. (3pm 14.5 miles). Turning left before a church, climbing to the top of Monte Calvario then through more forest (15 miles 3.50pm).

We arrived we arrived Casa Savoir, Lourenza at 4.15pm (17.5 miles), run by a very friendly lady Anna. We had debated to stay there or the albergue next door. The hotel was fabulous though, being100 years old, the furniture looked antique too.

Later we crossed the lovely old bridge over a stream, instead of the modern one. We visited the Monastery founded in 969, remodelled in the 17th and 18thC. The façade is very similar to the one of the Cathedral in Santiago being designed by the same architect, Marries Novoa. The interior is well-worth a visit too. It happened to be open when we were there at 7pm, it transpired a funeral was taking place later. The Camino

route strangely does not pass this way, taking smaller roads nearby. The Abbatial Chamber is now the Town Hall. Apparently, there is a nice museum to visit too. As dinner was not served in any bar until at least 8pm, we bought salad, bread, salmon etc, from Euroski supermarket, finding a nice sunny bench to eat it on.

We were happy with today’s progress, it had been an unseasonably warm day, with great views.

Distance 17 Miles (28km)

Duration of Walk 8.5 Hours

Average Pace 18/ Min/Mile

Steps 35596

Elevation Gained 2417 feet (737 m)

Websites used Hotel Monaster


Day 26 Lourenza to Abadin Camino Norte, Northern Spain

Today’s walk has steep ascents with great views. It meanders through the countryside to the fabulous monastery at Mondonedo, from here the path splits, either a new route over the mountains, or the old path, until they converge in Abadin. Again, we left quite early at 8.00am without breakfast, passing through the town, and taking a flight of steps into the countryside. We passed a cafe with a group of men, who were going hunting. In the trailer parked outside was a group of angry dogs (used in hunting) barking very aggressively, I would not want to be around when they were released. We could hear the dogs throughout the town. We turned right at a cemetery with a sign saying Mondonedo 8km, Santiago 160km.

We walked up through the forest, arriving in Arroxo at 8.40am (3 km), then passed underneath the motorway. It was a very quiet path, beautiful with the mist rising and birds singing. Just off the path is bar Volina which was shut on a Saturday. We rested on the bench outside the church in a small village. (4.5km) More small paths follow,

passing the 16thC Church of San Pedro, again shut, shame as the interior sounds interesting, an ancient well with stone benches, old buildings, and San Palo’s Chapel-also shut. On the outskirts of Mondonedo, the path leaves the main road, going right over 18thC St Lazarus Bridge with the city coat of arms on, passing a cross into town.

We arrived in the main square of Mondonedo at 10.30am. A fabulous location for our breakfast from Bar Cova, joined too by Luke from Amsterdam. We had some spare time so went to visit the monastery and its museum-well worth a quick trip round. (€3 with an audio guide, reduced rate for pilgrims).

At this point the path splits, taking either the valley or over the mountains to Abadin. We and others had been warned not to travel over the mountains alone, as we would get lost and it was dangerous. After consideration we took no notice deciding it was maybe a local marketing ploy to ensure that you went past cafes etc in the valley. Both ways are signposted from the monastery, we called into a shop to buy lunch, then turned uphill through the town to arrive at the Church of the Remedies, dating from 1738. (12.10pm). If you use this church as a way point, you will not find it hard to find the way out of town. If the church is open it is well-worth calling in. We followed the signs through Rego de Cas, and Cesuras, then left at a sign to Infesta.

The path is now very steep going up through the trees (1.10pm). As it was a very hot day, we stopped just before the tree line to eat lunch in the shade. Arriving at the top at 2.10pm, we had fabulous views to hills all around with wind turbines on. It was beautiful big empty country, with wild horses grazing. The only difficultly this way was due to the steep road, and heat. There was no problematic terrain involved-indeed the path keeps to tracks and empty lanes, and is well signposted. We were pleased we had gone this way.

Arriving in Gontan, with a bar and a shop. (3.50pm), we continued through the village, then right along the road to our destination of Pension Casa Goas, Abadin (4.10pm).

There is a handy laundrette in the albergue next door, 2 supermarkets, a bank machine and a couple of bars. We went to Bar el Paso at 7.30pm for a very delicious 3 course pilgrim meal.

It had been a very hot day, with 15 miles walked and we were really happy we had walked over the mountains with fantastic scenery. It was not remotely tricky to walk, or to find.

Distance 15 Miles (24 km)

Duration of Walk 8.15 Hours

Average Pace Min/Mile 20

Steps 31321

Elevation Gained 3,257 feet (993m)

Websites used Cathedral Hotel Casa Goas


Day 27 Abadin to Vilalba, Camino Norte, Northern Spain

Today’s walk was fairly easy, through more pretty countryside. This is a shorter day than we would have liked, staying in Vilalba, as we could not find any accommodation between there and Baamonde which was another 19km.

We left as usual at 7.45am, without having breakfast. It was a refreshing morning, much cooler than the previous day with a low mist hanging over the countryside. Again, the path is well marked, turning right off the main road at Bar Niza, then left at the Correos (post office). The route follows a mixture of deserted small roads with tracks between fields, or through forests. We followed the road coming to an ancient cross and tomb to the left of the road, turning right down a path to a very pretty stream with a new wooden bridge (8.20am), turning left down a road (8.30am). Taking the bridge over a main road with a hand-painted sign of Camino Norte, (9.10am). Shortly after we arrived at the very beautiful Albergue Xistral (3.5 miles). We were allowed to look round it, apparently the owner has taken several years renovating an old property. It was beautiful inside with many old features, lounge, kitchen, bunk beds and a private double room. In the spacious garden there is a plunge pool, perfect for a summer day.

We joined another road, going over a river and under the main road, through the little village of Castromaior, passing a cross and an advert for a café-Bar Para in Martinan. We dropped in as it is just 100m off the Camino on the main road. We ate our usual breakfast of coffee and toast, then continued walking, the weather seemed to be colder and still misty. The path turns left and we came to a beautiful old bridge, picnic benches and a very friendly man selling all sorts of jewellery, so we stopped for a chat. Continuing around the corner we could see a cow jump over the single wire fence and start coming down the track towards us, we froze, the cow turned back, but alas turned round again and continued to walk towards us. It was a very large beast with horns, we erred on the side of caution, quickly removed our rucksacks and climbed under the fence into the trees. We emerged after the cow had ambled past us towards the bridge and jewellery seller, we hoped both he and all the jewellery on display would be ok. We continued along the ancient cobbled path, followed a sign to Roman, through the forest, turning right at another cross. Emerging from the forest (8 miles 11.50am), we continued looking out for any more cows on the loose. There was a sign on the right for a bar and supermarket. We arrived at the very beautiful bar and village shop-Casa Zapateiro in Goiriz. Don’t miss this place, it was fabulous inside, floor to ceiling with products, in addition having fresh fruit and bread. There was no sign of cooked food, so we just ordered toast and coffee, which luckily, they provided. (10 miles 12.25pm). Check out the fascinating cemetery next door too.

Continuing we arrived at a fire station (12miles), just prior to industrial units, on the outskirts of Vilalba. A huge bridge had been built over the roundabout, which we took, then passed back under the bridge, seemingly going the wrong way, but then went left down a lovely quiet road. Obviously to build such a large bridge there must be lots of

traffic at some point. We arrived at our destination Pension Via Alto at 2.15pm, an unusually early finish. We were greeted by the very friendly English-speaking owner, Jose, who very helpfully gave us a map of the town. The hotel is lovely, having recently undergone renovation. This was a shorter day than normal, due to the problem in possibly accessing accommodation between Vilalba and Baamonde, a distance of 19 km. Again, lacking restaurants open and shops being shut as it was Labor Day and a Sunday, we went to the only place we found open-pizzeria. Pizza Americano was average, we shared a large pizza, and salad.

Distance 13.5 Miles (22 km)

Duration of Walk 6.2 Hours

Average Pace 17 Min/Mile

Steps 26858

Elevation Gained 823 feet (251 m)

Websites used Café Vilalba


Day 28 Vilalba to Parga, Camino Norte, Northern Spain

Today’s walk again meanders through pretty countryside. After Baamonde the path splits with a new alternative route, which we decided to take as we could not find any suitable accommodation in Miraz. Others took it as it is 10km shorter than going via Miraz. The path then joins the original Norte at either Sobrado or Boimil. We had booked the Parga Natura in advance on bookings, as it had received excellent reviews. We left Vilalba at 8am, passing the church, and taking a small detour to the parador hotel which has the original castle tower incorporated in its wall. The guidebook says it is hard to find the route, but we found it was easy to follow. We were soon out of town turning down an old track, over a river, turning right, then up and downhill. At 8.30am we crossed an old bridge, past a horreos and new cross, before heading uphill once more. (8.45am). There were extensive views back to the town and the hills we had crossed previously beyond. After crossing the motorway there is a shelter someone has kindly built by their house, with a coffee and snacks machine. Continuing past a church and cemetery, then turning just off the route to the lovely Cafe Casudo, San Xoan (4 miles 9.30am). There was an open café-Casa Alejandro-at Saa (6.25 miles) which we continued past, crossing the road to a beautiful medieval bridge over the river. We were treated to seeing a stork flying past us, then landing on its nest nearby. We have never seen one flying before, the path was very quiet, through fields of sheep and cows.

We arrived in Baamonde, visiting the supermarket and joined by other pilgrims as we sat on the bench outside for lunch (1.10pm, 12.5 miles) The path splits here, left to Sobrado via Miraz, or right to Sobrado via Parga, the way we went. There was a milepost 99.118 km to Santiago. We turned right along the main road passing the church(1.40pm). Whichever way you go here make sure you visit this church, with a 500-year-old tree in its grounds, carved out by local sculptor Victor Carrol to save it from being destroyed. The road is busy, passing Valcarce garage with toilets and cafe. (There is an alternative path along the river.) Leaving the road, crossing over the railway, we came to an ancient bridge, then turned right. We came to an interesting old church, a cross, and an old chapel dating from the14thC, shame that it was all closed. It seems that people used to be brought here for cures, and was on the Camino. (2.30pm). At 2.50pm the path split in two again, one sign left to Santiago 95.383km or the way we went to the right 86.497km passing an old washing area. We then turned right down a road (3.15pm), arriving at our hostel Parga Natura at 3.30pm. Having arrived early, we dodged the showers and walked down the hill, over the old bridge into the town of Parga. This has hotels and restaurants, offering alternative accommodation, if slightly off the route.

Parga Natura, where we stayed has been beautifully renovated. It has great views out over the valley and town and is next to a church from the 12thC, again closed, and the old castle. Dinner for all was at 7.30pm, eaten on communal tables with other friendly

pilgrims. A set menu of salad, chickpea stew, ice cream and wine were served. (On arrival we had ordered an omelette instead of chickpea).

We enjoyed the walk, and contrary to what we had been told, found the path well-signed and relatively easy, as usual on tracks or minor roads. The medieval buildings along the way would point to the fact that it has been used by Pilgrims for 100’s of years. If Parga Natura was full, alternative accommodation could be found in the town of Parga, slightly off the route. Distance 18 Miles (28 km)

Duration of Walk 8 Hours

Average Pace 17 Min/Mile

Steps 34923

Elevation Gained 1,112 feet (339m)

Websites used hotel in Parga



Day 29 Parga to Sobrado, Camino Norte, Northern Spain

This is a fairly short day, as we wanted to finish in Sobrado, and visit the spectacular monastery built in 952.

A packed breakfast and lunch had kindly been left by the owners of Parga Natura on the table with our names on. We could have eaten it there with the free coffee, but preferred to get going. Leaving at 7.50am, passing the old castle, in no time at all we were out along roads through beautiful countryside, with sunshine and birdsong. A glorious start to the day. The path goes through forests and over heathland, in parts very muddy, again we were pleased to be wearing boots. We stopped on the path to eat some of our breakfast. Then arrived at Taberna da Modia, which has a small shop too, for toast and coffee (10am 4.3 miles), being joined by our friends from the previous night. The route is fabulous with stunning views, we reached the height of the wind turbines, before heading back downhill, through more forests, passing ancient crosses (10.45pm). We reached the crossroads of AC-231 and being lunchtime called into the Meson Manolo, at As Cruces. It was impossible to get served, so we left.

Instead, we sat on a bench eating the remains of our picnic (1.10pm). The day was really warming up as we walked down the main road, turning right at the sign to Cruz de Castro (2pm). We walked through more forest, then arrived in Sobrado. We joined our Pilgrim friends again at restaurant As Casinas, very generously receiving free tapas too. Then checked into our Hotel, Pension via Sacra, which is a very nice modern hotel, with a fantastic view from our room over the monastery and countryside.

We would really recommend visiting the monastery, great value at €2.50 each, and an English brochure given, and is truly fascinating. There is an albergue within the monastery, which would have made an interesting stay. There is a lovely shop too, but having full packs we could not buy anything.

We ate a delicious dinner in the cafeteria Plaza Sobrado, a pilgrim’s meal for €12 each with wine. A lovely end to a top day. For a small town there are lots of facilities, with at least 6 bars, a couple of supermarkets and hotels, as well as the monastery.

This was a superb walk and we were pleased we had chosen to go this way. We had been told it had no signs or facilities, to the contrary there were cafes and many signs, and it obviously had been a historic track.

Distance 15.5 Miles (25 km)

Duration of Walk 7.20 Hours

Average Pace 17 Min/Mile

Steps 30915

Elevation Gained 1,305 feet ( 398 m)

Websites used hotel Pension via Sacra, Sobrado Monastery Di



Day 30 Sobrado to Arzua, Camino Norte, Northern Spain

We now had only 33 miles (53km) left to Santiago and could have walked it over 2 days, but we chose to slow down the pace in order to give us more time to look around. Also, it is nice to stroll into Santiago and arrive in the main square just after lunch, and watch everyone else arrive. Today is the final day of the Camino Norte, with about 40 pilgrims a day walking this route. We will join the Camino Frances in Arzua, we had seen on-line that there were upwards of 1,000 people a day on the route (this was May). We were looking forward to seeing if this was true.

It was a beautiful morning when we left at 7.45am, with a slight mist over the hills and the promise of a perfect day ahead. We thought of breakfast in Plaza Cafe bar, but with about 15 people in already we thought better of it. The other bars were all shut. We followed the path passing an outdoor pool-handy for the summer months. There are fabulous views back to the monastery and hills in the distance. Following the path, then going left to Ponte Pedra, over a river, passing picnic benches, uphill with beautiful views, left at a bus stop, to Casanova with beautiful houses and more resplendent views. Then passing through more forest. It was a beautiful sunny morning; we have walked through Galicia twice before and not seen much due to heavy rain.

At a crossroads where we saw the first road sign for Santiago, we turned right (the Camino goes straight on) and went for breakfast in cafe Bar Rico (9.30am), once more joined by our Spanish friends. (Coffee and toast for 2 €6.40) We left at 10am along the main road towards Boimorto. On the right just before Boimorto the short cut that we could have continued on from Parga joins, (but we had opted to go via Sobrado monastery). Arriving in Boimorte at 10.35am (7 miles), we visited the supermarket and walked through town. On the outskirts we could not resist another café-Casa Moncho, this also sells bread and is the last one before Arzua. There is a choice of paths here again, a faster route straight to Lavacolla (8km shorter), or the slower one we took via Arzua.

Passing the church of Santa Maria with benches outside, we continued and later stopped to eat lunch at the side of the empty road.

We arrived in the busy town of Arzua at 1.30pm, joining the French Camino. When we had booked our hotel 3 days previously there weren’t many hotel rooms left in Arzua. We stayed at Pension O’ Retiro which is on the edge of town in the opposite direction to Santiago, so we were walking against the flow of pilgrims coming along the French path. We arrived at the hotel at 1.50pm, and realised we had stayed there previously. It is modern and clean with an English-speaking owner, and had a handy laundrette €4.00 washer €3.00 drier, but only one machine of each.

Later we walked into the town, seeing our friends again. We visited the lovely church, open as there is a Pilgrims mass at 7pm. We went to Encontro restaurant on the main road, for a delicious pilgrim’s meal. Arzua is a busy town with many bars, restaurants, accommodation and supermarkets. Unusually for Spain it does not have a by-pass, and was slightly spoilt by large lorries thundering through loaded up with cut logs.

We had enjoyed the day, and it is really interesting to experience the contrast between the 2 routes, the Norte having being very quiet with about 40 people a day walking it. We had booked our remaining accommodation about 5 days in advance, including a few nights in Santiago, unlike the Norte where it could be booked on the day. Distance 14 Miles (22.85 km)

Duration of Walk 6.25 Hours

Average Pace 16.5 Min/Mile

Steps 27915

Elevation Gained 830 feet (253 m)

Websites used Pension O’ Retiro, Arzua hotel with a restaurant very good restaurant in Arzua


Day 31 Arzua to Pedrouzo, Camino Norte, Northern Spain

The penultimate day of our walk and we were looking forward to re-visiting where we have walked previously (having completed the Camino Frances, and Primitivo). Again, it was a shorter day of 13.5 miles, so we could take our time. Leaving our hotel on the outskirts of Arzua at the usual time of 7.45am, we followed the line of metal shells set in the pavement alongside the busy main road. A beautiful day was promised with the mist rising on the hills. Reaching the middle of town at 8am, we went left down a lovely old street, lined with interesting properties. Ten minutes later we emerged into beautiful countryside, and walked up through the forest. Today's walk is either on forest tracks, or on quiet roads through the countryside with fabulous views. Even relatively early, there were lots of pilgrims about.

The path has benches and bins along the way, not quite sure who empties the bins!! After passing a few cafes, we stopped at Heidi’s place (4 miles 9.15am), as recommended by our Swiss friends. It is beautiful with lovely fresh food, friendly staff, and plenty of seats in the grounds, accommodation is available too. There is a " wall of wisdom" with various quotes from philosophers and The Bible printed out on the wall, stop and take a look. We had our usual coffee and toast for €8.00. We counted an average of 11 people a minute passing by, making 66 an hour, but it was still early. Half with big rucksacks, half with day sacks-presumably having their kit transported.

Continuing over a motorway bridge covered in Camino stickers, and through more forest, we stopped at the fascinating Casa Tia Dolorez, don't miss this place (10.30am 5.5 miles). We remembered it as a bar last time we were here 5 years ago, that time sheltering from the heavy rain. But now there are so many features-tree trunks, an old horreos and man-made structures all adorned with beer bottles. We bought a bottle, drank it, borrowed a marker pen to write our names on it, then left it as part of the display.

When we left at 11.10am the beer garden was beginning to fill up, and many people were taking photos. We passed many more bars, before walking along the main road through Salceda. This used to be a small place but now has at least 7 cafes and 3 hotels (11.50am, 8 miles).

As it was a relatively short day, we stopped for lunch at Empalme café on a crossroads just after A Brea. The bar over the road was really busy, but Empalme was empty. Such a shame for the owner, but we sat outside in the tranquil back garden, enjoying the peace. Lunch was really good value with 2 large sandwiches, a water and a beer for €11. There were also 3 table football machines, and a large display of football scarves. Leaving at 1.30pm we then took the split in the path under the road to Santa Irena, passing more picnic benches. We came across a sight we had not seen on a Camino before-an electronic board, displaying the number of beds available at an Albergue in Santiago-obviously the future.

At a junction with the main road, we could have turned left to Pedrouzo, but we preferred to continue through the forest. On reaching a large mural on a wall, we turned left into Pedrouzo. There is plenty of accommodation in both small hotels, and albergues. We had booked our hotel a few days in advance and were very pleased that we had as most places were now full. We arrived at 2.30pm, visiting a very well stocked Día supermarket, the thermometer now showing 22°.We checked into our nice hotel Pension 23 with a friendly English-speaking owner.

Unusually for the Camino Frances we did not go through any towns, or past any shops. However, there are plenty of bars along the way. Four years previously we walked the Primitivo Camino, which joins the Frances at Azura. We were amazed by the massive increase in pilgrims and the number of new cafes and hostels along the route, since then. We were here in mid-May; I can't begin to think how busy it would be in the summer.

Later we walked round the town, and visited the very beautiful church of Santa Eulalia de Arca, which was open before the Pilgrims Mass at 7pm. We ate a disappointing pilgrims’ meal at Cafeteria Che 4 (3 courses for €12).

Our guide book had this day as one long stage from Arzua to Santiago a distance of 24 miles 38.8km. I think this would have been a struggle, not with the distance but the number of pilgrims on the path (and maybe getting in the way).

Distance 13.5 Miles (22km)

Duration of Walk 7 Hours

Average Pace 19 Min/Mile

Steps 28377

Elevation Gained 1,115 feet (340m)

Websites used Unmissable bar Pension 22-Vinte a Tres, Arzu


Day 32 Pedrouzo to Santiago Camino Norte, Northern Spain

We were very excited, and looking forward to arriving in Santiago, leaving at 7.45am. From the centre of Pedrouzo there is a choice of routes either back up to the wall with the mural or left along the main road. We chose the main road option, then as soon as the town ends we followed the yellow arrows through the hamlet of San Anton, then turning left re-joining the main path. The path is well signed all the way to Santiago. After 2 miles (40 mins), we came to the first cafe of the day- Kilometre 15, soon followed by another. The path is fairly tough going up through a forest for at least 30 minutes, until it goes left along the side of a motorway ( The peace of the countryside leaves us as the path runs down the side of the airport runway (9.15am), then turning right down the road to 2 bars, and Santa Lucia Church. Unusually for the Camino del Norte the church was open, a friendly volunteer was outside, giving out Pilgrim Stamps, in return for a small donation to the church. We sat outside the bar at Last12km Guest House, with our normal breakfast. The bar and guesthouse next door were built in 1822 and it looked like a lovely place to stay. We continued uphill along a tarmac road, under the motorway then through more forest. The alternative path that we could have taken from Boimorto omitting Arzua and Pedrouzo joins here at Lavacolla. We were pleased that we had taken our route though, as it was interesting to re-visit Arzua and Pedrouzo, and gain the atmosphere of the French path. We passed a beautiful church built in 1840, unfortunately shut, (10.15am, 6 miles) a couple of cafes, and big factories before turning left past Camping San Marcos with a shop selling Camino souvenirs. Originally pilgrims used to stay the night in Lavacolla to wash in the river, before their arrival into Santiago. Lepers were not allowed into the city. We called into Cafe Bar a Chisca with a small shop, for coffee and toast. Leaving at 11.50am we turned left slightly off the route to the high ground of Monte Del Gozo (hill of Joy), with the first and best view over Santiago with the Cathedral spires protruding over the city. Apparently, no building can be built higher than the Cathedral. The first public toilets we saw on the trip are here, but closed. A few pilgrims were taking pictures, all very excited, the end of the walk in sight. To the left are 2 large statues of pilgrims pointing the way to Santiago (12.15pm). It is a shame that these are not on the path or signposted, but really, they should not be missed. The first time we were here we could not find them, the 2nd time it was pouring in rain when we found them, but had no view. So, third time lucky, we also met by chance our Spanish friends, who we had been shadowing for the previous 5 days. Most pilgrims seemed to bypass here, such a shame. Nearby are large accommodation blocks, and a bar. We continued back to the path, crossing the motorway (12.50pm), and coming to a beautiful Santiago sign, a great photo stop (1pm). The path now goes through the new city area, along the main road, passing blocks of flats, many shops and bars. We called

into Día supermarket to buy lunch and alcohol. Having been to the main square previously, we know that there are no shops or cafes in the square-unusual in Spain. Arriving in the old town is always momentous, the path in the city centre is not signed (not wanting to ruin the old buildings), but a stream of pilgrims shows the way. Coming down the steps, through an arch, where a bagpiper always plays due to the good acoustics, arriving in the main square is fabulous. The renovation works on the Cathedral have finished; it is the first time we have seen it without scaffolding on. The original entrance up the steps at the front is permanently closed, to protect that entrance from humidity. We sat all afternoon in the square, with our food, beer and prosecco, watching people arriving. It is always emotional to meet pilgrims we have met along the way too, as well as meeting new people. We met a South African couple who had cycled from Seville, and shared a beer with them (see below). Apparently, there is a public toilet near the steps, between the parador hotel and the Pilgrims office. There is also one in the Pilgrims office itself.

After a few hours spent in the square we went to the Pilgrims office to collect our certificate (Compostela) of the walk. This time we needed a QR code on our phones to collect the certificate, and filled in the on-line form. I presume there is an alternative to this. The office is very well organised, the staff analysed our credential sheet, where we had collected the stamps (cellos) along the way to prove that we had walked there. A new rule seems to be that 2 stamps are required each day. We had only collected stamps where we stayed and in the occasional bar. Churches where we sometimes collect the stamps were closed. We got 2 certificates each, one in Latin and one with the number of miles walked. A scroll holder can be purchased to keep them in. The last day of a walk is always momentous with mixed emotions, but I feel on the whole glad to arrive, and we look forward to planning another walk. We would definitely recommend taking your time (if able to), and visit the statues on top of Monte de Gozo with great views, and hang out in the square.

We checked into Hotel BNOR for 2 nights, having booked it 5 days before. Many people were leaving finding accommodation till they arrived, but we were pleased we had booked. We were looking forward to exploring the city or a couple of days.

Distance 13.5 Miles (21.9 km)

Duration of Walk 7.1 Hours

Average Pace19 Min/Mile

Steps 27951

Elevation Gained 1070 feet (326 m)

Websites used


Our TOP things to do when you arrive in Santiago

Following the completion of the Camino Norte we decided to spend a couple of days in Santiago. This is a list of our top things to do: -. Walking tour of Santiago We booked a walking tour on line a few days in advance with “Free Tour Compostela”. Make sure you book in the correct language, obviously being in Spain, many of them are in Spanish. We went on the English language tour at 10am, meeting the very enthusiastic guide Matias (with a large red umbrella) in the square of the Cathedral. The tour was excellent with very interesting information given, and visited different areas of the city. There were about 30 people on it. It is called a free tour and you pay at the end depending on what you think the tour was worth.

There are many different walking tour companies, and different trips too-including a night time tour, tapas trail etc. Roof top tour of the Cathedral. This was a definite highlight of the whole trip, again we booked this a couple of days in advance. To find the start go through a small entrance door to the left-hand side of the main Cathedral steps. It was going to be in Spanish, but the tour guide realised everyone could speak English, so very kindly switched languages. We can't believe where this tour goes, up to the bell tower which is at the same height as the Apostle St James, on the top of the Cathedral. We then literally walked across the roof-definitely not for the faint-hearted, and were treated to fabulous views over the city. At the back of the roof, it is possible to look through the windows, and admire the large frieze inside the Cathedral. An amazing trip. Pilgrims Mass in the Cathedral Check the times outside the Cathedral to see when the mass is held and in which language. There may be queues to get in. It can be an emotional experience; Pilgrims having walked 100’s of miles to arrive here. The Botafumeiro is swung across the transept (from north to south), so seat yourself accordingly.

Take some time to look around the Cathedral too, many Pilgrims queue to hug the statue of St James and say a prayer for their safe arrival.

Botafumeiro in the Cathedral

The Botafumeiro is a very large cauldron full of burning incense and is hoisted high into the rafters of the Cathedral. The one found here is the largest censer in the world, weighing 80 kgs and measuring 1.60m in height. It is attached to a pulley mechanism (installed in 1604), filled with 40 kgs of charcoal and incense, and is swung during some Pilgrim Masses. Eight red-robed monks pull the ropes and bring it into a swinging motion almost to the roof of the transept, reaching speeds of 80km per hour (50mph) dispensing thick clouds of incense.

It is fabulous to watch. Originally when Pilgrims used to sleep in the Cathedral it was used to cleanse the air. There is no set service time when it is swung, we have been very lucky on 3 occasions to see it swinging. Nowadays, instead of chancing your luck, you could pay €500 for the pleasure of watching it. We had a tip off from the walking tour guide as to when this was on, but still went at a different time.

Cathedral Museum This contains many relics from the 800-year history of the Cathedral, covering 4 floors. It is worth a visit just to stand on the balcony over-looking the main square. The highlights include the codex, which is a 12thC manuscript describing the 4 main Caminos and many tapestries.

Pilgrims Museum This is a beautifully designed museum of 3 floors, covering 1,000s of years of the history of various Caminos, with ancient artefacts, maps etc. It was free to go in and has toilets and lockers in the basement. There are many other museums, tours, and buildings to visit in the city. But we decided to leave these for another day.

From Santiago it is possible to continue the Camino as some Pilgrims do to Murcia and Finisterre (end of the world). Some would say this is the true end of the walk, but we believe Santiago is. In the old days some Pilgrims burnt their clothes by the sea. Previously we have hired a car and toured Galicia, alternatively there are day trips running from Santiago.

Santiago has very good transport links with buses, trains and an airport. The bus to the airport is only €1.

Websites Walking tour Roof top tour Cathedral Botafumeiro Pilgrims Museum Information about the codex