For more than 1000 years the Camino de Santiago (also called the Way of St James or Compostela Trail) has represented the adventure of a lifetime for pilgrims and history buffs alike. The 783km French route from Roncesvalles to the Cathedral of Santiago has through the centuries been well trodden by hiking boots, horse hoofs and more recently bike tyres. Beginning just over half way along the route in the historic cathedral city of Leon, this exhilarating cycle takes in some of the most breathtaking landscapes, unique monuments and typical villages of northern Spain. En route, savour the rich Spanish gastronomy, experiencing traditional regional cuisine and excellent wines. Accommodated in atmospheric hotels, comfort at the end of a hard days cycle is intrinsic to this historic adventure.
The cycling is moderate to challenging (4) grade with daily cycling distances from 38 to 85km / 23.5 to 53mi over undulating to mountainous terrain. The accent is on keeping a relaxed pace to take in all of the attractions, with time to stop and take photos. It is considered suitable for cyclists with a high level of fitness. Minor roads with reduced traffic are customary on this trip and we recommend that you familiarise yourself with road cycling in light traffic in order to participate. *For safety reasons, we insist that cycle helmets be included as a compulsory item on your equipment list.
On arrival in León, you will find the information required for your journey at the hotel: a complete package including hotel vouchers, detailed documentation with maps and a road book. Your touring bike with all accessories will be delivered to the hotel lobby at 8pm. Founded in 884 AD, León has abundant gastronomic and architectural riches - take in a pre-dinner drink and snack at one of the many atmospheric bars located along the narrow streets of the Barrio Húmedo. The cathedral is a stunning example of Gothic architecture.
Today’s route takes you through the quintessential Castilian landscapes of holm oaks, golden wheat fields and gentle ups and downs. As the route follows closely near to the N120 highway it is an easy day to navigate. The landscape in the first half of the route is relatively dry but gets greener further west. You’ll cross fields full of diverse crops such as wheat, corn, hops and wine grapes. Wildlife isn’t a big feature of this first part of the trip, though you will see geckoes, birds of prey and lot of dairy cows! The town of Astorga is at the crossroads of the Camino and the Ruta de la Plata (Silver Road), the Roman route used to transport ores and metals extracted from mines in the north to shipping ports in the south of the peninsula, and is known for its impressive architecture.
From Astorga, the Camino climbs gently until it meets the first mountain on the way. Once you've reached the top of Foncebadón, take it easy and enjoy the sweeping downhill ride and the gorgeous views through wine country to Villafranca. The town of Villafranca del Bierzo is an historical and artistic monument. It was established to give refuge and sanctuary to the pilgrims before initiating the most difficult part of their pilgrimage. The monastery cloister is a Renaissance jewel.
This is the most challenging day of the cycle. From Villafranca you ascend gradually towards the mythical O Cebreiro pass, the most demanding peak along the western section of the Camino. With some effort (and perhaps a chocolate bar), it's more than possible to reach the top - but should you decide to start at the top, it is possible to organise a taxi to take you to O Cebreiro. From the pass it's downhill all the way to Sarria and onward via a rolling route to Portomarín. The older neighbourhoods once belonged to the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem but now lie submerged, covered by the waters of the Miño River dam.
This day provides a lovely contrast to the previous day's hard work. Several easy and long uphills and downhills go through rolling terrain, giving cyclists a view of Galicia's rural landscape.
Whilst the distance today is relatively short, this final stage is surprisingly demanding. After approximately four hours of riding, you become a pilgrim upon arriving at the Pórtico de la Gloria ("The Façade of Glory") at the Cathedral of Santiago. After taking a breather (and celebrating with others arriving by foot and on horseback!), you can visit the Pilgrims' Office where you can obtain the "Compostela" certificate which certifies you as an official pilgrim. Leave your bike at your centrally located accommodation and explore the streets and bars of the atmospheric historic centre. This city, without any doubt, is the most important of the Christian Middle Ages. It has worldwide renown and each year thousands of travellers come to visit its treasures.
Santiago has many cultural and gastronomic options to choose from or you can take a bus to Finisterre to see the Atlantic coastline.
Rest your weary legs and bask in the glory as you reflect on a truly memorable journey. Arrangements conclude after breakfast.
You will receive a 24 speed mountain bike. The bike is usually available from the evening of Day 1 or the morning of Day 2.
One of my best memories of this trip was saying "Buen Camino". I'm very satisfied with the trip.
P. Vichos,, UK
Our arrival on Day 1 was delayed due to travel issues. My friend's bike was available at the hotel. All information was forwarded by hotel staff in a friendly, efficient way.
George Nickerson, Cambridge, CA, 05 Nov 2016
Per Person, Twin Share