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Follow in the footsteps of countless pilgrims, walking the legendary Camino Frances (French Way) from Leon to Santiago de Compostela. Walk through beautiful scenery and historic towns along the best parts of the route to claim a pilgrim's certificate.
Explore Tour Leader
11 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Madrid, the Capital of Spain home to elegant boulevards, manicured parks, cultural museums and fantastic markets.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Madrid at any time. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive at Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (MAD) which is around twenty minutes' drive from the hotel. Should you miss the meeting, your leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to explore the city, wandering the back streets in search of tucked away tapas bars. There vast 19th century El Retiro Park is good place for a leisurely walk, past rose gardens and statues to the boating lake.
Hotel Porcel Ganivet (or similar)
We will travel together as a group to Leon, a three-and-a-half hour drive. Leon is a great city with a wonderful sense of history reflected in it architecture. It is also an important waypoint on the famous Camino de Santiago.
After settling into our hotel we'll have a walking tour of this interesting city. The city's main attractions are its beautiful Gothic cathedral with its unique stained glass windows and the Romanesque San Isidoro church. However there is lots more to discover, including the picturesque old quarter and the brass scallop shells set in the pavement that mark the route of the Camino de Santiago through the city.
Hostal Albany (or similar)
Today, after ensuring we have our Pilgrim Passports we drive to Hospital de Orbigo, famous for its 13th century bridge. We commence our trek from here, with a walk on the Meseta (the Castilian high plateau) to Astorga, home to the magnificent Bishop's Palace designed by Antoni Gaudi.
Our first walk covers 17 kilometres/10.6 miles over approximately 4 hours. The terrain is gently undulating with a ascent of 250 metres/820 feet and descent of 200 metres/656 feet.
Hotel Gaudi (or similar)
We leave the high plateau of the Meseta behind us as we drive a short distance into the mountains to the near- abandoned village of Foncebadon. From here we walk, following the scallop shell markings, up to the famous Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross), the highest point of the Camino at 1,482 metre/4860 feet. This is one of the most significant points on the route, for centuries pilgrims have left a stone brought from home, an offering they hope will give them protection for the rest of the pilgrimage. From here we can see the mountains of Galicia in the distance. The rest of our day is spent descending (steep in places) and we finally arrive in the small village of Molinaseca with its impressive Roman bridge. Here we meet our bus and transfer the short distance to our hotel in Villafranca del Bierzo. Villafranca del Bierzo was once an important medieval town and is home to some spectacular churches, including the Romanesque Church of Santiago.
Today's 20 kilometre/12.4 mile walk is expected to take around 5 hours with 100 metres/328 feet ascent and 930 metres/3051 feet descent. We ascend to 1,482 metres/4862 feet then gently descend along mountain trails.
Hostal Casa Mendez (or similar)
After a short drive to the start of today's walk we continue along the Camino, following the course of the Valcarce River through the valley. This has been the route between Galicia and Castile since ancient times, passing through the small hamlets of Las Herrerias and Ruitelan to the border between Galicia and Leon. Here we come to one of the highlights of our walk, the unusual village of O Cebreiro, a tiny wind battered settlement of stone houses set high above a patchwork quilt of green valleys. The village is famous for its 'pallozas' - traditional circular, thatch-roofed houses. Once in O Cebreiro we have time to relax and explore the village before meeting our bus for the drive to Sarria. En route there is the option to visit Samos Monastery, still an active retreat, and a landmark of the Camino.
Today's 9 kilometre/5.5 miles walk is expected to take around three hours with 700 metres/2296 feet of ascent and descent. Walking on unmade mountain path gradually uphill for most of the day and far from road access.
Hotel Duerming Villa Sarria (or similar)
From Sarria we continue on foot through Galicia, traversing a terrain of rolling hills in the most verdant of Spain's regions. Passing the hamlet of Ferreiros we reach the famous 100 kilometre/62.1 miles landmark, for so long a magical moment for weary pilgrims. It is here that they can re-gather their strength, knowing that it was now only another three or four days to go to Santiago. Nowadays this waypoint marks the limit from where one has to walk continuously to Santiago in order to get the 'Compostela', the official pilgrim's certificate. This afternoon we reach Portomarin, once a splendid medieval village, which was relocated by Franco to make way for a reservoir. Remnants of the town's more prosperous days can still be seen amongst its narrow streets, such as the attractive Romanesque San Pedro church.
Today's 22 kilometre/13.6 miles walk is expected to take around five-and-a-half hours with 54o metres/1772 feet of ascent and 300 metres/984 feet f descent. The terrain is mainly unmade paths through hilly countryside.
Hotel Vistalegre (or similar)
Today, we start by crossing part of the reservoir on a disused railway bridge. Then the trail continues gradually uphill, passing the 80 kilometre/49.7 miles mark near Castromaior village. In the vicinity is Casa Carneiro, in medieval times a night stop for 'VIP' pilgrims such as Charles V the emperor who stayed here in 1520 on his way to his coronation, and King Philipp II a few years later on his way to marry Mary Tudor in England. We reach our last high pass (722 metre/2369 feet) just before Ligonde, and continue on through undulating hills, Eucalyptus trees and Cruceiros (the stone crosses typical of Galicia), to gently descend to our night stop at Palas de Rei, an important pilgrim town.
Today's 20 kilometre/12.4 miles walk is expected to take around 5 hours with 540 metres/1771 feet of ascent and 640 metres/2100 feet of descent. We ascend up to the pass (722 metre/2369 feet) and then continuing on unmade paths through gently undulating hills.
Hosteria Calixtino (or similar)
Leaving the town behind, the Camino now takes us through idyllic rural Galicia, passing farmland and beautiful countryside. We walk through an oak grove to A Coruna, and cross a medieval bridge with four arches to reach Melide. Today is a good day for trying some traditional Galician dishes, specifically the famous 'pulpo a la Gallega octopus' for which the village of Melide is renowned, and maybe some of the excellent local white wine from the Riberas Baixas region near Pontevedra.Tonight we stay in a typical Galician farmhouse, where dinner can be taken.
Today's 27 kilometre/16.7 miles walk is expected to take around seven hours with 350 metres/1148 feet of ascent and 450 metres/1476 feet of descent. The terrain is rural paths through farmland and gently undulating hillsides.
Hotel Pazo de Sedor (or similar)
Santiago is getting closer! Today you will pass many 'horreos', typical barns of the region that dot this beautiful countryside. We will also start to see more signs that we are nearing Santiago, including many pilgrim villages. Crossing the River Iso we arrive to Arzua where the Camino Frances (French Way) that we have been following, and Camino del Norte (North Way or Camino Primitivo) meet - Arzua is also known in the region for its local soft cheese. Today we pass many pilgrim sites including pilgrim Guillermo Watt's memorial; he died here whilst on the pilgrimage and his shoes can be found in the stone wall. We can also stop at Santa Irene chapel to see statues of Saint James. We arrive to the small village of El Amenal and our hotel for the night.
Today's 28.5 kilometre/17.7 miles walk is expected to take around 7.5 hours with 450 metres/1476 feet of ascent and 470 metres/1542 feet feet of descent.The terrain is rural paths and local village roads.
Amenal Hotel (or similar)
Today we complete our pilgrimage. We pass through the village of Lavacolla, where traditionally pilgrims would wash and change into their best clothes for the final stretch of the walk. From here we ascend the final hill to Monte Gozo, from where we finally see Santiago Cathedral in the distance. We are now just five kilometres from Santiago's historic centre and the end of our pilgrimage. As we walk the last hour of the trail we share the emotions and sense of achievement of thousands of pilgrims, ancient and modern from all over the world, as we complete the trail and claim our 'Compostela', our pilgrim's certificate.
Our last walk covers 17.5 kilometres/10.8 miles and is expected to take around 5 hours with 300 metres/984 feet of ascent and 350 metres/1148 feet of descent. The terrain is unmade paths and roads.
Rosa Rosae (or similar)
This morning we take a guided walking tour of Santiago including a visit to the magnificent cathedral. Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is the final and most iconic stop of the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage. Reputed to be the resting place of Saint James the apostle, this religious site has attracted pilgrims since the early Middle Ages. Built in the Romanesque style with numerous Gothic, Baroque, Plateresque and Neoclassical add-on, The Cathedral is one of Spain's most visited tourist sites, and once you have visited this extraordinary historic site you will understand why. We also visit the important local squares, churches and buildings around the cathedral.
The afternoon is free to wander the city's narrow streets discovering some of the city's other architectural treasures, and enjoy the local food and wine. It is also possible to take an optional excursion to Cape Finisterre, however this is a full day excursion so you would have to miss the city tour.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Santiago de Compostela.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Santiago at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like an airport transfer today, you need to depart from Santiago de Compostela Airport (SCQ) which is around 15 minutes' drive from the hotel.
Total distance : 161 kilometres
Overall, spring, early summer and autumn are ideal times for a Spanish trip - though the weather varies enormously from region to region. The high central plains suffer from fierce extremes, stiflingly hot in summer, bitterly cold and swept by freezing winds in winter. The Atlantic coast, in contrast, has a tendency to damp and mist, and a relatively brief, humid summer. The Mediterranean south is warm virtually all year round. Spain's Islands the Canaries and Balaerics experience very mild winters and warm summers making them ideal year round destinations.
2 Pin Round
Castilian Spanish, Catalan, Galician, Basque
Sarria - Visit to Samos Monastery €5 Leon - Cathedral & San Isidoro entrance €6.50 Santiago - Individual Admission Pórtico de la Gloria €10, Individual Admission Combined Pórtico + Museum €12 Visit to Cape Finisterre €30 - 50
Bring light and comfortable clothing that can be layered according to the temperature. It can become cool, especially at night, so bring warmer layers. Tops made from wicking materials which keep you drier, a warmer fleece is recommended as a mid layer, and walking trousers are preferable to trousers of heavier material such as jeans. -Breathable wind and waterproof jacket (you may also wish to bring waterproof trousers) -T-shirts -Long sleeved tops -Sunhat -Long trousers -Shorts (if you prefer to walk in them) -Swimwear and towel -Midlayer Fleece/pullover -Socks (liner and thicker pair) -Insulated jacket
We recommend you bring walking boots with ankle support- leather or fabric are both fine. Make sure that your boots are worn-in and comfortable before the start of the trip. Also trainers or sandals for relaxing and general wear. We suggest that on international flights you either carry your walking boots in your hand luggage or wear them - should your luggage be lost or delayed, your own boots are the one thing that will be irreplaceable.
Bring one main piece of luggage and a 20-30 litre day sack is recommended. You will need to carry what you need for the day which may include a raincoat, jumper, camera, sun-cream, water and picnic lunch. On hot days you will carry fewer clothes but more drinking water. Main baggage will be transported between nightstops.
-Sunglasses -Sun cream -Small Torch (with spare batteries and bulb) -Camera -Walking poles (if you usually use them) -Gaiters (if you usually use them) -Personal toiletries -Personal first aid kit - On each walk a first aid kit is carried but you should have your own blister kit, supply of plasters, aspirin and other essentials. -Insect repellent -Small waterproof dry bag (for items such as your mobile phone) -Reusable water bottle (minimum 1 litre) - Get 15% discount on a Water-to-Go bottle www.explore.co.uk/about-us/responsible-travel/water-to-go-discount-with-explore -Lunch bag/Tupperware (for packed lunches) -Binoculars
Accommodation and service levels in Spain are generally very good. On this trip we stay in smaller, family-run hotels and pensions that might not offer the same luxuries as larger chain-style hotels, but they do provide a warm welcome, a comfortable place to stay and the chance to gain a better understanding of local life. One thing to be aware of in Spain is that breakfast tends to be a smaller affair, often just fruit juice or coffee and a pastry. Dinners in the pensions and rural houses will be a typical set menu that includes wine, these range in price from €20 t0 €25.
Can you drink the water?
It is generally possible to drink the local tap water, therefore to reduce the need for single-use plastic bottles we recommend you bring a refillable water bottle with you. Your leader will advise you on refill points each day.
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Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
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Spain: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
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Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
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It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
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