The Main Camino Ways in Spain

The Camino Ways offer a spiritual and refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Travelled for centuries by pilgrims in search of spiritual enlightenment, this network of trails and walking routes offers a relaxing journey that creates memories that will stay with you for a lifetime.

As the network includes many kilometres of trails to explore, it helps to know the routes and plan your way before you embark on your journey. That way, you can make sure that your time on the Camino ways will be the time you always imagined it could be. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular ways, to help you make your choice of route.

The Camino Francés Way

Camino Frances - Camino Ways

The Camino Francés, also known as the French Way, is one of the most popular Camino ways and for a whole host of very good reasons! The official starting point is the famous St Jean Pied de Port, although you can embark on this journey from any town or city that you find on the way if you want to give your route the personal touch you’ve been looking for.

To make the time constraints of the French Way more practical, so that it can be easily fitted into a long weekend, many walkers choose to start their journey in the historic town of Sarria in Galicia. This cuts your journey along this Camino way to a rather sprightly 111 kilometres before you finish in Santiago and take in the beauty of the historic cathedral.

The Portuguese Coastal Camino

Portuguese Coastal Camino - Camino Ways

For those not afraid to try something a little different, why not start your journey at the other end of the trail network? By exploring the coastal charm of Portugal, you’ll be able to open your eyes to a unique way of life that allows you to see something different with every footstep in the sand.

Your holiday will begin in the beautiful city of Porto where colours come together in perfect harmony to create a skyline that simply has to be seen to be believed. From there, you’ll walk alongside the unbridled beauty of the Atlantic and traverse the sandy beaches of Northern Portugal. As your journey continues, you’ll find yourself crossing over into Galicia where you can sample an exquisite range of fine wine and fresh seafood. Small fishing villages dotted along the coast provide the perfect shelter and the night’s rest you’ve been looking for. Ideal if you really want to get away from the beaten track and fully immerse yourself in the local culture of this beautiful corner of the world.

The Camino Finisterre

Camino Finisterre - Camino Ways

Now, the Camino de Finisterre really is one of the best kept secrets the Camino ways have to offer. If you want to do things a little differently, then how about starting your journey in Santiago de Compostela and then heading west, as you chase the Atlantic all the way through to the coast of Galicia? This gorgeous coast offers a window into a way of life that will hopefully be preserved for generations to come. With quaint fishing villages living off the sea dotted along the coast, you’ll be able to get a good taste for an authentic way of living that too many of us unfortunately rarely get to experience. And how can you resist that?

The Camino Inglés

Camino Inglés - Camino Ways

Steeped in just heaps of fascinating history, the English Camino was both a key trading route as well as the route used by European pilgrims on their way to Santiago. If you can complete a minimum of 100 kilometres, you can get yourself a Compostela certificate, as on any other route, which is certain to impress, as well as a completely memorable experience to last a lifetime. And, if you time your trip at the right time of year, springtime offers the wonderful Easter festival in Ferrol, a port city and one of the route’s key starting points. This Semana Santa de Ferrol is comprised of religious parades and processions, and runs from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, making it an experience to remember. With this in mind, spring has got to be a wonderful time to take this trip!

The Camino de Norte

Camino de Norte - Camino Ways

The Camino del Norte, also known as the Northern Way, begins in Irun and takes walkers along Spain’s Northern coast. With plenty of scenery to keep your eyes occupied and your mind in awe, this isn’t the most populated route you could take and does not have a huge amount of options for accommodation. Get your waterproofs out because you might find yourself under plenty of rain on this route, but you’re unlikely to mind as the views more than make up for it.

Think gorgeous green scenery, in the form of undulating mountains and hills, and perhaps most strikingly the Picos de Europa. It’s also hard to ignore the stunning, untouched beaches, and you may find yourself unable to resist taking the odd dip or two.

When to take the Northern Way? The summer has got to be the best season for this irresistible route, with July and August being the finest months for taking a dip in the sea. Throughout the rest of the year, you might find yourself a little cold and damp on your journey. And doesn’t every view look best in the sunshine?

With so many Camino ways to choose from, it can be difficult to make up your mind – but whichever way you choose, you are sure to arrive in Santiago with memories that will last a lifetime!

Top Festivals on the Camino de Santiago

There are dozens of festivals along the Camino every year. Choose the ones you would like to attend on your walk and book your holiday with us. Here is our list of top festivals on the Camino de Santiago that you can visit while walking the Camino:

Semana Santa (Easter)

This is the biggest Festival of the year that takes place on the Camino. It starts on the holy week or Easter, which is usually around March/April. Semana Santa is one of the most impressive, traditional, colourful religious parades and the parade marches in Spain is nothing like the one you may be used to. If you want to see the celebration in its full glory, Seville and Malaga are the best places to go. Starting from their very religious parade and food, it is worth booking your holiday just for this festival. We talked about Easter at Seville in great details in a separate post, if you would like to read more about it.

Freedom Day, across Portugal

On the 25th of April is the national holiday in Portugal. It is the anniversary of the Carnation Revolution which marked the end of the dictatorship and the start of dimocracy. Unlike many countries, they were able to shift their system without much blood shed. Freedom Day is celebrated with parades, fireworks and different entertainments across the country.

Run with the Bulls (San Fermin) in Pamplona

Every year between the 6th to the 14th of July in Pamplona, there is a festival in honour of San Fermin. As a main part of the celebration, bulls are led through the streets to the bullring. This exciting and dangerous festival is known as Running with the Bulls around the world. It first started as bulls needed to be moved from outside to the bullrings. You can watch the runners getting chased by bulls. There are several strict measures to make sure everything run smoothly without any incidents for assurance. San Fermin Festival is a world famous and historicaly rooted festival that also has many parades, traditional sports and firework displays.

St James Festival in Santiago de Compostela

St James is the patron of Santiago de Compostela and also Galicia. This festivalin his honour takes place during the last two weeks of July. It is full of concerts, galeries and street entertainment across the city, including the fireworks on the 24th of July. On the 25th of July is the Feast of St James is the national feast in Santiago and is celebrated in style. One of the events you might be interested in is the official mass where the Spanish royalties and the Galician government attend. People watch a big insence swing from the roof with a rope. The Camino routes or St James Way are very busy coming up to the 25th of July; especially closer to Santiago.

Semana Grande in Bilbao

Semana Grande is the largest Festival in Northern Spain. The festival starts on a Saturday after 15th August. It usually lasts up to nine days. The festival’s mascot is called Marijaia and the whole celebration starts with her making a grand entrance onto the balcony. This festival is dedicated to the Virgin of Begona or Mother to the Basques which is one of Europe’s most exhilarating street parties. There are also bullfights but unlike “Run with the Bulls”, the bulls’ horns are padded and much safer in comparison. This is the place you should go if you want to experience the Basque culture to its fullest.

Fiestas de la Encina in Ponferrada

On the 8th of September is the Virgin of La Encina, saint patron of El Bierzo. The festival starts on the 1st of September in Ponferrada and it usually lasts for 10 days. La Encina is full of concerts, activities, street entertainment and fireworks etc.

Festivals on the Camino

 

Spain also has a number of strange festivals. Here are our top picks:

Festival of Near-Death Experiences

Unusual from the name alone, this festival takes place on the 29th of July in Pontevedra to celebrate the second chance at life for those who had a near death experience. The locals put the person who came back from the death door in a coffin and carry them to church. They are then reborn there and celebrate their second life with huge feasts. Much like birthdays, after having carrying out this ceremony, you are welcomed by everyone you love. It is a little “thank you” for returning alive to your mother, father or your partner. As strange as it seem, it can give the people a great sense of unity and belonging to their culture.

Baby Jumping Festival

You might have thought chasing bulls or getting put in a coffin was weird. But this one, El Colacho, wins the award for the quirkiest festival of them all. Just like the name suggets, it is a festival where people literally jump over babies. Families bring their infants to the event where they are laid on the ground. Then an adult man dressed in a devil suit jump over the babies in front of crowd of people, including the parents. The crowd is often ecstatic and hold their breath in case the “devil” injures them in any way. In a way it is similar to baptism that it is to cleanse them from all evils before they learn of this world and  it has been in practice since the 1620’s. And for people who did not participate, it is said that, they will have to live in constant bad luck, always having to looking over their shoulder for their life. For those who have the heart to watch, this old traditional festival could be a great fun. The exact date of the festival varies from year to year.

Check out our article on Tapas, Drinks and Gastronomy in Santiago de Compostela here

If you would like to take part in any of the Camino festivals along the Camino de Santiago routes, please don’t hesitate to contact our Camino experts.  

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Everything You Need To Know About the Apostle St. James the Greater

St. James is the patron saint of Spain and the namesake of the Camino de Santiago. But why is he so important?

Saint James the Apostle

Quick facts about St James the Apostle:

  • Patron saint of Pilgrims and Spain
  • Memorial Day / Feast Day is July 25th
  • Named by Jesus as one of the Sons of Thunder
  • St James the Greater died in AD 44
  • He was executed by beheading

Listen below or read on…

Let’s go back to basics – a patron saint is considered to be a defender of a specific group of people or of a nation. There’s a patron saint for virtually every cause, profession or special interest. Whether it’s St Francis of Assisi being the patron saint of animals or  St. Anthony being the patron saint of lost items.

Patron saints are not just specific to Roman Catholicism but are also particular to Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism and some branches of Islam. St James the Greater is the patron saint of pilgrims and Spain.

St James the Greater was one of the disciples of Jesus Christ, and actually thought to be the cousin of Jesus himself, by the sister of the Virgin Mary, and the brother of St Jude Thaddeus. He worked as a fisherman with his brother John, his father Zebedee and his partner Simon. John and James were followers of John the Baptist and later, Jesus.

James, along with his brother John, left his life as a fisherman when Jesus called him to be a “fisher of men”. He followed Jesus as one of his disciples until Jesus was crucified by the Romans.

Following the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, he made a pilgrimage to the Iberian Peninsula to spread the word of Jesus and when he returned to Judea, he was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I in the year 44AD. This is detailed in the Bible in Acts 12 of the New Testament. “King Herod extended his hands to harm certain ones from the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword. Seeing that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to arrest Peter also.” (Act 12 Modern English Version).

St James on a Stone Boat

The remains, or relics, of St James the Greater were then transported by his followers to the Iberian Peninsula (today’s Galicia in Spain) and are said to be buried in Santiago de Compostela, which is why St James the Greater is the patron saint of Spain.

According to legend, his body, along with his followers, sailed to the Iberian Peninsula on a rudderless ship with no sail. Landing on the northwest coast of the peninsula they proceeded up the River Ulla to land at Iria Flavia, (modern-day Padron). The Celtic Queen Lupia ruled these lands, and when asked by James’ followers if they could bury his body she refused and sent troops after them. While chasing the followers of James with his body across a bridge it collapsed, killing her troops. Queen Lupia then converted to Christianity and provided an ox and cart for the followers of James to transport the body. Unsure of where they should bury the sacred remains, his followers prayed on this and decided to let the ox continue until it choose a place to rest. After pausing at a stream the ox finally came to rest under an oak tree at the top of a hill and it’s here that the Cathedral of Santiago stands today.

The Legend of St James the Greater

St James in BattleSt James, or according to the Spanish form of his name, St lago, is also the great military patron of Spain. His mission to defend the Christian Church against invaders was however reserved until after his death. During the celebrated battle of Clavijo, he suddenly appeared on a milk-white charger, waving aloft a white standard, and leading the Christians to victory. This manifestation was in response to the soldiers’ invocation of his name, “Sant lago!” as the battle-cry of that day. Hence, the name of the ancient city (Santiago) which where the cathedral was founded in his honour.

The Death of the Saint

There are two categories of saints – martyrs and confessors. A Christian martyr is regarded as one who is put to death for his Christian faith or convictions. Confessors are people who died natural deaths. St James the Greater died in AD 44 when he was beheaded by Herod, making him a martyr. St James is also widely recognised as the first apostle to be martyred.

Why is he the patron of pilgrims and Spain?

St James the Greater is universally regarded as the patron of pilgrims because after establishing the Christian religion in the Iberian Peninsula, modern Galicia, he returned to Judaea on a pilgrimage and was beheaded. The scallop shell is the recognized symbol of all pilgrims on the Camino, as it’s found on the shores of Galicia. When returning to their own countries, pilgrims displayed the scallop shell in their hats to show that they had carried out their pious intentions.

St James became the patron saint of Spain as this is where his remains are believed to be buried. St James is also believed to have helped the Christians defeat the Moors in Spain – yet another reason he’s their patron saint.

How St. James the Greater is represented in Christian Art?

It’s helpful to be able to recognise iconic saint in paintings, stained glass windows, illuminated manuscripts, architecture and other forms of Christian art. The artistic representations reflect the life or death of saints, or an aspect of life with which the person is most closely associated. St James the Greater is represented in Christian Art in the garb of a pilgrim, with staff, gourd, and scallop shell. St James is often also depicted riding a white horse into battle.

The Feast Day of St James

The Feast Day of St James the Greater is July 25th and is widely celebrated in Spain, especially in Santigo de Compostela, where they hold a firework display at the end of a two-week celebration.

The origin of Feast Days

Most saints have specially designated feast days that are associated with a specific day of the year. The feast days first arose from the very early Christian custom of the annual commemoration of martyrs on the dates of their deaths at the same time celebrating their birth into heaven.

Pilgrimage – The Road to Santiago 3

Pilgrimage: The Road to Santiago is a three-part documentary series on BBC2 which tracks the experiences of seven well-known celebrities taking on the famous Camino de Santiago walk. The group attempts to live like pilgrims on the Camino Frances leaving their modern-day comforts behind, staying at hostels and carrying their own luggage with the goal of questioning their faith and beliefs during the challenge. The seven pilgrims are TV presenter Debbie McGee, 90’s pop-star Heather Small, Irish comedian Ed Byrne, TV personality and priest Kate Bottley, ex-marine JJ Chalmers, BBC reporter Raphael Rowe and actor Neil Morrissey.

The group is attempting to walk part of the 800km long Camino de Santiago, starting at St Jean Pied de Port and finishing at the Cathedral of St James in Santiago de Compostela over a 15-day period (travelling part of the route by mini-bus). They spend their nights in basic hostels and even outdoors under the stars and carry their own bags along the way. Staying in hostels has proved to be one of the toughest parts for the team as they get in late and are out by 6 am most mornings, while the long days walking are spectacular but difficult for some as the physical and mental challenge is draining. During Episode 2 of Pilgrimage, we saw the crew of seven walking through the Navarre region. Neil, Kate and JJ gleefully discover the wine fountain of Bodegas Irache where they take advantage of the free wine on offer. Subsequently, the whole team reach the highest point of their Camino trek at Monte Irago where they place traditional stones of gratitude at the base of the large Iron Cross. Episode 3 is broadcast on Friday, 30th March on BBC Two and concludes the three-part series.

The Pilgrimage map  The Pilgrimage – Episode 3

In the final episode, the seven pilgrims are now on the home straight, attempting to walk the famous Last 100km from Sarria to Santiago through Galicia. Questions of faith come to the fore during this episode as the group approaches their final destination featuring a swimming party and a debate about women’s place in the Church.

Feminism and The Church

As Reverend Kate, Heather and Debbie finish up their meal, they start to discuss the church and the role of women in it. Heather thinks women were written out of the Bible, being ‘either the Madonna or the whore’ and believes this is still reflected in life today with women being typified as ‘the good girl or the bad girl’. Reverend Kate explains that there were women priests when Christianity first came about, but slowly over time, women’s identities were suppressed and that’s why her work environment is very male-dominated. She seems disappointed and offended by the language and actions she has encountered from those who resist women holding positions of power in the Church of England.

The Pilgrimage - Feminism and The Church

Debbie was baptised and brought up as a Catholic, married the late Paul Daniels who was an atheist and doesn’t see herself as belonging to a particular faith. She says it’s the type of experience that Kate has described which makes her stay away from the church, but Reverend Kate argues that it’s only a small minority who are still like this. The three discuss whether it’s best to be inside the organisation and make changes within or to remain outside in protest against it.

Ed Gets Baptised

The group meets up with Guy Hayward of the British Pilgrimage Trust who explains the meaning of what a river pilgrimage is and urges them to take a dip in the chilly river. Ed is reluctant to get in and says ‘I’m just doing something I don’t want to do, just so I can have the moan’. It’s so cold he jokes he feels like he’s just had gender reassignment surgery. Kate loves being in the water and encourages the four swimmers to dunk themselves under water in a mock, old-style water baptism ceremony. Kate comments that she’d much rather do baptism ceremonies in rivers, ponds and streams than sprinkling a dressed-up baby with water.

The Pilgrimage - Ed Gets Baptised

The Pilgrimage – Episodes

Pilgrimage is broadcast on BBC Two and also on catch-up on the BBCiPlayer. If you’d like to read more about the previous two episodes, check out our previous blog posts on Episode 1 here and Episode 2 here.

Pilgrimage – The Road to Santiago 2

Pilgrimage: The Road to Santiago is a 3-part travelogue series broadcast on BBC featuring seven well-known celebrity figures who attempt to take on the Camino de Santiago, shedding their modern conveniences for a stripped-back life to get closer to their spiritual selves. The celebrity team consists of Irish comedian Ed Byrne, reality TV star Debbie McGee, investigative journalist Raphael Rowe, TV presenter and ex-soldier JJ Chalmers, 90’s pop-star Heather Small, actor Neil Morrissey and reality TV star Kate Bottley. During Episode 1 of Pilgrimage, we saw the motley group starting off on the Camino Frances in scenic St Jean Pied de Port, struggling with the physical and mental challenge and meeting fellow pilgrims along the way.  Episode 2 airs on Friday, 23rd March and continues for the final part the following week.

The Pilgrimage – Episode 2

Travelling through the Navarre region in the second of three episodes, we experience lots of fun, sad and poignant moments including Neil, Kate and JJ coming across a strange fountain and the whole team attempting the highest point of their journey. They continue to question their circumstances and their faith, keep the memories of their loved ones alive and also band together when Heather senses racism at a hostel.

The Fountain of Wine – Bodegas Irache  The Fountain of Wine – Bodegas Irache

As the team splits in two approaching the 650km mark, we hear Neil joke that he has many vices, explaining that he likes to drink but that Jesus also did too, hinting that he’s therefore in good company! As they approach a small village, Neil wonders if his Spanish is correct when he sees a sign for Fuente del Vino and translates it to his fellow walkers as ‘Fountain of Wine’. Reverend Kate spots that there is a tap in the wall with wine coming out of it but doesn’t believe it will be real wine, perhaps blackcurrant juice while JJ notices that there’s a guy ‘necking it straight out of the tap’. As they approach the fountain, Neil wonders if there is a God after all and Kate proclaims that this is a sign that God loves us asking – when do you ever get free wine apart from Church and even then, they only give you a little bit! The tradition of offering charity to pilgrims on the route has been taken up by the Winery at Irache who supply 100 litres of free wine to passers-by each day.

After filling their bottles, Kate mentions that some believe a great understanding of God comes through pain, but accepts that her theology is based far more on indulgence. Heading out of Irache, they spot the rest of the team where Ed shows off the stick he and boasts about its price tag. When he hears from JJ that they came across the wine fountain of Bodegas Irache, Ed jokingly complains that he got a bad deal – meeting a guy giving out sticks while the other half of the group got a wine fountain!

Short Poem on the Bodegas Irache Wine Fountain

Behold! The 8th wonder of the world. The fabled Fuente de Vino!
Legend has it that the fountain makes you funnier, impervious to pain and more attractive to the opposite sex

The Iron Cross on Monte Irago

With just over a week to go until the end of their walking odyssey, the pilgrims wake early for an uphill hike as a hot day is forecast. We see the ladies having some fun in the dormitory as they wake and banter. Debbie reveals she’s only getting about two hours of sleep a night and Reverend Kate wakes the gents with ‘room service’ at 7.30am where we hear from Ed and Neil as they labour out of their bunkbeds, get up and get ready for the day. Kate is meticulously taking care of her toes to avoid blisters and jokes that the Camino is not a glamorous thing but that somehow Debbie is able to look splendid, despite the challenge!

The Iron Cross on Monte Irago

The team trek to the highest point on the Camino Frances at the Iron Cross of Monte Irago, about 240km away from Santiago. Here, planting a stone of gratitude is a tradition based on the old Roman tradition of leaving stones at high passes in tribute to their gods. The team inspects the other stones which have been left there and Kate explains that pilgrims also leave flags and bits of fabric at the Cross, so she leaves a piece of her red scarf which she has brought with her on the Camino.

Neil leaves a stone in honour of    The Pilgrimage map   his partner Emma and Heather ties a thread on the cross declaring that she’s not leaving pain but is instead picking up joy. Debbie leaves a stone on which she has written – ‘Paul Daniels, Magician, UK’ and admits it’s her first bit of keeping her late husband Paul’s memory alive. It seems like a positive experience for her as she said it made her giggle thinking about him. Raphael signs ‘Raphael was here’ on a rock with a kiss and a smile, even though he doesn’t have much religion or faith admitting he is only doing it to get in the spirit of things.

The Pilgrimage – Episode 3

Episode 3 sees the seven celebrities take on the Last 100km of the Camino Frances through Galicia. While Ralph starts to enjoy the pilgrimage route, Kate still has anxieties about the walk but relaxes when she comes across a group of river pilgrims and jumps into the water to join them. Kate and Heather share their beliefs about women in the Church and question Debbie’s approach to effecting change in the institution.

Pilgrimage – The Road to Santiago 1

A three-part series called Pilgrimage: The Road to Santiago airs on Friday 16th March and continues as part of the BBC’s Easter religious programming over three weeks. The documentary ‘explores how relevant the medieval rites of pilgrimage are in today’s society’ and does this by getting seven celebrities to challenge their beliefs and live as modern-day pilgrims, taking on the Camino de Santiago. The Camino de Santiago is a network of old pilgrimage routes culminating in Galicia, Northern Spain which has become a very popular walking challenge. The seven familiar faces include reality TV star Kate Bottley, investigative journalist Raphael Rowe, actor Neil Morrissey, TV presenter and ex-soldier JJ Chalmers, Irish comedian Ed Byrne, reality TV star Debbie McGee and 90’s pop-star Heather Small.

The Challenge of the Camino

The Pilgrimage Map

The group spends 15 days joining hundreds of other pilgrims along the 800km pilgrim path peppered with interesting encounters and sharing anecdotes of self-discovery. They follow part of the Camino Frances, or French Way, travelling from the French Pyrenees to the Cathedral of St James in Santiago de Compostela. Their challenge is to live a simple existence and walk in difficult conditions, however, they are never far from stunning scenery and rolling countryside, visiting many significant religious and historic landmarks. Each of them has to give up their luxuries and modern conveniences, carry their own bags and sleep in hostels. The journey gives them a chance to reflect on their experience and challenge their beliefs as well as discuss ethical and spiritual issues along the way.

The Pilgrimage – Episode 1

The first episode aired on Friday 16th March on BBC2 at 9 pm. It starts by showing the celebrities arriving in Biarritz in France and making their way to the start of their pilgrimage at St Jean Pied de Port. They start off in the mountainous Pyrenees region, crossing the border from France into Northern Spain. In 2017, 5,768 British pilgrims completed their journey at Santiago de Compostela with most of them travelling on the Camino Frances.

Debbie and Heather Meet a Pilgrim at a Cafe

During Episode 1, Debbie and Heather meet a young pilgrim over coffee who had walked the Camino with his Dad in 2014. His father became ill during that trip and had to travel home in an emergency and subsequently discovered he had cancer and sadly passing away just before Christmas last year. The young man explained how he was now walking the Camino on his own in honour of his father and hoping the walk will help him come to terms with his death. The son was walking in his father’s boots and had his Pilgrim passport and a prayer stone from their 2014 trek. Debbie also spoke frankly to them about losing her husband, the entertainer Paul Daniels and trying to deal with it by keeping herself busy. The three of them chatted about how the Camino was helping them deal with grief and how it was easy to meet strangers, share stories and bare their souls without fear of judgement. Finally, Debbie reflected about how the Camino is so special for pilgrims being easy to open up emotionally to each other.

The Pilgrimage - BBC Programme

Ed Byrne and Reverend Kate Complain in the Hills

Irish Comedian Ed Byrne gets frustrated at his fellow pilgrims because they are moaning a lot, joking that ‘dentists drills don’t whine as much as these people do’. He confides that this particular cohort of his group didn’t even understand that pilgrimages require walking, branding them ‘idiots’! Meanwhile Reverend Kate, who is renowned for her appearances on TV Show Gogglebox, explains that she didn’t realise that they’d actually be walking the Camino. She thought that, because it was for television, that they would be driven from one Camino hotspot to the next! On day two she is suffering physically and can’t fathom continuing for longer. She is somewhat perplexed because people are walking the Camino who don’t have any faith and she doesn’t realise what they hope to gain from the pilgrimage. She explains, however, that even her own faith is taking a knock as she’s suffering so much she doesn’t want to talk to anyone, never mind God! Even though the friction from the physical challenge and suffering makes them rub off a bit on each other, a confrontational encounter during the expedition brings them all closer together.

The Pilgrimage – Episode 2The Pilgrimage 1 - BBC Programme

The second episode sees the gang of seven travel from Navarre to Sarria in order to take on the Last 100km. Before this, they experience a ‘spiritual moment’ as they come across the famous Bodegas Irache wine fountain in a wall of the winery, where thirsty pilgrims can drink wine straight from the tap! Episode 2 airs on Friday 23rd March, 2018.

Camino on the Run Charity Challenge

Follow the Camino are supporting a very worthwhile initiative this year – a pair of avid runners are hoping to become the first married couple to run the entire French Way carrying their own luggage!  If you think its tough enough walking the Camino, imagine what it will be like for this pair running the whole way!? And no, they’re not crazy – they’re doing this for a very worthy cause and will be in training for this monumental mission over the next few months. The 10-day run from the Pyrenees to Galicia will be gruelling, however, we’ve backed these two tough cookies to pull it off without too much difficulty, especially considering the story behind it.

A Challenge to Run the Full French Way on the Camino

Agnieszka and Marek are going to run 500 miles (or 800 kilometres) along the Camino de Santiago as a personal challenge, and also to raise funds for treatment of their wheelchair-bound friend so that he might walk again someday. Agnieszka and Marek are hoping to raise money and awareness for their friend Mirek who has a spinal cord injury from a motorbike accident he was involved in.

The couple first heard about the Camino three years ago in their local church. A lady told them about her walking journey through the French Way over a couple of years in stages. Being quite new to ultra-running, Agnieszka thought – ‘I will run the Camino one day’! A few years behind Agnieszka, Marek progressed his running regime from becoming a marathoner, ultra-runner and Ironman, falling in love with ultra-running, and trail-running in particular.

In trying to plan something big for 2018, they had some long races on their minds but places like Egypt and Morocco seemed too dangerous. Then, recalling their conversation at the Church, Agnieszka suggested the Camino as a project they could do by themselves, in their own time. They talked about the Camino idea for some time and then agreed to do it, deciding to help somebody else to give something back during the process. Last year at the Clonakilty Marathon, Marek met his friend Andrzej who pushed another friend in a wheelchair to support Mirek’s cause. Inspired by this they decided to contact Mirek directly and amazed with his positive thinking and strong belief, the couple agreed to do the Camino on the Run to raise funds for him.

A Very Worthy Cause – Mirek’s Story

Mirek’s full name is Miroslaw Hetmaski. He’s 37 years old and lives in Katowice in Poland. Seven years ago, his life changed dramatically. While riding his motorbike, he hit a car and suffered multiple organ injuries, spinal fractures and a severe spinal cord injury resulting in quadriplegia.

Mirek’s Story - Camino on the Run

Since then, Mirek has been confined to a wheelchair and needs assistance every day. To improve his condition, he needs expensive rehabilitation and unfortunately, he can’t afford the €750 monthly cost. His only income is from state benefits which barely cover day-to-day bills and expenses.

Until he was 31, his life was totally different from what it is now. He had plans for his future, was hoping to have a family some day and was interested in many things like sports, motorbikes, music and helping others. Every day he tries to exercise as much as he can on his own, however, he needs professional treatment to have a chance to stand on his own feet again. His dream is to be able to walk again, even with support or crutches – so that he can live independently. He strongly believes this will happen one day and hopes he’ll then be able to help others in need.

Meet the Ultra-Runner Couple

Agnieszka and Marek Pamula have been running marathons and ultra-marathons for years. The married couple hail from Poland originally and currently work in the pharmaceutical industry in Dublin – Agnieszka working for Pfizer and Marek for Bimeda.

Meet the Ultra-Runner Couple - Camino run

Marek only started running four years ago but is already hoping to complete his 50th marathon in December this year in Clonakilty. If he achieves this, he will be awarded a Silver Medal from the Marathon Club Ireland. Last year, Agnieszka ran 100 miles in 24 hours at the Connemara 100.

Training runs start in earnest this year with the Tralee Marathon on 18th March, followed by the Western Way marathon the following week (both 42km long). April brings the Connemara Ultra Marathon which is 63km long and then the couple will take part in the Cork Marathon on June 3rd when they will push Mirek the whole distance with the help from some of their friends. These are only a selection of the runs they are taking part in this year.

All the races they are running together are in preparation for the Camino Run apart from two which they will race for time – the Cyprus Ultra Marathon in May (107km) and the Wicklow Way Ultra Marathon in June (127km) – although they’ll certainly help with getting some mileage on the clock!

 

Camino Challenge - The French Way Camino Route in 10 DaysThe French Way Camino Route in 10 Days

The Camino de Santiago is a network of medieval pilgrimage routes throughout Europe which culminate in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in Northwest Spain at the Cathedral of Saint James. Nowadays, many people walk (or cycle) the route for religious, spiritual and cultural reasons and it has now become one of the most popular walking holiday destinations in the world.

Follow the Camino’s Expert Camino Planners have devised a plan for Agnieszka and Marek so they can run an optimal distance on the Camino Frances each day, given the terrain and gradient, to get them to their destinations on time. They’ll stay in hand-picked accommodation, so they can refuel and rest their weary bodies each day and will be wearing lightweight ultra-runner gear, carrying lightweight backpacks with all their gear for the whole Camino packed in.

The Camino on the Run training started in March 2018 and Agnieszka and Marek will fly to Biarritz in France on August 18th. Two days later, they will start their run from the quaint old town of St Jean Pied de Port in the magnificent French Pyrenees. The couple hope to reach Santiago de Compostela ten days later on August 29th and will fly back to Dublin after a well-earned couple of days rest and relaxation.

How You Can Support Camino on the Run

If you’d like to track their journey, Follow the Camino will be sharing updates over the next few months. You can also go to their Facebook Page or Instagram Page where information on training runs, marathons and fundraising events will be published. Remember to shout Buen Camino to them if you’re at any of their training marathons and they might even have a surprise for you!

Agnieszka and Marek are hoping to raise €5,000 which will provide rehabilitation support for Mirek for six months. Mirek’s belief is that doing good always has a way of coming back to you so please help Mirek to realise his dreams. If you’d like to support him and donate to this cause, please go to  https://www.gofundme.com/running500milesformirek

Your Camino Training Plan

There’s no set Camino training plan required in order to complete your journey. The Camino de Santiago is an all-inclusive experience that welcomes people of all levels of fitness. At the end of the day, the physical challenge of the Camino is about making it to Santiago de Compostela. Some people take longer than others and everyone gets there in their own time.

The training you might undertake is also dependent on the stage of the Camino that you are planning to walk. For example, you will need more practice to cross the Pyrenees than the Meseta (a relatively flat area in the middle of the French Way). Any preparation before your departure date will be a massive benefit to you during the journey and will also reduce the chances of injury.

An important thing you’ll need to consider for walking the Camino is your footwear. You can either wear hiking shoes or boots depending on your personal preference. Boots are typically heavier and may be uncomfortable for some, particularly in the summer and while walking on more level sections. We recommend using lighter hiking shoes or even trainers on the Camino pilgrimage as they are light, durable and discrete. Hiking shoes will also last 2–3 years so are definitely worth investing in.

The best way to begin your training is really just to start walking and go from there. A good time to get your programme started would be about 3 months before your walking holiday. Here’s a PDF version of the Camino Training Plan that you can use to get started.

Follow the Camino - Camino Training Plan

Check out the essential items you’ll need to bring when Packing Your Bag for the Camino de Santiago.

Tips to Make Your Camino Training Easier

  • Start as soon as you can, the more training you do, the better you will feel for it when out on the Camino.
  • Combine both flat and mountainous terrain. This will help strengthen the relevant leg muscles
  • Gradually increase the distances you are walking. You don’t need to do this on every walk, but at least once a week.
  • Make sure if you don’t normally walk with a backpack that you start wearing one when out walking. (If you have booked your luggage transfer with us you only need to practice with a small daypack.)
  • If you’re getting walking shoes, make sure to wear them as much as possible to ensure they are well broken in before your Camino.
  • Listen to music. It really helps the time go by and can help keep you motivated.
  • Walk with a friend. This lets you spend time with a friend catching up whilst also getting your Camino training in.
  • Use an app or fitness gadget to keep track of your progress and to keep you motivated as you see the number of steps you walk add up.
  • Choose different routes so you don’t get bored. This will also help you to tackle different terrains.
  • Pick a time of day that suits your schedule so you can more easily stick to your Camino training.
  • Listen to your body when walking. If your shoes are pinching or rubbing next time you wear them you should use a blister plaster as a preventative measure or try different socks.
  • Find a walking group – in most areas you can easily find a walking group to join. Have a quick search online to find one near you. It’s also a great way to meet other people that have similar interests. If you’re in Ireland, check out our Events page to see when our next Camino Training is happening.

10 Benefits of Walking

1. Weight loss – walking is an easy way to start burning calories.
2. Lowers blood pressure – walking is an easy, drug-free approach to help lower your blood pressure.
3. Strengthens bones and joints – walking is a gentle exercise that helps strengthens your joints. The more steady you are on your feet the less likely you are to fall, particularly in older age.
4. Reduces the risk of heart disease – when you’re walking, the heart will become more efficient at delivering oxygen to the muscles. Like all muscles, they benefit from exercise.
5. Reduces the risk of diabetes – walking means you are using your muscles more which in turn means that they are using more glucose. This has been shown to lower your blood sugar levels.
6. Good for your mental health – walking can allow you time for your mind to relax which in turn will improve your mood.
7. Improve your balance and coordination – as mentioned, walking is good for your bones and joints which in turn improves your balance and coordination. As we get older, it’s important to keep active so that we’re not easily put off balance or fall and potentially fracture something!
8. Improves sleep – going for a good walk will help you get a good night’s sleep as it will give your brain time to relax and will alsotire your muscles so you’ll be glad to jump into bed at night – even a bit earlier depending on how big a walk you did that day!
9. Get your Vitamin D from the Sun – walking means you’re outside and getting Vitamin D, which your body needs so it can absorb calcium which in turn helps with bone strength.
10. Everyone can do it, just take the first step – walking is very accessible, you just need to start. Try getting on or off the bus a stop earlier, take the stairs when you can, or leave the car at home and walk into town.

If you still need motivation, here our some of our favourite walking quotes:

If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress – Barack Obama

When walking, you see things that you miss in a motor car or on the train. You give your mind space to ponder – Tom Hodgkinson

Feel free to contact us at info@followthecamino.com for any questions you have on the Camino tours.

Royal Palace or Castle of Olite

The Palace of the Kings of Navarre of Olite or Royal Palace or Castle of Olite is a courtly building with military characteristics. It was built during the 13th and 14th centuries in the town of Olite, it was one of the seats of the Court of the Kingdom of Navarre, under the reign of Charles III “the Noble”.
The castle-palace was the residence of the kings and queens of the kingdom of Navarre until its union with Castile in the 16th century. It was declared a National Monument in 1925. During the 13th-15th centuries, it underwent several transformations, although the most important developments took place at the time of King Charles III, the Noble. Visitors can tour the Old Palace today as it has been converted into a Parador Hotel. You can then continue on to the Gothic church of Santa María and the Romanesque church of San Pedro, with its cloister and Gothic tower crowned by a spire.

History Castle of Olite

It was Charles III of Navarre who in the 15th century began the extension of the former castle, leading to the Palace of the Kings of Navarre. Almost everyone calls it “castle”, however, it is right to refer to it as “palace”. The reason being it is a building of courtly character, where the residential aspects have prevailed over the military characteristics.

Fun activities that occurred include jousting tournaments, bullfights, and weddings. An important aspect to the palace was Basque pelota, which is the name for a variety of different sports played on a court.

Palace Rooms

Interior of Castle Olite

The palace was so extravagant that people of that era used to say that the building has more rooms than days in a year. It even used to be home to a zoo and admired hanging gardens.
Some of the many grand and famous rooms include:

  • Sala de las excavaciones: Excavation’s room
  • Sala de los Arcos: Arch’s room
  • Cuerpo principal or Gran Torre: Main body or Great Tower
  • Torre del Homenaje: Tower of Homage
  • Sala de la Reina: Queen’s room
  • Sala del Rey: King’s room
  • Cámara de los Yesos or Sala Mudéjar: Plasters’s chamber or Mudéjar room
  • Galería del Rey or Galería Dorada: Gallery’s King or Golden gallery
  • Galería de la Reina: Queen’s gallery
  • Torre de Fenero: Fenero’s tower
  • Torre de la Atalaya, del Vigía or de la Joyosa Guarda
  • Torre de los cuatro vientos o de las Tres Grandes Finestras: The Four Winds’s tower or the Big Three Finestras’s tower
  • Torre del Aljibe: Cistern’s tower
  • Torre de las Tres Coronas or Ochavada: The Three Crowns’ tower or Octagonal tower
  • Capilla de San Jorge: St. George’s chapel
  • Patio de la Morera: Morera’s courtyard
  • Patio de la Pajarera: Aviary’s courtyard

Royal Extravagance

One of its main attractions of this building is the apparent disorder of its design. Its construction was never a result of an overall plan. The final design was the result of ongoing expansions and reforms that followed for centuries. The then King of Navarre, Charles III “The Noble”, decided to convert the existing palace to a permanent royal seat and give it its very own ornaments.

The set consists of its rooms, gardens, and moats, surrounded by high walls and topped by numerous towers, give a spectacular and magical figure. In its time, came to be regarded as one of the most beautiful in Europe. It can clearly differentiate two areas: the Old Palace, become in Parador Nacional de Turismo, and the New Palace.
After the invasion of Navarre in 1512 by the Crown of Castile and Aragon unified, began the deterioration of the palace, as it was only used by the viceroys as residence sporadic. The state of abandonment in which was immersed in the palace it was progressively deteriorating.

The hanging gardens were home to plants that were dangled over 20 meters high. To ensure the courtyard would not cave in as a result of the massive pots, a cave was built directly below. This cave is known as Sala de los Arcos (Room of Arches) or Sala de los Murciélagos (Room of Bats).

The past zoo was a former home to giraffes, lions, camels, and many different species of birds. The remains of the aviary still are present, called Patio de la Pajarera.

Destruction and Rebuilding

In 1813, the palace was almost completely ruined by a fire directed by the guerrilla Espoz y Mina during the Peninsular War (1813), fearing that on it was fortified the French troops of Napoleon.
Restorations to bring the castle back to its prior glory were completed in 1967 and funded by the Foral Government of Navarre.

Check out the history of the Roman Walls of Lugo here

Feel free to contact us at info@followthecamino.com for information on walking the Camino, the Camino de Santiago tours or our services.

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palacio_Real_de_Olite
http://www.spain.info/en/conoce/monumentos/navarra/castillo_-_palacio_de_olite.html
https://www.eyeonspain.com/blogs/spains-top-ten/15340/the-castle-of-olite-in-10-facts.aspx
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palace_of_the_Kings_of_Navarre_of_Olite

Further photographs and Tourist information available on the websites below:
http://www.tabblo.com/studio/stories/view/368352/ – more photos
http://www.spain.info/en/conoce/monumentos/navarra/castillo_-_palacio_de_olite.html – Tourist information

 

To Carry or Not To Carry? The Luggage Transfer Dilemma

Many people who consider a walking holiday along the Camino de Santiago often worry if they’ll be weighed down with heavy bags or suitcases for the duration of their trip and wonder how they’d manage to carry a full load for over 20kms per day. Surely the walking for long periods of time every day has to be enough chicken soup for the soul right?

This is where we come to the rescue and tell you about our full luggage transfer service.

With our luggage transfer option, you can have up to 15kg per person transported to your accommodation every day that you’re walking. This means there is no need to carry more than a small backpack with just your essentials in it each day.  That’s a load off, right!

This option is included with all our Camino Holidays and is available on its own for the chancers not choosing to book hotels in advance. Book your luggage transfers only here!

All you need to do is leave your suitcase labelled with your name at the hotel reception at 8:00 am when you are heading off for the Camino.

It will be transferred and waiting prettily for you in your next hotel room. Voilà!

Dilemma solved!

Top walking holidays trips on the Camino de Santiago and beyond in 2017

Looking for a hassle free walking holiday adventure through beautiful scenery?  We organise everything for you from airport and luggage transfers to accommodation in hotels with an en-suite and places to eat etc. Check out our staff picks for the top walking holidays trips in 2017.

 

French Way 8/8 – Walk the last 100km to Santiago

This is the classic final section of the French Way to Santiago de Compostela which meets the criteria to receive the Compostela. The French Way or Camino Frances is the most traditional of all the pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, dating from the Codex Calixtinus or 12th century. The French Way 8/8 starts in Sarria and it is well marked with “Scallop shells” to Santiago throughout the hilly landscapes with historic buildings, churches along the way in Galicia, Spain. Check out our Camino walking package for French Way 8/8 here.

 

Camino Portuguese Coastal Route

Surf and turf combines history with some of the best sandy beaches in the world. It is the road less travelled but had some notable visitors including Christopher Columbus after his return from America (Baiona). It’s perfect for those with a sense of adventure after walking the French Way or Classic Portuguese Way. The walk is gentle and flat mainly following cobble stone, tarmac or wooden paths. This route has a higher standard of accommodation as you pass through Porto, Biona, Oia and Vigo before you merge for the last 4 days with classic Portuguese Way. Get ready for sand, sea and spectacular scenery. Check out our Camino walking package for Camino Portuguese Coastal Route here.

 

Tour Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc is one of Europe’s most popular long distance hikes. It is suitable for all hill walkers as it is not technical. This trip is a great way to approach mountaineering. This iconic walking trail through the Alps passes through three countries offering three diverse experiences: the Italian slopes with their large rock faces; the Swiss slopes with their soft valleys; and the French glacial slopes. Each of these valleys showcases unforgettable views and each has its own individual character. Check out our walking holiday package for Tour Mont Blanc here.

 

Tuscany

Situated on the west coast of Italy by the Mediterranean sea, Tuscany is steeped in natural beauty, history and culture. Rows of slender cypress trees rise and fall amongst the green brown contours of the Tuscan hills. Here you will discover peace and calm. Walking trails in Tuscany are graded “easy” as there are no technical difficulties. Check out our walking holiday package for Tuscany here.

 

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre encompasses five beautiful coastal medieval villages:  Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of a national park of the same name.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Get ready for some spectacular sea views, freshest local cuisine and the best pesto in Italy!  Check out our walking holiday package for Cinque Terre here.

 

Via Francigena

The way crosses all of Italy from North to South passing through some of  the most beautiful areas of the country such as the Alps, tuscany, the countryside of Lazio and Rome. The Route was written down by the 10th century archbishop of Canterbury, Sigeric the Serious, when he returned to Canterbury after being ordained Cardinal by the Pope. Together with the Way of Saint James and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the via Francigena is one of the most important pilgrimage routes. Check out our Camino walking package for Via Francigena here.

If you are looking to speak to our walking holiday experts, contact us here.

What to do for a Week After the Camino de Santiago

Each time I walked the Camino de Santiago I took some time at the end to be a tourist and relax for a while.  I have walked the Camino Frances twice and a part of the Le Puy route in France.  For me it would be a missed opportunity not to enjoy more of the country I am in after travelling so far.

My experiences are not for everyone, so I reached out on Facebook and asked “What did you do or would you do after the Camino de Santiago?”  Below are my experiences and a mixture of all the great suggestions I received.

Keep Walking

keep walking to finisterra muxiaThere were a few suggestions like this.  Many, after reaching Santiago de Compostela decide to walk to Finisterre and/or Muxia.  After finishing my first Camino in 2004 I took a bus to Finisterre and walked back for two days.  My plan was to walk to Santiago again, but after two days of pouring raining I gave up and hopped on a bus.

I had lots of spare time that year, it being my first summer as a mature student, and I had arranged to walk part of the Camino Aragon with the friend who had convinced me that I would love the Camino (he was right).

I walked with him for three days on The Camino Aragon.  This route is very different from the Frances. It is much quieter, hillier, and overall easier to get lost.  That year, it was exactly what I needed; time still walking to process my first pilgrimage that had surprised me in so many ways.

Go to the Beach

visit the beach after walking the camino de santiagoAfter I left Daragh, I headed down the coast to the Costa Dorada to enjoy a beach holiday with family.  This had been arranged before leaving for the Camino. Obviously, I could not take account of what I would want after walking a pilgrimage, although maybe an unwilling one.

The beach holiday which I would have enjoyed in thepast was in a tourist area that was too busy and devoid of the spirituality and helpfulness I had enjoyed while walking the Camino.  Looking back, a lot of my unhappiness with that holiday was just me.  Spirituality is available pretty much everywhere, it was just new to me at the time and therefore fragile.

There were many suggestions on Facebook about beach destinations and sun holidays. You can fly easily and cheaply from Santiago de Compostela to almost anywhere in Europe or Spain.  These were the main suggestions: travel down the coast to Portugal, Majorca, Tenerife, Malaga, and a few of the usual tourist destinations in Spain.  But, don’t forget Finisterre has a great beach and if you have walked there it can be a great place to relax away from the bustle for a few days.

Portugal is interesting as you can stay in places that are on the beach and on the Camino Portuguese – and not as busy as the Spanish resorts. Anywhere north of Porto up to Viana do Castelo was on the suggestions list, though I have not been there and cannot vouch for it.

Mari suggested staying close, specifically Sanxenxo which is south of Santiago and just off the Camino Portuguese, which means you could walk most of the way there.  This has the benefit of just a short bus or train ride as it is still in Galicia.  The beach is beautiful and considered the best in Galicia, but that also makes it one of the most expensive places to holiday in Galicia.

If you like surfing perhaps somewhere near Bilbao would be for you.  This area apparently has the best waves along the north coast of Spain.

Stay in Santiago or Close By

Maggie suggested a few nights here at Pazo de Galegos.  This is her description: “I discovered a little gem at the end of the Camino Sanabres. Just 13km outside Santiago de Compostela, a lovely hotel and bodega. I visited for a drink on my last evening before arriving into Santiago. The host is very welcoming and extremely interesting and the situation is tranquil and beautiful. I would love a night or two here. A room for two in early June is a very reasonable €75 per night. A fabulous place to wind down in luxurious surroundings.”

Stay in Santiago

Many others suggested staying for a few nights in Santiago, catching up with fellow pilgrims and taking in the city.  Santiago is not a large city, so you can walk around easily.  I am not a fan of spending much time in cities, I live in one, but a couple of days in Santiago for me is a culinary delight as I love seafood and there is a great choice in Santiago.

Everyone will likely visit the cathedral, but take a stroll across the square and visit the Parador, it is worth the visit.

Spend Time in a Retreat or as a Volunteer 

Retreat after camino de santiagoSome look for peace and quiet after their Camino.  There are two retreats I know of in the Monastery de Oseira and the Monastery de Santa Maria de Sobrado.  The latter is on the Camino Norte and is also a pilgrim’s hostel.

There are various opportunities to volunteer to help in hostels along the Camino.  There is no central place to find these and you are best checking out the forums and askingyour home Confraternity who will likely run one or more hostels.

The pilgrims’ office also has a chapel for prayer and reflection and now has a large garden where you can relax.

Visit Madrid, Barcelona or Paris

visit other cities like BarcelonaFollowing on from above, Johnnie suggested buying a bono for the Paradors.  You can stay several nights in a Parador and enjoy fairly high discounts, so instead of paying €195 per night the cost is only €100 per night.  It is great value if you travel for a few days in Spain and travel between destinations that have Paradors.

Many other suggestions were visiting Madrid, Barcelona and Paris.  If you have not already visited these cities, it is well worth taking the extra time and choosing one – especially if you have flown over the Atlantic to get here.

Barcelona is likely the most out of the way for pilgrims coming to or leaving Spain, but it comes top in the Facebook suggestions as places to see.  I spent two days there and can highly recommend.  Many from North America fly in and out of Madrid, so it makes sense to get a train from Santiago back to Madrid and enjoy the city.  You will find lots to see and do in Madrid. I have been there several times and highly recommend it outside of July and August when the temperatures are in the high 30 Celsius.

I hope this short guide has given you a few suggestions on what to do for a week after the Camino de Santiago.  Interestingly, one of the suggestions was not where to go, but what to eat.  It was simply stated “eat non pilgrim meals”.

Leslie Gilmour

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is a Roman Catholic cathedral in the Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain.

The cathedral is the resting place of the remains of Saint James the Greater who is one of the apostles of Jesus Christ.  As a result of this, it is the destination for pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) and has been since the Middle Ages. The building is a predominantly Romanesque structure with later additions adding both Gothic and Baroque features.

History of the Cathedral

Declared Historic-Artistic Monument in 1986.Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

After St James was beheaded his remains were returned to Galicia where he had been spreading the word of Jesus.  Over time the location of his remains was lost until the 9th Century when they where rediscovered by a hermit.  Bishop Teodomiro of Iria Flavia recognised the discovery as a miracle and informed  King Alfonso 2nd “The Chaste”  who ordered a modest church to be erected on the site.  Over the years various Kings wanted to leave their mark and so the church was expanded.  This was also recognition of the growing number of pilgrims to the shrine.

In 1075 after a period of increasing numbers of pilgrims and stability from Arab attacks a new construction was begun.  This was during the reign of Alfonso 6th and under the direction of Archbishop Diego de Peláez. Work started on the Romanesque cathedral, continued during the period of Archbishop Diego Gelmírez, and did not stop until it became the large building we can see today.

The cathedral is built in granite masonry with roofs in slabs of the same material. It is a Romanesque construction on a Latin cross ground plan, with a longitudinal arm and transept in three aisles, an ambulatory in the sanctuary and a tribune that runs along the whole perimeter; side chapels are arranged along the whole interior with their own individual space.

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela The Acibechería facade is Neo-Classical (Ventura Rodríguez and Lois Monteagudo). The Praterías facade is Romanesque and a paradigm of medieval religious art. The Baroque Puerta Santa, (1611) is only opened in Holy Years. The Obradoiro facade (Fernando Casas y Novoa, 1738-1750) is a combination of stone and glass, with a remarkable large window in the central section, among the largest prior to the Industrial Revolution.

The Cathedral is currently undergoing restoration so when you visit there will be scaffolding on parts of the Cathedral.  However, this does not take away too much from the beauty of the Cathedral, particularly as you can see sections that have been restored.  Currently, the schedule has the full restoration to be complete by 2020.  Update: The Cathedral has announced that they hope to have the scaffolding down from the facade from March 2018.  They will also be starting to work on the restoration of the inside which will prevent the use of the botafumeiro.

In special religlous events, visitors may have the chance to see the unique ceremony of the botafumeiro, a spectacular incensory made of silver-plated brass, weighing eighty kilos, whose original purpose was to perfume the church which tended to smell rather strong during the pilgrim mass after 100s of pilgrims had made their way across the continent by foot for months at a time.

It hangs on a rope from the centre of the transept, and it is moved from its stationary position by being pushed. As it swings like a pendulum, eight men (called tiraboleiros) let out rope at the apex of the swing and pull on it at the lowest point. This amplifies the incensory’s oscillation swinging it to 21 metres up in the top of the vault, in a 65-metre arc along the transept from the Azabachería to the Praterias doorways. It passes along at floor level at a speed of 68 km/h, leaving behind it a fine trail of smoke and a fragrance of incense.

The Squares around the Cathedral

Ther are four impressive plazas in front of each of the four doors of the cathedral:

Plaza's of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

  • Plaza del Obradoiro

The main plaza was given the name of Obradoiro (workshop in English), as for nearly ten years, between 1738 and 1747, the Obradoiro, was where the stones for the Baroque facade were cut and carved. This part was the work of the Galician architect Fernando Casas e Novoa.  It replaced the early Romanesque facade. The towers on this side reach a height of 74 metres tall.

Along the other side the Palacio de Xelmírez, still thrives.  Built in the XII century at the same time as the early Romanesque cathedral. The canons now reside on the opposite side now which houses the Cathedral Museum.

  • Praza da Acibechería

The Praza da Acibechería is the first square you arrive in to when you get to Santiago by the French Road. It was known as the Puerta del Paraíso or Door of Paradise but, was replaced by the present neo-classical style square in the XVIII century. The craft of jet working which is closely linked to the Pilgrimage, prospered in Santiago from the XV century onwards. The square would have been buzzing with the workshops and stalls.

  • Praza das Praterías

On the opposite side, the door of the southern arm of the cathedral’s cross aisle preserves all the traditional and conventional images and symbols associated with St. James and the Camino de Santiago.  Also the richness of the Romanesque art of Compostela’s golden age is the Porta das Praterías. Beside it stands the Torre do Reloxo, (Clock Tower) or the Berenguela, of Baroque style, as are the other buildings surrounding this square, except the building of the old Bank of Spain, that is nowadays being prepared to house the Museo das Peregrinacións (Pilgrimage Museum) of Santiago.

  • Praza de A Quintana

Right behind the cathedral is the wide open space of the Praza da Quintana. The Porta Santa or Holy Door, which faces this square is only open in the Compostela Holy Year, when the festival of the Apostle St. James happens on the 25 July and falls on a Sunday.  This square is split over two levels.  The upper level is known as Quintana de Vivos (`Quintana´ of the Living) and the lower level and larger area is known as Quintana de Mortos(`Quintana´ of the Dead).  This area was until 1780 a burial ground.

Cathedral of Santiago: Virtual Visit

http://www.turgalicia.es/fotos/IMAGENES/FLASH/ARQUITECTURARELIGIOSANP/vr_catedral/index.html

Here is a list of another three buildings of diverse periods and styles close to the square.

Historical Buildings Santiago de Compostela

Firstly, the Colexio de San Xerome, founded by Bishop Fonseca, with a Romanesque-ogival portal, the Palacio de Raxoi, of XVIII century neo-classical style, which was built as a confessors’ seminary, a choirboys’ residence and town hall for the city. And finally, the Hospital Real, which was ordered to be built by the Catholic Kings to take in pilgrims and where sick people were to be taken care of. It is a fantastic example of Plateresque style which is very unusual in Galicia and therefore has now been renovated into the modern day Parador (hotel).

Recommended songs for walking the Camino de Santiago

Staying motivated during your walk is a key to a successful Camino. The best way to make the time fly if you are out walking on your own is to listen to music.

Our tip: Create an album composed of songs that you haven’t listened too in a while. This will ignite a trip down memory lane whilst you walk. Another option is create a playlist of your favourite songsthat lasts at least 30 minutes or longer. In no time you will have got through your playlist and got your steps in. Listening to your favourite songs can definitely put you in a good mood. You can even pick songs with different rhythms and match your walking speed to the songs – walk faster during more up tempo songs and then take a relaxed pace during slower songs.

We created this playlist of some of our favorites:

Tracklist

[1] It’s a Long Way To Tipperary – Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag – Robert Mandell

[2] David Kinsella – From Leap to Santiago

[3] John Denver – Take Me Home, Country Roads

[4] Neil Young – My my, hey hey (Out of the blue)

[6] Louis Armstrong – What a wonderful world

[7] John Lennon – Imagine

[8] Amos Lee – Windows Are Rolled Down

[9] OneRepublic – I Lived

[10] TobyMac – Move (Keep Walkin’)

[11] S Club 7- Reach For The Stars

[12] The Proclaimers-500 miles

[13] Miley Cyrus-The Climb

[14] Peaceful Easy Feeling  The Eagles

[15] Bon Jovi – Its my life

[16] Bruce Springsteen – If I Should Fall Behind

To read an interview with musician David Kinsilla who has released an album inspired by Galician music and the Camino de Santiago, click here.

Festivals in Spain in October

The Spaniards have plenty of traditional and fun festivals to offer all throughout the year and October is no exception. Choose your favourite and let us know. Here are some festivals you can go to before, during or after you Camino de Santiago tour in October.

 

Festival de Otono Festival Otono

The Festival de Otono is an annual festival in Madrid that starts in October and runs until April. Running since 1983 this festival has plenty of mouth dropping art events and the cities are decorated with pompous dancers and theatrical performances. The theme of the performances focuses on its people and their lifestyle. For the performers, originally the festival was to show what was happening around the world. But today, the purpose is more for the growth of artists and finding new talents among the young generations. This is a big festival and you might see your favourite stars enjoying the festival with you.

San Froilán (Lugo, León)

San FroilanThe San Froilán Festival takes place in Lugo (on the Original Way) and León (on the French Way)  from the 4th – 12th October. This festival is in honour of the patron saint of the area San Froilán. During this festival, there will be parades, street entertainment and on the last day of the festival, there is a Medieval Fair with falconry and a banquet. Here you can see people dressed in medieval fashion and enjoy the unique atmosphere of celebrating medieval times. Decorated cars and animals dressed in medieval ornaments are the norm on the day. There is also a trolley competition that locals are enthusiastic to participate in. Trolleys are decorated in flowers and their local products. One of the stand out days is Sunday 11th October when O Domingo das Mozas takes place and is dedicated to traditional Galician costumes and folklore.

Dia de la Hispanidad (Hispanic Day)Dia de la Hispanidad

This takes place on the 12th of October and is in celebration of the Virgen del Pilar, the national patroness of Spain. A proud military forces march in Madrid on this day and it came to be known as the Day of the Armed Forces Parade. Foreign embassies and officials can be seen in attendance during this time. It also commemorates the day when Christopher Columbus first set foot in the Americas in 1492 or the time before Columbus had arrived in Mexico and is known as “Columbus Day”. Although the day is celebrated in many countries today, it originally came from Argentina, curiously. Spain followed their example a year later. Please note, there are many businesses closed on this day.

Bilbao Night MarathonBilbao Night Marathon

This is one of the most popular night marathons in Europe and takes place on the 18th of October outside of the famous Guggenheim Museum. Anyone can take part in the marathon. The runners can enjoy the city views from places they might not have before. This is just one of the many economic activities the Bilbao people are trying out for the city. However, as you are walking the Camino we would recommend observing rather than running. Instead, take the time to immerse yourselves in the vibrant atmosphere.

 

Halloween

Halloween is not as widely celebrated in Spain as it is in other parts of the world, at least in the traditional sense. It is called the All Souls’ Day in Spain and is quite a religious festival that sets it apart from the rest of Europe. Every region in Spain has a unique aspect that sets them apart. Parts of Northern Spain will celebrate Halloween with parties and bonfires which are said to keep away bad spirits. People do a ritual chant when it is night time and drink a burning beverage that’s said to be made of fire. Children still trick or treat although it is not as popular as it is in the US. There are plenty of events and activities for the entire week at the end of October as well, themed accordingly, which brings us to our next festival. 

San Sebastian Horror and Fantasy Film Festival San Sebastian Horror & Fantasy Film Festival image

From 31st October to 6th November, the annual Horror and Fantasy Film festival is held in San Sebastian. It is considered one of the most renowned festivals in Europe. During this festival, there is a wide range of horror films screened at various venues, particularly at the Teatro Principal, together with outdoor performances, comedy events, street theatre, and horror-related exhibitions. This is certainly no place for the faint-hearted. If you are walking on the Northern Way or Camino del Norte be sure to check out this festival in San Sebastian.

 

Guitar Festival in Seville and Jazz Festival in Barcelona

For those walking the Spanish Way, it is totally normal for musicians to choose this route just for the art showcases on their way – Seville is a favourite destination for many pilgrims. The Guitar Festival of Seville takes place from the 14th to 21st of October. You can enjoy classic guitar performances in the city. Barcelona, on the other hand, is further from the Camino Way but the place is famous for its festivities and a general holiday destination. You can enjoy the Jazz festival after or before you start your walk. There are more music festivals in different parts of Spain for those who are interested.

We have several blog posts on Spanish festivals and some of them are entirely dedicated to certain months of the year. If you have read them, you might be thinking if the Spanish ever stop celebrating. The answer is a big NO. The Spanish culture is one that should be celebrated and its creative artistic talents can only ever feel relief with frequent exhibitions and performances. They certainly know how to enjoy themselves in this fast-moving world and every traveller who attends the festivals will vouch for this. So for pilgrims and travellers passing by the city, it would be a shame to miss these Spanish spectacles.

If you would like to take part in any of the Camino festivals along the Camino de Santiago routes, contact our Camino experts at info@followthecamino.com

 

All You Need to Know about the Le Puy Route- History and the Journey

Le Puy route, or Via Podiensis as it is known in France, is one of the four main pilgrimages through France heading toward Santiago where the tomb of St. James is said to be. The route was traditionally used by French pilgrims but also by other nationalities coming through Switzerland and from even further back in Germany, Austria, Poland and the Czech and Slovak republics. It joins with the routes from Paris and Vézelay on the French side of the Pyrenees. This route leaves from Le-Puy-en-Velay, an area in south-central France near the Loire River.

The terrain of this route varies but can be strenuous as it passes through the Pyrenees and different land types. There is also snow in the Aubrac during the winter and early spring.

This route ends at Saint Jean Pied de Port, but many chose to continue on to Santiago de Compostela via the French Way. This way dates back to Codex Calixtinus from the 12th century and is by far the most known Camino route internationally. This particular route is depicted in the popular film “The Way”, starring Martin Sheen. This movie has revived many people’s interests in taking this route. To complete this journey all the way to Santiago, it takes over a month. To learn basic french terms for the Le Puy Route, click here.

History

Le Puy Route

Pilgrims have been traveling to Santiago de Compostela for over a thousand years. Godescalc, Bishop of Le Puy went there in 951 A.D. and is said to be one of the first. At the height of its popularity in the middle ages over half a million people made the pilgrimage from different parts of Europe each year, many of them walking through the Le Puy route.

This pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela has been popular ever since the remains of Saint James the Greater were found there. The significance of completing the walk at Santiago de Compostela is that the cathedral was built to honor Saint James, an apostle of Jesus who is said to have brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula. Saint James was beheaded and said to have been the first apostle martyred for his faith.

His body was brought back to Galacia, Spain and a tomb was built for him. This tomb soon became abandoned because of the heavy prosecution that Spanish Christians were facing at this time. Eventually, the tomb became rediscovered and King Alphonse II had a chapel built and named Saint James the patron saint of his empire.

The most popular era of this pilgrimage was between 1000 and 1500 A.D., even though numbers have dwindled at times due to political, social and cultural factors there has always been a steady stream of pilgrims trudging westward through France and Spain to Santiago.

Le Puy-en-Velay Le Puy en Velay

The Le Puy Route is very popular with French and German pilgrims as it runs from the heart of France into the popular French Way.

The Le Puy route stretches from Le Puy-en-Velay to the Pyrenees talking the pilgrim through hilly regions, over rivers, through lush countryside and through rustic villages, eventually joining up with the Camino Frances in St Jean Pied de Port, which continues on to Santiago de Compostela. To discover famous landmarks and landscapes along this route, click here.

The Journey

To walk the full way, the journey takes about 33 days, covering about 750 kilometres. This route is unique because you are not only crossing France North to South, but also East to West. The different people and landscapes you come across will vary immensely as you will be crossing through small villages, volcanic landscapes, as well as the Pyrenees. Many of the villages you will come across are small mountain towns and you will reach a new one every 10 or 12 kilometers or so.

 

Festivals on the Camino in September

As the world is full of wonders and breath-taking fascinations, it is easy to miss what is happening around you. We from Follow The Camino make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to attend some great festivals when you are walking the Way. Here are some of the best festivals on the Camino de Santiago tours in September.

San Sebastian Film festival

From the 18th to 26th September, an international film festival is held in San Sebastian. When it was first founded in 1952, other films has also entered the scene, helping its popularity. Today, the San Sebastián International Film Festival is an annual FIAPF A category film festival and have been put amongst the other 13 A category festivals since 1957. This is one of the major competitive film festivals in Europe alongside Berlin and Cannes even though it has the lowest budgets. It was also where the international premiere of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo took place. San Sebastian is the starting point of the Camino del Norte route going towards Bilbao. During the festival, the atmosphere in San Sebastian is glamorous and cosmopolitan with various high-profile actors and directors descending on the city.

Rioja Grape Harvest Festival

At the end of September, the land of wine, Logrono, celebrates the Rioja Grape Harvest Festival which is traditionally known as the festivities of San Mateo, the patron saint of Logrono. During this festival, there are a number of activities for those walking the Camino to enjoy. Among the most popular are bullfighting, parades with floats, music and fireworks. Tastings and demonstrations of grapes for wine being crushed underfoot are other activities to see. Children can also participate in wine treading or in the parade that goes from the Town Hall to Glan Via, the famous wine fountain which spews wine coloured water into the sky. The festival is in honour of the Virgen de Valvanera, La Rioja Patrón. Logrono is on the Camino Frances route. This is the wine paradise for those of you travellers in love with this holy beverage.

Fiesta de la Virgen de la Vega

On the 8th of September, we celebrate the feast of the Virgen de Valvanera that started out as simple livestock and agricultural fair. The legend has it that a virgin helped Salamanta defend the city from invaders in 1706 during the War of Spanish Succession.On the first day of the festival, salmantinos who are dressed in their traditional attires put flower in front of the virgin’s statue in her honour in gratitude. During the festival, street shows, concerts, and pop-up parties can be enjoyed by all. This year, the celebration includes the Etnohelmántica Festival, Street Arts Festival, Medieval Market, Fair Day, and bullfighting. There are simply great many things to see here that even for adventurers who end up in places with no plan, you will have enjoyed yourself beyond expectation. Pontevedra is on the Portuguese Way.

Romería de Nuestra Señora de la Barca

The Finisterre Way or Muxia Way is part of the Romería de Nuestra Señora de la Barca. This festival is held in the idyllic village of the Costa da Morte, its name in the Galician language means the end of the world, fisterra. The first Sunday after the 8th of September is the celebration of the Virgen de la Barca Shrine and its mythical rocks which is at a site in Camino dos Faros. The village is heavily Christianized by Catholic church and has many stories about it. One of the many legends that exist in this city is that of a city that was submerged under the water for not adhering to the words of the Apostle Santiago and the beautiful Virgin of the Barca on a stone boat who encouraged Apostle James and gave guidance to the Jerusalem since he had fulfilled his mission. According to the legends, the stone deposited there is from the Stone of Abalar, the boat, and is said to be able to move when it wants to. They celebrate by tasting the caldereta (fish stew) and dancing with the Abalar stone. The dancing involves visitors shaking the stones when they make wishes from the Virgin although it is believed that only the innocent and free from sin can manage this. As such, come see this small village that still preserve its traditions and inetersting religious rituals.

Día de América

On the 19th of September, the Asturias America Day parade takes place in Oviedo, a city renowned for its cultural integration. During the industrial revolution, many Astrias migrated to America in search for a better life and have provided their family back home with their expenses. As there are many Asturian emigrants to America who usually come back from America for the summer. They started a tribute to these people with a parade with colourful floats, music and costumes. The festival is no small matter and during the America Day, the streets are washed anewand there are plenty to see here. People from all over the world gather for this fun festival. Oviedo is the finishing point of the Camino del Norte and the starting point of the Camino Primitivo.

There are also architectural, musical and artistic festivals all lined up in September on the calendar in Spain every year. If you would like to take part in any of the Camino festivals  along the Camino de Santiago routes or would like to get help finding more information to help you set your mind choosing a route, contact our Camino experts.