Tracing Hemingway’s Footsteps: A Journey on the Camino de Santiago

hemingway statue

Many worldwide, especially in America, celebrate Ernest Hemingway’s literary work. His most celebrated novels, “The Sun Also Rises,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and “A Farewell to Arms,” are timeless classics that continue to captivate readers. 

Ernest Hemingway writing

But did you know that Hemingway’s travels in Spain during the 1920s influenced his writing?

His deep connection with Spain, particularly in the Basque region and Pamplona, played a crucial role in shaping his writing. Hemingway’s vivid portrayal of Spanish life, especially the San Fermín festival in Pamplona, inspired millions to travel to Spain to experience what he so eloquently described in his novels. 

To truly understand Hemingway as a writer, one should trace his steps through Spain, where the landscapes, culture, and people left a deep mark on his work.

One of the best ways to do this is by walking the Camino de Santiago, a journey that echoes the themes Hemingway explored in his novels.

Ronda, Spain - May 30, 2019: Ernest Hemingway Road sign in the historic city centre.

Hemingway’s Roots and His Impactful Work

Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1899. His experiences as an ambulance driver in World War I, his adventurous spirit, and his love for travel deeply influenced his writing style. Hemingway’s works are known for their terse prose and profound themes of love, loss, war, and the human condition.

“The Sun Also Rises,” published in 1926, stands out as a significant work that introduces readers to Hemingway’s fascination with Spain. The novel portrays a group of expatriates travelling from Paris to Pamplona to witness the Running of the Bulls during the San Fermín festival. This depiction of the festival and the Spanish way of life was instrumental in popularising Pamplona and the festival among international audiences.

The events depicted in “The Sun Also Rises” were somewhat autobiographical to Hemingway’s own life. This “Lost Generation”, as they came to be known after his novel was published, is to this day emblematic to Americans of a sense of wonder attributed to experiencing life in Europe. Many tourists have come from the US, particularly to France and Spain, to try and recapture that spirit of awe found in “The Sun Also Rises”.

In order to write about life first you must live it.

The Spanish Influence on Hemingway’s Work

Hemingway’s numerous visits to Spain allowed him to develop a deep appreciation for its traditions, especially bullfighting, which he considered an art form. His book, “Death in the Afternoon” (1932) explores the intricacies of bullfighting, presenting it as a metaphor for life and death.

Hemingway - bust

The San Fermín festival, which takes place annually in Pamplona, is one of the most famous Spanish festivals described by Hemingway. In “The Sun Also Rises,” Hemingway not only captures the excitement and danger of the Running of the Bulls but also delves into the deeper human emotions and interactions that occur during the festival. This portrayal has drawn many of his readers to Pamplona, eager to experience the thrill and cultural richness firsthand.

Walking the Camino de Santiago: A Journey Through Hemingway’s Spain

The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James, is a network of pilgrimage routes leading to the shrine of the apostle St James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. This journey, which has been undertaken by pilgrims for centuries, offers a unique opportunity to experience the landscapes and cultural heritage that influenced Hemingway’s work.

pilgrims walking the Camino in bush

Starting from Saint Jean Pied de Port in France, the first part of the French Way crosses the Pyrenees and leads to Pamplona, a city that played a significant role in Hemingway’s life and writing. Walking this route allows you to immerse in the same landscapes that Hemingway described, live in the same places Hemingway once stayed in, fostering a deeper connection with his literary world.

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.

Hemingway’s Legacy in Spanish Hostals and Cafés

In a story passed down through generations, it’s said that Hemingway stayed at Hostal Burguete while on his way to Pamplona for the Feast of San Fermín in 1924. Located in the small village of Burguete on the Camino de Santiago, this hostal has preserved a piece of Hemingway’s legacy. In the lobby, you can find a piano with the name E. Hemingway etched on its side, believed to have been carved by the writer himself. In “The Sun Also Rises,” Hemingway’s characters Jake Barnes and Bill Gorton stay at this hostal, where their dining experience with a bowl of vegetable soup and wine inspired the creation of “Hemingway Soup.”

hemingway fishing in black and white

Hostal Burguete is just one of many places in Spain where Hemingway left his mark. Another notable location is the Hotel La Perla in Pamplona, where Hemingway frequently stayed during his visits to the city for the San Fermín festival. Both sites continue to attract and inspire visitors, offering a glimpse into the rich cultural and literary history that Hemingway experienced and wrote about.

Celebrating Spanish Festivals and Culture

Pamplona and the San Fermín festival are just the beginning. Hemingway’s love for Spain extended beyond Pamplona. His novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is set during the Spanish Civil War and captures the spirit of the Spanish people and the tumultuous times they lived through.

By walking the Camino, one can experience various Spanish festivals and cultural events along the way, each reflecting the vibrant traditions that Hemingway cherished. Whether it’s the local cuisine, the architectural marvels, or the warm hospitality of the Spanish people, every step on the Camino offers a glimpse into the Spain that Hemingway loved.

Following Hemingway’s Footsteps

Walk on this pilgrimage to experience the beauty of Spain, the legacy of Hemingway, and the enduring spirit of adventure that defines both the Camino de Santiago and Hemingway’s literary journey.

Ernest Hemingway’s works continue to inspire readers to explore new places and cultures. Walking the Camino de Santiago is not just a physical journey but an opportunity to connect with the rich cultural heritage that influenced one of America’s greatest writers. By tracing Hemingway’s footsteps through Spain, you can gain a deeper understanding of his life, his inspirations, and the timeless appeal of his stories.

Would you also like to Walk in the Footsteps of Literary Giants?

We can help you plan the experience of a lifetime with customised itineraries, 24/7 support, and luxury accommodation options.

Schedule a call with one of our Camino experts to start planning your very own Heming-Way from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Pamplona! 

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