WALK OR CYCLE THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO
Walk, Cycle Or Taste Your Way Along The Camino de Santiago
It’s without a doubt the most famous pilgrimage trail in Europe.
In the 9th century the tomb of the apostle St James was unearthed in Compostela. The site became the focus of a pilgrim trail beginning in France and crossing Northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela.
While there are many different routes to Santiago de Compostela, the most well known of the Camino de Santiago walks (also known as the Compostela Trail or Way of St James) are in France and Spain. With so many options available it can be confusing for the modern day traveller to know exactly which one they should do.
UTracks offers a multitude of walking and cycling options along the Camino de Santiago, the French Way of St James as well as the Portuguese Road, or Caminho Portuguese, and the Camino Primitivo, the Original Way from Oviedo. The following will give you a brief overview of the many choices available but we recommend that you call our team to discuss your needs to ensure you choose the right self guided or small group guided Camino walk or biking trip for you.
Walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain
From the full Spanish Camino, which takes 36 days, to the final 115kms to Santiago from Sarria, which takes just 8 days - and is still long enough for you to receive your official Camino certificate - the options are many with UTracks - in fact, around 18!
A popular place to start is the magnificent cathedral city of Leon. Whilst the self guided walk takes between 15 and 17 days shorter options are possible, many of which take you along highlights of the Camino and not all the way to Santiago. For those wishing to stay pure to the pilgrim path there is also an option to continue walking to the Atlantic Coast from Santiago.
The 'El Camino del Norte', or Camino Norte, offers travellers a chance to walk along some of the original Camino pilgrim route. Sheltered from the rest of the Muslim dominated Iberian Peninsula by the Picos de Europa and Cordillera Cantabrica, it was historically considered the safest route for Christian pilgrims making their way to the tomb of St James.
A less crowded yet equally exciting route also exists from the Portuguese/Spanish border town of Tui to Santiago. Or consider taking the ‘Original Way’ from Oviedo, the Camino Primitivo, through the wild Asturias region to Galicia and the city of Santiago de Compostela.
For a complete overview of the main highlights of northern Spain, which includes visits to more modern icons like the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, check out the Best of the Camino or our popular Food Lover’s Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Cycling the Camino in Spain
For those that prefer two wheels over two feet, or are just short on time, you can cycle from Roncesvalles near the French border all the way to Santiago de Compostela on our self guided Spanish Camino by bike trips. We’ve divided this route into two convenient stages, the first from the foothills of the Pyrenees to Leon over 10 days and the second over 8 days from Leon to Santiago. Good fitness is required as both trips are graded moderate to challenging.
The French Way of St James
Our various walks along the Via Podensis, the French Way of St James, will take you from the the picturesque town of Le Puy en Velay in the volcanic highlands in the Haute Loire region in south central France, all the way to the Pyrenees at St Jean Pied de Port, through the beautiful Sierras of Navarre and Aragon.
The route is best described as a travelling museum of Romanesque art as you pass a multitude of churches and monasteries.
UTracks offers seven different stages along this French section of the Camino, through classic towns such as Conques, Cahors, Rocamadour, Lectoure and Aire sur l’Adour. All walks are self guided and are graded moderate.
For cyclists, there is also a rewarding 700km cycle along the Way of St James in France from Le Puy en Velay to St Jean Pied de Port.
The Portuguese Road or Caminho Portuguese
Considered as the more spiritually connected of all the routes to Santiago, the Portuguese Road walks will provide walkers with a much quieter experience.
Do not mistake the absence of travellers for a lack of interesting sights. The route is beautiful, packed with history, such as a visit to the World Heritage listed Coimbra, Portugal's early medieval capital best known for its university founded in 1290 and will take you through rural regions of Portugal that you may otherwise never experience.
There are four stages between the Portuguese capital of Lisbon and the Spanish cathedral city of Santiago.
When to travel on the Camino
In France and Spain the typical season is between April and October while in Portugal trips depart daily throughout the year.
How fit do I have to be?
It does depend on the exact trip you choose, but generally you will need a good level of fitness with the walking anywhere between 12 and 30kms a day between 4 to 8 hours depending on your pace. Walks are along well marked trails over diverse terrain – from relatively flat to hilly. The accent is on keeping a steady pace to take in all of the attractions, with time to stop and take photos. As we say, the fitter you are the more you will enjoy the trip.
Cycling the Camino is a tougher objective. The cycling is moderate to challenging with daily cycling distances from 30 to 90 kms over undulating to mountainous terrain.
I've never done a self guided trip.
That's fine, there's many who haven't. Route finding is reasonably straight forward along well trodden paths which combined with our detailed maps and notes should not present a problem for those comfortable with such tasks.
Don't hesitate to talk to one of our Camino walking and cycling holiday experts to learn more about your trip along the Camino.