Traveller Tale: Lachlan Walks the Camino del Norte

Never walk alone on the Camino del Norte | Lachlan Baker
Never walk alone on the Camino del Norte | Lachlan Baker

Traveller Tale: Lachlan Walks the Camino del Norte

The Camino del Norte, or Northern Way, follows the northern coast of Spain through dynamic cities such San Sebastian, Santander and Bilbao. It's also a quieter pilgrimage path along Spain's coast that's rising in popularity, especially as it will be featured in the upcoming sequel to The Way.

Discover Lachlan's experiences of the Camino del Norte in his insightful traveller tale. Lachlan is in his early 20's and decided to walk the Camino during a break from his study abroad semester in Europe. While he chose to walk the Camino as a solo traveller, he soon realised that on the Camino, you're never really alone.
Sea cliffs in Asturias |  <i>Lachlan Baker</i>

Why did you decide to walk the Camino del Norte?

I chose this trip as I'm interested in challenging hikes, but also the experiences that come with it. I also heard about the social aspect that complements a Camino trail and that was very appealing.

Enjoying the social aspects of the Camino |  <i>Lachlan Baker</i>

How did you prepare for your walk?

I had completed a few hikes prior to the Camino Norte in Austria (the Karwendel Mountains, as featured on the Trans Tyrol Hike) and Poland (the Carpathian Mountains Walk), some with large elevations and distances up to 30km per day. 
Loving the blue sky day in Poland |  <i>Kate Baker</i>

What was the overall trip highlight?

I started the Camino Norte as a solo traveller but this never meant I walked alone. As I began to walk, I met a bunch of other solo travellers and we walked together for most of my time on the Camino Norte. Everyone was from a different country and there was a great shared vibe in the group. .

Rocky coastline of Northern Spain |  <i>Lachlan Baker</i>

What was it like for you as a young person?

Perfect. The pilgrims who walk the Camino have a range of ages - a Belgian I met was only doing it straight out of school at age 18, while others were in their 50s and older. You will always find someone around your age. Everyone along the way is very nice and helpful so being lonely or unsafe was never a problem.
Make new friends on the Camino del Norte |  <i>Lachlan Baker</i>

What was your favourite town on the Camino del Norte? Why?

My favourite town was Pobeña, just outside of Bilbao. This was where I met most of my friends and the trail had a strong community feel. The beach next to it was massive, which was perfect to rest after a long day of walking. 
Never walk alone on the Camino |  <i>Lachlan Baker</i>
Laredo is a close second, with a very interesting geographic setting, stretching along a large peninsula, and needing a boat ride from the beach to get to the next section of the walk.

What was the scenery like on the Camino del Norte?

There was a wide variety of scenery on the Camino Norte. The coast featured an expanse of large cliffs and beaches which you would have to walk up and down. These trails were littered with blackberries and lots of birds made their homes in the lowland shrubbery. 
Beach walks on the Camino Norte |  <i>Lachlan Baker</i>
Often the trail would weave inland, where you'd come across many farms and huge fields. Occasionally you would walk through forest and built-up neighbourhoods. Sometimes, you would even have to cross a river or traverse a large bay. At one point, the trail diverges, where one section is coastal and the other is mountainous. 
Beautiful cobbled village streets in Spain |  <i>Lachlan Baker</i>
The weather changed a lot through the day from sunny clear skies to wet and grey. Particularly in the Asturias, the mountains affect the weather systems along the coast.
A moody sky overlooks the Camino trail |  <i>Lachlan Baker</i>

What was the local cuisine like? Can you describe your favourite food and drink?

The food on the Camino Norte was brilliant. 
I went through 3 regions on the trail: the Basque, Cantabria and Asturias regions. These all had their own traditions and approaches to food. The Basque region was huge on their tortillas for breakfast, which was my favourite food along the trail and was sought out in every town. 
Spanish tortilla |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
The Asturias region contained a lot of Sidrerias, which sell a special cider of the Asturias region. Fabada Asturiana (a pork and bean stew) and Cachopo (two veal schnitzels that sandwich melted cheese and ham) are also a must try.
You could also get a pilgrim meal along the whole trail, which was often good value and contained a lot of food and wine.
Camino menu in Galicia |  <i>Sue Marr</i>

How challenging did you find the trail?

Mostly the trail is flat and elevations are not huge and I didn't find it that difficult. (Editor's note: Lachlan is a fit 21 year old. Most people find the trail elevations and beach walking challenging at times, interspersed with easier sections of flat and even terrain).
Crossing a bridge on the Camino Norte |  <i>Lachlan Baker</i> Walking through a Spanish village on the Camino del Norte |  <i>Lachlan Baker</i> Walking the Camino del Norte |  <i>Lachlan Baker</i>

What surprised you the most about your Camino del Norte experience?

I did not expect to meet so many people and have such a good time. I went into the trip without any understanding of what it would be like. I ended up making many friends, learning lots of Spanish and simply getting a greater appreciation for different cultures.
Coastal walking on the Camino del Norte |  <i>Lachlan Baker</i>

Can you share advice for other travellers thinking about doing your trip?

 Be respectful of others on the trip and their individual journeys. Also, don’t push yourself too hard if you don’t need to, there is still a long way ahead!
Beach views on the Camino Norte |  <i>Lachlan Baker</i>

About the Camino del Norte

The 'Camino del Norte' originates from the 9th Century and was one of the original Camino routes for pilgrims walking to Santiago de Compostela. Sheltered from the rest of the Muslim dominated Iberian Peninsula by the Picos de Europa and Cordillera Cantabrica, it was considered the safest route for Christian pilgrims making their way to the tomb of St James. 
The full route starts in Irun, near the French border, and joins the French route at Arzua. The UTracks walk starts from chic, gastronomic San Sebastian (Donastia in Basque) and follows the Camino Norte through picturesque fishing villages and fertile valleys to the bustling city of Bilbao, home to the iconic Guggenheim Museum, before continuing along the dramatic coastline through the Asturias region and on to Santiago de Compostela. 
Enjoy a variety of landscapes and architecture, both ancient and modern, while staying in small hotels with local character. The dramatic coastline of the Bay of Biscay and mountain paths make the northern way both challenging and rewarding, whilst the quieter trails offer a great alternative to the more popular Camino Frances route.
Pilgrim art on the Camino trail in Laredo |  <i>Lachlan Baker</i>

Difficulty of the Camino del Norte

The walking is graded moderate to challenging. Daily walks are between 14 and 29km (9 to 17 miles) on well marked trails over diverse terrain – from relatively flat to coastal rocky to mountainous. Part of the route is on paved surfaces – you should pay particular attention to your footwear to ensure that it is suitable to avoid blisters. 
The Camino Norte can be rugged at times |  <i>Lachlan Baker</i>
This is a well worn path where route finding will be reasonably straight forward. The main areas to concentrate on route finding are arriving and leaving towns and cities. The accent is on keeping a steady pace to take in all of the attractions, with time to stop and take photos. You will need a good level of fitness to participate fully in this journey.
Enjoying the Camino del Norte |  <i>Lachlan Baker</i>


Walk the Camino del Norte


Do you want to explore the Camino del Norte trail? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Camino Norte, Camino del Norte, Northern Camino, Spain, Camino de Santiago, Traveller Tale

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