Trace a thousand-year-old pilgrimage route—the Way of St. James—to the holy city of Santiago de Compostela through some of Europe’s most intriguing landscapes, from the ancient kingdom of Castile to lush, mystical Galicia, a hidden corner of Spain alive with legends and Celtic heritage. We’ve selected the most evocative portions of this footpath for your journey, along sunny country lanes marked with the scallop shell, the symbol of St. James, through mist-shrouded forests of gnarled oaks, and along the beach at Finisterre, the mythical spot of Kilometer 0 on the pilgrim trail. Along the way you’ll relish superb Romanesque architecture, meet fellow pilgrims, and enjoy splendid accommodations in quaint guesthouses and spectacular paradors.
The trip was a fabulous experience—physically, socially,and spiritually. We're impressed with the entire organization and can't wait to travel with Wilderness Travel in 2014. I am already perusing the catalog!
— Paige W., Tucson, AZ
Burgos / León / Astorga
After meeting in historic Burgos, head to the Castilian meseta (high plain) above the remote village of Hontanas. Here we begin to see the trail markers of El Camino (signs displaying stylized yellow scallop shells, the symbol of St. James, with star-rays pointing the way), and join other pilgrims to approach Hontanas on foot. After exploring León’s leafy squares and 12th century frescoes, we continue to the walled city of Astorga.
Cruz de Hiero / O’Cebreiro / Portomarin
Entering rural Galicia, our trail leads through woods to emerge on a dramatic moor of heather and scotch broom, typical of this wild landscape. We’ll hike past ancient thatch-roofed houses, thriving farmsteads, and tiny abandoned villages to Cruz de Hiero, a towering iron cross where for a thousand years pilgrims have carried a single stone from their homeland to make a wish (don’t forget to bring yours!). In the ethereal mountaintop village of O’Cebreiro, we visit a tiny church whose chalice is linked in legend with the Holy Grail, then hike along the green, gently rolling countryside to the whitewashed village of Portomarin.
La Coruña / Santiago de Compostela / Finisterre
Hike backroads that pass through hamlets and farms flanked by ancient grain silos to arrive in Santiago, a medieval city of golden granite, where you’ll join the spectacle of the Pilgrim’s Mass in the extraordinary twin-towered cathedral containing the remains of St. James. The next day, we complete the pilgrimage with a hike to Finisterre—the “End of the Earth”—walking the last part of the Santiago pilgrim trail barefoot along the beach, as tradition dictates. Depart on Day 9 via Santiago de Compostela.