Share in a 1000 year old sense of achievement that will take your breath away!
A coveted linear walk along one of the most ancient pilgrimage routes in the world!
The very best accommodation available: converted water mills, restored parish houses,
Soaring cathedrals, Roman bridges, country chapels and thatched Galician villages
Poppy sprinkled wheat fields, orchid rich water meadows, pine scented woodland
At a glance...
12 nights, hotel-to-hotel
Departs Fridays from 4 Apr '14 to 10 Oct '14
Buffet breakfast and 8 evening meals.
Sustainability rating: 99%
Route notes and maps provided
Varied routes for nature lovers and botanists.
Destinations with bird watching opportunities.
Discover stunning historic sites en-route.
Especailly good for solo travellers.
Perfect for couples.
Following St James' Way
The Way of St James - The Spanish Camino de Santiago - is one of the most ancient walking routes in the world. Ever since the 9C, the 'French Road' has led thousands of pilgrims on an 800km journey across northern Spain, winding from the Pyrenees across the wheat fields of old Castile to pass through Leon - the seat of Spanish kings, full of soaring cathedrals and hushed convents. From Leon, the Camino leads over pine ridges and through oak woods, between lush vineyards and across rushing rivers below castles of the Knights Templar before entering Galicia. The route then builds to a spectacular finale at Santiago de Compostela's majestic Baroque cathedral, the last resting place of the Apostle St James.
Walking the Camino is an amazing way to meet people from all over the world. Your walk begins in Leon where you spend two nights, then in keeping with the theme of a pilgrimage, you walk daily along farm tracks, paths and country lanes, enjoying sociable lunches in restaurants en route. In the evenings, you'll stay in an astonishingly diverse range of properties including restored parish houses, converted water mills and stylish farmhouses, all of them packed with period features. We have included transfers after breakfast on the first three walking days, after which you'll walk all the way to Santiago,where you spend your last two nights. The rush of achievement on arrival is immense, and sharing in this experience is incredibly rewarding.
Everyone on the Camino has a 'Pilgrim Passport' that can be stamped in bars, hotels and churches along the way to qualify for a certificate from the official Pilgrim Office in Santiago. Along with your passport, you'll notice a profound and heart warming camaraderie with other walkers, as day by day you fall in and out of step with people from all over the world, some of whom have been walking for months covering hundreds of miles! You'll also find complete strangers cheering you on and wishing you 'Buen Camino!' ('Enjoy your walk!').
Arrive at your historic hotel in the heart of Leon. Masses of restaurants/ tapas bars on your doorstep, so we've left you free for dinner for the next two nights.
Day 2 - In Leon
Day 3 - Leon to Molinaseca 16km/10mi/4hr or 8km/5mi/2hr
After a guided tour of Leon's magnificent cathedral and receiving your Pilgrim Passport, we provide a 1hr transfer to Cruz de Ferro, a remote hilltop pre-Roman cross high in the smoky Montes de Leon, the Camino winds downhill through fragrant pines where once the Knights Templar protected pilgrims from bandit attack. A path lined with wild chestnuts, cherries, peppers and fennel leads to riverside Molinaseca, where you'll meet your host Juan Belda, who has walked the entire Camino three times!
Day 4 - Ambasmestas to O'Cebreiro 14km/8mi/4.5hr
After a short transfer (30 mins), you ascend the Rio Valcarce valley, climbing into moody oak woods strung with lichen and strewn with early purple orchid. O'Cebreiro is an C11 village in the heart of the Cordillera Cantabrica - walk to the viewpoint above the village for a perfect sunset and views over 4 ranges of hills, then return along the narrow cobbled streets past traditional thatched houses known as pallozas.
Day 5 - Triacastela to Sarria 18km/11mi/5hr
Farmers wield razor sharp scythes in tiny fields outside Triacastela, as the Camino meanders between heather clad villages overlooking the Monastery of Samos - you can even hear the bells! On reaching Sarria - the antiques capital of Galicia - you'll be whisked to Javier and Raquel's elegant country rectory, (10 mins), complete with chapel and al fresco dining patio.
Day 6 - Sarria to Portomarin 21km/13mi/5hr
A Roman bridge leads out of Sarria up the Celerio Valley, where you'll traverse the hamlets of the southern flank of the Sierra del Paramo. Descend into Portomarin - the original village was drowned by the Belesar Reservoir, and houses still shimmer below the surface! This evening, meet Mario's horses and enjoy wine from his vines, before a waterside stroll after dinner.
Day 7 - Portomarin to Lestedo 20km/12mi/4.5hr
Drop into Portomarin's church then follow the Torres stream passing between cornfields lined with oxeye daisies. Stamp your pilgrim passport in country churches dedicated to the Order of St James before arriving at your delightful rural farmhouse this evening.
Day 8 - Lestedo to Melide 13km/8mi/3hr
Country lanes lead past fortified farmhouses into the hillside town of Palas del Rei (Palace of the King) as you enter the province of A Coruna. You'll pass typical raised Galician granaries and chickens scamper across narrow streets as you enter vineyards, with views east to the Montes del Vacaloura.
Day 9 - Melide to Arzua/Melide 18km/11mi/5hr
Melide is a thriving country town with tavernas brimming with locals enjoying Galician seafood in specialist pulperias (octopus restaurants!). Drop into the Romanesque church to admire the frescoes, before lanes lined with bright yellow celandine bring you into the lively market town of Arzua. We collect you here and take you back to Melide for a second night.
Day 10 - Melide/Arzua to Rua 19km/12mi/5hr
Short (20 min) transfer back to Arzua's colonnaded streets which lead you into open country where local farmers wear berets as they tend vines and build haystacks with pitch forks. Your route rises and falls through river valleys crossing rushing streams. This evening you stay in a breathtaking converted water mill, where original machinery has been turned into spectacular period features!
Day 11 - Rua to Santiago de Compostela 19km/12mi/5hr
Excitement mounts as you set off towards Monte do Gozo - the Mount of Joy - where pilgrims of old caught their first glimpse of the spires of Santiago. It is a bit busier these days! On reaching Santiago's historic centre, congratulations are everywhere as a steady stream of pilgrims reach journey's end below the cathedral's spectacular Baroque facade. Drop into the Pilgrim Office to collect your certificate if you wish, before checking into our historic hotel near the old marketplace, still a riot of colour!
Day 12 - Free day in Santiago de Compostela
You can choose to attend the Pilgrim Mass (at 12 noon) before exploring this beautiful city.
Day 13 - Return home
Enjoy Santiago and the cathedral before taking a taxi to the airport (pay locally approx 15 euro).
Where you stay
During your holiday you stay at the following hotels. If you'd like to extend your time at any of these or, if you'd like to enhance your stay with an upgraded room, just let us know at the time of booking.
Posada Regia, Leon (3 star)
The Posada Regia is perfectly located in the centre of Leon, just off the main (largely pedestrian) street and around a five minute walk from the impressive central cathedral. The hotel has two buildings on adjacent streets.
The main building is where the restaurant and bars are located. Once inside you enter the world of ‘old Leon' as even part of the original Roman city wall has been incorporated into the structure of the new building. The atmosphere is rustic with lots of timber and tile floors, and this building is next to a lively square where it is pleasant to sit out for drinks of an evening. The second building (where Headwater rooms are located) is 20m down a quieter street. Bedrooms are attractive with bold colours and smart new bathrooms.
A warm welcome awaits to his characterful little hotel of 8 rooms that faces a small square in the village right on the Camino de Santiago. The hotel itself is charming and although quite modern in construction, feels homely and rather countrified inside, with each of the rooms named for a Templar Knight. Please note the two twin rooms in this hotel are on the top floor with sloping ceilings. Double rooms are larger than the twins.
The Valena family have run much of the accommodation in O'Cebreiro for generations, and the village certainly looks like time has stood still. With amazing views in all directions, this tiny place is one of the most charming on the Camino. There are rooms in three different buildings, each just 20m apart and made from the heavy, grey stone typical to this area.
One building is an C11 monastery and is actually connected to the little church next door so the monks could walk directly between their rooms and their pews! Rooms are light and more spacious than you would suspect in such small 2 storey buildings.
The main restaurant is next to the café and bar, often filled with characters from the village. English is in short supply but there are so many nationalities passing though here you will always find someone to help!
A rectoral in Spain is the equivalent of a parsonage in the UK. A grand home, often in a picturesque location built of attractive old stone. Such is the case with The Rectoral de Goian - a gorgeous property set in isolated countryside in landscaped gardens that are just too perfect. Javier will collect you from the Hotel Roma café opposite the station in Sarria and bring you the 8km to the hotel, and will also drop you off in the morning in the same place to continue the walk.
The Rectoral building is horseshoe shaped - it has an open patio and balconies facing the garden so it is ideal for eating al fresco in the evening. There is even a tiny chapel in the garden that is still used!
Bedrooms are gorgeous with stone walls, beams, wooden floors and modern bathrooms, all with views on to the patio or the garden. Raquel and Javier don't speak English, so a phrase book will come in handy here too.
Casa Rural Santa Marina is run by Mario - a popular and welcoming host in Portomarin. The extensive area of land that he owns is on the shore looking down the lake and is extremely attractive. He has his own vines in front of the main stone two storey building from which he makes the wine you receive at dinner, and he keeps horses in the meadow adjacent to the timber building that houses the bedrooms. Bedrooms are all wooden with modern bathrooms and all share a communal sitting room with a TV and panoramic windows with views of the lake.
Adjacent to the restaurant there is also an orchard for pitching tents which is why so many people walking the Camino choose this as a place to stay, giving it a lively and friendly atmosphere.
Set deep in the countryside directly on the Camino, on a hillside with fabulous north facing views, this ancient light stone ruin has been restored by Susana and Cesar (a local vet). The sloping garden gives all the rooms pleasant country views, and the public spaces are very effectively designed to maximise natural light and make the most of the views. The 9 bedrooms are light and spacious with black and white photos on the walls, wooden floors and some striking designer touches that you might not expect in a building of this age.
Selected departures will be staying in Casa Roan, a spectacular original walled Galician farmhouse 3km from the Camino de Santiago. (You will be picked up from Eirexe by the owners, Pilar and Jose Manuel Rodriguez Vasques). Their rambling walled farmhouse has fireplaces you could park a car in, and 8 homely bedrooms are decorated in rustic style. There is also a grand stone dining room that looks as if it could host a gathering for the entire village. Pilar and Jose Manuel don't speak English, so a phrase book will definitely come in handy. The website is www.casaroan.com
In the tiniest village of just a few houses, Jesus Cardelle's rustic country Turismo Rural is a popular stop on the Camino. The house was originally a farm, and has an old world charm about it with tiled floors and wooden beams throughout. The garden outside is always full of passing pilgrims having a drink in the sunshine, and playing his typical in house Galician skittle game. This is a simple village and a simple hotel, full of rustic charm. There is no English spoken here.
Pazo Santa Maria, Arzua (3 acorn)
Juan Manuel Duque took on this ruined Galician stately home on the outskirts of Arzua as a retirement project several years ago, and has restored it to it's former glory using original materials and creating an atmosphere of perfect peace and tranquillity. Most rooms are set into the old stables around a central courtyard, with several also in the main house where the luxurious public lounges can be found on the ground floor.
The walls are solid stone, the beams and roof all ancient, and the dining rooms sports a giant fireplace and other original features. The entire complex is set in landscaped grounds on the edge of Arzua so it is around a 10 minute walk from the centre where all the shops and banks are located, as well as your onward route to Santiago.
If you'd like to extend your trip with extra nights at the start or end, or if you'd like to arrange a stop off point en-route, then we recommend the following hotels.
Hotel Petit Palace Londres, Madrid (3 Star)
The Hotel Petit Palace Londres enjoys an excellent position just off the bustling Puerta del Sol Square, which is considered one of the central spots in Old Madrid. The hotel itself lies just off the pedestrian area to the north where the famous Corte Ingles department store is located. You are ideally situated for exploring all of Madrid's famous sights.
The hotel has a charming turn of century façade and many of the rooms have wrought iron balconies from which you can sit and watch the world go by.
The 75 rooms are furnished in a modern style with laminate flooring and crisp white décor. All are double glazed and air-conditioned and are equipped with mini bar, satellite television and direct dial telephone. The bathrooms are well appointed and many have hydro massage showers.
The price includes a rail ticket between Madrid and Leon
however the start point for this holiday is the Hotel Posada Regia in
Leon. Due to the linear nature of this walk, it is not possible to fly into
Santiago. Please call our sales team on 1-800-567-6286 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange connecting flights.
Everyone who goes on a Headwater holiday will be emailed a link to our post-holiday questionnaire where they can give us an honest assessment of all aspects of their holiday - everything from how quickly we answer the phone to how clean the hotels were - plus, of course, an overall rating and comments about their holiday.
Any feedback collected is posted straight to our website - totally unedited. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of our holidays, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.
Reviewed by Mrs Simpson on 01/08/2014
It was hard work covering the average 12 miles/day. We enjoyed the 8 mile day with some 'free time' in the afternoon and felt very at home at Casa de la Somoza that afternoon. Enjoyed the company of the other 4 Headwater walkers we ate and walked with. Exciting to arrive at such an interesting and varied accomodation with such a variety of ambience and fare.
We were told on the 'phone when booking that we needed to get the 6.30 flight from Stanstead in order to have time to catch the train from Madrid to Leon. In fact it only took a short time by taxi to the station where we waited 4 hrs for the train. 2 hrs extra in bed and 8.30 flight would have got us off to a better start!
Thank you arranging all the accomodation and transfer of luggage which worked so well. Loved Leon and found it such a generous place - we kept being given little extras, whether from market traders or patisserie.
Route instructions generally good, but not clear that we needed to walk almost to the railway station to find the Hotel Roma at Sarria. That was a long last k.
Also the last k to Pazo Santa Maria directions could have been clearer with more detail.
Reviewed by Mr Royce on 17/06/2014
Our pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela was a magical experience, and spiritually uplifting. We encountered so many memorable characters and different nationalities along the way, all with different stories and experiences, which will endure as we reflect on our journey in the years to come.
Reviewed by Mrs Wylde on 08/06/2014
Please see above comments - it was a wonderful experience walking the Camino but I was disappointed with the seesaw quality of the places we stayed - a couple lovely, several really miserable. Food poisoning episode only helped by the fact that there was a doctor on the trip who helped me. The venue seeemed unconcerned. Really spoiled the last few days of the holiday.
Headwater response: Dear Mrs Wylde,
Thank you for taking the time to complete your post-holiday questionnaire following your holiday this summer to Spain. Firstly, we were sorry to see you felt this holiday did not live up to your expectations with regards to the standard of some of the accommodations and the walk ratings. Please be assured that we have discussed your feedback in detail with our local agents, he will in turn discuss with our local suppliers and measures will be put into place to improve where necessary. We were also sorry to see that you were unwell at the end of your holiday; our agent was also disappointed to hear this and advised us that had you mentioned this to him he would have most certainly arranged onward transportation for you. We have not received any further complaints regarding sickness over this period or throughout the rest of the season. Our agent has advised us that food poisoning is a very rare occurrence in this region as the suppliers are used to dealing with high volumes of pilgrims and all of the food is prepared fresh daily. However, we will continue to monitor the feedback we receive, and will ensure it is cascaded back to the suppliers should another incidence be reported. We were also sorry to see that you felt the accommodations were poor in places. Due to the amount of walking done on this holiday, we try to use accommodations which are on or close to the Camino and because of this the accommodation standards can vary, as reflected in our brochure and web page ratings, however, please be assured that we do realise how important it is to maintain our high standards of accommodation and service, and we do appreciate we cannot afford to let our standards slip. With this in mind, our agent continually monitors any feedback received and provides feedback to both Headwater and the specific suppliers as appropriate. He also advised us that there are newer Albergues being built, however, these do not comply with our standards as most of them offer shared facilities and are mostly dorm type rooms with bunk beds and this is not the type of accommodation we feel is suitable for our customers. In closing we would like to thank you for your constructive feedback.
Headwater Customer Service team
Reviewed by Ms Summers on 05/06/2014
Everything extremely well-organized - comfortable and interesting accommodation. Would thoroughly recommend Headwater.
Reviewed by Dr Evans on 16/05/2014
The accommodation was variable between wonderful and very simple.
We were suprised by how few vegetables we were available both in the accommodations and in restaurants.
At the end of some of the walk sections the instructions/directions were less clear and this was a problem when you are tired at the end of a days walking.
We were part of the party with the Raeburns were there was a muddle about our tour of Leon which we missed out on. That shouldn't have happened.
Reviewed by Mr Monck on 14/06/2013
Headwater had thought of everything and it's attention to detail that counts on a holiday like this. Thank you !
Self-guided walking, hotel-to-hotel. Managed by Headwater appointed agent.
Fridays from 4 Apr '14 to 10 Oct '14, for 13 days (12 nights). Non standard departures are possible on request. It is easy to add nights in Madrid or Leon before the trip and also in Santiago after the trip.
The price includes a rail ticket between Madrid and Leon
however the start point for this holiday is the Hotel Posada Regia in
Leon. Due to the linear nature of this walk, it is not possible to fly into