Spain : Galicia

Following St James' Way

Trip code: W12CS 4.6 (11 reviews)

Self-guided walking

12 nights,
hotel-to-hotel

Level: 2
Moderate

14.0Kg CO2e

SUMMARY

  • A spectacular walk along one of the most famous UNESCO pilgrimage routes in the world
  • Two nights in beautiful Leon - great historical and architectural heritage, and in Santiago de Compostela - a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Excellent variety of accommodation: converted water mills, restored parish houses, stylish farmhouses
  • Poppy sprinkled wheat fields, orchid rich water meadows, pine-scented woodland
  • Share in a 1,000-year-old sense of achievement that will take your breath away!
  • Pilgrim Passport to record your adventure en-route.

WHAT'S INCLUDED?

  • 12 nights accommodation
  • All continental breakfast and 7 evening meals
  • Briefing at the start of your holiday
  • Comprehensive route directions
  • Luggage transfers between hotels
  • Walking transfers
  • Guided city tour of Leon
  • Pilgrim's Passport

TRIP DESCRIPTION

One of the most ancient walking routes in the world, the Spanish Camino de Santiago is popular with walkers from all over the world, who come to follow in the footsteps of travellers from the 9th century onwards. The 800km journey across northern Spain has led thousands of pilgrims on a winding route 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, before entering Galicia. As you reach Santiago de Compostela's majestic Baroque cathedral, your route comes to a spectacular finale at the resting place of the Apostle St James.

On this 12-night trip, you'll begin your walking in Leon - you'll spend two nights here, giving you ample chance to explore the historic city and its fabulous architecture. From here, in keeping with the pilgrimage route, you'll walk daily along farm tracks, paths and country lanes, enjoying sociable lunches in restaurants en route. Remember to have your Pilgrim Passport stamped in bars, hotels and churches along the way to qualify for a certificate from the official Pilgrim Office in Santiago. After you've reached your journey's end, you'll spend two nights in UNESCO-listed Santiago de Compostela so you can explore the city's old town, and its Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque buildings. You can even choose to attend the special Pilgrim Mass at 12 noon.

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. The sense of achievement on arrival is immense, and sharing in this tradition is incredibly rewarding.

Along with your Pilgrim 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!').

Terrain

Walks on this holiday are on village streets, country lanes, farm tracks and rural paths. Walking boots are essential. Walking poles are recommended.

Read more about this holiday in Stumpy's Blog.

READ MORE

DAY-BY-DAY ITINERARY

 

Day 1: Arrival in Leon

After arriving at your historic hotel in the heart of Leon, head out for dinner in one of the many restaurants and tapas bars on your doorstep.

You stay at Posada Regia.

hotel details

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Posada Regia, Leon

HOTEL WEBSITE      TRIP ADVISOR

Shops
Bank
Cash machine
Mastercard
Hairdryer
WiFi
TV


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.

Day 2: Free day in Leon

Today, you are free to explore Leon which is famous for its historical and architectural heritage, perhaps visit the Casa Botines, a creation of the famous Antoni Gaudi or the Museum of Contemporary Art (MUSAC) which is also is a superb example of modern architecture.

Day 3: Leon to Molinaseca (8km/5.0mi or 19km/11.8mi)

Your day starts with a guided tour of Leon's magnificent gothic Cathedral which is often called the 'House of Light' and a visit to the Basilica of San Isidoro, one of the most important Romanesque churches in Spain and resting place of Leon's mediaeval monarchs. You will then receive your pilgrims passport at the local albergue. A one-hour transfer takes you to Cruz de Ferro, the highest point on the Camino, marked by a pre-Roman cross where you start your walk. The Camino winds downhill through fragrant pines where the Knights Templar once protected pilgrims from bandit attack. A path lined with wild chestnuts, cherries, peppers and fennel leads to riverside Molinaseca.

You stay at Hotel El Palacio.

hotel details

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Hotel El Palacio, Molinaseca

HOTEL WEBSITE      TRIP ADVISOR

Hairdryer
WiFi
TV
Aircon


El Palacio is perfectly located on the banks of the river in Molinaseca and in a restored building that was formerly known as the Casona de Don Pelegrin. Recently renovated the modern rooms offer flat screen TVs and WiFi access.

Day 4: Molinaseca to O Cebreiro (15km/9.3mi)

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. Reaching O Cebreiro, an 11th century village in the heart of the Cordillera Cantabrica, you can walk to the viewpoint above the village for a perfect sunset and views over four ranges of hills. You'll then return along the narrow, cobbled streets, past traditional thatched houses known as pallozas.

You stay at Hotel O Cebreiro.

hotel details

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Hotel O'Cebreiro, O'Cebreiro

HOTEL WEBSITE      TRIP ADVISOR

Shops
Mastercard
WiFi
TV


The Valina 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 11th century 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 cafe 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!

Day 5: O Cebreiro (Triacastela) to Sarria (18km/11.2mi)

Today begins with a short transfer to Triacastela. You'll hear the Monastery of Samos's bells ringing as you meander between the heather-clad villages that overlook it. 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 area.

You stay at Rectoral de Goian.

hotel details

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Rectoral de Goian, Goian (nr Sarria)

HOTEL WEBSITE      TRIP ADVISOR

TV


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, just 8km from the centre of Sarria, it's a gorgeous property set in isolated countryside in landscaped gardens that are just too perfect.

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.

Day 6: Sarria to Portomarin (23km/14.3mi)

A walk along the Roman bridge leads you out of Sarria up the Celerio Valley, where you'll criss-cross the hamlets of the southern flank of the Sierra del Paramo. You'll then descend into Portomarin - the original village was drowned by the Belesar Reservoir, and houses still shimmer below the surface!

You stay at Casa Rural Santa Marina.

hotel details

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Casa Rural Santa Marina, Portomarin

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WiFi
Aircon


This eco-friendly hotel is located on the banks of the Mino river. The rooms are located in the Main building and are decorated with wood panelling.

Day 7: Portomarin to Lestedo (21km/13.0mi)

Visit Portomarin's church then follow the Torres stream passing between cornfields lined with ox-eye daisies. Stamp your Pilgrim Passport in country churches dedicated to the Order of St James before arriving at your beautifully restored rectory.

You stay at Rectoral de Lestedo.

hotel details

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Rectoral de Lestedo, Lestedo

HOTEL WEBSITE      TRIP ADVISOR

Mastercard
TV


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

Day 8: Lestedo to O Coto (14km/8.7mi)

Follow country lanes leading 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 see chickens scamper across narrow streets as you enter vineyards, with views east to the Montes del Vacaloura.

You stay at Casa de los Somoza.

hotel details

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Casa de los Somoza, O'Coto

HOTEL WEBSITE      TRIP ADVISOR

Mastercard
WiFi
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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 Jesus' 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.

Day 9: O Coto to Arzua (21km/13.0mi)

Today's first stop is Melide, 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 lead you into the lively market town of Arzua. The last stop is your elegant manor house, surrounded by tranquil countryside, just outside the town.

You stay at Pazo Santa Maria.

hotel details

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Pazo Santa Maria, Arzua

TRIP ADVISOR

Mastercard
TV


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.

Day 10: Arzua to Rua (19km/11.8mi)

Arzua's colonnaded streets lead into open country where local farmers wear berets as they tend vines and build haystacks with pitch forks. Your route then rises and falls through river valleys crossing rushing streams. This evening you can marvel at Javier's breathtaking converted water mill, where original machinery has been turned into spectacular period features!

You stay at O Muino de Pena.

hotel details

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O Muino de Pena, Rua

HOTEL WEBSITE      TRIP ADVISOR

Mastercard
Hairdryer
TV


Just off the Camino (you will be picked up from Pension Compas which is on the Camino by Javier), can be found some of the loveliest and most unusual properties to stay in, and this is one of them.

Hidden in the backwoods and valleys this ancient mill sits next to a rushing river and weir, instantly relaxing you with the sound of running water. The bedrooms are on the top floor as you enter (you enter on the second floor as it is built on a steep hill), and all are utterly charming with beams, stone walls and dark wooden furniture.

Downstairs, much of the heart of the mill has been retained, with giant wheels and massive machinery blending perfectly with the bar and dining area and looking quite spectacular. The open riverside garden is perfect for a drink, and the entire place feels as if it is a mythical secret hideaway. Javier will drive you back to the Camino (10 minutes) in the morning.

Day 11: Rua to Santiago (21km/13.0mi)

It's an exciting time 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 certainly busier these days! On reaching Santiago's historic centre, the atmosphere is alive with chatter as a myriad of pilgrims reach their journey's end below the cathedral's spectacular Baroque facade. Drop into the Pilgrim Office to collect your certificate, before checking into our historic hotel near the old marketplace, still a riot of colour!

You stay at Hotel Virxe da Cerca.

hotel details

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Hotel Virxe da Cerca, Santiago de Compostela

HOTEL WEBSITE      TRIP ADVISOR

Shops
Bank
Cash machine
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Hairdryer
WiFi
TV


Just on the edge of the historic centre in Santiago de Compostela, the Virxe da Cerca sits just below the old market - it is still used by the locals daily and is definitely worth wandering through.

Our superior rooms are in the grand old 4-storey building that backs on to an extensive garden at the back. The breakfast room overlooks the garden while the in house restaurant is on the ground floor in the depths of the building with solid stone walls and a cosy atmosphere.

It is only a 5-minute walk into the heart of the old town so it is perfect for exploring, and feels like coming back to your very own stately home in the city.

Room upgrades: Suite.
Suites offer extra space.

Extra nights: Please contact us for details.

Day 12: Free day in Santiago

You can choose to attend the Pilgrim Mass (at 12 noon) before exploring this beautiful city. The old town has Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque buildings and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The oldest monuments are grouped around the tomb of St James and the cathedral, which contains the remarkable Portico de la Gloria.

Day 13: Leave Santiago de Compostela

Enjoy Santiago and the cathedral before taking a taxi to the airport (pay locally approx 15 euro). Alternatively, stay on for extra nights to explore this beautiful historic city. Walking through the old streets of Santiago is a fantastic way to spend your time here, with Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque buildings lining the old town's streets and plazas.

Extending your holiday

If you'd like to extend your trip with extra hotel nights we recommend: Hotel Petit Palace Preciados, Madrid.

hotel details

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Hotel Petit Palace Preciados, Madrid

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Minibar
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Safe


The Hotel Petit Palace Preciados 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 facade 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 decor. 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.

Room upgrades and extra nights: Contact us for details.

CHOOSE A DEPARTURE DATE

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These tour only prices are based on two people sharing. Single supplement from £440.

These flight inclusive prices are based on two people sharing. Single supplement from £440.

This holiday is based on a minimum of 2 passengers.

OPTIONAL UPGRADES
  • Flights from Heathrow to Madrid with Iberia, then onward rail to the region.
  • Other flights, including regional departures
  • Alternative flights, including regional departures
TRAVEL DETAILS

Our aim is to provide holidays that are unbeatable for choice and flexibility. We've listed our most popular travel options below, however you aren't limited to these - we can tailor-make virtually any holiday to suit.

Air-rail prices include our standard flights and onward rail
Out: Iberia Heathrow to Madrid then take a transfer by taxi payable locally, to train station Madrid Chamartin to catch the train to Leon and in Leon customers take a taxi to the hotel payable locally, 5 minutes. Return: Taxi to airport approx. 15-20 minute payable locally, then Iberia Santiago de Compostela to Heathrow via Madrid

Alternative Air Travel
Alternative flights, onward rail to your holiday area, and connecting private transfers can be arranged from most UK airports. If you would like to use one of the many 'low cost' airlines, we can book these on your behalf. We can also book UK shuttles to connect with your onward flight, please call for details and prices.

Alternative transfers
If you require alternative transfers (because you will be arriving at a different time to our standard flights), then we can usually arrange these for you (there may be an additional charge).

To find out more about the travel options available call our sales team on 01606 720199, use our live webchat (we're open until 10pm today) or email sales@headwater.com

Should you require overnight airport accommodation, airport parking or even a uniformed chauffeur to take your car from your departure terminal and park it for you, we can arrange this for you through Holiday Extras. You can book airport parking, airport hotels and executive lounges through their website or contact us for further details. Early booking is recommended to obtain the best availability and prices.

REVIEWS

Excellent pace of itinerary and well thought out accommodation. Local guide in Leon was enthusiastic, well informed and very collegial.

Softley, 2 Sep 2022

 

After long tiring days of walking, it was lovely to relax in rustic accommodation with comfortable beds, a good en suite and decent food. We thoroughly enjoyed 'Walking the Way of St. James.' The landscape was thoroughly unexpected in Galicia, - very lush, green and much like the U.K. and Ireland. It was particularly special to make friends (although very briefly) with people from all over the world.

Mr EtchellsButler, 14 Oct 2016

 

This holiday provides a stress-free camino experience for those who either do not wish to or cannot carry a full back pack. Accommodation and meals are of a significantly higher standard than is available in the hostels and dormitories along the route. As well as completing the 100km required for the compostela, it combines some interesting earlier sections of the camino as a bonus. The guided tour of Leon provides an excellent introduction to the camino combined with the visit to the impressive Cathedral and other historic buildings. It is well worth extending the holiday to spend two nights in both Leon and Santiago de Compostela.

Mrs Bathe, 11 Sep 2015

 

We would like to say how fantastic the man was who gave us the mini-moke ride from our hotel back into Portomarin and how hard our hostess (Maria) worked to keep everybody happy in the Casa de los Samoza.



The food in Rectoral de Goian was amazing! For the world's best bread and butter pudding go to O Muino de Pena>

Mr Dyer, 26 Sep 2014

 

Overall it was a great holiday. We throughly enjoyed ourselves.

Mrs Hughes, 19 Sep 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.



Mrs Simpson, 20 Jun 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.

Mr Royce, 30 May 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.

Mrs Wylde, 23 May 2014

 

Everything extremely well-organized - comfortable and interesting accommodation. Would thoroughly recommend Headwater.

Ms Summers, 16 May 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.

Dr Evans, 25 Apr 2014

 

Headwater had thought of everything and it's attention to detail that counts on a holiday like this. Thank you !

Mr Monck, 24 May 2013

 


Self-guided walking

12 nights,
hotel-to-hotel

Level: 2
Moderate

14.0Kg CO2e

12 nights from £2329

CHOOSE A DEPARTURE

Call: 01606 720199

 

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