Follow the famous medieval pilgrimage trail from France into Spain on this epic quest
Join MTS Senior Guide, professional mountaineer, and published historian Erik Perez on this epic trek via El Camino Francès. For over one thousand years, the Camino de Santiago has attracted countless spiritual and adventure-seeking pilgrims alike to visit cathedral of Santiago de Compostela—a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the remains of the Apostle James. Enticing hikers with the goal of 6 to 15 miles per day through France and Spain, varied terrain, and a millennium’s worth of legends, the Camino maintains its allure even today.
Medieval pilgrims may have risked theft and death to get to Santiago, but you’ll have the full support of two guides and a driver, with all meals, wine, tickets, transfers, and accommodations in charming hotels and elegant paradores included. When your feet feel heavy, there’s a comfortable coach to drive you back to the hotel to rest. MTS offers an exceptional guide-to-client ratio to make sure you’ll have the best experience possible. Whether you are seeking illumination or just want to experience the joy of hiking this famous trail, this trip is certain to be a restorative quest of a lifetime.
8 days moderate to strenuous hiking on mostly flat terrain (trails and country roads), of good length (6 – 15 miles per day)
- Follow MTS Senior Guide and published historian Erik Perez on this legendary pilgrimage from France to northwestern Spain via el Camino Francès
- Experience the thrill of each phase of the trail, through the Pyrenees and into the high plains, while learning about Spain's history, the Apostle Saint James, and the history of the camino
- Enjoy all of the extras you get with MTS: exceptional guide-to-guest ratio and full van support, with all meals, wine with dinner, tickets, transfers, and accommodations included
- Explore the town of Pamplona, famous for the running of the bulls captured in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises; the medieval city of Burgos, home of the 11th century hero El Cid; and the ancient Christian capital of León
- Revel in your accomplishment with a full day tour of historic Santiago de Compostela—a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Duration: 11 days Start Location: Bilbao, Spain End Location: Santiago de Compostela, SpainDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Bilbao (Spain) – Transfer to Saint Jean Pied de Port (France)
Our trip begins in Bilbao. After introductions and a brief orientation, we’ll transfer together to San Sebastian, considered to be the most beautiful city along the Bay of Biscay. After a short visit and lunch, we’ll continue on to Saint Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Basque Pyrenees, where we’ll check into our hotel.
Day 2 : Saint Jean Pied de Port France (France) – Roncesvalles (Spain)
Today we’ll hike the first step of El Camino, crossing this famous historical pass of the Pyrenees called Roncesvalles. We’ll have a leisurely hike in the mid-altitude meadows of the Pyrenees, with a very gradual climb from St. Jean to the cols of Bentarte and Leopeder, then coming down into Spain through beech tree forests into Roncesvalles, where we’ll find our hotel for the night.
Day 3 : Roncesvalles – Pamplona
Today we’ll hike through meadows and forests, passing small villages along the way. Our destination is the charming old town of Zubiri in the Valley of Esteribar. We’ll cross the Valley of Erro through oak and beech tree forests, the typical scenery of the southern slopes of the Pyrenees in the Navarra Basque Country. Once we’ve reached Zubiri, we’ll transfer to the city of Pamplona, where we’ll spend the night.
Day 4 : Ages – Burgos
Today, we'll head to one of the main stages of El Camino, the Meseta, the High Plains of Central Spain. We’ll start the day with a transfer from Pamplona to Ages, where we begin our walk. Today’s journey follows a very flat path, as we leave behind the Valley of Rio Pico, passing through the villages of Atapuerca, Villafria, and Castañares. In the early afternoon, we’ll arrive to the city of Burgos,
Day 5 : Boadilla del Camino – Carrion de los Condes
Today, we’ll enjoy another full day on the High Plains of Central Spain, as we cross through the Tierra de Campos (or Campos Goticos). This land is filled with the history of La Reconquista, a period of time lasting nearly 800 years in the Middle Ages. It is today known as Castilla. We’ll walk through this sparse farm country, passing green and golden grasslands and fields of sunflowers, to the town of Carrion de los Condes where we’ll stay for the night.
Day 6 : El Burgo Ranero – El Burgo Ranero – Mansilla de las Mulas (León)
Today, we’ll hike through the small town of El Burgo Ranero, and to the medieval market city of Mansilla de las Mulas, a cross roads in this area of El Camino. After lunch, we'll take a short transfer to the city of Leon, the Capital of Christian Spain, also known as “El Reino de Leon.“ The Cathedral of Leon is one of the most famous in Spain, constructed in the early Gothic style. We will take the afternoon to enjoy a guided historical tour of the city. (45 minutes driving, 6 hours hiking, 12 miles, 180' ascent, 0’ descent.)
Day 7 : Hospital de Orbigo – Astorga
Our destination today is the small city of Astorga. To reach Astorga, we’ll begin in Hospital de Órbigo, with its picturesque old Roman Órbigo Bridge, and continue along a very flat route of country roads and walking paths for 15 miles. Along the way, we’ll pass through the small villages of Valle de Santibañez and Valdeiglesias, until we eventually reach a poignant part of our trip – El Crucero de Santo Toribio, the religious cross that has marked our trail for centuries. (1.5 hours driving in two 45-minute shifts, 6 hours hiking, 11 miles, 200' ascent, 100’ descent.)
Day 8 : Villafranca del Bierzo – Las Herrerias – O Cebreiro – Lugo
Today we leave the Castilla and Leon region, and the High Plains of El Camino as we hike to Galicia, the northwestern region, with its Celtic history and hilly landscapes. We’ll begin our hike in Las Herrerias crossing La Faba and Laguna de Castilla before we reach our first significant ascent in many days. We’ll climb nearly 2,000 feet in our last 5 miles to reach the old Celtic village of O Cebrerio by Piedrfita Pass, where custom has it the pilgrim must throw one stone in the Cruceiro for good luck. We are now entering Galicia, and the last stage of our El Camino journey. (45-minutes driving, 4 hours hiking, 6 miles, 2,100' ascent, 0’ descent.)
Day 9 : Pedrouzo – Santiago de Compostela
After breakfast, we’ll transfer to the town of Pedrouzo, where we’ll start the last stage of our hike along the great El Camino de Santiago. Today, we’ll reach La Plaza del Obradoiro at the foot of the impressive Cathedral de Santiago in Santiago de Compostela. The Santiago de Compostela Cathedralis the reputed burial place of Saint James, and is the official destination of the Way of St. James, the traditional pilgrimage route, and of our journey together.
Day 10 : Guided Historical Tour of Santiago de Compostela and Finisterre
Today we’ll enjoy a morning of guided historical touring in the city of Santiago, and at midday we will enjoy a guided excursion to the village of Finisterre ("the end of the Earth"), another important historical site for those pilgrims coming to El Camino. We will be back in Santiago in the early afternoon, in time to rest and relax before dinner.
Day 11 : Departure
After breakfast, we'll transfer to the airport in Santiago de Compostela for departures home.
DATES: Best time to go: May - June, October Departures: Jun 3 - 13, 2013 Oct 7 - 17, 2013 Oct 21 - 31, 2013 May 19 - 29, 2014 Sep 29, 2014 - Oct 9, 2014 Oct 13 - 23, 2014
Hotel Tres ReyesPamplona
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Erik was born and raised in Asturias, Region of Northern Spain, with the big range of Mountains called Picos de Europa and Cordillera Cantabrica. He is an accomplished climber (climbing Mont Blanc numerous times), backcountry and downhill skier. Erik has been with MTS since 1989 and has received his certification to be a IFMGA/UIAGM guide which is the highest professional award attainable in mountaineering. He has written two guidebooks on hikes and climbs in the Picos de Europa. Erik studied Humanities at the University of Oviedo, Capital city of Asturias and received a Masters degree in History.