Hiking Spain’s Camino de Santiago 2021
October 3-10, 2021 • 8 Days • $3290
Featuring a taste of the world’s most famous pilgrimage route, Spain’s Camino de Santiago. We’ll walk 115 kilometers in all, from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela.
Reserve your spot with a $500 Registration deposit.
WAI planners and guides have long shared a fascination with long-distance walking trails, in particular the allure of northern Spain’s Camino de Santiago—the Way of St. James, the world’s most famous pilgrimage route! Several WAI groups have tasted short stretches of this 1000-year-old pilgrimage on previous Northern Spain tours. Now, after long consideration, WAI offers a more in-depth Camino experience—that last 115 kilometers, all on foot!
This is a different kind of walking adventure! Walkers walk an average of 23 kilometers per day for 5 days. Group size is limited to approximately 25 travelers. Two WAI guides accompany a group of this size and are assisted by a local guide. We start and finish in Madrid, and travel by bus from Madrid to the start of our trail in Sarria and back to Madrid from Santiago de Compostela. Luggage is transported from hotel to hotel so walkers only carry what is needed for the day in their pack.
We are working with a partner in Spain with whom we have a 20+ year relationship and our guide for the experience is César Higueras Sanz, whose dry wit and stories of Spanish culture and history both inform and entertain. A bus accompanies the group for the full tour and is available as an opt-out vehicle for walkers who decide to shorten any of the five daily hikes.
- One group transfer from Alcala de Henares to Madrid airport at end of tour
- Transfer of luggage from hotel to hotel on the Camino
- Opt out sag wagon (our bus) at midpoints of each day’s trail
- Tourist class or better hotel accommodations
- 14 meals: All breakfasts and dinners as denoted (BD)
- 5 walk routes as listed
- Walking fees for 5 walks for those collecting IVV walk credit (if IVV approved)
- Cultural and historical expertise of national guide throughout program
- Two WAI guides throughout
- All tipping for national guide, coach drivers and group meals
- Pricing is based on double occupancy. A limited number of single rooms are available for a supplement of $350. We provide a roommate matching service for those interested.
- San Xulián de Samos Monastery
- St. Nicolas Church
- Castromaior Castro Celtic site
- Walking tour of Santiago de Compostelo with local guide
- Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
- Guided walk in Alcala de Henares
- Other fun and educational stops along with Camino with our national guide
- Picnic lunches for five days ($75)
- Galician Winery Visit – Day 2
- Arzùa-Ulloa Cheese Farm Visit – Day 3
- O Pino Cooking Class – Day 5
Tour Pace: 1 2 3 4 5
Walk Challenge: 1 2 3 4 5
Roger & Jana Dorway have always appreciated the experiential, paradigm-expanding value of travel, and have been privileged to explore destinations on 5 continents. Since retirement, they’ve increased their commitment to discovering the world, fostering a growing desire to share cultural and historical insights as part of the WAI guide team. They look forward to sharing this new and epic Adventure, Spain’s Camino de Santiago, with you! Roger and Jana will be assisted by our excellent national guide, César.
César Higueras Sanz: Along with an exceedingly dry sense of humor, César brings a knowledge of languages (Spanish, English, Portuguese, and Italian), culture, and history to our Spanish experience. César is a highly qualified guide who has been leading our Walking Adventures in Spain since 2007 – he is looking forward to sharing the culture and history of Spain with you!
Click on each day to reveal more details. BD refers to meals included, Breakfast and Dinner.
Day 1-Oct 3: Arrive Madrid – continue to Sarria, Spain (D)
Traveler’s arrive in Madrid this morning and join those who arrived a day early for a bus ride through the Spanish countryside north to the route of the Camino de Santiago. The Camino (Way of St. James) has been trod by pilgrims for well over 1000 years. The basis of the route is the discovery, in the year 814, of the tomb of the Apostle James.
As we near our gateway town to the Camino, we segue into the pilgrimage mentality with a short visit to the Monastery of San Xulián de Samos. The monastery is considered an important stop along the Way of St. James, and has a history harking back to year 665 AD. It has supported monastic life for nearly 1500 years, almost without interruption. The significance of the complex is validated by the magnificence of its architecture, offering Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architectural styles, and even a bit of Romanesque in the oldest parts of the monastery.
Not far away, we check into our hotel in Sarria, a town founded by King Alfonso IX of Leon in the 13th century. Over dinner, we’ll discuss options for the days ahead, and ways to maximize our Camino experience!
James was the brother of John (writer of several books in the New Testament of the Bible, including “John”, and “Revelation”), and both were among Jesus Christ’s twelve apostles (messengers).
Two different legends explain how James’ body ended up in the Iberian Peninsula in the city of Santiago de Compostela. Regardless of the means of his miraculous arrival, the enduring impact is that his remains gave special value to their resting place, and spiritual value to the pilgrim. A “Compostela” is a certificate of accomplishment given to pilgrims who complete the trek. The Compostela certificate has carried a special remission of sins since the Early Middle Ages – starting in the 5th and 6th centuries.
Though there are several routes to Santiago de Compostela, the most popular over the centuries has been the French Way, the primary avenue from the rest of Europe. That route was recognized by UNESCO in the 1990’s, causing a resurgence of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage experience that had been overlooked for several centuries. The French Way is 780 km, but the Compostela is granted for anyone walking at least the last 100 km, which is our objective.
Day 2-Oct 4: Sarria – Portomarin (BD)
Sarria to Portomarin Walk: 22.2 km/13.8 mi
Elevation gain: 1161’
Elevation loss: 1364’
Min/Max elevation: 1128’/2182’
Difficulty rating: 1 of 3
The first part of our Camino begins this morning! The path on this stage meanders through forests and tree lined streets in a number of small villages offering good examples of Romanesque paved trails (9th to 12th century). Those needing a shorter walk can board our bus about 2½ hours into the walk in Ferreiros. The Camino takes us over several bridges, some going back to the medieval period; the last stretch of today’s walk takes us into Portomarin, crossing a long bridge over Embalse de Belesar. Upon arrival, a key point of interest in Portomarin is the Nicolas Church, a 12th century church owned by the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem that doubled as a fortress.
One of the unique elements of the Camino is the credential, a ‘pilgrim passport’, issued by various Camino-friendly organizations. It is important to get the required number of stamps at each stop along the Camino in order to qualify for the Compostela once we arrive at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
Optional Galician Winery Visit: Before dinner tonight, join us for a visit to a local winery just off the Camino. Spain is a top wine producer in Europe and our 100 km on the Camino is entirely in the northwestern region of Galicia. This evening offers a chance to sample local Galician wines in a traditional ambiance. Price TBA.
Wines of Galicia
Due to the cooler, wetter climate, the wines of Galicia (known as “green Spain”) are different from wines produced in other regions of Spain. Galicia’s position on the Atlantic coast provides a verdant, maritime landscape fed by ocean moisture. Grapes were initially introduced to Galicia and the Iberian Peninsula 2000 years ago by the Romans. Later, 12th century monks began developing a more sophisticated wine culture from these local grape varieties.
Five major wine regions are recognized in Galicia, influenced by unique microclimates. The cooler, wetter climate of Galicia tends to produce white grapes and wines that are light, fragrant, and more acid-driven, similar to those in neighboring northern Portugal.
The first part of our Camino, however, takes us through the Ribeira Sacra region. Contrary to the other four regions, Riberia Sacra has a drier, warmer climate, and is known for its red wines, most notably the Mencia. Worldwide, the Mencia grape is found only in Galicia and in neighboring Portugal. Though we will likely be sampling other wines this evening, the Mencia is the star of the show and the main wine produced by this winery.
Day 3-Oct 5: Portomarin – Palas de Rei (BD)
Portomarin to Palas de Rei Walk: 24.5 km/15.3 mi
Elevation gain: 1574’
Elevation loss: 909’
Min/Max elevation: 1125’/2381’
Difficulty rating: 2 of 3
About 10 km into today’s walk, we arrive at one of the highlights of the day, Castro de Castromaior. A castro is a fortified settlement, usually of Celtic origin, pre-Roman, and archeologists estimate that this castro was inhabited between the fourth century and first century BC. We are able to wander around this site of about 10 acres with its excavated, walled, stone enclosures and wonder what life was like here more than 2000 years ago. From Castro de Castromaior, walkers who have finished their Camino for today can board our coach for a visit to the Church of Villar de Donas en route to the hotel in Palas de Rei. Upon arrival, walkers are free to rest, explore the environs around the hotel until dinner, or consider joining us for a pre-dinner excursion into the Galician countryside.
Optional Arzùa-Ulloa Cheese Farm Visit: The region of Galicia is renowned for its cheese and in the province of A Coruña the most famous cheese is Arzùa-Ulloa. This is a mild cheese made from raw or pasteurized cow’s milk which matures for 6 days and has a flavor that reminds us of butter and yogurt. Not far from Palas de Rei is a family farm that provides us an opportunity to see how cheese was made, and how people lived, in earlier times. Old rural homes have been restored and cheese, yogurt, and fresh milk are produced here in an ecologically-sensitive process, which includes power production from solar sources and dairy cows feeding on organic pasturelands. Price TBA.
Day 4-Oct 6: Palas de Rei – Arzua (BD)
Palas de Rei to Arzua Walk: 28.1 km/17.6 mi
Elevation gain: 1574’
Elevation loss: 2103’
Min/Max elevation: 1001’/1804’
Difficulty rating: 2 of 3
Today brings us the longest stage of our journey. We leave Palas de Rei through the Campo dos Romeiros, a traditional meeting point for pilgrims headed for the village of Leboreiro. Mid-walk, we cross a medieval bridge to enter the town of Melide, the most likely place for a lunch break, and an opt out point for those preferring a shorter walk. The Camino is undulating, but there are no long ascents or descents to navigate, and the trail is a mixture of natural surfaces and small roads between villages. Because it is a longer distance, we offer no optional activities before dinner in Arzua, a town of about 6000 inhabitants. The town and region are noted for honey and cheese production and a high “cows per capita” rate, and grazing Friesian and Alpine brown cows are part of the pastoral pleasure of walking the Camino in this part of Galicia.
The autonomous region of Galicia
Spain is a diverse country of different nationalities and languages recognized, according to the 1978 Spanish Constitution, by granting different regions with varying amounts of autonomy from the federal government in Spain.
Situated in the northwest corner of the Iberian Peninsula, Galicia is unique from its neighbors in that it is Celtic in origin; it has a strong ethnic, linguistic, and cultural connection to other Celtic peoples in Ireland, France, and northern Portugal. In fact, it can be said that Galicians have more in common culturally with residents of northern Portugal than with their Spanish neighbors. Modern borders between Spain and Portugal ignore the reality that ancient Galicia extended as far south as the modern Portuguese university town of Coimbra. Castilian Spanish is spoken in Galicia, of course, but Galician, a Romance language related to Portuguese, is the mother tongue in Galicia and is also granted official status in the region.
During the 9th century, belief in the relics of St James residing in Santiago de Compostela gave Galicia a special importance in the Christian world of the day, and added to its prestige during the long Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslim Moors. The entire section of the Camino de Santiago we are walking is in the region of Galicia.
Day 5-Oct 7: Arzua – O Pino (BD)
Arzua to O Pino Walk: 22.5 km/14 mi
Elevation gain: 932’
Elevation loss: 1296’
Min/Max elevation: 846’/1358’
Difficulty rating: 1 of 3
Today’s section of the Camino is similar to yesterday’s in that it has its share of ups and downs but no long climbs or descents. Parts of the trail take us through verdant forests. O Pino is our last night before we reach Santiago de Compostela.
Optional cooking class: With all the fascinating ethnic and cultural backgrounds of northern Spain, fun food is an integral part of a visit. Join us this evening for a local cooking class to see a local specialty prepared (and eaten!). Price TBA
Day 6-Oct 8: O Pino – Santiago de Compostela (BD)
End of Camino Walk: 19.8 km/12.3 mi
Elevation gain: 784’
Elevation loss: 1286’
Min/Max elevation: 803’/1286’
Difficulty rating: 1 of 3
Today’s final stretch takes us through patches of pine, eucalyptus, and oak and past our last villages. Along our route, we pass over Monte do Gozo and enjoy our first views of the Cathedral of Santiago. From here, we enter the urban area of Santiago de Compostela, bound for the cathedral. Today’s walk is the shortest of our journey, and our goal is to arrive into Santiago de Compostela in time for the pilgrims’ mass. If we are lucky, we’ll observe the botafumeiro (Galician for “smoke expeller”) ceremony. A massive metal censer called a “thurible”, suspended on chains, is swung in a 200-foot arc through the sanctuary carrying its payload of nearly 100 pounds of charcoal and incense, producing large clouds of smokey incense.
The afternoon is devoted to exploring this delightful, medieval core of the city in the company of a local guide. Those who wish to receive the Compostela will need to allow time for the queues that are likely. Our hotel is in the town center and we’ll share dinner together there later this evening.
Day 7-Oct 9: Santiago de Compostela – Alcala de Henares (BD)
Our primary mode of transport today changes from our feet to our coach! We are headed towards Madrid, but will overnight in the smaller community of Alcala de Henares just outside Madrid. Upon arrival, join us for a guided walk of the city, birthplace of Spain’s famous author, Miguel de Cervantes, author of “Don Quixote”. Alcala de Henares is also the birthplace of Catherine of Aragon, last surviving child of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, and first wife of Henry VIII of England. Alcala is furthermore home to 13th century University of Alcalá, one of Spain most prestigious, and owner of a listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Later this evening, join us for a Farewell dinner to reminisce about our epic trek along the last 100 kilometers of the Camino de Santiago!
Day 8-Oct 10: Depart from Madrid (B)
We leave Spain today having visited the third most significant pilgrimage site in Christendom (after Jerusalem and Rome) …and we walked the last 100 km to get there! We hope this has been a meaningful, contemplative experience and that you return to North America with life-long memories of the Camino de Santiago and the history, culture, and natural beauty of Galicia, Spain!
How do I lock in my place on this Adventure?
To save yourself a spot on this Adventure, contact us to register with a $500 deposit as soon as possible! We’ll take an average of 20-25 travelers on this group, accompanied by 2 Walking Adventures guides and a local guide, offering a guide to traveler ratio of 1:8.
No Traveler Discounts
No traveler rewards or discounts are available for this long distance trekking tour.
General Tour Conditions and Registration Forms
Unique Aspects of this Tour
- Starting in Madrid: As usual, we encourage walkers to arrive at our starting point a day early for a host of reasons. In this case, doing so allows you to explore Madrid a bit, depending upon your arrival time.
- Long distance walking: Though we do provide an opt-out vehicle, as mentioned above, the point of this experience is to walk the Camino, so preparing to walk 20+ kilometers each day, sometimes over hilly terrain, is strongly advised.
- The Camino concept: This is a pilgrimage walk – the original purpose of the walk was spiritual in nature and the objective of the Camino was the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela and the relics of St. James housed there. The “Compostela” is the certificate one receives giving a special remission of sins. To qualify for the Compostela, one must walk the last 100 kilometers and present the special passport booklet with stamps from establishments along the trail.
- Hotel standard: The traditional Camino experience involves sleeping in hostels in the small villages along the route, typically sharing bathroom facilities. The WAI experience provides hotels with private rooms and private facilities en suite. The standard of the hotels is generally basic and humble, consistent with a pilgrimage experience. Along the way, there will be a couple of exceptions where we stay in nicer hotels.
What about the walks?
Walkers have a great deal of discretion to walk at their own pace on this tour. One of the objectives of the Camino is time for contemplation. At least three WAI staff will be interspersed among the group along the trail and will be in communication with each other should the need arise. We will likely propose rendezvousing at points of interest, or at designated spots for lunch, throughout each day’s route. An opt-out vehicle is available, though on some days this could mean walking for some distance to the next point where the bus has trail access. Most walkers will probably finish between 2 and 4 pm each day and on three of the days, optional early evening activities add cultural dimensions to the pilgrimage.
As is always the case on a Walking Adventure, and even more so on this tour, your experience will be significantly affected by your level of physical fitness. We strongly recommend that you make a priority of “training” beforehand in order to both enjoy the trip and avoid medical issues due to overexertion. If you have questions about your ability to participate, please talk with our office at 1.800.779.0353.
We have replaced our normal walk difficulty rating system with data and statistics provided about the Camino, including the difficulty rating system of 1 to 3. Further details are included in the brochure itself.
How Is Airfare Arranged?
The official start and finish point for this adventure is Madrid, Spain (airport code MAD).
More details on airport transfers, flight arrangements and travel agent contact information will be available at a later date. Please do not book your airfare prior to receiving these flight details from us!
Travelers are advised to arrive a day early and spend the night in Madrid. On Day 1, any day-of arrivals will be picked up at the airport and transported with the group to Sarria. At the end of our tour, we’ll be offering one group transfer to the Madrid airport for departure.
WAI believes strongly in the importance of travel insurance for financial and medical protection from any number of unforeseen circumstances that can arise before departure or during your Adventure. This is now especially true in the era of COVID-19, which is typically treated like any other illness for travel insurance purposes. Many travel insurance providers are available for you to consider. Laura Pfahler and Sharon Mitchell of World Travel Inc. are travel agents who provides air travel and insurance services to many WAI travelers.
Check out Insurance Tips from World Travel for a short introduction to travel insurance. (NOTE: WAI receives no commission or financial remuneration from World Travel Inc.).
As always, do some shopping to ensure you are getting the best value. Using the squaremouth.com website can be a good way to compare pricing.
Other options include:
- Travel Guard
- Travel Insured International
NOTE: We suggest purchasing from a reputable, well-established insurance company (avoid buying insurance from an unknown company found only online). Travelers interested in purchasing “cancel for any reason” insurance coverage should be careful to check pricing and terms BEFORE they register for a tour. Recent changes in the international travel landscape has caused changes in the policies of some insurance companies, and made the purchase of this particular type of policy even more time-sensitive.
Walking Adventures International reserves the right to cancel any tour departure with fewer than 15 participants, in which case registered participants will receive a 100% refund of payments received. This refund policy contains one exclusion related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Many suppliers require non-refundable deposits as a condition of booking services. Unforeseen circumstances linked to the virus can force us to cancel a tour. Due to these supplier’s non-refundable policies, WAI intends to retrieve as much of these deposits as possible, but cannot guarantee a 100% refund. In cases where full refunds cannot be obtained for a cancelled tour, we will do our best to transfer unrefunded money as traveler credits to be applied to a future tour to that destination.
View our full Coronavirus FAQ for more details.
COVID-19 Travel Waiver
During this age of COVID-19, WAI evaluates worldwide reports and conditions on an ongoing basis. We are in touch with travel suppliers involved in this tour itinerary, and will develop general protocols and procedures for travel. As time passes and travel conditions clarify, we will also develop policies specific to this tour. Travelers will be asked to sign a COVID-19 specific travel waiver once we have requisite details in hand.
Other Planning Considerations
More information to help you plan will be included in the Tips & Tidbits factsheet that is mailed out about four months before the trip.
What happens next?
Upon registering for this Adventure, you will receive a welcome letter and initial invoice. An email with critical information on flight arrangements will be sent soon after, with important information about steps to take in the months before your trip. Please do not buy your airline tickets until you review the Flight Arrangements email. Final payment for the program is due 90 days before departure, and you will receive a final billing about 3 weeks prior to that point, along with a factsheet of additional information about the Adventure to help you get prepared! Then, about 3 weeks before departure, you will receive a final packet with all the details of the program, including hotel names and contact information, a list of fellow travelers, and a more detailed daily schedule.
Take a few minutes to peruse this new itinerary. Santiago de Compostela is considered to be the third most visited pilgrimage site in Christendom! Walking there promises an even deeper connection with the history, culture, and natural wonders of Spain and the province of Galicia! Give us a call and talk to one of our Adventure Consultants about how to join us for this unforgettable Walking Adventure program in 2021 as we walk Spain’s Camino de Santiago together!