Traverse Spain’s northern coastline along the Camino del Norte, spanning 800 km
Savor regional gastronomy, including Basque pintxos, Asturian cider, and Galician dishes
Visit historical landmarks like Castro Urdiales Gothic church, Altamira Caves, and Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
Embrace solitude on less-trodden paths than Camino Frances for a deeply personal journey
Opt for cooler summer hikes along the humid Atlantic climate
Capture stunning views and unspoiled beaches in the Asturias region
Day 1: San Sebastian – Getaria
On your first day on the Camino del Norte, depart from San Sebastian, journeying along the Bay of Biscay’s coastline. Your path leads through verdant pastures and gentle hills, offering views of the Roman Church of San Martín de Tours and passing through quaint coastal villages like the picturesque Getaria. Here, the birthplace of couturier Balenciaga and a former whaling town invites you to savor local Txakolí wine and enjoy stunning views from San Anton.
Day 2: Getaria – Deba
From Getaria, your Camino del Norte adventure leads through farmlands to the harbor town of Zumaia. On the path, you can explore the Church of Santa Maria la Real and the birthplace of the famed explorer Juan Sebastian Elcano. Your day concludes in Deba, a stunning beach town with captivating views of the Cantabrian coast and the historic shrine of Santa Maria de Itziar, a key stop on the route.
Day 3: Deba – Markina
Departing from Deba, your journey takes a turn inland towards the mountains, marking a temporary farewell to the coastline until Bilbao. After crossing a river, the trail ascends through dense vegetation to the Hermitage of El Calvario. Following the narrow GR-121 footpath, you’ll pass through various charming hamlets before descending steeply into Markina for a beautiful transition from coastal views to the rugged landscapes of the Arnoate mountains.
Day 4: Markina – Gernika
Today’s journey from Markina starts along a country lane, crossing the river in Bolibar. The route ascends to the historic 15th-century Monastery of Cenarruza. From there, it winds through dense woodland to Gontzegarai and the hamlet of Gerrikaitz. After visiting the Hermitage of Santiago, a steep descent brings you to a creek leading to the town of Gernika (Guernica), immortalized by Picasso and nestled in the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve.
Day 5: Gernika – Lezama
Departing from Gernika, the path takes you past the hermitage of Santa Luzia Zallo, then ascends towards the road PR-173. A cobbled path leads to the village of Morga, from where you begin a sharp descent through charming hamlets like Goikoletxea and Larrabetzu. The route then re-enters woodland, bringing you to your destination for the day: Lezama.
Day 6: Lezama – Bilbao
Your journey from Lezama to Bilbao begins with a passage through pastoral farmlands to Zamudio, showcasing the Roman Church of San Martin and the Tower of Malpica. A gradual ascent to Mount Avril rewards you with breathtaking views of Bilbao and the surrounding valley. Upon entering Bilbao’s suburbs, a visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Begoña is a must. The day’s walk concludes in the Plaza de Unamuno in the old quarter, highlighted by the impressive Guggenheim Museum and the delightful local ‘pintxos.’
Day 1: Bilbao – Portugalete
Leaving Bilbao, you’ll cross a suspension bridge and follow a serene route along the Cadagua River. The ‘Devil’s Bridge’ is next before reaching the Hermitage of Santa Águeda. A steep climb leads to Barakaldo, followed by a path along the Galindo River towards Portugalete.
Day 2: Portugalete – Castro Urdiales
The journey from Portugalete unveils the rocky coastline leading to La Arena’s striking red sand beach. Steep climbs along the coast guide you to Castro Urdiales, where modernity intertwines with medieval history. Notable sights include the bullring and beach, leading to explorations of its diverse architectural tapestry. Don’t miss the Gothic church of Santa Maria de la Asunción, with its unique Templar-era iconography.
Day 3: Castro Urdiales – Laredo
Setting out from Castro Urdiales, you’ll journey along the Cantabrian Sea’s coastal cliffs, where you’ll encounter a medieval castle doubling as a lighthouse. As you proceed, notable landmarks like the Chapel of Santa Isabel and the Church of La Magdalena pave the way to Liendo. Here, choose between two routes to Laredo: a valley crossing via Hazas or an ascent to the Chapel of San Julián. Laredo, your destination, is celebrated for its stunning beaches and the vibrant medieval quarter of Puebla Vieja.
Day 4: Laredo – Noja
There are two options for today. The coastal route includes a ferry ride to Santoña, followed by a walk along the scenic coastal path to Noja. Alternatively, the inland route presents a slightly more challenging trek through the towns of Colindres, Escalante, and Barrio de Castillo, where you’ll enjoy stunning views of both mountains and coast en route to Noja.
Day 5: Noja – Santander
Continuing from Noja, your journey leads to San Miguel de Meruelo and the picturesque Bareyo, where the Romanesque Church of Santa María awaits. The path from Galizano to Somo offers a choice between a direct route or a scenic coastal walk. From Somo, a traditional ‘Pedreñera’ boat crosses the bay to Santander, the elegant capital of Cantabria.
Day 1: Santander – Arce
After a restful night in the elegant city of Santander, a perfect place for an extended stay, your Camino journey transitions inland. The path takes you through the towns of Santa Cruz de Bezana, Mompia, and Boo de Piélagos. Following the picturesque estuary at Boo de Piélagos, the day concludes in the small, peaceful village of Arce.
Day 2: Arce – Santillana del Mar
Today’s walk showcases the Camino’s stunning, hilly northern coastline. As you enter the Miengo region and reach the town of Miengo, the path offers scenic views and charming local life. Your destination, the medieval village of Santillana del Mar, is reached through picturesque meadows and tranquil villages. Renowned as one of the most picturesque towns on the Camino Norte, Santillana del Mar’s well-preserved medieval architecture and the Collegiate Church’s cloister are not to be missed.
Day 3: Santillana del Mar – Comillas
Departing from Santillana del Mar, your path continues along Cantabria’s rugged and wild coastline. The route to Comillas takes you through enchanting villages like Cobreces, known for its Cistercian monastery. In Comillas, a town celebrated for its beautiful beaches and striking architecture, be sure to explore notable landmarks such as the Capricho de Gaudí, the Palace of Sobrellano with its pantheon chapel, and the Pontifical University.
Day 4: Comillas – Unquera
You’ll pass through the captivating Oyambre Natural Park, a haven for diverse birds, molluscs, and fish, highlighting its significant marine ecosystem. The path then leads you through verdant fields and woodlands to San Vicente de la Barquera. Continuing amidst green pastures and small estuaries, your day concludes in the welcoming town of Unquera.
Day 5: Unquera – Llanes
Leaving Unquera marks your entrance into Asturias, crossing the river Deva into Bustio and approaching the picturesque town of Colombres, adorned with ‘Casas de Indianos’ from prosperous locals who returned from America. The Camino then descends the Sierra de la Borbolla, leading to Pendueles via a narrow path that ascends to the Jorcada Pass. The route offers another descent to La Portilla before reaching Llanes.
Day 1: Llanes – Ribadesella
Today’s stage from Llanes features a scenic coastal walk past the stunning beaches of Palombina and Barro. After crossing the river Niembro, the path ascends to the Church of San Pedro de Pria, offering spectacular views of the surrounding area. Descending toward the river Guadamía, you’ll cross a medieval stone bridge and pass through Sobares en route to Ribadesella. The town is divided by a bridge into a medieval old town and a modern area with a beautiful beach, and the famous Tito Bustillo cave, known for its ancient cave art, is a highlight of the day’s journey.
Day 2: Ribadesella – Colunga
Leaving Ribadesella, the Camino veers inland towards San Esteban before returning to the coastline. The route continues uphill to the village of Vega at the base of Monte Redondu. After traversing the beautiful Vega beach and crossing the Regatu del Acebu, the path leads to Berbes and descends to El Arenal de Mons beach. The day’s walk includes a passage by a Templar site and the 11th-century Benedictine Monastery of Santiago, concluding in the bustling market town of Colunga (San Cristóbal).
Day 3: Colunga – Villaviciosa
Today includes a shorter walk through a series of small villages. In Priesca, take the opportunity to visit the 10th Century Church of San Salvador, one of the oldest along the Camino de Santiago. The path leads uphill to the Cabanona pass before descending to Villaviciosa. Known as Spain’s ‘apple capital,’ Villaviciosa invites you to taste its renowned cider.
Day 4: Villaviciosa – Gijón
Today’s Camino del Norte stage is long and challenging, taking you up the steep ascent of Alto de la Cruz. The trail predominantly winds through lush countryside before reaching the coast at Gijón. At Casquita, you’ll encounter signs guiding pilgrims either toward Gijón on the Camino del Norte or toward Oviedo on the Camino Primitivo. Gijón is known for its beautiful beaches, rich gastronomy, Roman baths, and the unique Bagpipe Museum.
Day 1: Gijón – Avilés
Today’s route leads you from the bustling city of Gijón to Avilés, featuring a climb up Monte Areo. The trail does pass through some industrial areas and along the highway, but the Monte Areo recreational area provides a pleasant natural respite. Avilés is a town with significant naval history in the Middle Ages.
Day 2: Avilés – El Pito
Today’s stretch from Avilés is longer but rewarding, as it brings you through captivating small towns, leading to your stop for the night in El Pito. This town is renowned for its Renaissance gardens and grand palaces, offering a glimpse into the area’s rich history.
Day 3: El Pito – Cadavedo
Today mixes road walking with old paths. The route leads through forested hills, picturesque villages, and stunning beaches amidst green countryside. A notable stop is Soto de Luina, where a former pilgrims’ hospital now serves as a cultural center. The path continues towards the coastal town of Ballota, with a visit to the medieval whaling port of Cadavedo along the way.
Day 4: Cadavedo – Luarca
Continuing your journey near the coast after Ballota and through Cadavedo, the trail heads inland before revealing the sea again as you near Luarca. Your destination is this charming fishing town, known for its picturesque harbor and fresh seafood. The walk into Luarca involves a steep descent with many steps, crossing the River Negro to reach this delightful town.
Day 5: Luarca – Navia
Leaving the coastal serenity of Luarca, today’s trail takes you inland towards the vibrant market town of Navia, nestled along the riverbank. The morning begins with a climb out of Luarca, leading to a more level path through the picturesque countryside. Upon arrival in Navia, take the opportunity to explore its medieval heritage.
Day 6: Navia – Ribadeo
As you embark on your final day along the Cantabrian coast, the journey brings you to the lively town of Ribadeo. Crossing the iconic bridge of the Saints over the River Eo, you enter Galicia. This longer walking day offers a blend of inland paths and coastal views, with an optional route that stays closer to the shore. In Ribadeo, a must-visit is the Cathedrals Beach, Galicia’s second most popular attraction.
Day 1: Ribadeo – Lourenzá
Leaving Ribadeo, today’s path takes you inland to Lourenzá, a town celebrated for its local beans. The trail meanders through rural landscapes, gradually becoming more mountainous. You’ll wander through small villages and hamlets amid eucalyptus groves.
Day 2: Lourenzá – Mondonedo
Your journey today takes you from Lourenzá into the mountains, leading to the historically significant town of Mondoñedo, once the capital of the Kingdom of Galicia. The ascent offers spectacular views that reward your efforts.
Day 3: Mondonedo – Abadin
Departing from Mondonedo with its notable Sanctuary of Remedios and the impressive Cathedral, your Camino path leads you along a series of gravel tracks, starting with a sharp uphill climb. The route then takes you through the neighboring towns of Gontan and Abadin.
Day 4: Abadin – Vilalba
Today’s journey on the Camino del Norte takes you through the serene forests, farmlands, and green pastures of ‘Terra Chá’ to its capital, Vilalba. This market town, known for its rich journalistic and literary history, especially from the 20th century, invites you to indulge in local delicacies, including renowned cheeses and farm products.
Day 1: Vilalba – Baamonde
Leaving Vilalba, the Camino del Norte guides you through the heart of the Terra Chá region, a quintessential representation of rural Galicia. Your walk is characterized by serene forest paths, quaint farming villages, and the verdant countryside. The journey to Baamonde, passing through places like Sta Leocadia, offers tranquility and a deep connection with nature.
Day 2: Baamonde – Miraz
Before departing Baamonde, take a moment to visit the medieval St. James Church (Igrexa de Santiago), a site imbued with history and tradition. As you continue on the Camino del Norte, today’s walk to Miraz is relatively easy, allowing you to enjoy the simplicity and beauty of rural Galicia.
Day 3: Miraz – Sobrado dos Monxes
Today, the path leads to the highest point of the trail at Marcela, where you can pause to savor the expansive views. Your day’s destination is Sobrado dos Monxes, renowned for its impressive monastery dating back to the 10th century, with a striking baroque facade. Upon reaching the monastery, you will be picked up and taken back to Miraz for your overnight stay.
Day 4: Sobrado dos Monxes – Arzúa
Returning to Sobrado dos Monxes, you resume on the final stretch of the Camino del Norte. Today’s walk takes you to Arzúa, where the Camino del Norte converges with the popular Camino Francés. This bustling market town, brimming with pilgrims, offers a dynamic change of pace. Arzúa is renowned for its delicious local cheese, a delicacy not to be missed. As you journey through easier terrain and cross the River Seco on the Magdalena Bridge, the path takes you through several villages, ideal for a lunch stop, before reaching the province of La Coruña.
Day 5: Arzúa – Rua
Your walk from Arzúa is characterized by a peaceful journey through shaded woods, alongside streams, and into tranquil villages. Along this serene path, make sure to visit the chapel of Santa Irene, notable for its unique statue of Santiago. The remainder of your route to Rúa-O Pino unfolds on quiet country roads, a quaint and less crowded stop before reaching Santiago de Compostela.
Day 6: Rua – Santiago de Compostela
On this final day of your Camino journey, the trail to Santiago de Compostela is lined with history, from ancient monuments and chapels to storied bridges. You’ll reach Lavacolla, where pilgrims traditionally cleansed themselves in the river. The path, bordered by tall eucalyptus trees, leads to Monte do Gozo (Mount of Joy), offering the first glimpse of Santiago’s cathedral spires. Descending into Santiago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you have the opportunity to explore its rich architecture and vibrant cultural atmosphere. This memorable day culminates in the city, inviting you to celebrate your journey’s end and experience the local dining scene.
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Tour design and organization
GPS navigation with an easy-to-use app
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24/7 service and support during your holidays
The Camino del Norte, also known as the Northern Way or la Ruta de la Costa, is a pilgrimage route of immense beauty and variety, spanning approximately 800 kilometers along the northern coast of Spain.
Taking pilgrimages through the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, and finally into Galicia, culminating at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, this route is a mosaic of unique experiences.
It includes some of Spain’s most beautiful cities like San Sebastian, with its stunning sea-front promenade, and Bilbao, known for its vibrant art scene. Other highlights include the beaches of Santander, Gijon’s working harbor, the quaint fishing village of Ribadesella, and the medieval charm of Vilalba.
Camino del Norte requires a massive physical undertaking, typically taking about five weeks to complete on foot. As such, it is modifiable into seven manageable stages, making it manageable for various schedules, allowing you to return year after year to continue from where you left off.
While our tours traditionally begin with walking on the first day and conclude with walking on the last day, we understand that some travelers may wish to extend their stay. We can arrange additional days before or after the walking tour, complete with accommodation bookings.
Meanwhile, our priority is your comfort and satisfaction. We handle accommodation bookings and luggage transfers and provide round-the-clock support.
Equipped with GPS navigation and a detailed guidebook, you won’t have to think about anything else than getting from town to town and enjoying the scenery.
Lace up for the Camino del Norte and step into a world where history, culture, and nature intertwine.
Absolutely, many people embark on the Camino as solo travelers. There is a unique appeal in starting the Camino alone, as the journey’s nature often leads to forming new friendships with other pilgrims along the way. Walking alone offers flexibility and freedom in your schedule, allowing you to start and stop as you please and bond with a diverse range of people. Additionally, many find that starting the journey alone enhances the personal and spiritual aspects of the Camino experience.
The ideal times for walking the Camino are April/May, when spring flowers are in bloom, and September/October, known for their pleasant colors. The summer months (June, July, August) can be quite hot, which may be challenging for those unaccustomed to walking in high temperatures. Conversely, winter months see a significant drop in temperatures and some accommodations may close for the season.
The Camino routes, particularly the Camino Francés, Le Puy, and Camino Portugués, are well-marked and easy to navigate. The paths are marked with two main symbols: a yellow arrow or a seashell. These symbols guide you through every turn and twist of the path, making it straightforward to follow the routes. This excellent waymarking means that even those who are not experienced hikers can confidently navigate these routes without the fear of getting lost.
If you find yourself unable to walk a stage for any reason, there are several alternatives available. Public transport, such as buses or trains, may be accessible to help you reach the next destination. Alternatively, you can request the hotel reception to arrange a taxi for you. It’s important to listen to your body and utilize these options if needed, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable journey.
The Camino offers a gastronomic adventure, with each region presenting its distinct cuisine. Even the smallest villages en route typically have restaurants or shops where you can purchase food. The ‘Menu del Dia’ (Pilgrim’s Menu of the Day) is a common and affordable option available along the Camino, usually including a starter, main course, dessert, bread, and local wine. The Camino Francés has numerous places for lunch. However, on quieter routes, it’s advisable to plan ahead and carry provisions, especially for remote sections. Also, note that in Spain, dinner is often served later in the evening, so it’s useful to have snacks for the interim period after a day’s walk.
You can read more thoroughly about food in our comprehensive guide about Camino de Santiago.
While it’s possible to complete the Camino with minimal physical preparation, preparing beforehand can significantly enhance your experience. Activities like hill walking or aerobic exercises in the months leading up to your trip are recommended. For cycling the Camino, comfort with cycling 60km daily over varied terrain is ideal. Starting with a moderate fitness level is beneficial, but for those starting from a lower fitness base, it’s crucial to begin training slowly and steadily increase intensity. Regular exercise, including walking, running, cycling, or swimming, and incorporating longer weekend activities with some hills, can greatly aid in preparing for the Camino.
Luggage transfers are arranged to move your bags from your current accommodation to the next overnight stop as per your itinerary. You are generally required to leave your bags at the accommodation reception by 08:00, and they will be delivered to your next stop before 17:00. This service allows you to walk unencumbered by heavy luggage, enhancing your walking experience.
While many travelers opt for baggage transfer for convenience, carrying your own bags is also a choice for those seeking a more traditional pilgrim experience. If you opt to carry your bags, packing light is essential, and you may need to do occasional laundry. Alternatively, the baggage transfer service can provide the comfort of a lighter load and a wider range of clothing options.
The Camino routes, especially the Camino Francés, are known to have good mobile signal coverage, considering their somewhat remote nature. However, it’s important to note that there might be occasional areas with weak or no signal, particularly in more secluded or mountainous sections. The coverage is generally better on the more popular routes and sparser on less-traveled paths. It’s recommended to inform loved ones about these possible communication gaps and to plan accordingly.
Walking the Camino as a solo female traveler is generally considered safe. The locals along the Camino routes are known for being respectful and helpful towards pilgrims. It is, however, always prudent to take standard safety measures, such as concealing valuables, particularly in larger cities. The Camino Francés, being the most popular route, is often recommended for solo travelers who may feel apprehensive, as it tends to have more fellow travelers to accompany you. Nonetheless, it’s always advisable to stay aware of your surroundings and exercise the usual travel safety precautions.
Yes, most accommodations in larger towns and cities along the Camino offer Wifi access. Be aware that in some places, there might be charges for using Wifi. However, in more rural and remote locations along the Camino, Wifi access becomes sparse. You may occasionally find Wifi in local cafes or eateries along the route, but it’s not guaranteed. It’s advisable for travelers to prepare for limited internet access in these areas and perhaps download necessary information or maps in advance.
The most challenging part of the Camino Francés is the first section, starting from St Jean Pied de Port, which involves navigating through the Pyrenees. This section includes steep inclines and declines and is considered the toughest part of the entire route. The first day’s walk is particularly demanding, with a majority of uphill walking. However, the breathtaking scenery and tranquil environment make the effort worthwhile.
Access to drinking water is relatively easy along the Camino. The tap water in Spain is safe to drink, though it may not always taste pleasant. Bottled water is readily available for purchase, and there are numerous water fountains along the route, as noted in guidebooks. Uniquely, there’s even a wine fountain on the Camino!
If you’ve arranged for a private transfer through a service like Macs Adventure, the journey from Santiago Airport to Sarria typically takes around 1.5 hours. This direct route is a convenient option for those looking to start their Camino experience smoothly, especially after a long flight.
Customization of your Camino journey is possible, with options including additional rest days, airport transfers, and adjustments to walking itineraries. However, due to limited accommodation options in certain areas, it might not be feasible to modify every single itinerary detail. It’s best to consult with Camino travel specialists to tailor your trip according to your preferences and needs.
The Camino features a diverse array of paths, making it difficult to characterize by a single type. The journey takes you through a variety of landscapes, from shaded woodlands and picturesque vineyard trails to rolling countryside dotted with medieval villages. There are also urban stretches where you may find yourself walking through less scenic outskirts of cities. This variety is part of the Camino’s unique charm, with each section offering a different experience. Paths range from farm and dirt tracks to minor roads and footpaths.
It’s advisable to book your Camino trip as far in advance as possible due to its high popularity, especially during Holy Year (when July 25 falls on a Sunday) as pilgrim numbers can increase significantly.
While bed bug encounters can occur in shared facilities and hostels along the Camino, the accommodations used by tour operators like Camino de Santiago Tours, typically comprising small hotels and guest houses, maintain high cleanliness standards and are less likely to have bed bug issues. Nevertheless, since bed bugs can be carried by people, there’s a small chance of them appearing in hotels, but such occurrences are quickly addressed by the accommodation providers.
Essential equipment for the Camino includes good walking boots or shoes, lightweight clothing suitable for varying weather conditions, waterproof gear, and a daypack. For a comprehensive list of recommended gear, refer to the information pack provided or consult resources like blogs specializing in Camino preparations.
Once your Camino journey has begun, altering your accommodation bookings and itinerary can be challenging due to the limited availability of alternative lodging on short notice. It’s important to have a well-thought-out plan before starting your walk.
While not essential, having some knowledge of Spanish can significantly enhance your experience on the Camino. Local inhabitants appreciate the effort, and it can facilitate smoother interactions. In Northern Spain, the Camino traverses regions with unique languages and cultures. Acknowledging and respecting these cultural nuances can enrich your journey. For routes outside Spain, like the Camino Portugués and Le Puy, learning basic Portuguese and French phrases can be beneficial for engaging more deeply with locals and fellow pilgrims.
In Santiago de Compostela, Mass is held at two different times: a midday Mass at 12:00 and an evening Mass at 19:30. Both Mass times can attract large crowds, so arriving early is recommended. The service is in Spanish, but attending is highly encouraged to celebrate the completion of your Camino journey.
The Pilgrim’s Passport, or credential, is a document carried by walkers on the Camino de Santiago. It’s typically included in your arrival package, but if not, it’s easily obtainable at pilgrim offices and churches along the route. As you journey to Santiago, you collect stamps in this passport from various locations like bars, hotels, churches, and even police stations. Upon reaching Santiago, presenting this passport at the Pilgrim Office certifies your pilgrimage, earning you the Compostela certificate if you’ve walked the last 100km. For other trail sections, the passport serves as a colorful and memorable souvenir of your journey.
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