High-standard mountain bikes with cushioned fork, hydraulic disc brakes and 27,5″ or 29″ wheels: bumps are less noticeable so you can ride faster and safer
Ghost Kato 7
Damper: RockShox 30 Silver RL SA 100 mm
Brake type: Shimano 365 hydraulic disc 180 / 160 mm
Rear derailleur: Shimano XT 11-speed
Front derailleur: Shimano SLX
Day 1. Astorga
Enjoy our Free transfer from Madrid or meet directly at our assigned accommodation for overnight.
Book a pre-stay in Madrid
Pick-up from Madrid-Barajas airport and transfer to hotel. We can arrange a guided tour of Madrid for you to get to know the heart of Spain a little better.
The Roman city of Astorga was founded in 14 BC but had been populated earlier by Celts since about 275 BC. It now has about 12.000 residents.
You have the rest of the day off. Before you leave Astorga and begin biking The Way, make sure to visit the Cathedral de Santa Maria de Astorga, a grand cathedral started in 1471 and finished in the 18th century. Likewise, check out the Episcopal Palace, one of the few buildings architect Antoni Gaudí designed outside of his native Catalonia. The palace was finished in 1913 and stands next to the Cathedral.
If you´re interested in more sightseeing, Astorga also has interesting Roman ruins dating back to when Astorga was a stronghold of the Roman Empire. The Ayuntamiento (town hall) is a beautiful building from the late 17th century.
Day 2. Astorga – Ponferrada
Breakfast. Bike rental. 52 km by bike. Dinner and overnight stay.
Your introduction to The Way begins with a steady 30 km climb. When you pass El Ganso after about 13 km, take a glance at the architecture of the houses: one story and built from slate, with tile roofs. This is the Maragoto style of architecture. Near the top of your climb you´ll reach the monument of Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross). Many of the rocks at Cruz de Ferro have been left by other pilgrims as a token from home, or the rocks have been left in memory of someone. Please take extra care on your descent through El Acebo, as, especially in wet conditions, this can be a tricky descent and carelessness might lead to injury.
Ponferrada, the end of the stage, is a city of around 70.000 residents. The city was dedicated to the Templars in 1178 so they would protect the pilgrims on The Way. Their castle, the Castillo de los Templarios is a 16.000 square meter castle worth visiting. The castle was confiscated from the Templars in 1311. Also of interest in Ponferrada are the Museum El Bierzo, a museum of the history of the area, and the Basilica de la Encina built in 1573.
Day 3. Ponferrada – Cebreiro
Breakfast. Bike rental. 53 km by bike. Dinner and overnight stay.
The Ermita de San Roque in Cacabelos is an interesting building with the walls made of rounded rock and the roof covered in flat shale. You´ll cross the river Cúa, and see the Santuario Virgen de las Angustias, which currently houses an albergue. Not far past Cacabelos are the Bodegas Godelia, an old winery that you can enter. They produce El Bierzo wine, one of Spain’s name-protected wines.
Right after you hit the 20 km mark, you´ll enter into Villafranca del Bierzo, a town situated between two mountain passes. Though the area around Villafranca has been occupied since pre-history, including by the Romans, it grew after the Camino de Santiago became a well-traveled route, in the 11th and 12th centuries. It´s the last town of note before your final major climb of this trip. In Villafranca, check out the Iglesia de Santiago built in the 12th century, the Castillo-Palacio de los Marqueses from the 16th, and the Iglesia San Nicolás from the 17th.
As Cebreiro is nearly at the summit of the mountain, it has been historically important as a shelter and resting-place for tired pilgrims. In the village are interesting buildings named pallozas, which are low houses with curiously shaped straw-thatched roofs. Similar buildings, also of Celtic influence, appear in northern France, Ireland, and Scotland. Two of the pallozas house an ethnographic museum.
Day 4. Cebreiro – Portomarín
Breakfast. Bike rental. 62 km by bike. Dinner and overnight stay.
Galicia, which you’re now in, has a reputation for being hilly, and your legs will attest to that. You’ll pass through Padornelo and its old-looking 19th century Iglesia de San Juan. From there it´s an easy downhill to Triacastela, a town founded in the 9th century. While the name suggests the presence of three castles, none remain. In Triacastela is an interestingly narrow church, Iglesia de Santiago.
Before you leave Sarria, check out the 13th century Igrexa de San Salvador. On the way out of town you’ll pass by Sarria Castle, a 14th century fortification that was mostly destroyed in the 15th century by a peasant uprising. It has been partially rebuilt so you can walk around it and see the walls and tower.
Barbadelo is a small town with the 12th century Church of Santiago. Soon you’ll pass the 100 km from Santiago de Compostela signpost. Savor the view of Portomarín from the top of your climb past Mercadoiro, before descending into the Miño valley.
The route to Portomarín passes over the the Miño River, which at over 300 km long is the longest river in Galicia. To allow making the reservoir, most of the town was moved brick-by-brick in the 1960s, and what was left behind is now underwater (though in the dry seasons it’s possible to see the submerged buildings). In Portomarín is the temple-fortress Igrexa de San Nicolas.
Day 5. Portomarín – Arzúa
Breakfast. Bike rental. 53 km by bike. Dinner and overnight stay.
Just outside of Castromaior, and just a few meters off the Camino path, is the Castro de Castromaior, a preserved Iron-Age settlement occupied from roughly the 9th century BC until the 1st century AD.
The highest point of today’s journey occurs near Ventas de Narón and save a few short climbs, the path meanders downhill from here. About 2.5 km from Ventas you’ll pass by the iconic Cruceiro de Lameiros constructed in 1670.
A few kilometers past the Cruceiro is Portos, where a recommended side trip (5 km total) takes you to Vilar de Donas. What the hamlet’s small 14th century church lacks in space, it makes up for in its stone effigies and frescoes of the Knights of Santiago, and Celtic iconography which show the Celtic influence in Galicia.
In Palas de Rei is Pambre Castle, which pays tribute to the military role that the village had in the past. King Witiza was an important resident from 702-710 AD.
Melide, a more modern town, is known for preparing some of the best octopus in Galicia. You’ll be pleased to know that Melide is less than 50 km from Santiago. Here also is where the Camino Primitivo connects with the Camino Francés, the one you have been biking. In Melide is the 14th century Igrexa de Sancti Spiritus.
The long day finishes up in Arzúa, where you should visit the Igrexa de Santa Maria Magdalena, another 14th century church. The Camino del Norte joins here in Arzúa, so if you haven’t noticed more pilgrims since Melide, you’re sure to do so tomorrow and the day after. Arzúa cheese (named Ulloa) is famed and name-protected, meaning that cheeses with the name Ulloa must originate solely from the Arzúa region and go through stringent quality control.
Day 6. Arzúa – Santiago de Compostela
Breakfast. Bike rental. 39 km by bike. Mass at the Cathedral of St. James the Apostle in Santiago de Compostela.
Viewing of the Botafumeiro. Dinner and overnight stay.
On the way to Pedrouzo you’ll pass through groves of oak and eucalyptus and open meadows and fields as you traverse gentle slopes and flatter roads. Of note—the eucalyptus you see is not native to Spain, but was introduced from Australia in the 19th century. Before then, take some time in Santa Irene to view the Chapel of Santa Irene and the Holy Fountain. The story is that Portuguese martyr Saint Irene was murdered on the spot the chapel now stands, and the fountain dedicated to her is said to be physically and spiritually healing.
The next town of importance is Lavacolla. Historically, Lavacolla was the spot of the cleansing ritual in the river for pilgrims before entering Santiago de Compostela, but this practice is no longer followed.
Just past San Marcos is El Monte de Gozo (Mount of Joy), a panoramic viewpoint where you can see for the first time Santiago de Compostela. It’s not far from El Monte de Gozo to the Plaza del Obradoiro, where the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela stands. This is the end of the biking portion of your trip.
Inside the Cathedral you will be awarded your Compostela, the certificate of having completed the pilgrimage. You’ll attend the mass for pilgrims and view the Botafumeiro (incense-filled swinging thurible). After, you’ll have time to explore the historic area of Santiago, perhaps the Pazo de Raxoi (Royal Palace, completed in 1766) or the shops selling mementos and local goods.
Day 7. Santiago
Breakfast. Stay longer in Santiago or choose the free transfer back to Madrid.