Part 2: Leon – Sarria
A Walking Pilgrimage14 Days
Your trip includes
- Round-trip airfare
- All airport taxes & fuel surcharges
- Classic and Quaint Hotels and Inns along the Camino: (or similar)
- ~ 1 night: Madrid: Hotel Preciados
- ~ 2 nights: Leon: Hotel Real Colegiata
- ~ 2 nights: Astorga: Hotel Spa Ciudad de Astorga
- ~ 1 night: Ponferrada: Hotel AC Ponferrada
- ~ 2 nights: Villafranca del Bierzo: Parador Villafranca
- ~ 1 night: Sarria: Hotel Alfonso IX
- ~ 1 night: Madrid: Hotel Preciados
- Breakfast daily
- 9 Lunches
- Dinner Daily
- Wine and mineral water with dinners
- Transfers by air-conditioned coach or minibus
- Vehicle available to assist pilgrims who are unable to complete any leg of the tour
- Tour Escort Throughout
- Local guide in Tordesillas, Leon, Astorga and Ponferrada
- Daily Maps
- Transfers as per itinerary
- Catholic Priest to accompany the group
- Mass Daily
- Hotel taxes and service charges
- Flight bag & portfolio of all travel documents
- Lunches and Beverages not mentioned, items of a personal nature, tips to guide and driver
Santiago de Compostela is the final resting place and tomb of St. James. While you will be removed from the routine of your everyday life, rest assured you will be taken care of with outstanding accommodations, meals and transportation with van / bus driving parallel to the path you walk each day. Should at any point you feel tired, need water, or any medical assistance, it will be readily available to you at check points that are set up along the way on your path. Tourists pass through places, places pass through Pilgrims.
This itinerary involves an average of 13 - 20 miles daily of walking/hiking. It is essential that participants be in fit condition in order to complete the journey. We will have assistance vehicles (motor coach) available to assist pilgrims who are unable to complete a particular leg of the journey.
Depart to Madrid
Make your way to your local airport where you will board your overnight flight(s). Your meals will be served on board.
Madrid Airport – Madrid
Upon arrival in Madrid, you will collect your luggage in the baggage claim area, and continue to the Arrival's Hall where you will be greeted by your driver/tour escort and transferred to your hotel. Dinner and overnight in Madrid.
Madrid - Tordesillas - Leon
After breakfast we will departure towards Leon. On our way to Leon we will make stop to visit the town of Tordesillas. It was in Tordesillas where the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed. The Treaty of Tordesillas divided “All Lands Discovered, or Hereafter to be Discovered in the West, towards the Indies or the Ocean Seas” between Spain and Portugal. Further fame was brought to Tordesillas by the unfortunate Juana la Loca (daughter of Queen Isabella of Castile) who spent 46 years in a windowless cell in the Real Monasterio de Santa Clara, known as “The Alhambra of Castile” for its delightful Mudéjar architecture. Built as a royal palace by Alfonso el Sabio (the Wise) in 1340, its prettiest features are the tiny “Arab Patio” with horseshoe arches and Moorish decoration, and the superb coffered ceiling of the main chapel. Continuation of our journey to Leon. Lying on the banks of the Bernesga River, Leon is the last major city before we reach Santiago and before we climb through the mountains of the Cordillera Cantabrica. The city was founded as a Roman fort in AD 68 to protect the roads leading to the gold mines at El Bierzo a little to the west. The town was home to the Legio Septima or Seventh Legion of Imperial Rome from whence the city is believed to get its name. Leon was Christianized in the 3rd century becoming the oldest Bishopric (diocese of a bishop) in western Europe. Dinner and overnight in Leon.
Leon – Villadangos del Páramo (22 km)
After breakfast in the hotel we will start our pilgrim walk towards Santiago de Compostela following the scallop shells that pass by the Real Collegiate of San Isidoro and towards San Marcos. The first village we are going to find in our way is La Virgen del Camino (Our Lady of the Way). The Catholic tradition says that during the feast of the Visitation in July 1505, the Virgin Mary appeared to a local shepherd while he was taking care of his flock. She asked him to go to the city, to get the Bishop and to bring him to this place to build a shrine in her honor. He asked the Virgin Mary how was the Bishop to know that it was She that sent him. The Virgin Mary seeing that he had a slingshot in his hand asked him to pass it to her. She picked up a small stone and put it into the slingshot. She told the shepherd that wherever this stone landed that is where she wanted her shrine to be built. The shepherd set off to speak to the Bishop in Leon and told him of the apparition. He was unconvinced until the shepherd, using his slingshot, hurled a stone which promptly became a boulder when it struck the ground. Now convinced of the miracle the Bishop built a hermitage dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The very modern church that stands in the place where the original hermitage had been is the Church of the Virgen del Camino which was built in 1961 and is managed by Dominican friars. After Virgen del Camino village we will follow the old Roman road that linked Astorga with Leon. At the end of the stage we will arrive to the village of Villadangos del Páramo where we will find the Church of Saint James where at its entrance we will see a carving depicting the legendary battle at Clavijo in 844. It is at this battle that Santiago in his guise as Santiago Matamoros is reputed to have helped the vastly outnumbered Christian army.
Villadangos del Páramo - Astorga (26 km)
Breakfast in the hotel. After attending Mass at Saint James Church in Villadongos del Paramo we will continue our walking pilgrimage. The first large village we will find today is Hospital de Orbigo and to get to this beautiful village we will have to cross the longest bridge on El Camino (670 feet) and there is a nice story related to it: El Paso Honroso (The honorable pass). The name was given due to a jousting tournament of sorts undertaken by Don Suero de Quiñones. Don Suero was in love with a lady by the name of Doña Leonor de Tobar, who unfortunately did not feel the same way. This 15th century knight considering himself a prisoner of her love, decided to wear an iron collar around his neck every Thursday as a symbol of being enslaved by his love for her. As a way to empress both the lady he loved and King John II of Castile, as well as a way of freeing himself from his enslavement, he decided to embark on a surprising joust in the style of the knights of old. Don Suero offered the tournament to Saint James saying that he and other 9 knights would challenge those undertaking the pilgrimage to Santiago until 300 lances were broken. When the tournament was finished all the participants went to Santiago de Compostela to offer the arms with which they fought to the Apostle. The tradition says that the iron collar (that it was turned in gold) worn by Don Suero is hung around the neck of the image of the Apostle that is used in processions. We will find the Church of Saint John the Baptist on the other side of the bridge that is what remains of the pilgrim hospital which had been built in the 12th Century but the Knights of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. At the end of the stage we will arrive to the walled city of Astorga. This historical and religious city, called Asturica Augusta by the Romans was one of the Roman strongholds in the Leon area. On it the French and the Plata Routes to Santiago converge. The extraordinary Gothic Cathedral, from the 15th Century presides over the town; the Episcopal Palace or Gaudí Palace houses the Museo de los Caminos, which displays pieces from all churches related to the Route to Santiago; and the chocolate museum that celebrates Astorga chocolate industry which thrived during the 18th and 19th Centuries.
Astorga - Foncebadón (26 km)
After breakfast in the hotel we will attend Mass at the Cathedral of Astorga. Today we will walk through the area called la Maragateria ending in the Bierzo, region that borders with Galicia. Today we will walk through Murias de Rechivaldo, a lovely village with most of the stone buildings constructed in the traditional Maragato style and where we will find the Church of Saint Stephen with a carving of Our Lady of the Pillar above its door; Santa Catalina de Somoza, where we will see the Church of Saint Mary that houses a relic of Saint Blaise, the town patron saint; and El Ganso, with its thatched houses which are typical of the North-Western part of Leon and Galicia. Before arriving to Rabanal del Camino we will pass the remains of the Roman gold mines of La Fucarona, one of the oldest gold mine which made a cliché of Astorga wealth in Roman times. In the Middle Ages, Rabanal del Camino was an important stop for pilgrims before they walked through the mountains. It was a large settlement of the Templar Knights who used to defend and protect the pilgrims from the robbers of the harsh areas of Foncebadón. There is a community of Benedictine monks living in the San Salvador del Monte Irago Monastery who came from Santo Domingo de Silos in 2001 although nowadays the monastery is affiliated with the abbey at St Otilien in Germany. The next village that appears, and the end of our stage, is Foncebadón, the onetime important center in the Middle Ages that has been abandoned. Here took place a Council in the 10th Century, and a century later, the hermit Guacelmo founded a hostelry for pilgrims.
Foncebadon - Ponferrada (26 km)
Breakfast in the hotel. Some kilometers off the municipality of Foncebadón, surmounting a peak that the Romans dedicated to Mercury can be seen the Ferro Cross, on top of a stick fixed to a big heap of stones. Traditionally pilgrims bring a stone from their places of origin and deposit it on the heap. The end of our today’s journey is located in Ponferrada. This town, with Prehistoric and Roman antecedents, had two accesses in the Middle Ages. One was via the Roman bridge spanning the Boeza river, sunk in the 18 C; the other was via the path of the Gallegos and then, crossing the river by the Medieval bridge of Mascarón. At the end of the 11th Century, the Bishop of Astorga, Osmundo, commissioned the building of a new bridge, "la Pons Ferrata", a pass with iron banisters which gave name to the city. Later on, between the 11th and 14th Century, the Castle of the Knights Templar was built. In the 15th Century the Catholic Monarchs commissioned the construction of the Hospital de la Reina, next to the fortress. In this monumental town also stand the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Encina, built to commemorate the apparition of the Virgin in a grove of Holm oaks, and the Baroque church of San Andres, which is home to an outstanding retable: "The Christ of the Wonders".
Ponferrada – Villafranca del Bierzo (24 km)
Breakfast in the hotel. Today part of our journey will follow the old Roman road that connected Ponferrada with the silver and gold mines located in Las Médulas. The first last village we will see today is Cacabelos. Cacabelos as a village first appeared in the 10th Century but it can trace its origins to way back in the Bronze Age. In the Middle Ages the town boasted few churches and some pilgrim hospitals but nothing remains of these ancient buildings but the 18th Century the Quinta Angustia Shrine, where we will find a very unusual carving of the child Jesus playing cards with Saint Anthony of Padua, has been built on the site of one of the medieval hospitals. At the end of the stage we will arrive to Villafranca del Bierzo, the last major town along the Camino de Santiago in Leon with the Galician village of O Cebreiro only 17 miles away. Villafranca del Bierzo is believed to have been founded by French monks of the Cluny order. The town could be said to owe its existence to El Camino and both this and the many monuments to be found here make Villafranca del Bierzo a natural tourist destination. There is plenty to see but the most interesting buildings/monuments are: The Church of Saint James, that granted the privilege of providing absolution to the pilgrims who were too ill to continue along the Camino to Santiago; San Nicolas, founded as a religious school run by Jesuits until their expulsion in 1767; The Collegiate of Saint Mary that was built on the site of the original monastery of the Cluny order; The Agua Street, full of palaces and emblazoned houses; The San Francis Church and the Castle of the Marquees of Villafranca.
Villafranca del Bierzo – O Cebreiro (28 km)
Breakfast in the hotel. During the morning we will walk through the Ancares Valley area where we will be able to see the Castles of Sarracín, of which some ruins can be seen, and Veiga; both castles are connected to Celtic legends. On the half way of our stage we will arrive to the village of Vega de Valcarce where we will find a great example of an horreo or grain store. As we enter in Galicia we will see different horreo styles, usually made of granite or wood. The Camino from this point onwards until we get to O Cebreiro climbs up through the mountains starting off gently but progressively getting steeper. O Cebreiro, with an altitude of almost 4,000 feet, owes much of its existence to the Camino de Santiago as well as to the many roman roads that passed this way. It is the first town we reach on the French Camino as we enter Galicia. The first pilgrim hospital to appear in the town was built in the 9th Century and was run from the late 11th Century by the monks of Saint Gérard De’Aurillac, a French religious order. Also in the 9th Century the monastery of the Sanctuary of O Cebreiro was built, not much remains other than the Church of Saint Mary the Royal, considered to be the oldest intact church along the whole Camino. There is an Eucharist miracle related to this church. In the 14th Century there was a parishioner from a nearby village called Barxamaior who climbed up to the church through heavy snow and a blizzard in order to hear mass. As the priest was celebrating the Eucharist he had a momentary lapse of faith and whilst he was consecrating the bread and wine he thought to himself, whilst looking at the parishioner sat in front of him, “what is this man doing here in this cold weather, just to see a piece of bread and a little wine?”. It was at this point that the miracle occurred, the bread turned to flesh and the wine became blood. This became known locally as the Galician Holy Grail. The relics are kept in the church in a reliquary given to the church by the Catholic Monarchs whilst they were undertaking the Camino to Santiago in 1486, along with the chalice and paten used in that mass. While we are here in O Cebreiro we will be able to take a look at the Pallozas, the traditional round stone houses with thatched roofs that the people of this area used as their homes.
O Cebreiro – Triacastela (21 km)
Breakfast in the hotel. In Galicia we will pass through countless hamlets connected to one another by ancient dry-stone walls separating the trail from an endless patchwork quilt of worked fields and cow pastures. We'll enjoy the hearty Galician fare - including leafy green soup, called caldo gallego, creamy cow's milk cheeses, thick, round loaves of wheat, rye and corn meal bread, outstanding Galician veal and pork, seafood and greens – cabbage, broad beans, Swiss chard and leeks. Our halt today will be Triacastela. In the 13th Century, Alfonso XI tried unsuccessfully to convert this precious village into a big town. Triacastela once had a hospital and a prison, an unusual circumstance along the Route. Pilgrims can visit the Parish Church of Santiago, containing a façade from the 18th Century and a Romanesque apse. In its interior there is a processional cross from the 12th Century. As a penance, pilgrims used to carry in their packs a limestone from the mountains of Triacastela.
Triacastela - Sarria (21 km)
Breakfast in the hotel. Today, on our halfway to Sarria, we will get to the town of Samos where we will find the impressive Benedictine Monastery of San Julian de Samos. It was founded in the 6th Century by San Martin Dumiense and renovated by San Fructuoso in the 7th Century. Unfortunately soon after the monastery was renovated it was abandoned because of the Moorish invasion and it wasn't until the Christian King Fruela I reconquered the area did the monks return. This important monastery is situated on the valley by the Ouribio River, surrounded by a scenery that enhances its beauty and provides a mysterious atmosphere. Its impressive Neoclassical façade is worthy of note, as well as the huge cloisters. The cloister of Nereidas, from the 16 C contains a beautiful fountain. The Cipres chapel, from the 10 C, is one of the oldest elements in the monastery. Back on the Route we will pass through a picturesque scene full of oaks and chestnut trees. At the end of the stage we will arrive to Sarria. Sarria has been inhabited for many thousands of years both by the Celts and the Romans but the town was founded at the end of the 12th Century by King Alfonso IX, the last king of Leon. He unfortunately died here in 1230 from a serious illness that he contracted as he was undertaking the pilgrimage to Santiago. Most of the buildings linked to El Camino can be found behind the main street on the hill where the old town used to be like: the Church of Salvador, with a Romanesque ground plan and Gothic façade; the small chapel of San Lazaro; the hospital of Saint Anthony, which today houses a Court; the remains of its old fortress from the 14th Century; the Monastery of La Magdalena, founded by a couple of Italian friars, belonged to the Penance of the Venerable Martyrs of Christ, who passed this way on their pilgrimage to Santiago, and that nowadays is managed by the Religious Order of the Mercy of Christ.
Sarria - Madrid
Breakfast in the hotel. Departure towards Madrid. Arrival and accommodation in the hotel. Rest of the day at leisure. Dinner and overnight in Madrid.
Madrid – Madrid Airport
Your last day in Spain will begin with breakfast at your hotel, followed by a transfer to the Madrid Airport for your return flight(s) home. You will say ‘hasta luego’ (see you later) to your new friends made on this journey.
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- Your transfers are always secured, even if your flights are delayed - round trip transfers to/from the hotel and airport are included no matter what!
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- In the very rare event that a tour is cancelled, you would get all your money back, which would most likely not be the case if you purchased it directly from the airline.
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