The highlight of the trips and excursions organized for your summer program in Spain will be four days spent hiking along the Camino de Santiago. The Camino, one of Europe’s most ancient routes, leads to Santiago de Compostela and Finisterre, out on the western edge of northwestern Spain.
The Camino de Santiago is a route taken by Christian pilgrims who come from many parts of Europe and flock to venerate the tomb of St. James the Apostle. The main route through Spain, the so-called “French route”, makes an incredible museum of history and art more than 1000 kilometres (or 600 miles) long.
The itinerary that we follow includes the final stretch of the Camino, from Ribadiso do Baixo to Santiago de Compostela.
Bus trip from Madrid to Arzúa
Stop at Tordesillas (Valladolid)
From Arzúa to Pedrouzo (21.5 kilometres/14 miles)
The Camino runs along the road until you reach Arzúa, the land of wonderful cheeses.
This section runs through meadows, past the oak and eucalyptus trees that surround small villages. The names of many of these villages hark back to a Jacobean past: A Calzada, A Calle, Ferreiros, A Salceda, A Brea, Santa Irene and A Rua. Then, the Camino reaches the gates of Arca, capital of the municipality of O Pino, and the last before Santiago.
In general, this part of the Camino stage runs along dirt roads, with sections of secondary path and stretches that follow parallel to the road. There is a good mix of ascents and flat areas and it’s all well signposted from beginning to end. In most villages there are places where you can stop to eat and drink and there are also water springs at regular intervals.
The French Way leaves Arzúa along a small road that leaves behind the region of Arzúa as it enters O Pino. You cross the main road via the tunnel in the region of Arzúa and then cross it again back up to Santa Irene, where you’ll find a public inn and a beautiful chapel.
Following the Camino, from where it enters O Pino there are large expanses of eucalyptus forest and plantations of pine and fir set out in symmetrical rows, producing a curious visual effect.
In virtually none of the villages along this stage will you find any signposts showing their names. If you want to know where you are, you’ll need to look at the milestones that mark the Camino.
Pedrouzo to Monte do Gozo (16 km/10 miles)
This is the last stage of the Camino, and very close to our final goal. It’s a journey full of expectations, from O Pedrouzo at Monte do Gozo. Leaving the hostel, we re-join the Camino at the entrance of the village.
The Camino then crosses into the next town, St. Anton, where it begins its ascent to the entrance of the town of Santiago. It leads through forests of pine and eucalyptus trees, all growing close together and symmetrical. In some areas, you’ll pass by oak trees.
Reaching the top, you pass by the airport and begin the gentle descent to A Lavacolla.
A Lavacolla is very close to the Monte do Gozo, a small hill from where pilgrims get their first sight of the cathedral of Santiago.
Monte do Gozo to Santiago (4 km/2.5 miles)
There is no need to get up early today, having rested at Monte de Gozo. We have only this last, short leg of the journey left before we reach the Cathedral of Santiago, embrace the Apostle and attend the Pilgrim’s Mass at 12 in the morning.
We’ll have gone through forests, small villages and grasslands. We’ll have shared good times with our fellow pilgrims, as well as having enjoyed long hours of talks and discussions. Finally, we’ll have made it to our goal – the tomb of St. James.
It’s a moment of happiness and celebration, a sense of personal achievement and acomplishment. After taking in the figure of the Apostle we head to the crypt, just as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have done throughout history, to thank St. James and to pray. Leaving the Cathedral, we start out on a new Camino, our daily life, with the hope and strength of the Jacobean pilgrim.