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A gently paced cycling holiday along Spain's legendary Camino de Santiago, that traces the steps of ancient travellers, as we make our way from Leon to the burial place of the apostle St. James.

Type of Holiday: Cycling Holidays
Price:

£1090 (based on two people sharing)

Duration: 8 days
Departures: Various departures
Start point: Leon
End point: Santiago de Compostela
 

Join us on this guided cycling holiday in Spain where we trace the steps of ancient travellers and make our way along the legendary Camino de Santiago. Pedalling from the historical city of Astorga, we will journey over 250 Kms west across the Montes de Leon and Sierra de Ancares and deep into lush forested Galicia to the pilgrim journey's end in the stunning granite city of Santiago de Compostela.

The Camino is said to be the first great European tourist route. Travelled by pilgrims from around the world for over 1000 years to the site where it is said that St. James the Apostle’s relics are buried.

Conditions for pilgrims were said to have been atrocious, many becoming ill, with the weak dying along the way. However pilgrims were driven by the belief that to complete the pilgrimage would halve your time in Purgatory….something to bare in mind if your calves start to ache! But don’t worry, today the Camino and services have been vastly improved and the pilgrimage is as popular as ever with a great sense of camaraderie among the modern day pilgrims. It’s no longer just the faithful that make their way on this magnificent journey!

The Camino was named Europe’s Premier Cultural Itinerary in 1987 and received UNESCO’s accolades as a World Heritage Site with the journey’s incalculable cultural, historical and artistic value.

Our route follows the true Camino Frances as much as possible along forest tracks and country paths, quiet roads and farmers’ trails crossing countless villages and towns born of the Camino. Staying in a range of good quality small hotels chosen for their location and warm welcome, you will be invited to try the specialities of the area in the inns and local restaurants giving you an authentic taste of this enchanting area. It’s hard to find a better way to enjoy Spain. Get your pilgrims passport or credential stamped along the way and having cycled more than 200 Kms you qualify for a pilgrims certificate, the Compostela - to testify that you have completed the Camino as a pilgrim.

As with all of our guided tours, the Skedaddle support vehicle is never far away, should you need a snack or a lift on a particular section of the route.

Greentraveller’s Travel Advice: Start your holiday off the green way: Hop onboard the ferry as a foot passenger from the UK to Northern Spain. The international port in Santande can be reached by an overnight ferry journey from either Plymouth or Portsmouth.

>> For full details, see: Ferry from Plymouth to Santander

>> For full details, see: Ferry from Portsmouth to Santander

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Detailed Description of Camino de Santiago Cycling Holiday

Trace the steps of ancient travellers, add your place in the history books, and join us as we make our way along the legendary Camino de Santiago to the burial place of the apostle St. James. This is a gently paced tour in a land of miracles, mysteries and legends. Following quiet roads and well-surfaced tracks, we enjoy the warmth of the Spanish sunshine as we cycle in hillsides alongside the Cantabrian Mountains.

For over eleven centuries pilgrims have followed this ancient route to Santiago de Compostela through the rolling Galician hills - a land of idyllic hamlets, incredible Gothic cathedrals and tranquil Romanesque monasteries.

During our journey, you’ll hear of King Charlemagne and St. Francis of Assisi and the stories of medieval hero El Cid, as we ride the paths once taken by the Templar Knights. Amongst the many highlights during this classic route are the stunning cathedrals of Leon and Santiago and the Celtic huts (pallozas) of Cebreiro and the great camaraderie of fellow travellers you’ll meet on the route.

Accommodation is small hotels, chosen for their location and quality. Breakfasts are taken at the accommodation, lunches are picnic style and evening meals are taken at local restaurants allowing you to sample the delicious regional cuisine.

Detailed Itinerary:
Day 1
Following arrival in Spain, we board our support vehicle for the journey to León. Our route takes us south through the beautiful green valleys of Asturias and over the spectacular Cordillera Cantabrica (Cantabrian Mountains), past the dramatic La Luna reservoirs, before dropping down to the city of León. The city is situated on the edge of the ‘meseta’, an undulated plateau which occupies much of Old Castile. This is a high tableland of an altitude of 700 metres, so nights tend to be cool and clear with the daily temperatures hot. It is a landscape of brown and grey earth veined with narrow roads and cart tracks, weaving through wheat fields and farms. Once we have arrived in León we check into our hotel before preparing our bikes for the cycling ahead. León’s name actually comes not from the Spanish for lion as you would expect, but from the Roman 7th legion; Legio Septima Gemina and in medieval times it soon became an impo rtant stop on the Camino.

Before we head out to dinner we have an important task to take care of, to pick up a Pilgrims credencial or passport. This document attests that you are a pilgrim and holds your personal details and a fold-out section for stamps of the places that you will be going through. This and that fact that you have cycled for more than 200km along the Camino to Santiago give you the privilage of collecting a ‘Compostela’ when arriving in Santiago. This is an old document issued by the Santiago Cathedral Council, wriiten in Latin and states that you have made a ‘pietatis causa’ pilgrimage to Santiago.

The Barrio Humido or ‘Wet Quarter’ of the city is a short stroll away from the hotel and is an ideal place to soak up some true Spanish culture. This old part of town is an array of local eateries and bars where the city’s folk take their Paseo(promenade) on an evening before settling into one of the terraces for some sustenance or refreshment.

Day 2
Our first priority this morning is León's spectacular cathedral. No visit to Spain, never mind the Camino is complete without a visit here. The stained glass is remarkable not only in its scale but also in its design, which pales the impressive exterior into insignificance! 1800 square metres of vivid golds, reds and violets light-up this immense building that also boasts superb sculptures and Renaissance paintings. Sights abound in the city and include, for the more modern amongst you, Gaudi’s Los Botines - ‘the spats’. Other highlights are the Hospital de San Marcos at Paseo Condesa de Sagasta and the Real Basilica de Isidoro with its lovely frescos.

Once we have seen the sights of León we take a short transfer out of the busy city to La Virgin del Camino, from where we will begin the fantastic pilgrimage to Santiago, unaided (if you wish) by vehicle assistance. We head out for the first time together on our journey and straight on to quiet country lanes and well surfaced tracks, passing the small villages of Chozos and Villar. Then we ride a long country path dotted with Oak and Poplar trees and irrigated crop land. We arrive shortly at the small town of Hospital de Orbigo and cross its magnificent 12th Century bridge. A revitalising coffee stop will see us heading out into the surrounding rolling hills on steadily climbing paths with lush forests of holm oak and chestnut before reaching the heights of the Colomba Mountain. Our effort rewards us with fantastic views towards the Montes de León, a challenge for tomorrow!

Some easy trails lead us to our lunch stop at Santo Toribio stone cross, which lets you know you are insight of Astorga for the first time. Lunch is Skedadddle picnic style in a spot chosen for its beautiful surroundings. Our local guides know a thing or two about picnic making and pride themselves in dishing up the best local delicacies of each area. Locally produced cheeses and cured meats with fresh salads and bread with lashings of olive oil are a staple, with plenty of succulent surprises along the way. What ever you your lunchtime favourite, you're certain to be satisfied.

It’s only a quick skip to Astorga from here, which was once known as one of the most hospitable places on the road to Santiago, having once had ten monasteries and twenty one hospitals, looking out for the needs of weary pilgrims. Once a Roman town due to it’s legendary gold resources, today it’s a pleasant city of varied architectural styles blending effortlessly together with Roman remains, the impressive gothic/Romanesque cathedral of Santa Maria and Gaudi’s fairytale castle Palcacio Episcopal (Bishop’s Palace).

Astorga is known as the capital of the Maragateria, the area into which we are heading. The Maragatos inhabit a small group of villages and towns with old customs, folklore and architecture, which is distinct from those of close neighbours. We ride out of Astorga and meander through numerous picturesque villages of sturdy stone buildings, pan tile roofs and cobbled streets as we head into the foothills of the Montes de León, which are stark and dramatic. We pass though El Ganso (the Goose) a lovely traditional village fit for a refreshing drink before we make our last push to Rabanal del Camino.

Rabanal is beautifully set with its well preserved buildings and good hostelries. It was once a settlement for an Order of the Templar Knights which protected pilgrims from robberies and pillaging which took place in the harsh mountains beyond (don’t worry though, they say things are much safer now!). We will stay for the night in one of Rabanal’s lovely Posadas that dishes up excellent traditional Maragata fayre.

Day 3
After breakfast we head out on the second day of cycling, pedalling west and into the Montes de León. Today's ride is characterised by fortresses originally used to extract tolls from travellers…don’t worry though as they don’t yet accept the Euro! The true Camino winds its way steadily up towards the isolated village of Foncebadon, the last village of the road before leaving the territory of Astorga and entering the wine-growing region of El Bierzo.

Once an important stage post on this sparse section of the Camino due to its abundant spring and numerous hospitals, Foncebadon has had a recent rejuvenation and offers the modern pilgrim a chance of a refreshment break (maybe a strong coffee) before we make the last push (on bikes hopefully) to the Cruz de Ferro. This ancient monument is a five metre bare trunk standing in a huge mound of stones crowned with a plain iron cross. This emblemic symbol of the Camino is one of it’s most important and encompasses a ritual who’s origin may date back to the Celts. Passers by and later pilgrims add a stone to the mound like the shedding of a symbolic weight as well as to placate dangers ahead. Continuing this age old tradition today’s pilgrim still gift a stone as well as notes and other offerings to help them on their journey.

After a little undulation along the crests of hills we get incredible glimpses across the mountains and on to El Bierzo way below us. As we interchange between good tracks and asphalt we pass through the ancient settlements of Manjarin and El Acebo we take a thrilling descent of 15km to the picturesque town of Molinoseca on the banks of the River Meruelo. It’s a great spot for a refreshing dip and coffee break before heading onto Ponferrada.

Named after the long-gone Puente de Ferro (iron bridge), erected to help pilgrims over the Rio Sil, Ponferrada is home to the impressive 12th century Castillo de los Templarios - a castle that oozes tales of ancient battles from its thick walls and lofty ramparts. It was probably the El Bierzo headquarters order of the Knights Templar, an area in which they had the most power.

Knights Templar: Beginning in the 11th century as a consequence of the crusades, these religious-military orders were developed to combat Muslims, defend holy places and protect the growing number of pilgrims. Spain, thanks to the Reconquista, and the Camino de Santiago, had its share of these orders, the most famous being the Knights of the Temple of Solomon or Knights Templar, founded in Jerusalem in 1118. The order achieved great power and became the most established bank of the period. Not surprisingly they attracted many enemies and in 1307, Phillip IV of France ordered the detention of the Knights, torturing many and confiscating their wealth. The order was finally suppressed in 1312.

From Ponferrada we take a fun ride along the Rio Sil before heading out of the city through endless huge allotments and vines arriving at the village of Columbrianos. From here we take a very picturesque route through vast vineyards and villages, with the dark menacing masses of the Las Ancares mountain range in the distance. Following a fast trail descent we find ourselves entering the beautiful town of Villafranca del Bierzo.

As we enter it’s well wortht he time to stop at the Church of Santiago, a fantastic example of early Romanesque stonework. But the fame of his chapel stems from the 15th century when Pope Calistus III decreed that any pilgrim unable to complete their journey due to illness could achieve the same indulgence by crossing the ‘Puerta del Perdon’ the door on the churches north side. This privilege was unique on the whole of the Camino de Santiago so don’t get your hopes too high, you could always try crossing the support vehicles door though! Villafranca is our destination for today; it’s a lovely town with numerous bars and restaurants in the lively plazas. Other noteworthy buildings in Villafranca are the enormous XVI century church of San Nicolas and the solid Marquis of Villafranca Castle.

Day 4
For many pilgrims today’s route can prove to be the toughest and one of the most beautiful on the Road to Santiago. The ride over the Sierra de Ancares to the mystical O’Cebreiro, is a challenge for all cycle 'pilgrims'....though don't worry the support vehicle will be close at hand should you wish to hop aboard at any stage. The opening miles of the day are very steady as we cruise up the pretty and narrow Valcarce River Valley through chestnut woods and past numerous villages. Fortified posts were erected in this area from Roman times to ensure travellers a safe passage in this thoroughfare. In the middle ages the funnelling of pilgrims, traders and travellers through this deep valley, which was the only sensible route over into Galicia, caused criminals to be active, being the perfect place to make some money at their expense. It was the Lords themselves who, instead of protecting the area as they were supposed to, charged tolls disguised as rights of passage, excise and carriage to travellers who were usually poor pilgrims with no income. However, it’s believed this was taken control of by the Knights Templar, who guaranteed the safety of the area during the pilgrimage’s golden years.

As we head into the Vega de Valcarce the valley widens, opening into a beautiful glaciated valley of meadows and tiny hamlets and villages. Herrerias, related to the iron and steel industry which has existed here since the middle ages, is a pretty, tranquil spot for a mid morning coffee stop before our last effort on the 8km climb up to O’Cebreiro. The climb is on a well-surfaced lane with the odd steep section, past the last village in El Bierzo, La Laguna with its welcoming spring. The views along this section are very dramatic across the Sierra de Courel, and if you are lucky they will take your mind off the climb!

When you arrive in O’Cebriero we have reached the first village on the Camino in Galicia. After congratulating yourself with your achievement and wiped the sweat from your eyes, you’ll realise O’Cebreiro is an extremely old and interesting settlement. Many of the buildings in the village are simple stone structures with thatched roofs, called Pallozas, dating back to early pre-Roman inhabitants and hardly changed since.

At the Church of Santa Maria la Real the famous 14th century Miracle of O’Cebreiro happened when the wine and bread literally turned into the blood and flesh of Christ, renewing the priest’s faith. The journey onwards from O’Cebreiro the trail passes through the Sierra de Ranadoiro, surrounded by rounded peaks and huge mountainsides. The route has a steady climb up to the last high point on the Camino, Alto Do Poio at 1313 metres, before it begins to truly descend on exciting trails, through hamlets and always with impressive views looking onto the green rolling hills of Galicia.

After 10km of descent we reach the valley bottom and the small town of Triacastela (whose name derives from the existence of 3 old Iron-Age settlements. It is documented that pilgrims’ devotion to St. James made them go as far as carrying heavy materials for the stonework on the Cathedral in Santiago, from a quarry in Triacastela. We leave Triacastela following the Rio Ouribio, through a valley wedged in by mountains, we bypass meadows ringed by oak and birch, weaving through Ancient villages born of the Camino until one last swooping descent drops us to the bottom of a deep, steep valley where we enter the village of Samos, home to the great monastery of Los Santos Julian y Basilisa de Samos, one of the oldest monasteries in Spain. Founded in the 6th century and still retaining it’s 9th century chapel, the monastery has a dramatic hold over Samos with it’s impressive and imposing mass.

On hot days the river at Samos is an ideal place for a refreshing end of ride dip. Samos is home tonight and we will be rewarded with our first taste of Galician cuisine and wine - delicious!

Day 5
Our fourth day on the bike will see us cycle deep into mysterious Galicia, rich with legends and stories of Brujeria (witchcraft) and mythology. It's by far the shortest day of our planned route to Santiago giving chance to saviour its beauty. The route is intricate, winding through tiny granite hamlets and farmsteads, negotiating herds of dairy cattle meandering down narrow stone walled lanes to be milked and following Corredoiras (ancient stone pathway) that link the numerous villages that we pass through.

On reaching Sarria, the only sizable settlement on route, we have to climb upto the top of this inevitable hill town in which pre-Roman remains have been found. The steep slope of the old part of town is an ideal spot to take refuge, relax on a café terrace and watch the world and pilgrims go by. As we leave Sarria a visit to the Convent of La Magdalena to see the beautiful cloisters and stonework is well worth the effort. Following the River Celeiro we climb up through ancient oaks and chestnuts passing many a hamlet born of the Camino. Here in Galicia the Camino is all surfaced for travel on bike so we can enjoy the true route of this ancient journey.

Passing Barbadelo and its beautifully simple 12th century Romanesque church, we pick up a long Corredoira taking us past the 100km post (100km left to reach Santiago) at Mogarde. Giving sight of the light at the end of the tunnel for long distance travellers, but also a point from which the Camino tends to get busier, as 100km is the minimum pilgrims need to walk to receive a Compostela document.

The wood lined meadows around the next village of Ferreiros are an idyllic spot for a relaxing picnic, taking in the beauty of this ancient land while grazing on Galician specialities. Winding in and out of pine groves and past the village of Parrocha, the route starts a wonderful long descent on fast tracks and lanes and down to the River Mino. Our destination, Portomarin, sat next to the river until 1962 when the valley was flooded, creating the Belesar Reservoir. New Portomarin sits high on the right hand bank, where the most important monuments of the town were moved stone by stone. When examining the 12th century church of San Nicolas you can see numbers carved into each block used for ease of rebuilding this huge puzzle. Our hotel for the night has a lovely terrace to enjoy a sundowner or two before heading to the plaza to enjoy some wholesome pilgrims fayre.

Day 6
After a well deserved rest in our lovely accommodation in Portomarin we head out for our first obstacle of the day, the climb up and past Monte de San Antonio, through eucalyptus and on to the plain that leads us to the villages of Gonzar and Castromaior. We follow the pretty Torres stream through glades of oak and pine and softly undulating countryside that is so typical of this part of Galicia.

You will notice that the number of pilgrims on the trail has increased significantly, for those who are just completing the final 100km to Santiago. The atmosphere along the trail is fantastic, one of camaraderie and excitement as we close on our goal, counting down the km signs as they go past one by one. At a high point and crossroads we’ll pass Hospital de la Cruz and Ventas de Nalon, both with a long history of charity and hospitality towards pilgrims. Following a 11km stretch of lane we climb gently through the lush Sierra de Ligonde, passing many a village offering inviting hostelries to refresh the many jovial pilgrims.

A shady picnic area just before the town of Palas del Rei is a great spot for a lunch stop before we head on and descend a long, exciting Corredoira that crosses the River Pambre. A short climb and yet another descent on a rougher Corredoira, winding through oak woods and eucalyptus plantations brings us to the first village in the La Coruna province, Cornixa, from where we follow a well restored ancient medieval road.

We then enter Furelos across a magnificent medieval bridge with four arches and take a short steady climb to our destination of Melide. The comfortable, small posada where we stay the night is a short walk from a most traditional style of Pulperia, Octopus Café, serving delicious Galician style Octopus, simply sprinkled with olive oil and spicy paprika and served with a young, dry Albarino white wine. Don’t worry though if this doesn’t 'float your boat' there are other dishes on the menu.

Day 7
The last day on our journey to Santiago de Compostela and it’s sure to be a memorable one, just 51 kilometres to go! Descending out of Melide on a smooth trail we cross the River Lazaro , flanked by poplars, and along a path lined by ferns to the next village Castaneda. This once industrious place had huge ovens that converted stone into lime, which was then used to build Santiago Cathedral. Pilgrims of that time had the pious custom of contributing to the building by bringing stones, which they carried for a full ninety kilometres between Triacastela and Castaneda. Don’t worry though we aren’t going to make you do it!

A steady climb along a smooth Corredoira brings us to the Artisans town of Arzua, where, according to legend, a local woman who denied a tired, hungry pilgrim a piece of bread had her bread turned to stone. A little further along we’ll reach As Barrossas which was once a pilgrims hospital devoted to those with leprosy and other infectious diseases - we won’t be stopping here too long.

Weaving in and out of eucalyptus plantations we pass the Villages of Calzada and Calle, both meaning road/street, referring to the 'Road to Santiago'. As excitement along the Camino mounts we arrive in the village of Fereiros which, as the name suggests, was once a village of blacksmiths catering for the demands of the pilgrim for nails for boots, horse shoes etc, but they haven’t moved onto Gortex yet.

At a quiet rest area In Santa Irene we will stop and rest for the last lunch together before we reach Santiago de Compostela, a chance to savour some more succulent local delicacies while contemplating the final 22km. By this stage on our journey your tiredness will have become secondary to the feeling of adrenaline at the thought of becoming ever close to Santiago.

Lavacolla is next and a very important site prior to your arrival in Santiago. The name literally means ‘wash arse’ and is where ‘for the love of the Apostle’…or was it really to stop lice reaching Santiago, pilgrims would bathe in the stream by the nearby church. We will of course have bathrooms in our Santiago hotel…but if you fancy getting the full Camino experience then feel free to wash away!

From Lavacolla we take on the last climbs of the Camino as we head up on paved road and along to Monte del Gozo (Mount Joy), so called as the long awaited sight of Santiago comes into view for the first time. The first member of each pilgrimage band to sight Santiago was called ‘King’; so the race is on to be crowned ‘King Skedaddler’. From Mount Joy it’s downhill all the way, to a place declared a World Heritage Site in its entirety by UNESCO. Our sights will be set on the Plaza de Obradoiro, Santiago’s impressive cathedral square, which houses its greatest treasures. This will be a special moment that will last a lifetime and signify the end of a truly memorable cycle ride. After we've checked into our hotel and before we head out on the vibrant town of Santiago for a well deserved celebratory dinner, we’ll head to the Casa do Dean to claim our Compostela documents.

Day 8
After a relaxing breakfast it’s time to pack those bags one last time and head home.

Equipment
We provide everything except personal equipment, clothing and a bike. If you are planning on bringing your own bike we strongly advise a mountain bike with a minimum of 24 gears and front suspension as well as tyres with an appropriate level of tread for the trip. It is essential that this bike is in good working order and so if you are not mechanically minded we recommend taking your bike to a local bicycle dealer for a service in good time before departure. Please contact us if you are unsure whether your bike or equipment will be suitable.

If you don't own a suitable bike or would prefer to avoid bringing your own we have bikes available to hire. These bikes are typically Giant XTCs, a great mountain bike featuring front suspension, disc breaks and good quality components. If you do decide to hire we will include a helmet and all necessary spares for the trip.

What the price doesn't include
A) Personal clothing and equipment.
B) Travel insurance (available if required, £28).
C) Bar bills, telephone calls, souvenirs, etc.
D) Bike hire (if required, £140).

What price includes

 
  • 7 nights hotel accommodation
  • Breakfast and lunch provided
  • 6 day's biking
  • Guided and vehicle support
  • Luggage transfers between accommodation
  • Free train station / ferry terminal pick ups and drop offs
 

Location

 

Plan your journey by train

Meeting point:
Leon train station

Nearest train station to meeting point:
Leon

Transfer to meeting point:
Operator collects guests from station
Free train station / ferry terminal pick up

How to get there:
Train from London to Leon (via Madrid)

 
Plan your journey by train to Madrid
 

Plan your journey by train

Finish point:
Santiago de Compostela train station

Nearest train station to finish point:
Santiago de Compostela

Transfer to finish point:
Operator drops guests off at station
Free train station / ferry terminal drop off

How to get back:
Train from Santiago de Compostella to London (via Madrid)

 
Plan your return train journey from Madrid