Camino de Santiago

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Can anyone help with the name of a company that does easy (easy is important) tours of the Camino de Santiago? Maybe one that has the group walking the more scenic parts, and driving the less interesting sections of the walk. Am looking for a tour that runs about two weeks and am interested more in the cultural and historical aspects of the area, rather than walking the entire path. I do know about the company called Spanish Steps, but they seem to cater to very ambitious walkers. Thank you for your help.

Adventures Abroad has a tour called "The Way of St. James" (Tour XPR) that may appeal to you. It is 16 days and the itinerary can be found at http://www.adventures-abroad.com/viewinit.php?viewtour=XPR. I took it about 5 or 6 years ago. It walks every other day and is probably as easy as a tour of this route is going to get (which is still moderately challenging in parts). The terrain doesn't get steep until after Leon when you hit the mountainous area of western Spain known as Galicia. Day 11 has the steepest hike of all, but there is an easier option that goes along a paved road that three of us chose to take (including yours truly). Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) also has a program that does the Camino de Santiago that you might want to compare with Adventures Abroad. Whichever company you choose, I recommend that you take the trip in the fall as opposed to the spring. The ground is more likely to be muddy in the spring making the terrain more difficult to negotiate on some of the hikes, which is what I experienced by taking the Adventures Abroad trip in May.

Ada Green (currently in Sanya, Hainan Island, China)

Road Scholar's Camino de Santiago program can be found at http://www.roadscholar.org/n/program/dailySchedule.aspx?dID=1-5MYSVL. It looks like it puts more of a focus on the history and culture of the area than the Adventures Abroad tour.

Hi Joe,

Frontier Holidays (www.frontierholidays.net) do guided and self guided tours on the Camino de Santiago and can tailor make an itinerary to suit your group's budget and walking ability.

Their ompany director, Callum Christie, has over a decades experience guiding walks on the Camino de Santiago and his knowledge of this route is second to none.

Definitely worth getting in touch.

Dear Ada: I am amazed to see that you are currently in Sanya, Hainan Island, China. What a traveler you are. I will look forward to reading about your ventures when you have the heart and time to set them down. I am fascinated by all that you do.

R. Donaldson
Tifton, Ga

The best tour of the Camino de Santiago was one run by the late, great Interhostel (my favorite tour company of all time). Past tense. This 15-day tour, which was called "The Pilgrim's Way", was last offered from May 16-30, 2005 and was hosted by American University of Paris (as opposed to my alma mater, American University in Washington, DC). I signed up for it at the time, but it didn't get enough people to operate and it was never offered again because unfortunately Interhostel totally ceased operation later that year. The tour involved considerable walking, but unlike the Camino de Santiago offerings by Adventures Abroad and Road Scholar, it was not a walking/hiking trip in the strict sense of the word. Although Interhostel is now long defunct, I am posting its Camino de Santiago itinerary here in case you want to try to replicate it privately and independently on your own, perhaps with the service and assistance of Frontier Holidays recommended by michelle89. It places a strong emphasis on the cultural and historical aspects that you are looking for and should give you a major idea of the important sites to cover while you are there.

Day 1 - Depart USA. Overnight flight to Madrid to Bilbao.

Day 2 - Arrive Bilbao. Afternoon visit to the Fine Arts Museum.

Day 3 - Bilbao/Pamplona. Visit the Guggenheim Museum, devoted to 20th-century American and European art, and itself a master work of architecture. Travel to Guernika where you will visit the Parliament of Biscaya. After lunch continue on to Loyola where you'll tour the basilica and the birthplace of St. Ignatius.

Day 4 - Pamplona. First experience pilgrim life at the travelers' rest house of Roncesvalles, located in a pass through the Pyrenees where thousands of pilgrims made their way toward Santiago. Then travel to historic Leyre Monastery, burial site of kings, and then to Sanguesa for a view of the beautiful Romanesque church.

Day 5 - Pamplona. Visit the massive Cathedral of Santa Maria, with one of the most beautiful cloisters in Spain and a rich treasury. Follow this with a visit to the Museum of Navarre.

Day 6 - Pamplona/Burgos. Drive along the pilgrim's route to Eunate for a stop at its Romanesque church. See Puente La Reina, one of Spain's most beautiful villages. Travel on to Irache Cistercian Monastery and Estrella, a 900-year-old village set in a beautiful landscape crossed by two rivers. Finally, stop in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, where, in the 11th century, Santo Domingo took pity on the struggling pilgrims and built a bridge to make the trek a little easier. Check into your hotel in Burgos.

Day 7 - Burgos. Stand in awe of the immense Cathedral of Burgos, an amazing masterpiece of French Gothic fantasy that dominates the town center. Drive to the Quintanilla De Las Vinas Visigothic Church, an amazing remnant of a lost era. Then enjoy an inspiring visit to Santo Domingo de Silos. Here, in the cloister adorned with some of the most gorgeous Romanesque art in all of Spain, echoes the sound of Gregorian chant sung by Benedictine monks who recorded the bestselling "Chant." Lose yourself in this beautiful music at the afternoon service.

Day 8 - Burgos. Tour the Royal Convent of Las Huelgas, once one of the most powerful monasteries in all of Spain, founded by Eleanor of England who is buried here. Marvel at the master carvings by Gil de Siloe at Miraflores. Tour the Burgos Archaeological Museum, housed in the Casa De Miranda, former home of a Castilian nobleman. Then enjoy some free time in this splendid former capital of Old Castile.

Day 9 - Burgos/Leon. At another stop on the pilgrim's way, Fromista, view the interesting Romanesque church decorated with human and anthropomorphic figures. Continue on to Villalcazar de Sirga to see another great church that once hosted pilgrims. Then travel on to Carrion de los Condes. Visit San Miguel de Escalada, a mozarabic church whose simple, graceful beauty illustrates Muslim-inspired architecture. Proceed to Leon, the last major staging post before the pilgrim's climb into the mountains. Settle in at your hotel in Leon.

Day 10 - Leon. Spend the day in enticing Leon with its mix of medieval and modern. Visit the Royal Pantheon of San Isidoro, where more than 40 kings, queens, princes, and dukes are interred. Admire the frescoes covering the walls and arches, considered one of Spain's greatest treasures. Next, explore Leon's Gothic masterpiece, the Cathedral, boasting an overwhelmingly beautiful abundance of stained glass and a cloister filled with treasures. Finish off this spectacular day at the Museum of Leon.

Day 11- Leon/Santiago. Follow the final leg of the pilgrims' great journey to Santiago. Along the way stop at several medieval villages where pilgrims would have rested as they approached the end of their long journey - Astorga (where you'll visit the former bishop's palace built by Antonio Gaudi); Ponferrada; Cebreiro; and Lugo. Reach your hotel in Santiago.

Day 12 - Santiago. Imagine the joy of the weary pilgrims upon reaching their destination as yo9u walk through this ancient and gorgeous city. Visit the Museum of the Pilgrimages recounting the history of the pilgrimage from its origins until present day. After lunch visit the Gelmirez Palace, a striking medieval palace built in the Romanesque style, and San Martin Pinario Monastery, an impressive example of "Barroco Compostelana."

Day 13 - Santiago. Enjoy an all-day excursion to the Atlantic coast. Take in the breathtaking panoramic view of beautiful Rias Bajas from the Mirador de la Curota. On your way back visit Santa Maria de Sar Church and Padron, where the monks grow thousands of hot peppers.

Day 14 - Santiago. Arrive at the great Cathedral of Santiago. Marvel at its lavish Baroque facade, the wonderful sculptures of Maestro Mateo, and the impressive treasury and museum. Spend the remainder of your day exploring on your own.

Day 15 - Santiago/Return USA

Since Interhostel is defunct, I do not consider it a copyright violation to have posted its itinerary above. However, the credit must go to Messrs. Jean Bardot and Patrick Bulteau for devising this itinerary for Interhostel. They now have their own tour company at http://travelswithjeanandpatrick.com/, but alas, “The Pilgrims Way” is not one of their tour offerings. We can only hope that they offer it sometime in the future. Their itinerary was personally more appealing and easier than the Camino de Santiago offerings by either Adventures Abroad (which by default was the one I ultimately wound up taking) or Road Scholar, which really should offer a similar educational tour as an alternative to those who are unable or unwilling to walk the walk.