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Camino del Norte: Bilbao to Santander 31

Camino del Norte Stage 2: Bilbao to Santander

Overview

The Camino del Norte (a.k.a. The Northern Way) offers a truly authentic pilgrim experience. Compared to the Camino Frances, the route is quieter, much more challenging, and a lot more rewarding. The Camino del Norte goes along the green northern coast of Spain from San Sebastián in the Basque Country, through Cantabria and the Asturias and reaches Ribadeo in Galicia. From Ribadeo, the Northern Camino heads inland, taking pilgrims across the forests and farmlands of rural Galicia on its way to Santiago de Compostela.

On this itinerary, you will walk the second stage of the Camino del Norte from vibrant Bilbao, renowned for its art, architecture and cuisine, to the historic city of Santander in Cantabria. You will walk along the beautiful coastline of northern Spain, along world-class beaches, stunning rias (fjords) and wetlands full of birdlife. Explore the old town in Bilbao, visit its magnificent Guggenheim Museum and taste delicious ‘pintxos’ before you head West towards Santander following the coast.

Highlights

Click to view map

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bilbao

Bilbao (or Bilbo in Basque) has reinvented itself in the past 30 years, becoming host to some of the best art exhibitions in the country at the impressive Guggenheim Museum. Explore Bilbao’s old town with its quaint taverns and taste a few of the amazing pintxos! We also highly recommend that you book an extra night in Bilbao.

Day 2: Bilbao to Portugalete | 12.4 km

After your night (or two) in Bilbao, you will start walking on this selected section of the Camino del Norte. The trail crosses a suspension bridge and winds along the banks of the Cadagua River. You will cross the famous Devil’s Bridge before arriving at the Hermitage of Santa Águeda. After this, there is a steep climb to the small town of Barakaldo before arriving in Portugalete via a path along the banks of the Galindo River.

  • Walking for the day: 19.4 km Official Camino | 12.4 km along the river – approx. 4 hours
  • Accommodation: Husa Gran Puente Colgante or similar in Portugalete

Day 3: Portugalete to Castro Urdiales | 27.6 km

The Northern Way continues along the beautiful rocky coastline. At La Arena, you will cross a wonderful beach of fine red sand.  There are some steep but short climbs as you follow the coast on your way to Castro Urdiales. Castro Urdiales has a good mix of modern and medieval architecture, and as you enter the town, you will pass the bullring and the beach.

Day 4: Castro Urdiales to Laredo | 26.6 km

Today the Camino del Norte will take you along the breathtaking coastal cliffs of the Cantabrian Sea, passing a medieval castle and lighthouse along the way. You will also pass the Chapel of Santa Isabel and the Church of La Magdalena on the way to Liendo. Here you have two route options for the rest of the stage to Laredo. You can either take a route across the valley, passing the Church of Nuestra Senora de Liendo in Hazas, or you can take the alternative route, climbing to the Chapel of San Julián on the way to Laredo. Laredo itself is famous for its magnificent beaches, vibrant atmosphere and medieval quarter (Puebla Vieja).

Day 5: Laredo to Güemes | 29 km

After your night in Laredo, your walk today will be mainly flat but with scenery that is nonetheless fantastic. From Laredo (from El Puntal), get the ferry to Santoña (every 10/15 minutes) before continuing along the coastal path to Noja and then inland to Güemes. Alternatively, from Laredo, you have the option to follow the inland route, which is a bit more challenging (23 km) but equally as beautiful.

Important: It is important to take into account the ferry operating hours or any seasonal disruptions before you leave Laredo as this could influence your choice of route: https://www.excursionesmaritimas.com/horario.htm

  • Walking for the day: 29 km, 8 hours
  • Accommodation: Valle de Güemes or similar in Güemes

Day 6: Güemes to Santander | 11.8 km

Today, once you reach Galizano to Somo, you can either take a straight road into town (saving 2 km) or follow the coastline, which is a longer option but very scenic. To reach the final destination of Santander, you can take a traditional boat called ‘Pedreñera’ across the bay (saving you approximately 3.5 km) from the village of Somo (not included, 2 EUR pp, www.losreginas.com/). The capital of Cantabria, Santander, is an elegant city with plenty of beaches, parks, nature, architecture and great food.

Day 7: Departure

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before heading back to the airport. We highly recommend booking additional nights in Santander to explore this charming city.

What to Expect

Accommodation

Accommodations on this tour include a mix of welcoming guesthouses, B&Bs and simple but comfortable hotels located close to the Camino route. You will always have a private room and an en-suite bathroom. The accommodation places have been carefully selected for their location, atmosphere and/or unique services. Extra nights can be booked at any of the accommodations along the way.

Important: We aim to book you into each town listed on the itinerary. However, in case of low availability, we may book you two nights in the same town with provided transfers. Also, on some occasions, your accommodation can be located a few kilometres away from the trail, so we organise transportation to/from your accommodation.

Click to view default hotels

Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal or higher value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

Breakfast is included (usually a simple buffet breakfast/coffee and toast/bread/croissant) on all days. When no restaurant location is available on the route, lunches and snacks should either be bought from local shops, or packed lunch can be pre-ordered from your hotel the night before. Where no dinner is included, most places serve hearty pilgrim menus – you can get a 3-course dinner including wine and water for about GBP 10-15 pp.

Difficulty & terrain

This walk is graded moderate to strenuous and includes walks of up to 29 km (7-8 hours) a day, and some of the walks are fairly strenuous with steeper ascents/descents. a reasonable level of fitness is required. This route can be challenging for those with little walking experience (read more about difficulty grades). The Camino Del Norte follows a mixture of farm/dirt tracks, minor roads and footpaths. The route is marked with yellow painted arrows, but please take care at intersections. There are sections on the route where you will divert to follow the red and white stripes of the GR routes. There will always be other walkers around in case you are looking for help. We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime.

When to go

This trip is available from March till mid-November, but the best months to visit are April – October.

The weather in Northern Spain is very varied. In general, you can expect pleasant temperatures for walking of between 19°C and up to about 26°C in the summer months. As you will be walking near the coast for much of this walk, you can expect some rainy days, particularly in spring and autumn.

The flexibility of self-guided walking holidays means that there are no fixed dates, and you can start your trip on any date during the season.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Click to view travel options

By plane

Our recommended airport for this tour is Bilbao. The alternative airport is Santander.

By train or bus

There is a regular shuttle bus (line A3247) between Bilbao airport and Bilbao bus station (stop name: Termibus, every 30 min). See www.aena.es/en/bilbao-airport/public-transport.html or use the Omio planner above.

In Santander, there is a bus line (every 30 min), linking the bus station with Santander airport. See: www.movelia.es

Inclusions

Included

  • 6 nights in private en-suite rooms
  • 6 breakfasts
  • Maps
  • Pilgrim pass
  • Luggage transfers from hotel to hotel on all walking days (1 pc up to 20 kg per person; each additional piece should be paid)
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers
  • Lunches and dinners, drinks and snacks
  • Additional luggage
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses
  • Local tourist taxes & entry fees (payable on the spot)
  • Any items not explicitly listed as included

Options, extras & supplements

  • Supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room / single use of a double room
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
  • Extra nights

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