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Cycling the Way of St James: León to Santiago  The Natural Adventure Company

Cycling the Way of St James: León to Santiago

Overview

All the historical sites, charming authentic villages, great landscapes, tasty local food and fellow travellers sharing the same passion for exploring make this route such a special experience. While the paths leading to Santiago de Compostela are well-trodden by the many walking pilgrims, few are travelling on this route by bike, so we consider this tour an exciting opportunity to enjoy a classic adventure differently. This is a self guided cycling tour that will take you through all the Camino de Santiago French Way highlights, letting you feel the route’s unique atmosphere from a different perspective. We will be transferring your luggage between hotels. And as you will be cycling more than 200 km to Santiago, you will be eligible for a Compostela certificate.

Highlights

  • Excellent cycling along ancient routes steeped in history
  • Beautiful landscapes, impressive local architecture, surviving traditions
  • Fabulous gastronomy and regional wines
  • Carefully selected accommodation, combining authentic feeling and modern comfort
  • Earn your Compostela pilgrim certificate

Click to view map

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in León

From Valladolid, Oviedo or Madrid airport, you travel by public transport to Léon. Depending on the timing of your arrival, you can visit the Santa María de León Cathedral, a masterpiece of the Gothic style. Overnight in Leon.

Day 2: León to Astorga | 48 km

After the rental bikes have been delivered, tested and adjusted, you start with a gentle ride of 48 km through the plains of Castille to Astorga, a town of Roman origin, where the Camino crosses the Via de la Plata. In this fortified town, you will discover the archbishop’s palace, designed by Gaudi in his iconic modernist style.

Day 3: Astorga to Molinaseca | 49 km

Today you cycle from Astorga (at 880 m altitude) through the hills of the Bierzo area to the Cruz de Fierro (at almost 1507m altitude) and then down to the village of Molinaseca. You will bike through the most desolated rural area of the entire Camino route, but there are small villages with some cafés for a break along the way.

Day 4: Molinaseca to Villafranca del Bierzo | 30 km

A relaxing day of only 30 km to the city of Vilafranca del Bierzo. En-route you pass Ponferrada, which was also founded by the Romans who exploited coal mines in the nearby hills. The most impressive local site is the Templar castle of 8000 square metres, built in the 12th century. After Ponferrada, you cycle to Villafranca del Bierzo, an important gateway to Galicia.

Day 5: Villafranca del Bierzo to O Cebreiro | 29 km

Today you will face the toughest uphill section of the tour, as you cycle into Galicia, first along the old national road and then 6 km on a steep dirt road to O Cebreiro (this section can be avoided by following the old national road to the pass Pedrafita and then follow a tarmac road to Cebreiro). O Cebreiro is a remarkable and emblematic village, full of legends and stories related to the Camino. It has a Romanesque church from the 11th century, right next to your hotel.

Day 6: O Cebreiro to Sarria | 47 km

Today you start with a short ascent, but the next 35 km will be mostly downhill through dense woods and the lush green Galician countryside. On your way today you pass by the Monastery of Samos, which was founded in the 6th century and was continuously renovated (in the 18th century for the last time). 

Day 7: Sarria to Palas de Rei | 52 km

During this long day you will accomplish a total ascent of 600 m, but never more than 200 m on one climb; often less. The landscape is rural and captivating, continuously changing and with plenty of villages, cafés and restaurants where you can your experience with fellow pilgrims. To reach the charming rural hotel for tonight, you’ll have to make a small detour near Palas de Rei. 

Day 8: Palas de Rei to Arzúa | 31 km

A gentle and undulating day as you cycle through tiny villages. The surprise for the day is the Pambre Castle from the 14th century in the middle of (what now seems) nowhere, which was an important site in the early days of the Camino. Again the day ends at a charming rural hotel, in a typical Galician manor house, a so-called Pazo.

Day 9: From Arzúa to Santiago de Compostela | 40 km

A glorious day as you will finally reach the Puerta del Perdón of Santiago’s cathedral. The standard route goes via the airport and the Monte del Gozo through the outskirts of town. If you prefer a more scenic route, you cycle via Touro (50 km). 

  • Accommodation: Hotel A Tafona or similar
  • Cycling for the day: 40 km, ↑310 m

Day 10: Departure

After breakfast, our services end, unless you haven’t booked some of our other cycling or walking tours exploring further the Camino Route.

Hotels

Accommodation is in simple but comfortable hotels, located close to the route of the Camino. All of them have private en-suite rooms and offer a warm welcome to visitors, traditional hospitality and delicious local food. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.

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 full accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

Breakfast is included (usually buffet breakfast/coffee and toast/bread/croissant) on all days, as well as 4 dinners. 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 GBP 10.

Difficulty & terrain

This trip is graded moderate, as it includes cycling distances of up to 50 km per day on a mixture of asphalt and dirt roads, with a maximum daily elevation gain of 800 m. In order to enjoy cycling, it is recommended that you have some previous experience and are in very good physical shape (read more about difficulty grades). You can also rent an E-bike, which makes the trip accessible practically to everybody. The routes are well waymarked, and the itinerary is very easy to follow. We will also provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.

When to go

This trip is available from April till the end of October. The best months to visit are April – June and September – October as in the summer months it may become too hot (and crowded). The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date during the season.

Compostela/Pilgrims Passport

You can obtain one at the start of your route in the pilgrim’s office or the local church in town. You need to get the passport stamped in churches, restaurants or hotels along the way. At the end of the tour in Santiago de Compostela, you can obtain your Compostela Certificate (only if you have cycled the last 200 km finishing in Santiago).

Important: Due to the large influx of pilgrims during summer, and to avoid long waiting times, the Pilgrim Office in Santiago has installed a numbered ticket system for issuing pilgrim certificates (the Compostela). This new system allows pilgrims to collect their ticket and, using a QR Code, to check the status of the queue and estimated waiting time to obtain the Compostela. However, the number of tickets per day is limited so on days with high numbers of pilgrims arriving, there is a possibility that not all pilgrims will be able to collect their certificate on the day of arrival and will have to return for it on the following morning. Therefore, if obtaining a pilgrim certificate is important to you, and if you plan to undertake the Camino between April 15th and October 15th, we recommend that you arrange the return travel in such a way that you will be in Santiago de Compostela during the morning after your arrival. Better still, we encourage you to book a second night in Santiago so that you can collect the certificate without rush and enjoy the charms of the city!

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Click to view travel options

By plane

You are best to fly into Oviedo/Asturias airport (OVD), or Madrid-Barajas airport (MAD).

By train or bus

Arrival in León

  • By public transport from Oviedo airport: Bus from Oviedo (Asturias) airport to León with five or six services daily. Travel time is 3 to 4 hours, and you may have to change buses in Oviedo or Gijón. See www.alsa.es for further details. 
  • By public transport from Madrid airport: Bus from Madrid-Barajas Airport T4 to León with 4 or 5 services daily. Travel time is 3.5 to 4.5 hours. See www.alsa.es for further details. 
  • Optional transfers: A private taxi transfer can be booked through us as well. Prices are available on request. 

Departure from Santiago de Compostela

  • By public transport to Santiago airport (Lavacolla): Bus from Santiago city centre to Santiago airport, with departures daily every 30 minutes 
  • By public transport to A Coruña airport (Alvedro): Bus from Santiago bus station to A Coruña, with departures every hour. 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes. This service is provided by Castromil / Monbus. From A Coruña bus station, you take a city bus (Line 443) to the airport. Service provided by Autos Calpita. 
  • Optional transfers: A private taxi transfer can be booked through us as well. Prices are available on request. 

Inclusions

Included

  • 9 nights in small family-owned hotels, in private en-suite rooms
  • 9 breakfasts
  • 4 dinners (on days 3, 5, 7 and 8)
  • Detailed digital holiday information pack including GPS-checked and regularly updated route descriptions, road notes and maps. Please note that the info pack is emailed to you before departure and no printed documents are mailed or provided on-site
  • Luggage transfers from hotel to hotel on all cycling days (up to 20 kg per person)
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Flights and airport transfers
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • All lunches and the dinners on days 1, 2, 4, 6 and 9
  • Personal expenses such as snacks, drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
  • Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘included’ in the programme

Options, extras & supplements

  • Single room supplement applies to members of a group who require a single 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 along the trail are bookable upon request
  • Airport transfers
  • Bike/ E-bike rental

Bike rental

We offer trekking and hard-tail bikes with front suspension (100mm travel) and 24-27 gears, as well as E-bikes, suitable for the routes. Each rental package includes: helmet, panniers, waterproof cover, repair tools, air pump, gel seat, front handlebar bag , map holder and odometer.

Sample bikes models: Bergamont vitos, GT Avalanche, Orbea Dakar, Peougeut CM22/61, Stevens tonga, WeedHEAP 2.0
Sample E-bike models: Moustache Samedi, Univega Vision ELTD

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