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Full Camino del Norte: Irun to Santiago

Full Camino del Norte: San Sebastian to Santiago

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.

Highlights

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Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in San Sebastian

San Sebastián is known for its beautiful beaches and stunning architecture. It is a stunning and chic seaside city, as well as a paradise for foodies. Stroll down the Playa de la Concha and treat yourself to one of the city’s many Michelin-starred restaurants.

Day 2: San Sebastian to Zarautz | 22.3 km

After your overnight in San Sebastian, you will follow the Camino route as it leaves the Bay of Biscay and winds along the coastline through beautiful pastures and gentle hills. You will see the Roman Church of San Martín de Tours before passing charming coastal villages. You will finish today in the beautiful seaside town of Zarautz. Make sure that you try the local Txakolí wine!

Day 3: Zarautz to Deba | 21.8 km

After your night in Zarautz, you will move inland along a quiet rural road before arriving in Getaria with its lovely harbour. After Getaria, the path enters farmlands and passes the harbour town of Zumaia. Today’s section finishes in the lovely seaside village of Deba.

  • Walking for the day: 21.8 km, 5 hours
  • Accommodation: Rural farmhouse Arriola Txiki or similar in Deba

Day 4: Deba to Markina | 24 km

After spending the night in Deba, your Camino trail leaves the coastline (you will reach it again in Bilbao) as you will head for the mountains. After crossing a river, the path climbs quickly into an area of thick vegetation before it reaches the chapel of El Calvario. The narrow footpath (GR-121) passes through several charming villages on the way before reaching today’s destination: Markina.

  • Walking for the day: 24 km, 5-6 hours
  • Accommodation: Rural house Casa Ikestei or similar in Markina

Day 5: Markina to Guernica | 24.6 km

Today the trail follows a quiet country lane, crossing the river in Bolibar before rising to the medieval monastery at Zenarruza. From here, the trail keeps climbing through sheltered woodland to the top of Gontzegarai and on to the hamlet of Gerrikaitz. After passing the Hermitage of Santiago, a sharp descent leads to a small river and the historic town of Guernica, made famous by Picasso’s masterpiece.

  • Walking for the day: 24.6 km, 6 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Gernika or similar in Guernica

Day 6: Guernica to Lezama | 20.8 km

You will leave the town of Guernica and soon pass the hermitage of Santa Luzia Zallo, shortly before climbing towards a road. From here, a cobbled path continues climbing to the village of Morga, where you will begin a sharp descent through the hamlets of Goikoletxea and Larrabetzu and once again enter woodland before reaching today’s destination: Lezama.

  • Walking for the day: 20.8 km, 4-5 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Rural Matsa or similar in Lezama

Day 7: Lezama to Bilbao | 10.8 km

Today the path will take you through farmland to the town of Zamudio, the Roman church of San Martin and the Tower of Malpica. From here, there is a gradual climb to the top of Mount Avril, where your efforts will be rewarded with stunning views of Bilbao and the valley below. As you enter the suburbs of Bilbao you should visit the delightful Basilica of Our Lady of Begoña. Your walk reaches its final point in the Plaza de Unamuno, in the old quarter of 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 strongly recommend that you book an extra night in Bilbao.

Day 8: Bilbao to Portugalete | 12.4 – 19.4 km

After your night (or two) in Bilbao, you will resume following the Camino del Norte trail as it leaves Bilbao. 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 or 12.4 km (along the river), 2-4 hours
  • Accommodation: Husa Gran Puente Colgante or similar in Portugalete

Day 9: 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 10: 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 11: 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.

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 12: 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.

  • Walking for the day: 11.8 km, 3 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Picos de Europa or similar in Santander

Day 13: Santander to Santillana Del Mar | 37 km

After your night in Santander, your Camino heads inland through the towns of Santa Cruz de Bezana, Mompia and Boo de Piélagos. You will follow the estuary at Boo de Piélagos, finishing today in the small village of Arce. Enter the Miengo region as you reach the town of Miengo. Suance is a beautiful little village, and it would be well worth taking some time to explore. Your destination for today is the medieval village of Santillana del Mar. You will walk through lovely meadows and tranquil villages on your way.

  • Walking for the day: 37 km, 9 hours
  • Accommodation: Posada Camino de Altamira or similar in Santillana

Day 14: Santillana Del Mar to Comillas | 22.1 km

From Santillana del Mar, you will continue along the wild, rugged coastline of Cantabria. On your way to Comillas, you will pass gorgeous little villages such as Cobreces with its Cistercian monastery. Comillas itself has fantastic beaches and incredible architecture. You should take some time to explore the sights in the town, such as the Pontifical University, the Palace of Sobrellano with its pantheon chapel and the Capricho de Gaudí.

  • Walking for the day: 22.1 km, 5 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Esmeralda or similar in Comillas

Day 15: Comillas to Colombres | 29 km

Today you will continue along the coast to Oyambre Natural Park. The park is of huge importance for its wildlife and marine ecosystem, home to many species of birds, molluscs and fish. From here, the Camino del Norte heads for Colombres through green fields and woodland, passing the town of San Vicente de la Barquera and a number of small estuaries.

  • Walking for the day: 29 km, 7 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Valbanera or similar in Colombres

Day 16: Colombres to Llanes | 23.2 km

Upon leaving Unquera, you will enter the Asturias, crossing a bridge over the river Deva into Bustio. The pretty town of Colombres is home to several impressive Casas de Indianos built by local emigrants who made fortunes in America. From Colombres, you will descend along the Sierra de la Borbolla. The Camino then enters Pendueles along a narrow path that climbs to the Jorcada Pass after crossing the road to Andrín. Finally, there is another descent to La Portilla and today’s destination: Llanes, a lively town nestled between the coast and the Picos de Europa.

  • Walking for the day: 23.2 km, 5 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Don Paco or similar in Llanes

Day 17: Llanes to Ribadesella | 30 km

The first part of today’s stage follows the coast and the fantastic beaches of Palombina and Barro. After crossing the river Niembro, you will start the steady climb up to the Church of San Pedro de Pria. The church sits on top of a hill that overlooks the seven towns of the area. From here, you will descend to the river Guadamía where you will cross the medieval stone bridge. Next, you will pass through Sobares on your way to Ribadesella, a nice little town worth exploring: divided in two by the bridge, the east side is home to the charming medieval old town, while the west side has a gorgeous beach and the town’s famous Tito Bustillo cave, home to ancient cave art.

  • Walking for the day: 30 km, 7-8 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Don Pepe or similar in Ribadesella

Day 18: Ribadesella to Colunga | 21 km

From the lively seaside town of Ribadesella, you will head inland briefly towards San Esteban and then return to the coast, where you will pass some beautiful sandy beaches. Your stop for the night is the bustling market town of Colunga (San Cristóbal).

  • Walking for the day: 21 km, 4-5 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Entrevines or similar in Colunga

Day 19: Colunga to Villaviciosa | 17 km

Today is quite a short walking day. Starting from Colunga, you will pass many villages along the way. In Priesca, you should stop to check out the 10th-century Church of San Salvador, one of the oldest on the Camino de Santiago.

  • Walking for the day: 17 km, 4 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Avenida Real or similar in Villaviciosa

Day 20: Villaviciosa to Gijón | 30 km

Today is one of the longest and most challenging days on the Camino del Norte, as you will walk up Alto de la Cruz. Today’s trail goes through lush countryside, and you will hit the coast again at Gijón. At Casquita, there will be signs for pilgrims heading for Gijón and continuing on the Camino del Norte, but also signs for those pilgrims heading towards Oviedo to continue on the Camino Primitivo. Take your time to explore the city of Gijón, home to fantastic beaches, great gastronomy, history and heritage (including Roman baths) and where you will find the Bagpipe Museum. We recommend booking an extra night here.

Day 21: Gijón to Avilés | 25 km

Today’s trail takes you from the city of Gijón to the city of Avilés. You will be walking up Monte Areo, where you will be able to enjoy some nice views and see prehistoric dolmen. There aren’t many services along the way so bring a picnic!

Day 22: Avilés to Cudillero | 30 km

Today you have quite a long day ahead, but after you leave the outskirts of Avilés, you will pass through some nice small towns. Your stop for the night is El Pito, home to interesting Renaissance gardens and grand palaces. Just down the hill, you can visit the picturesque fishing village of Cudillero.

  • Walking for the day: 30 km, 7 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Sol de la Blanca or similar in Cudillero

Day 23: Cudillero to Ballota | 22.8 km

Today, you will leave El Pito and its majestic residences behind. While part of the path is along roads today, you will follow many old paths and pass some stunning beaches and green countryside along the way.

Day 24: Ballota to Luarca | 22 km

You will follow the path near the coast after Ballota. After Cadavedo, the trail heads inland, but as you approach Luarca, you will be able to spot the sea again. Your stop for the night is the pretty, traditional fishing town of Luarca. Enjoy some of the fresh seafood and a glass of cider!

  • Walking for the day: 22 km, 5 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel La Colmena or similar in Luarca

Day 25: Luarca to Navia | 22 km

Today you will follow a peaceful inland trail from the fishing town of Luarca to the busy market town of Navia, located on the riverbank. Make sure you explore the town, check out the medieval walls and enjoy a taste of the local cuisine.

Day 26: Navia to Ribadeo | 31 km

Today will be your last day following the Cantabrian coast. You will cross the bridge of the Saints over the River Eo to enter Galicia and reach Ribadeo. The town is famous for the Cathedrals Beach (a short taxi ride away), Galicia’s second most visited site after Santiago’s cathedral. As the walk is quite long today, we recommend booking an extra night in Ribadeo.

  • Walking for the day: 31 km, 7-8 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Bouza or similar in Ribadeo

Day 27: Ribadeo to Villamartin Grande | 18.6 km

Today’s walk follows rural paths, climbing slightly as the terrain becomes gradually mountainous. You will pass small villages and hamlets, but not many shops or services, so make sure you pack snacks and water. The first few kilometres of the day lead through flat terrain or with moderate slopes, but as soon as you reach A Ponte de Arante, we start a steep climb from 100 meters to almost 360 meters. As soon as we have overcome the ascent, we are only a few kilometres from today’s destination, Villamartin Grande.

  • Walking for the day: 18.6 km, 4 hours
  • Accommodation; Hotel Rias Altas or similar in Villamartin Grande

Day 28: Villamartin Grande to Mondoñedo | 17.9 km

Today, you will be climbing from Lourenzá towards Mondoñedo, which used to be one of the seven capitals of the Kingdom of Galicia. You will get amazing views of the surrounding countryside. Visit the Sanctuary of Remedios and the Cathedral.

  • Walking for the day: 17.9 km, 4 hours
  • Accommodation; Hotel Camino de Estrellas or similar in Mondoñedo

Day 29: Mondoñedo to Abadín | 16.6 km

Heading out of Mondoñedo the Camino brings you uphill via some pretty villages like O Vilar or Lousada to Gontan and then Abadin.

  • Walking for the day: 16.6 km, 4 hours
  • Accommodation: Casa Goas or similar in Abadín

Day 30: Abadín to Vilalba | 20 km

Today, the Camino del Norte meanders among the forests, farmland and green pastures of the Terra Chá (flatlands), leading you to the area’s capital, the market town of Vilalba. Try the local delicacies, cheeses and other farm products.

  • Walking for the day: 20 km, 4-5 hours
  • Accommodation:  Hotel Spa Attica 21 or similar in Vilalba 

Day 31: Vilalba to Seixón | 30 km

From Vilalba, the Camino del Norte takes walkers through the heart of the Terra Chá region of Galicia. Forest paths, small farming villages and lush countryside make most of today’s peaceful walk.

  • Walking for the day: 30 km, 7 hours
  • Accommodation; Hotel Bi Terra or similar in Seixon

Day 32: Seixon to Sobrado Dos Monxes | 27.6 km

Continue on your Camino del Norte journey across rural Galicia. You will reach the highest point of the trail at Marcela, so take a few minutes to enjoy the views. Your destination is Sobrado dos Monxes, home to an impressive monastery. The original monastery dates back to the 10th century, although the current facade is baroque. You will be picked up at the monastery and stay the night in Miraz.

  • Walking for the day: 27.6 km, 7 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Via Sacra or similar in Sobrado dos Monxes

Day 33: Sobrado Dos Monxes to Arzúa | 22 km

This morning you will be taken back to Sobrado dos Monxes to continue your Camino journey. Today you will walk the last stretch of the Camino del Norte before it joins the most popular Camino trail, Camino Francés, in Arzúa. Prepare yourself to meet many pilgrims in this busy market town. Arzúa is famous for its local cheese so make sure you give it a try!

  • Walking for the day: 22 km, 5 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Arzua or similar in Arzúa

Day 34: Arzúa to Pedrouzo | 18 km

Today’s Camino walk will take you through pretty woods, sleepy villages and across streams most of the day. Make sure you visit the chapel of Santa Irene, with its unique statue of Santiago. You will stay the night in the town of Pedrouzo.

  • Walking for the day: 18 km, 4-5 hours
  • Accommodation: O Acivro or similar in Rúa-Pedrouzo, Amenal or the area

Day 35: Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela | 21 km

Your final stage! You will walk mostly through rural settings and eucalyptus groves. Your next point of interest is Lavacolla in the outskirts of Santiago, where pilgrims used to wash in the river in preparation for their arrival in Santiago de Compostela. Rows of tall eucalyptus trees line your journey to Monte do Gozo, and it is from here that you will catch your first glimpse of the spires of the cathedral in Santiago.

After visiting Santiago Cathedral and recovering from your walk, take time to explore this gem of a city, small and vibrant. Its old town will enchant you. In Santiago the Compostela, you will find not only pilgrims but also locals and students enjoying a few bites and socialising over a glass of wine in the many bars, restaurants and cosy cafes.

  • Walking for the day: 21 km, 4-5 hours
  • Accommodation: Lux Santiago or a similar in Santiago de Compostela

Day 36: Departure

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before heading back to the airport. We highly recommend booking additional nights in Santiago de Compostela to explore this fantastic city.

What to Expect

Accommodation

Accommodations on this tour include a mix of welcoming country inns and comfortable hotels (1-star, 2-star and 3-star), located close to the route of the Camino. You will always have a private room and an en-suite (attached) bathroom. All accommodations have been carefully selected for their location, atmosphere and/or unique services. Extra nights can be booked at any of the locations 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 31 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 mid-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

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By plane

Our recommended arrival airport for this tour is Bilbao. The alternative airport is San Sebastian. The recommended departure airport is Santiago de Compostela. An alternative departure airport is A Coruña.

By train or bus

Arrival in San Sebastian: From Bilbao, you can easily take the bus to San Sebastian with ALSA and Movelia. 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.

Departure from Santiago: You can take a shuttle bus from Santiago centre to Santiago Airport. See www.empresafreire.com. From Santiago, you can take a train to A Coruña (30 min approximately) and then take a bus from Alfonso Molina (line 4051) to the airport (every 30 min, takes 20 min approximately). Monbus has services from Santiago to A Coruña Airport (every 3 hours); see monbus.es/en for details.

Inclusions

Included

  • 35 nights in private en-suite rooms
  • 35 breakfasts
  • Pilgrim Kit: Credencial (passport) and Vieira (shell)
  • Maps
  • Luggage transfers from hotel to hotel on all walking days (1 pc up to 20 kg per person; each additional piece should be paid)
  • Guided tour of Santiago de Compostela (old town)
  • Galician cheese tasting in Santiago (not on Sundays)
  • 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

Compostela/Pilgrims Passport

You need to get your passport stamped in churches, restaurants or hotels along the way. At the end of the walk in Santiago de Compostela, you can obtain your Compostela Certificate (only if you have walked the last 100 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 tickets 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 rushing and enjoy the charms of the city!

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