The Camino Frances is the most famous Camino route, walked by millions of pilgrims from all over the globe since the Middle Ages. But, more than just a pilgrimage, the Camino is a unique social and cultural experience and a truly memorable adventure.
Follow in the footsteps of medieval pilgrims, walking the fourth and the fifth (final) stage of the French Way. Starting from the elegant León, with its impressive cathedral and Roman walls, you will reach Sarria, just over 100km away from Santiago. From Sarria, the final section of the walk takes you through Galicia to Santiago de Compostela for a unique experience you’ll treasure forever.
- Santa María de León Cathedral, also called Pulchra Leonina in León
- The small mountain village of O Cebreiro
- The Templars Castle of Ponferrada from 12th c.
- Church of San Juan of Portomarín – an unusual Late Romanesque temple
- The medieval village Ribadiso
- Santiago de Compostela cathedral
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Day 1: Arrive in León
Your journey on the fourth stage of the Camino Frances begins in the beautiful city of León with its impressive cathedral and Roman walls, the Romanesque Royal Basilica of Saint Isidoro and the neo-Gothic Casa de Botines, built by Gaudí. Treat yourself to the exquisite local cheeses and cured meats.
- Overnight in León (Hotel La Posada Regia, Hotel Rincon del Conde or similar)
Day 2: León to Olcina de Valdoncina | 11km
After your night in León, your Camino will start through the beautiful Spanish countryside. The Camino from León is pretty flat and easy. You will walk along crop fields, and you will see pretty apple orchards along the way to Olcina de Valdoncina.
- Walking for the day: 11km, 3h
- Overnight in Olcina de Valdoncina (Domus Oncinae or similar)
Day 3: Olcina de Valdoncina to Hospital de Órbigo | 25km
At the beginning of today’s stage, you will need to tackle some hilly terrain. The flat landscape of the plateau then continues till Hospital de Órbigo, one of the prettiest villages on the Camino, which you reach via a magnificent bridge over the river.
- Walking for the day: 25km, 6h
- Overnight in Hospital de Órbigo (Hostal Canton Plaza, Hotel DON SUERO DE QUIÑONES)
Day 4: Hospital de Órbigo to Astorga | 17km
You leave behind the infinite plains of the Castilian Plateau and enter a more mountainous area. Your goal will be the small city of Astorga, full of Roman ruins, where the French Way and the Vía de la Plata meet. It is also the capital of the Maragatería region.
- Walking for the day: 17km, 4h
- Overnight in Astorga (Hotel La Peseta, Hotel Gaudi or similar)
Day 5: Astorga to Foncebadón | 26km
From the lovely city of Astorga, you will gradually make your way up towards the stunning León Mountains and the lush Bierzo region, taking paths surrounded by broom, heather and oak trees before reaching Rabanal del Camino.
- Walking for the day: 26km, 6-7h
- Overnight in Foncebadón (EL TRASGU DE FONCEBADÓN, El Convento de Foncebadon or similar)
Day 6: Foncebadón to Ponferrada | 27km
Today is one of the most rewarding days on the Camino as it climbs to Mount Irago, the highest on the Camino (1500m). Stop at the Iron Cross on top of the mountain, one of the most special places on the French Way, where you can place a memento and visit the St James chapel before descending to the lush area of El Bierzo. On your way to Ponferrada, pass through the lovely town of Molinaseca. Once in Ponferrada, you should explore the old town, its impressive 12th century Templars Castle, and make sure you try the local specialities, such as botillo and some of Spain’s most delicious cured meats.
- Walking for the day: 27km, 7h
- Overnight in Ponferrada (Hotel Aroi Ponferrada or similar)
Day 7: Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo | 24km
After your night in Ponferrada, the Camino takes you across the heart of the lush region of El Bierzo, nestled in the mountains. Take the opportunity to taste the local delicious cherries if you are travelling in summer, exquisite cured meats and other regional delicacies. In Villafranca, known as ‘the little Compostela’, visit the garden of the Iglesia de Santiago, St James Church. The church has a ‘Forgiveness Gate’, Puerta del Perdón, that only opens during Holy Years.
- Walking for the day: 24km, 5-6h
- Overnight in Villafranca del Bierzo (Casa Mendez, Posada Plaza Mayor or similar)
Day 8: Villafranca to Vega de Valcarce | 16km
After your night in Villafranca, visit the garden of the Iglesia de Santiago, St James Church. The church has a ‘Forgiveness Gate’, Puerta del Perdón, that only opens during Holy Years. Your route runs along the Valcarce river for a final stretch of about two kilometres.
- Walking for the day: 16km, 4h
- Overnight in Vega de Valcarce (Hostal Rural El Recanto or similar)
Day 9: Vega de Valcarce to O Cebreiro | 12km
This stage to O Cebreiro holds a steep climb in only a few kilometres, but the views are truly spectacular. Many say that it is the most beautiful stage on the way. The difference in altitude is almost 700 meters along the dreaded La Faba hill, but the arrival in the beautiful village of O Cebreiro of rich Jacobean tradition and great anthropological interest and the entry into the magical Ancares is worth it.
- Walking for the day: 12km, 3h
- Overnight in O Cebreiro (Casa Pazos, Albergueria Frade or similar)
Day 10: O Cebreiro to Triacastela | 21km
From the village of O Cebreiro, you will walk the ‘Serra de Ranadoiro’ (Ranadoiro Mountains) and reach Alto do Poio, where you will encounter the pilgrim statue and enjoy fantastic panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. From the Alto, you will start descending into the village of Triacastela.
- Walking for the day: 21km, 5h
- Overnight in Triacastela (Complexo Xacobeo, Casa Simon or similar)
Day 11: Triacastela to Sarria | 19km
From Triacastela, you can choose two Camino options; the ‘San Xil’ Camino offers scenery that will lift your spirits. It has many ‘corredoiras’ (narrow forest tracks) with paved pathways through native Galician oak woods. If you wish to visit the impressive Samos Monastery, you will walk across the valley of the river Ouribio to reach Samos and continue to reach the town of Sarria, the most popular Camino starting point.
- Walking for the day: 19/21km, 4-5h
- Overnight in Sarria (DP Cristal, Duerming Villa de Sarria or similar)
Day 12: Sarria to Portomarín | 22km
Setting off for Portomarin, you pass Sarria Castle, walking mainly along small country roads and a few pathways. Most of the roads are tree-lined and will provide good shade in the sun. There are hamlets every kilometre or so. Visit the beautiful Romanesque church in the village of Barbadelo.
- Walking for the day: 22km, 5-6h
- Overnight in Portomarín (Pousada de Portomarin, Arenas Porto or similar)
Day 13: Portomarín to Palas de Rei | 25km
Walk downhill along Portomarin’s main street; leaving Palas de Rei, the Camino crosses the Minho river and steadily climbs upwards before passing through Gonzar and Castromaior, where the tiny Romanesque Church of Santa Maria is situated. Continue along country roads edged by bright yellow gorse, pine and oak trees to reach the high point of today’s walk at Sierra de Ligonde (750m), then descend to the old hamlet of Ligonde, once a popular resting point along the Camino.
- Walking for the day: 25km, 5-6h
- Overnight in Palas de Rei (Lar do Peregrino, Casa Avelina or similar)
Day 14: Palas de Rei to Melide | 14km
Pilgrims consider this section the start of the countdown because shortly after Coto, there are stone markers at the side of the path with the distance to Santiago marked. Much of the day is shaded; a pleasant hike in the middle of lush forests to finally cross a medieval bridge to reach the Melide river.
- Walking for the day: 14km, 3-4h
- Overnight in Melide (San Anton, Pension Ferradura or similar)
Day 15: Melide to Arzúa | 15km
Shortly after Melide, you will walk through oak and eucalyptus forests. Melide is where the Camino Primitivo merges with the Camino Frances. The Camino crosses several streams and follows a forest track bringing you to the village of Boente and the church of Santiago. Next is the pretty medieval hamlet of Ribadiso and finally the town of Arzúa, famous for its local cheese, where you should visit the churches of Santa María and A Magdalena.
- Walking for the day: 15km, 3h
- Overnight in Arzua (Hotel Arzua, Pension Domus Gallery or similar)
Day 16: Arzúa to O Pedrouzo/Amenal | 19/22km
The Camino will take you through pretty woods, sleepy villages and across streams for most of the day. The chapel of Santa Irene, with its unique statue of Santiago, is worth a visit. Along the route, don’t miss the lovely hamlet of Rúa. The rest of the route is along a mix of good and calm country roads and forest tracks.
- Walking for the day: 19km, 4h (22km if you overnight in Amenal)
- Overnight in a country hotel in O Pedrouzo, Rua, Amenal or the area (O Acivro, Hotel Bello, Hotel Amenal or similar)
Day 17: O Pedrouzo/Amenal to Santiago de Compostela | 19/16km
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. When you arrive in the city, explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site’s architecture and delight in the wonderful atmosphere of this spiritual and cultural city.
You should be in Santiago in time for the pilgrim mass (12pm). 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: 19km, 4h (16km if you start in Amenal)
- Overnight in Santiago de Compostela (Alameda Rooms, Hotel Lux Santiago or similar)
Day 18: Departure
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before heading back to the airport. We highly recommend booking extra nights in Santiago de Compostela to explore this fantastic city.
What to expect
Accommodations on this tour include a mix of welcoming country inns 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. Below you can see some samples, but please note that the Camino is a very popular destination, and the hotels in your final booking confirmation may be different from the ones pictured below. 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
- DP Cristal
- Lux Santiago (Santiago de Compostela)
*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.
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 and terrain
This walk is graded moderate and includes walks of 4-6h, and up to 27km a day); the terrain is mostly flat, rarely undulating with some occasional steeper ascents (read more about difficulty grades). You will follow a mixture of farm/dirt tracks, minor roads and footpaths. The routes are perfectly waymarked with yellow painted arrows and a yellow shell on a blue background, and the itinerary is very easy to follow. We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through 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 year-round; 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 walking holidays means that there are no fixed dates, and you can start your trip on any date during the season.
Click to view travel options
Our recommended arrival airport for this tour is Santander and departure airport – Santiago de Compostela. An alternative airport is Madrid.
By train or bus
Arrival in Leon:
- Santander Airport 256km, the bus takes 3.5h, check Alsa.es
- Madrid Airport 337km, the train takes 4h (check Renfe), the bus takes 4.5h (check Alsa.es)
Departure from Santiago de Compostela:
There is a shuttle bus to the airport of Santiago from the centre of Santiago with different stops in the city (check www.empresafreire.com) or you can book a private transfer with us.
- 17 nights in private en-suite rooms
- 17 breakfasts
- Luggage transfers from hotel to hotel on all walking days (1 pc up to 20kg per person; each additional piece should be paid)
- Guided tour of Santiago de Compostela (old town)
- Galician cheese tasting in Santiago (not on Sundays)
- Pilgrim’s Passport and scallop
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative
- 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 and entry fees (payable on the spot)
- Any items not explicitly listed as included
Options, extras and 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
- Airport transfers
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 100km, 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 rushing and enjoy the charms of the city!