For centuries, the faithful have been trekking across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago (also known as “The Way of St. James”). Now it’s your turn. We’re excited to debut our Spain: Camino de Santiago Self-Guided Walking experience, which brings you all the best of this renowned route in a manageable 9-day format. We asked the trip’s designer and manager, Alex Hynes, to tell us a bit about it.
First off: what exactly is the Camino de Santiago?
For starters, it’s one of the three most-followed Christian pilgrimage routes in the world (after Jerusalem and Rome)—so the cultural and historical significance is just huge. It exists because the remains of St. James were said to have been found in Northern Spain during the Middle Ages, so for over a millennium pilgrims have been traveling across Europe to pay their respects. The Camino is actually a whole network of routes fanning out across Spain—all coming together as you get closer and closer to the city of Santiago de Compostela.
If you’re walking the Camino, what can you expect to experience along the way?
Well, we follow the French Route—perhaps the best known of the official pilgrimage routes—and we walk highlights of the path all the way from the French border to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela itself. We’re one of the only travel companies to offer this. Along the way you’ll pass through seven distinct regions of Spain, so you get an incredible cross-section of the country’s diverse cultures, climates, cuisines, etc. From Basque Country, with its stone houses and rolling hills, to the central plateau of Spain, where the landscape changes, to the lush, green hills of Galicia—which many compare to Ireland in the UK. In terms of the personal experience, the idea of walking on the path with other pilgrims is very meaningful for some people. There’s a lot of camaraderie on the road; the spirit of making a journey together is really intense.
What were some of the challenges in creating CW's itinerary?
It’s something we’ve wanted to do for many years, but have held off on until we could put together the right local partners, accommodations, and plan. Since the experience of walking the Camino is a very personal one, we felt that this would work better as a Self-Guided trip than as a Guided one. The biggest challenge was the distance. The whole Way is over 300 miles—to walk it end to end usually takes a few months. We know that most people don’t have that luxury. Most other tour companies just offer a small 6-day section of the route; we wanted to give the full Camino experience. Working with local partners,
I identified special walks all along the entire length of the route to create a trip to remember. It’s all of the
highlights—the local inns, beautiful cathedrals, and amazing cuisine—with none of the lowlights. I know
people are really going to love it.