No stranger to Spain, Dana from our Sydney office returned to walk the Camino Trail between Bilbao and Santiago de Compostela on a guided tour that incorporates some of the most interesting landscapes and cities of the most famous pilgrim route in Europe. It wasn’t easy, but she put together this blog post for us about the best bits of this best of tour.
I was very lucky to travel to Spain this year for my ninth time (I’m quite the fan!). It was a chance to re-visit many towns along the Camino that I’d seen what seems like a lifetime ago. There are now noticeably more people everywhere, but the lovely thing about Europe is that everything changes and nothing changes at the same time. It is easy to find old favourites and discover new haunts.
For me, these were the best bits of the Best of the Camino:
The towns of northern Spain
Both capitals of past kingdoms, the cities of Burgos and Leon are rich in history and architectural beauty, with impressive and vast cathedrals. On our trip we had guided visits of both cities, with plenty of time to linger and learn. I was surprised by how charmed I was by Logrono, the capital of La Rioja, and Astorga. Smaller than Burgos and Leon, both are interesting, lively and have a great vibe.
2. Our knowledgeable guide
Our guide Jorge really made the trip for me. He was interesting, fun, incredibly knowledgeable over a broad range of topics and generally very good company. It was great to have a Spanish speaker on hand at tapas bars to help with the formalities and explain things to us that we otherwise would have missed.
What set this trip apart from others for me was being able to choose how much I wanted to walk each day. Every morning we had the option of being dropped off with Jorge at the furthest spot, or we could opt to stay in the van and be driven further westward, reducing our time on foot. I enjoyed the freedom I had to walk the way I wanted each day – sometimes I felt like powering on and completing the bulk of that day’s walk in one go, other times I wanted to move at a slower pace, stopping at viewpoints or in villages I passed through for coffee, snacks or to soak up the atmosphere and reflect on the day’s walk. Sometimes I enjoyed chatting and walking with others in the group, other times I felt like walking by myself. I really felt like I had the best of both worlds on this trip!
4. Afternoon strolls
You would think that after a full day of walking, that last thing you’d want to do would be more walking! However, I thoroughly enjoyed hitting the town every afternoon or evening for a wander, either alone or with the group, to get my bearings and soak up the local scene.
The quality of the food throughout the tour was fantastic. Every day I looked forward to sharing a tasty dinner with a glass or two of wine with the group and talking through the day’s events as well as the plan for the following day. A highlight for me would be when our driver joined us one evening for tapas – we loved practicing the Spanish we’d picked up with him and teaching him some English.
6. Self discovery
The relaxed rhythm of walking is great for contemplation, and over the course of the tour I learned a lot about myself, and a lot was revealed amongst the group. The only thing more fascinating than people is people on pilgrimage.
7. The camaraderie
I shared the route with so many different nationalities – people from Latvia, France, Italy, the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, the UK, Norway, Iceland, and other Australians. It was truly a melting pot, with everyone walking the same way, with the same end point, but in their own unique way. The relationships I made and memories I shared with my diverse group and people I met walking will stay with me forever. I’ve already decided that I want to do the Best of the Portuguese Way next year, and look forward to comparing the two trips!
Join us on a Best of the Camino guided walk in 2019:
- 7 Apr – 19 Apr
- 12 May – 24 May
- 9 Jun – 21 Jun
- 8 Sep – 20 Sep
- 29 Sep – 11 Oct
- 20 Oct – 1 Nov
Click here to find out more about our self guided, guided and cycling tours on the Camino in Spain, France and Portugal.