July 16th 2014

Breathe deeply, stride out, follow the scallop shells - and be prepared for a life-changing experience.
To hike the Camino de Santiago is to join in one of the great walking experiences anywhere in the world. From kings to paupers, for more than 1,000 years, countless pilgrims have followed this route across the 'top' of Spain. The pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain owes its origin to the discovery, in what is now Galicia, of the tomb of the Apostle James the Great sometime early in the 9th century. Whatever the reasons for undertaking this special journey to the 'field of stars', the spirit is in the walking - and in the walkers stepping out alongside, each taking it at his or her own pace. The medieval villages, soaring Romanesque cathedrals, intimate chapels and sanctuaries and peaceful hills and valleys make friends out of strangers, united for mile upon mile or for a few hours or days by their shared goal. Set off from Burgos, the ancient capital of Castile, dominated by one of Europe's great Gothic cathedrals. On the way, visit Leon, founded by the Romans and later cross the longest pilgrim bridge in Spain to Astorga with its medieval cathedral and Gaudi's extraordinary Bishop's Palace. Pass the night in a high mountain village and travel on to Cruz de Hierro, adding a stone to the mountain left by passing pilgrims ove generations.
A lonely track leads to Ponferrada, with its 12th-century Templar Castle built to defend the pilgrims from the Moors. From there walk beside mountain streams to the perfectly preserved hilltop village of O'Cebreiro, with its pallozas, oval stone huts with conical straw roofs. The first glimpse of the towers of Santiago still has the power to thrill even a modern-day pilgrim. The huge Praza de Obradoiro frames the magnificent cathedral in the heart of the old Baroque city. Attend the pilgrims' mass there and, before leaving, make sure a scallop shell is tucked in to a bag or pocket, just like the pilgrims of yesteryear. Our 2015 Walk along highlights of the Camino departs on 23 May. Find out more here

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