Pamplona to Santiago: Mountain Bike
Travel over 700km along the Camino trail to the famed end point at Santiago, taking in all that the Camino has to offer, and do it by bike. While most people choose to walk the trail it is possible to cycle (or ride a horse) along the ancient pilgrimage trail. We supply a top quality mountain bike and look after your luggage and accommodation, while you enjoy the ride.
Cycling the Camino will take you over ancient bridges, through tiny hamlets and across a large part of the Spanish landscape. The trail is full of variety with sections on sealed road, track, rocky paths and everything from long flat days to long climbs and short sharp ascents. In most cases, it is possible to get off the trail and use roads that run parallel to the Camino. Enjoy the wonderful food, stay in interesting and tasteful accommodation, and feel the history of the millions of pilgrims who have traversed the trail over the centuries.
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Get Ready For
- Mountain Bike Pamplona to Santiago
- Bring a pebble or memento to leave at the Cruz de Ferro
- Indulge the tastebuds; visit the Museo del Chocolate in Astorga
- Finish your pilgrimage walking into the city of Santiago de Compostela
Arrive into the historic city of Pamplona. Your bike will be waiting for you when you arrive at your hotel and you just need to assemble the handlebars and pedals from the box – an easy 10-minute job!
If you have time, get out and immerse yourself in the narrow cobbled streets of Pamplona which burst with colour and life. Explore the many galleries, churches and sights of this vibrant city. Alternatively, head to Cafe Iruna on the main plaza where Hemingway and other celebrities hung out, pay close attention to its art deco interior which has not changed over the decades. That evening, dine in one of the city’s award-winning restaurants specialising in elaborately prepared ‘pinchos’ or finger foods.
From Pamplona you head off on your first ride along the Camino Trail. The first 13km of today’s ride is a fairly steep ascent once you get past Cizur Menor to the peak of Alto del Perdon (the Hill of Forgiveness), as you ascend you can get some amazing views back over Pamplona and onto the south. After your steep ascent you now get to descend for the next 11km taking you into Puente la Reina.
The morning starts crossing the Queens Bridge whose six arches span the Arga that over time has swollen to become a powerful river. Ride over gently rolling hills made up of farmland and vineyards towards Estella. Estella is a vibrant town with lots to do and see, and may be a good place to stop for lunch as it is filled with varied restaurants and bars.
From Estella you can embark on your last 22kms riding for the day, there is a steep ascent once you pass Azqueta to Villamayor de Monjardin which is at an elevation of 650m. But you will be rewarded with gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside. From here you will be pleased to know it is a gradual descent all the way to Los Arcos where you will be spending the night. Los Arcos is a classical pilgrim halt and has Roman origins. Make sure you take a walk through the narrow streets and breathe in the tranquility.
Prepare for some steep ascents today. Early in the ride pass by Ermita de la Virgen which is precariously perched on the road’s highest point. You will get great views over the flat plains ahead with Viana and Logrono in sight. From the village of Bargota the path descends sharply down into a ravine and you cross the river Cornava (often dry). Once you make your way up to the top of the next hill Viana should be clearly in sight. Viana is a historical town that has changed little since medieval times and the majority of its 15th century architectural heritage is still intact.
From Viana enjoy the downhill riding towards Logrono which is a great halfway point to stop for lunch. Longrono is a vibrant city with a population of approximately 130,000. Logrono is the capital of La Rioja which is a famous wine-growing region. This old town is a fantastic mix of medieval and modern with plenty of bars, restaurants and shops centered around the main pedestrian street.
Hopefully after lunch you have fueled up and are raring to go as there is a challenging ascent of up to 400m over the next 22km. You pass through Alto de la Grajera which will give you views back over the route you have just come and to Longrono, along this section we are told there is no way to happiness – Happiness is the Way! Your legs will get a short break over the next 3km as there is a gradual descent into Navarrete before you continue your ascent up to Alto de San Anton.
Navarette is another town where all efforts have been made to preserve the original period homes and the 16th century Church of Assumption takes a commanding position at the top square. On the main road at the other side of town there is another busy square with a number of cafes and restaurants, you may want to stop here for a celebratory coffee or wine as it is now downhill all the way to Najera, your final destination for the day!
Najera is where you will spend the night and is another good mix of old and new. You will enter this town via the modern eastern quarter with the old town sandwiched between the river Najerila and the towering rock face that acts as a spectacular backdrop with its ancient Castillo.
Today is a shorter day of riding again, with the first half of the day being along wonderful wide country tracks passing through remote and gently rolling farmland. The first 5km is a fairly leisurely ride which takes you into the town of Azofra. Azofra is a small village with a population that barely hits 500 and relies on the Camino for its survival. From Azofra you pass over the river Rio Tuerto and continue on a pleasant track that winds all the way up to Ciruena. From here you start an enjoyable descent into Santo Domingo de la Calzada.
Santo Domingo de la Calzada owes its inspiration to Saint Dominic of the Road who built a pilgrim hospital, now the Parador and a church which has evolved into the Catherdral, both are located in the historic town square Plaza del Santo. Saint Dominc of the Road dedicated his life to improving the physical route for the pilgrims. This town has a good variety of places to eat and shop along the main busy streets and also in the smaller interconnecting laneways.
The rest of today’s riding towards Belorado is along the newer roads which is quite close to the main N-120 with little shelter and water, so be careful on your bikes along this section and make sure you have filled up your water bottles. You will get a respite from the busy road when you pass through the villages en route.
You will pass through Granon, Redecilla del Camino, Castildelgado, Viloria de Rioja and reaching Villamayor del Rio which might be a nice rest spot before your final 5km into Belorado.
Belorado has a nice down to earth feel about it and is populated by people who work at a leisurely pace. There is a medieval arcade lined with shops, bars and restaurants which is located in the spacious Plaza Mayor. The 16th century Church of Santa Maria has a lovely altarpiece with images of Santiago Matamoros y Pelegrino and is built alongside the limestone cliffs.
Varied terrain is today’s mission with a nice change from yesterday riding on busy road to paths and earth tracks. From Belorado you will travel along level open countryside with some shade provided by hedgerow and woodland. Once past Villafrance Montes de Oca you will start the fairly difficult ascent to the highest point for the day at Alto de Valbuena, you will pass through beautiful oak woods and when you reach the peak it is a gradual descent to San Juan de Ortega.
San Juan, a disciple of Santo Domingo, was known for his work to serve the pilgrim to Santiago. He built bridges, hospitals, churches and hostels and even founded an Augustinian monastery, which is dedicated to San Nicolas de Barri who is said to have saved San Juan from drowning on his way back from the Holy Land.
From here the riding isn’t too bad and is mostly downhill all the way to Burgos. From San Juan de Ortega you drop down into the peaceful valley of the Rio Vena and once past Atapuerca you have one final hill to conquer before you descend the rest of the Way.
Once you hit Burgos make sure you make a stop at the Burgos Cathedral. The 13th century Catedral de Santa Maria is one of Spain’s largest and most beautiful, and combines many different styles but is predominantly Gothic. Whatever condition you are in it is worthy of a visit to the interior. You will stay in Burgos for the night and have all of tomorrow to explore, rest and recuperate!
Today is yours to explore. Spend the day checking out all that Burgos has to offer including the beauty of many of the city’s buildings. Burgos is sometimes known as the Gothic capital of Spain and has a growing population of around 200,000. The week either side of 29 June is the city’s main festival of San Pedro y Pablo.
Caution is recommended in Burgos with common stories of theft and overcharging so it is best to keep your wits about you.
Back on the bikes today we leave the bustling city of Burgos to virtual wilderness. The track on this section is mainly earth and you travel through what seems like never-ending crop fields. This section of the route is often referred to as the Meseta. You may come across a shepherd and his herd but if not it will most likely be just you and the birds. The Meseta also has zero shade from the sun so make sure you are well covered up.
Hornillos del Camino is your half way point for today’s riding and is a classic pilgrim village where little has changed over the centuries. This is a great place to immerse yourself in the ancient atmosphere of the way.
Once past Hornillos del Camino there are few towns en route to Castrojeriz so make sure you are stocked up with any water and supplies you might need. We are again traveling along the lonely Meseta towards Hontanas, a small town of just 80 which is tucked away in a fold in the landscape. This town is largely undiscovered except by pilgrims and has a solid parish church which dominates the tiny village square.
From Hontanas there is less than 10km to go, the last 2km downhilling into Castrojeriz where you will spend the night. Castrojeriz is the perfect place to rest for the night as it is a small sleepy town of just 600 with an obsession with siesta. If you still have a little energy left it is well worth the walk up to the hilltop castle Castillo as you will get lovely views over the town and countryside. If not just take a load off and relax in one of the local bars with a beer.
Today you start with a steep climb out of Castrojeriz to get back onto the Meseta, but never fear there is a downhill slope on the other side. Again today’s riding will see you in little shade on earth tracks with few water stops so make sure you take precautions. About 7km into your ride you will come across a small village called Itero de la Vega with a population of only 190. After Itero de la Vega you will pass over the Canal Pisuerga with a gentle incline before descending into Boadilla del Camino.
Boadilla del Camino originally had a population of over 2,000 which once served the multiple pilgrim hospitals, but the population is now only a mere 200. Continuing on a few more kilometres you will reach Fromista. Fromista is best known for the beautiful 11th century Iglesia de San Martin which was built with a gorgeous mellow stone. With over 300 external corbels each carved with a different human, animal or mystical motif this is a must see site.
From here we are off the earth tracks and onto what is often referred to as the pilgrim autopistas which run alongside the main roads. Around 13km from Fromista you will enter the town of Villalcazar de Sirga which is well known for its hospitality. Now declared a national monument, the town of Villacazar de Sirga is home to the superb 13th century Templar church of Santa Maria la Virgen Blanca. This church houses the tombs of royalty and nobles alike.
Only a short 5 more kilometres to your resting place for the night – Carrion de los Condes. This fascinating town retains its medieval atmosphere in its quiet side streets and was home to no less than 14 pilgrim hospitals. The town has a variety of shops, bars and restaurants so take your pick!
Today’s ride is a long one but it is generally flat all the way. Make sure your bellies are full and your water bottles are filled as there are no facilities for the first 17km until you reach Calzadilla de la Cueza. If you need to stock up on snacks you can do so here or wait until you make it to Ledigos which is only another 6km down the track. From Ledigos it is a short ride to Terradillos de los Templarios a small humble village of just 80 residents.
The next major town we hit is Sahagun which is full of ancient monuments and has a population of 170,000. Sahagun was the seat of great religious power, largely because of the influence of Alfonso VI who, along with his numerous wives, is buried in the Benedictine convento de Santa Cruz. From Sahagun you will make your way to Bercianos del Real Camino where you may want to stop for lunch or a break as there are not many townships over the final kms to your overnight stop of Mansulla de las Mulas.
Arrive into the lively city of Leon, capital of Castile and Leon. Spend the day exploring this beautiful city and its incredible Gothic Cathedral which is renowned for its marvelous stained glass windows. The streets of Leon come alive in the evenings when people parade the streets and its bodegas are overflowing with people.
There are two routes available for this morning, both start at ‘La Virgen Del Camino’ and converge at ‘Hospital de Orbigo’ – one is a more indirect route that goes via Villar de Mazarife and has better scenery and less traffic, a more pleasant ride. The other route runs parallel to the autopista (highway) is less peaceful but quicker. You will see pilgrims on both routes but we’d recommend the quieter one via Villar de Mazarife. Stop for refreshments at the cafe overlooking the extraordinary bridge the ‘Puente de Orbigo’ – built on a Roman bridge this one dates from the 13th century and is one of the best preserved bridges in Spain.
You then ride the final 15km to reach the beautiful walled town of Astorga, with views of the mountains of Leon in the distance. On this last section you will cross over a few kilometres of quite rough tracks over rolling terrain before you reach the cross which overlooks Astorga. Look out for the small basic ‘Cantina’ at the top of the hill, a welcome refreshment stop before you reach the cross. Continue on to Astorga, which offers a number of attractions including a Cathedral by Gaudi and a delicious chocolate museum!
Leaving behind Astorga you cycle on pleasant paths across the plains with good views of the hills before you. Look out for the Cowboy Bar at El Ganso, a good place to stop for morning coffee. After El Ganso you start to climb to Rabinal del Camino and you’ll start to feel the incline which will steepen as you get further into the hills towards Foncebaddon – the infamous deserted village which is no longer deserted! The incline is always rideable however and there are plenty of switchbacks with great views back over the plains from where you’ve come. At the top of the hill is the Iron Cross, where pilgrims leave something whether a pebble they’ve carried or a bad habit or memorial to a loved one.
Today is a big day of hills, the Camino climbs into the city of Ponferrada past the castle of the Knights Templar, worth a quick coffee in the plaza to admire the hills you’ve just climbed over the day before. After Ponferrada continue on through gentle rolling hills and vineyards to reach the charming town of Villafranca del Bierzo, nestled in the hills that mark the border with Galicia. From here continue onwards and upwards to overnight at O Cebreiro which lies at the top of the mountains, a further 30km and 800m vertical ascent.
From O Cebreiro you have one or two more uphill stretches to conquer before an amazing long freewheeling descent of almost 20km to reach Triacastela. After Triacastela you continue along the river valley to Samos, home to an impressive monastery which dominates this little town. The monastery is now a museum and well worth a look. From here you will continue along the road to Sarria.
Today you’ll continue through the beautiful green Galician countryside to the modern town of Sarria, which is a major stop on the pilgrim trail – walking pilgrims can start here to cover the last 100km and earn their Compostela. Immediately after Sarria you will cross a series of low hills of up to 600m which will eventually lead you down to Portomarin, the route is along tree lined paths and country roads so very pleasant riding. After Portomarin the Camino climbs again for 400m of ascent before finally rolling down the last 20km to Palas De Rei, a modern town.
Your final day on the bike as you approach the holy city of Santiago. Today’s ride is a fitting end to the Camino, as you pedal along rural roads through woodlands and pastures to Santiago, meandering along forgotten country roads through the beautiful Galician countryside. Rolling hills and green pastures predominate as you approach the final stretch to Santiago and feel the excitement building as you glimpse the towers of the Cathedral.
This morning you will need to take your bikes on a short ride back to the bike shop to drop-off, and you will then have the whole day to enjoy and explore historic Santiago with its many enticing tapas bars and restaurants. You can attend the midday pilgrims mass and look around the famous Cathedral of St James which forms the city’s heart and watch the steady stream of pilgrims arriving into the square as they finish their epic journey.
You are free to check out of your hotel any time before 10am. If you would like to explore Santiago further you are able to leave your bags with reception.
- Specialized Carve Comp 29 mountain bike (15”-21” frame sizes)
- Ortlieb rear panniers
- Toolkit, lock, and pump
- Drop off and collection of bike
- 18 nights excellent accommodation including historic hotels and character country houses.
- Private en-suite rooms on a twin share basis
- Daily breakfast
- Luggage transfer each day from hotel to hotel (1 x 20kg bag per person)
- RAW Travel navigation APP with maps of your hotel locations and emergency contact numbers
- Local and Australian emergency contact numbers
- Pre-trip Camino guidance and planning
- Dedicated local support person in Spain for reassurance
- Single supplement ($1260)
- Cycling helmet
- Travel insurance
- Flight to/from Spain
RAW Travel also offers tailor-made arrangements and can adapt this itinerary to suit your needs. Please note that tailor-made arrangements incur higher costs due to the extra work involved.
For an extra indulgence, upgrade your hotel in Santiago to a Parador from $170 per person/per night twin share and $250 per person/per night single occupancy, when booked 6 months in advance (subject to availability).
Camino de Santiago
Discover inspiration, travel essentials, practical information and more in our free Destination Guide. All you need to know about walking the Camino de Santiago routes through Spain, Portugal and France!
Walking the Camino is an incredible journey that will immerse you not only in Europe’s grand history, food and culture but most importantly the extraordinary camaraderie that exists along these routes. The spirit of the Camino de Santiago is alive and well among people from all over the world. It is a ‘bucket list’ experience you will never forget!
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