Leon to Santiago: Mountain Bike
Starting in Leon, cycle to the end of the trail at the legendary city of Santiago de Compostela, around 330km of cycling. This section suits cyclists who are in reasonably good shape as there are several hills to be tackled as the route climbs into the beautiful green countryside of Galicia. 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.
You’ll have a high quality mountain bike delivered to your hotel along with panniers, tool kit, lock, small handlebar bag and pump – everything you need to get you on the road. Each day your main luggage will be transferred to the next hotel so you can keep your weight in the bike light and just take what you need for the day. Each evening you’ll come into excellent accommodation, hand picked for its character and location.
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Get Ready For
- Bring a pebble or memento to leave at the Cruz de Ferro
- Indulge the tastebuds; visit to the Museo del Chocolate in Astorga
- Finish your pilgrimage walking into the incredible city of Santiago de Compostela
Leon to Santiago
Arrive into the lively city of Leon, capital of Castile and Leon. Your bike will be waiting for you when you arrive at your hotel. You just need to assemble the handlebars and pedals from the box – an easy 10-minute job.
Spend the day exploring this beautiful city and its incredible Gothic cathedral which is renowned for its marvellous 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 that 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
- Tool kit, lock, and pump
- Drop off and collection of bike
- 9 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 $585
- Cycling helmet
- Travel insurance
- Flights to/from Spain
RAW Travel also offer tailor-made arrangements and can adapt this itinerary to suit your needs. 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).
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! 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!
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TRIP date selection
when would you like to travel?
Please select your preferred dates for on-demand trips or select a scheduled date for group departures. If you have booked a self-guided trip please understand that because your trip date is on demand and we must check availability of all properties on your chosen dates before it can be fully confirmed