Preparing for the Camino del Norte

The last time I was in Spain, I spent most of the days climbing mountains together with a group of people lead by Luzumpunkts. This time I want to ride more than 1000km on a bike through whole Spain – from the east border with France till the ocean in Fisterra, and then continue to Vigo.

A part of the plan is to do the Northern Route of Camino de Santiago – which starts in Irun and finishes in Camino de Compostela, it runs for some 850km, but we won’t stop there – we also want to see the fantastic coastal views in Fisterra, and then move south to Padron and finish our trip in Vigo, where we will spend 3 days on the beach.

If you have not heard about the Camino de Santiago, I suggest to watch this movie – “The Way” – which is the reason I got interested. Or read a small description below:

The Camino del Norte (also known as the Coastal Route or the Northern Route) is one of the longer branches of the network of ancient pilgrim routes which together make up the Camino de Santiago. It runs from the French border at Irún, through San Sebastian, Bilbao, and Santander to join the Camino Francés (the main spine route of the Camino) at Arzua.

The terrain is quite hilly for much of the route, and you are often sent inland to reach a bridge over the numerous rivers. It is much less crowded than the Camino Francés, and because of this, pilgrim accommodation is sparse in places. There is a great Wealth of ancient monuments, particularly churches and monasteries, and the larger cities have excellent facilities. Bilbao even has a metro which ends at the beach.

The weather on this route is highly variable, and you need to be prepared for some quite wet days.

Source: santiago-compostela.net/cdn/index_cdn_en.html

As you can see from description, there are several routes, how you can get to Santiago de Compostela – and the main route is called Camino Frances, but after some research I chose to take the Coastal route because of following reasons:

  • It is less crowded – the main route is so popular that it might be a challenge to find a free bed, and after a whole day of walking or biking I would not be very happy to sleep on the floor.
  • It runs along the ocean – so you can swim more often and don’t feel like in a desert
  • It has more mountains, more impressive views and is more challenging

Route

Here you can see the first part of our route (click on image to open Google Maps)
Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 6.23.06 PM

And the second part:
Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 6.24.11 PM

We plan to spend 15 days on bikes and each day ride 36-84km, in some days we will do less travel to spend more time in the cities or beaches.

1. Irun > Deba, 62km
2. Deba > Lezama, 67km
3. Lezama > Pobena, 36km
4. Pobena > Güeme, 61km
5. Güeme > Comillas, 79km
6. Commillas > San Esteban de Leces, 79km
7. San Esteban de Leces > Avilés, 84km
8. Avilés > Luarca, 72km
9. Luarca > Ribadeo, 65km
10. Ribadeo > Vilalba, 69km
11. Vilalba > Arzúa, 67km
12. Arzúa > Santiago de Compostela, 37km
13. Santiago de Compostela > Fistera, 77km
14. Fistera > Padron 80km
15. Padron > Vigo 70km

Bikes

If you consider doing something similar, I recommend renting bikes from BikeIberia – they speak english, have great reviews and offer good bikes with everything you need – helmets, spare tires, pump, waterproof bags. And the bikes are delivered to a hotel, where you start your trip, and collected from a hotel, where you finish.

Where to stay overnight

Of course, you can stay in hotels or use Airbnb, but if you want to spend less money and get more authentic experience, then you should look for albergues – these are very simple hostels built specially for pilgrims – people, who walk the Camino.

The main difference from hostels – you are allowed to stay in albergue only for 1 night and you need to prove that you are doing the Camino walk. To do that, you need to get a pilgrim passport in your starting point, and then collect stamps along your route.

And as I understood from Kaspars Misins, then there are 2 types of albergues:
1) those owned by state, cost 6€ per night, with less comfort – you get a bed, but with no blankets, so it is a good idea to bring a lightweight sleeping bag with you
2) private albergues, cost 10-12€ per night, provide blankets, often have fully equipped kitchens and free WiFi

Resources

Some blogs that I recommend reading:

Other sites:

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4 thoughts on “Preparing for the Camino del Norte”

  1. Thanks for your story 🙂

    I am planning this trip in 2017, and would like to ask you if you think is possible to have my twins with me, they will be 1year old at that time.
    I am use to trek a lot, and in good shape.

  2. Hi Tulle,

    each person can plan the route according to his abilities – some people walk 15-20km a day, some – 40km or more. But you should consider that depending on the route and time of year you choose, it can get very hot and there will be lot of direct sun. If you can make sure – that your twins are protected from sun, and you plan to stay in hotels or private rooms (airbnb, for example), it might be OK, but if you plan to use albergues – note that many of them are quite basic and not well suited for small children, and if you arrive too late – they might be full, and in most cases – there are 6-10 people sleeping in one room, who might not enjoy your company, in case the children cry a lot. Also the beds in albergues are narrow, so you have to figure out, how/where will the children sleep.

    1. Hi Kristaps
      Thank you for your reply.
      We have planned to walk the Camino del Norte along the coast. In july/august. We will walk about 15-20k a day. We have planned to use about 60 days in total.
      Thanks for the tip about albergues, I think we will fine some airb&b ore hotels. Normaly we have tent with us, but I read that it is not allowed.
      It will be a little more Expensive to stay at hotels, but it is also inportant to get a good sleep when having the twins with us.
      We have all the necessary equipment because we are use to walk long distance.
      I hope that it can be done, to be honest, right now this trip is very important for me.

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