The Route you'll take......
The Camino del Norte, as its name suggests, follows a route along the north coast of Spain, parallel to the Camino Frances and hugging the coast for a long way until entering the region of Galicia where the trail turns inland towards Santiago. The entire route is about 825 km from its starting point in Irun on the France/Spain border. In 2012 almost 13,000 pilgrims travelled this Way which represented barely 7% of the total of all pilgrims walking or cycling to gain a Compostela in Santiago. The terrain can be challenging especially at the start where the path follows the coastal plain and navigates across any number of rivers. A comfortable timetable to complete this walk will be between 5-6 weeks for most pilgrims. There are tremendous cliff-top views in places and also many stretches where you will be out of sight of the sea. There is some road-walking , but there are also quite a lot of mountain tracks.
The first stages of your journey will take you on mountain tracks to San Sebastian, where you will find the Basilica of Santa Maria del Coro in the old town, one of the most visited architectural structures of the Basque country, the Buen Pastor Cathedral.
Bilbao is another 150km along the coast. The Gothic 14th-century Santiago cathedral and, for art-lovers, the Guggenheim museum are two of the famous attractions here.
You have a choice of three routes on the 90km section from Bilbao to Santander. The alternatives start at Laredo, when you may follow the coast to Galizano and catch the ferry at Sumo, cut across the land route through Orejo and catch the ferry at Pedrena, or follow the road to Galizano, the walk via Solares to Santander.
Santander is the capital of Cantabria, its cathedral, the Cathedral del Cristo is as wonderful inside as its exterior suggests, but you should visit the Magdalenas Peninsular with its magnificent beaches, the park and the little zoo. Or take the 4km walk from the city centre to the lighthouse along the sea-front beaches.
From Santander to Gijon is 160km along the coast, but along the way is Villaviciosa. Here, there are variations on the route. Some people go to Valdedios to visit the monastery and go on to Oviedo to link up with The Camino Primitivo to Lugo. Others continue on the Camino del Norte, walking the 100 km on the coast road from Gijon, though the delightful fishing village of Luarca , to the beaches of Ribadeo, before leaving the coast to go south to Vilalba.
At Lugo, the Camino Primitivo joins up. You could visit the Roman walls, the baroque cathedral or the museum at the Convent of San Francisco. The convent was traditionally said to have been founded by St Francis of Assisi on his way to Santiago. From Lugo the route links up with the Camino Frances at Arzua.
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