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The lush green hills of the Cantabrian mountains
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Highlights

  • A dramatic, more challenging pilgrim route to Santiago
  • San Sebastian, a gastronomic experience fit for any foodies
  • The art and architecture of the Guggenheim in Bilbao
  • The contrast of quiet fishing villages and modern cities
  • Gaining your Compostela in Santiago

A dramatic and sometimes challenging route to Santiago, this Camino more accurately reflects the true pilgrim experience. Taking you from San Sebastian along the north coast of Spain to Santiago de Compostela, the route alternates between dramatic coast, rugged Galician mountains and some of the best cities in Spain.

We offer the Camino del Norte in five sections of roughly a week each. Walk just one section, perhaps the last one to Santiago to gain your Compostela, or combine two or more sections for a longer pilgrimage.

Please Note - Due to restoration works on the interior of Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, the Pilgrim Mass has been moved to an alternate location in 2019. For more information please read our blog post - Santiago de Compostela Cathedral Restoration 2019

Stage 1: San Sebastian to Bilbao (Days 1-8)

Starting in the possibly the greatest city in the world for food, you head out to burn off those excesses on a route with a lot of ups and down. For the first few days you are walking along the coast before you head inland, into the lush green hills of Basque Country. With charming coastal villages and historic towns dotted along the route you finally finish marvelling at the architectural wonder of the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao.


Walking days: 6 Total Walking Distance: 126km

Grade: Moderate-Strenuous

Stage 2: Bilbao to Santander (Days 9-14)

The route begins with a walk through the industrial outskirts of Bilbao, but soon you are out walking along world class beaches and taking in the views up beautiful Rias. (Fjords) You will wander through many little seaside fishing villages which are a stark contrast to the modern Bilbao.
The latter part of the route alternates between forest and coastal walking, your route dotted with little rural churches. There is also some wetland walking which is outstanding for its birdlife before you arrive in the historic city of Santander.


Walking days:Total Walking Distance: 112km

Grade: Moderate-Strenuous

Stage 3: Santander to Gijón (Days 15-24)

Walking along wild Cantabrian coastline from Santiander takes you though some lovely little fishing villages. The coast is peaceful and dramatic, with stunning vistas, quiet beaches and is bursting with bird and sealife. After passing through the Asturian town of Ribadesella you come to the end of the section in the wonderful Gijón.


Walking days: 9 Total Walking Distance: 197km

Grade: Moderate-Strenuous

Stage 4 - Gijón to Ribadeo (Days 25-31)

This section takes you along the coast of Asturias through an area that is rife with history. From prehistoric remains, to roman ruins and a plethora of old churches and cathedrals, there is history round every corner of this section. The port of Avilés was important in the establishment of the USA and the gardens at Selgas, with their medieval towers are said to rival those of Versailles. This is a wild, lesser visited part of the route, but one full of wonder.


Walking days: 6 Total Walking Distance: 148km

Grade: Moderate-Strenuous

Stage 5: Ribadeo to Santiago de Compostela (Days 32-40)

On this final section of the Camino del Norte you head inland, away from the coast as you make your way through the mountains of Galicia. You will see many gothic graveyards and impressive old cathedrals as you pass through this forgotten corner of Spain.


Once you reach Arzúa you connect with the Camino Frances for the final days into Santiago.


Walking days:Total Walking Distance: 200km

Grade: Moderate-Strenuous


Accommodation

The accommodation in San Sebastian, Bilbao and all larger towns, will be in 3 star hotels, the rest will be a mixture of rural hotels and hostels all with private rooms and en-suite. They all offer a warm welcome to walkers, traditional hospitality and delicious local food. We do recommend that you book this trip early as the area is always popular and the hotels and inns do fill up early, especially in high season. 


Solo Walkers & Single Rooms

The Camino is available to solo walkers at a single supplement.


Meals

A local continental breakfast is included each morning (apart from Bustio), which can sometimes just be coffee, bread and orange juice. Lunch and dinner are not included as standard so you are free to choose from the available options.  Every place you stop will have evening meals available, you can get a pilgrims menu for about 10 euros which includes 3 courses, wine and water!

Availability

This trip is available to start on any day from the beginning of March to the end of October.


Time of Year

The weather in Northern Spain is very varied. In general you can expect pleasant temperatures for walking of between 19 degrees and up to about 26 degrees in the summer months. As you will be walking near the coast for much of this walk, you can expect some rainy days, particularly in spring and autumn.


Solo Walkers & Single Rooms

The Camino del Norte is available to solo walkers at a single supplement.


Grade & Terrain

This walk is graded moderate to strenuous and includes daily walks of between 12 – 33 km per day.


You can expect to walk for between five and eight hours each day and some of it is fairly strenuous walking with some steeper ascents/descents.


The Camino Del Norte follows a mixture of farm/dirt tracks, minor roads and footpaths


Navigation, Route Notes & Maps

The route is marked with yellow painted arrows but please take care at intersections. There are sections on the route where you will divert to follow the red and white stripes of the GR routes. There will always be other walkers around in-case you are looking for help.You will be supplied with turn by turn route notes and detailed maps so you will have no problem following the route each day


Additional Nights

There is so much to see and do along the route that many of our clients choose to add extra nights along the walk either as a rest day or simply to do some extra sightseeing. If you are walking the route solo try not to add too many extra nights along the way as you will lose touch with those you have met.


Baggage Transfers

Baggage transfers are included (max 20kg per person). Your main bag
will be transferred each day between your overnight accommodation so
that you only need to walk with a day pack.


Clothing & Equipment

Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, lightweight clothes, waterproofs and a day pack.


Compostela/Pilgrims Passport

The pilgrim’s passport is issued by the church of St James, you can obtain one at the start of your walk in the pilgrim’s office or the local church in town.You need to get the passport stamped in churches, restaurants and hotels along the way. At the end of the walk in Santiago you can obtain your Compostela Certificate (only if you have walked the last 100km). For the other sections of the trail, the passport is used as a souvenir with all the colourful stamps you will receive.


Travel Insurance

It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you have suitable Travel Insurance which covers you for the activity, emergency evacuation and hospital care.


General Information

The distances and ascent/descents are approximations of the recommended routes. Please be prepared by packing all necessary items, for example, proper rain gear (jacket and pants), sun hat and sun screen. Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking/cycling gear such as good walking boots or shoes, warm and waterproof clothes for the cooler months and lightweight clothing for summer, and a day pack.


Getting to/from Northern Spain

Flying to Bilbao is the best way to get to San Sebastián. Direct flights are available from London Heathrow, Stansted, Bristol and Manchester. From Bilbao you can easily take the bus along to San Sebastian with ALSA


On the return the best place to fly out of would be Santiago de Compostela. You can fly directly from Santiago back to the UK with Ryanair who fly direct to Stansted and Easy Jet who fly direct to Gatwick.


Another good point to connect through to travel internationally is Paris. You can fly from Santiago to Paris with Vueling or from Madrid with Ryanair

Included

  • Accommodation in small rural hotels and hostels with en-suite W/C.
  • Baggage Transfers
  • A detailed information pack for the group leader including route notes, maps, and local information
  • Camino del Norte guide book.
  • Emergency telephone support from our local and UK offices in the event of a problem.

Excluded

  • Return travel to Spain.
  • Lunches, dinners (optional), snacks or drinks. Breakfast at Bustio.
  • Travel Insurance.
  • Personal Equipment.
  • Taxi transfers or public transport should you need to skip a stage.

Extras

  • Additional nights accommodation along the way.
  • Single supplements.

Committing to the Camino del Norte is a big decision and you will undoubtedly have a huge number of questions and queries.

I hope the answers below will go some way to answering your queries, alternatively I would strongly suggest you visit the Camino Forum or Camino de Santiago website which have a wealth of information on the Camino.

How fit do I need to be?

The average daily distance of our Camino tours are between 20 and 25 kilometers and you can expect to walk for between five and eight hours each day and much of it is rather arduous walking. You should do as much walking as possible prior to your walk as this will simply add to your enjoyment. That said if you are not at peak fitness you will find you will soon walk yourself fit.

What type of trails does the Camino follow?

A mixture of farm/dirt tracks, minor roads and footpaths. The route is marked with yellow painted arrows but please take care at intersections. There are sections on the route where you will divert to follow the red and white stripes of the GR routes. There will always be other walkers around in-case you are looking for help.

How far in advance do I need to book?

We suggest you book as far in advance as possible as the Camino is extremely popular.Numbers can rise by up to 100, 000 people. We will always try and accommodate late bookings but realistically you need to book at least 6 weeks prior to departure.

Can I walk with my bags?

Yes, some people prefer to walk carrying their own bags as a true pilgrim would have. You can select the option for removing the baggage transfers in Step 2 of the Booking Engine.

When is the best time of year?

I would recommend April/May when the spring flowers are at there best and September/October when the colours are just lovely. June, July and August can be very hot if you are not used to walking in the heat while the temperatures can fall sharply in the winter with some accommodation closing down for the end of season.

What happens if I can’t walk a stage?

Public transport and taxis are available, if you are need of support our local partner in Spain will be more that happy to help.

Can I change my itinerary once I start walking?

Unfortunately we are unable to change your accommodation bookings and itinerary once you start walking as alternative accommodation is generally not available at such short notice.

Fantastic scenery, great food, and amazing people

5

I bought this walking trip for my husband's 60th birthday. Because we're both older, we were somewhat nervous about attempting the "moderate to strenuous" sort of walking this part of El Camino requires, since some days you're covering close to 30 kilometers and you're walking in the mountains. We're both somewhat active, in that I run (slowly and modestly) and he bikes (same), but neither of us is in top shape or skilled at hiking. But if we didn't do it now, then when? We figured we could always bail and take a bus or something if we couldn't do the trail. In the end, though, we DID do it, and yes, that first day was long and a bit tough, but the scenery was so absolutely gorgeous and ever-changing (this is through the Basque country, so it's green and lush and unlike most of the touristy areas of Spain down south), and the villages were so friendly and different, that most of the time we were simply awestruck by our surroundings and barely noticed our aching muscles. Plus, the hotels booked by Mac were extremely comfortable, and all different from each other--a special shoutout for Jaquin at the Basque farmhouse, a host like no other, and for the posh hotel in San Sebastian, definitely our two favorites--that each night it was a treat to shower and enjoy our meals in different places and our beds, too. And oh, the food! The food! Such good food in almost every small village bar, and of course in San Sebastian and in Bilbao, too. Some travelers on other sites complain about this particular walk because it includes some walking on small paved roads, but frankly, we loved the mix of dirt trails, ancient cobblestones, and pavement because of the variety in scenery--I loved seeing how people lived in towns and villages as well as up in the remote hills. All in all, a perfect trip.

Holly

Massachusetts

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A fabulous time walking in stunning scenery

5

We had a fabulous 2-weeks walking our second phase of the Camino de Santiago (Northern Route), with excellent accommodation organised by Steph @ Macs, with seamless bag transport, well organized itinerary and some big-days.

Hamish

New Zealand

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I wiil be booking the next stage using MacAdventures

5

The whole trip was great. To pick an unexpected highlight was the first independent hotel at Gertia but the every place was great apart from the hotel in Gernica which was a little cold and corporate in its approach. Overall I really enjoyed and will be booking next year with Mac Adventures

Stuieeee

Hants

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My Camino del Norte trip

3

An overall great experience. However, the taxi transfers seemed to detract from the pilgrim experience of the Camino. It created too much dependency on the clock. And there was one location where there should have been a taxi transfer but wasn't. This was in Vilalba, where the accomodation (Hotel Spa Attica21) was 9 km outside of Vilalba. In addition to adding almost 2 hours of walking time, there were no directions on how to get there, such as where to exit the Camino and what route to follow. Because of the time constraint of the following day (I had another meeting point in Santa Leocadia, which I missed) I had to call a taxi to take me back to Valalba to get back on the Camino. These two days were the low points of the journey. On a positive note, when I did miss one of the meeting points, Teetravel was very helpful in re-routing a taxi and getting me to my accomodation for the night. My reason for only giving this trip 3 stars is mainly because of the number of taxi transfers.

Lorenzo

West Virginia

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What a fabulous trip if you don't wear yourself out.

5

Macs Adventure version of the Camino del Norte pilgrimage/walk was well worth the effort. I've walked quite a bit in the Himalayas and in comparison this is not an easy walk - even without the massive mountains. Put bluntly it is fairly tough going, especially when you are getting a bit older (like us), and for us, especially the further into the walk you get. According to Macs Adventure app we walked 847 km in 38 days (we got lost a couple of times where the way-marking was poor) and there were 8 of those that were 30 km +, and with just 3 rest days along the way. I don't know what percentage of people complete this walk but there were many people we met who didn't make it. Blisters on feet were a major problem for some, and problems with knees, ankles, shins, hips and back pulled quite a few up. Ignoring the pain the highlights of the trip are following the footsteps of our medieval ancestors, sometimes on well preserved medieval paths dotted with buildings of similar age; and meeting fellow walkers from all around the world with similar aspirations; then the local Spanish population are friendly, helpful, accommodating and supportive - even though you are often walking passed their back yard and stopping in their bars and restaurants to try the local amazing food and wine from The Basque County, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia. This is simply worth doing. Buen Camino and thanks Craig and the others at Macs Adventure for organizing this trip for us.

Russell

Australia

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A wonderful trip

5

This is a fairly strenuous part of the Camino with a lot of steep walking up and down. Having our heavy luggage go ahead of us made it fun and not an ordeal. The views changed every day and were beautiful.

Happy Walker

London

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Fantastic trip!

4

We really enjoyed the variety of scenery and great accommodations. Everything went smoothly, though be aware that the last day from Playa de Berria to Santander is fairly long (~34km). My wife left a jacket behind at a hotel and it was forwarded ahead with no problems. Much appreciated!

Mike the hobbler

Vancouver. Canada

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We will definitely use Macadvetures again.

5

Great organisation everything went like clockwork only the walking was hard!

4 last of summer wine walkers

Cheshire

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Camino Norte, varied and interesting walking.

5

This is a great trek for those wanting a Camino trek which is quieter, and more challenging than the Camino Frances with spectacular views.

Bob & Heather

North Wales

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Macs Adventures score well again

5

Having the accommodation booked in advance takes the stress away. The variety of accommodation also adds to the fun and interest. Macs back up service was very useful and efficient in arranging a taxi pickup for me to get to the accommodation as I had serious delays which resulted in major changes to my travel arrangements at the beginning of the trip.

Heath

Cornwall

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Camino del Norte

4.7 27

96.3

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