Camino francés: part 3 TOUR
Astorga ⇒ Santiago de Compostela
With over 60% of all Pilgrims walking this Way to Santiago, Camino Francés is, without any doubt, the most well-known, historically significant and iconic of all the Caminos. Paolo Coelho’s bestseller “The Pilgrimage” and Martin Sheen’s Movie “The Way” are set on this Camino, and its unparalleled diversity of landscapes, superb infrastructure and fantastic comradery of Pilgrims from allover the World make walking this Camino a truly unique and amazing experience.
Read More about the Camino Francés ⇒
The French Way, or Camino Francés, is the most popular of the many routes to Santiago de Compostela. Saint Jean Pied de Port – a charming town on the French side of the Pyrenees – is the beginning of this fascinating 800 km. (500 mi.) long journey across Northern Spain.
The French Way leads you across the majestic Pyrenees mountains into the charming hilly countryside of Navarra and on into the fertile wine region of La Rioja. Then, pilgrims enter the vastness of the wide-open Meseta: its endless grasslands and dramatic cloud movements in the sky allow for some epic, panoramic vistas. Having crossed the Meseta, the Camino now winds up the passes of another mountain range – the Montes de León, with the enchanting El Bierzo region lying in its valley. The last ascent summits at O Cebreiro and also demarcates the entry into Galicia – the land of strong Celtic tradition, mystical forests, foggy mornings and an absolutely unique, mysterious feel.
The French Way became the main route for pilgrims in medieval times and, to this day, its historical and cultural riches never seize to fascinate thousands of pilgrims from around the World. Picturesque villages and towns of medieval charm, vibrant, contemporary cites and countless tales and legends of miracles – all of these complement the natural landscape diversity along the Way. Blended with the superb infrastructure and – last but, most definitely, not least – the great comradery among Pilgrims, these make the Camino Francés an absolute highlight.
In the 11th century, the first waves of pilgrims reached their height, and King Sancho III of Navarra established a Way over the Pyrenees to Nájera – the ancient Capital of Navarra. The Royal Cities of Pamplona, Burgos and León became connected by the Camino Francés, and thousands of pilgrims contributed to these regions’ economy and left their lasting cultural imprint.
The medieval pilgrims impacted the regions of Northern Spain very strongly, and many traces of that time can still be found along the French Way. When foreign traders, craftsmen and artists settled along the Camino Frances, many Spaniards would simply refer to them collectively as “Franks”, although certainly not all settlers belonged to that ethnic group. But the term stuck – and that is how the Camino Francés got its name.
It is true, however, that especially the superior Frankish craftsmanship and architectural knowledge shaped many cities along the Camino. The movement of pilgrims also rendered a strong economic stimulus. Bridges and other aspects pf infrastructure were put in place, and numerous hospitals were founded along the way to treat pilgrims that had gotten ill. Cities like Logroño, Burgos and Santo Domingo de la Calzada owe their size and prestige partly to their location along the Camino Francés. Over time, many towns along the way acquired Christian relicts and constructed churches, while also more and more miracles were reported to have been witnessed in various locations.
The French Way has remained the most popular among the routes to Santiago to this day, with over 60% of all pilgrims to Santiago walking this trail. In 1993, the Camino Francés became inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage for its historic and cultural significance.
Starting in Astorga, at the edge of the great High Plains of Meseta behind, the Camino traverses the mighty Montes de León before it eventually drops into the lush greenery of Galicia. This makes this Tours terrain very diverse, and the ever-changing scenery – absolutely gratifying. But the most awe-inspiring experience awaits the Pilgrim at Journey’s very end: the arrival at the Cathedral of Saint James!
While this Tour presents a few stretches of moderate to challenging difficulty, it is very well-paced and therefore perfectly suited for people of average physical fitness. The infrastructure here is superb, and the feeling of arriving in Santiago is undiscribably rewarding. One extra day (2 nights) in Santiago is the least needed to enjoy this city, and the itinerary is planned accordingly.
Tour Type: Self-Guided
Availability: April through October
- March 01 – June 15: Regular Season
- June 16 – August 15: High Season
- August 16 – October 31: Regular Season
Blackout Dates: May 1 – May 31, 2022
Duration: 15 Days Total / 12 Days Walking
Total Distance: 266.9 km. (165.8 mi.)
Average distance: 22.2 km. (13.8 mi.) / Day
Prices (per person):
Starting at € 720
Starting at € 1,060
14 nights in single / double room
English-speaking emergency assistance
Your full digital Travel Info Package
We are proud to be working together with hand-picked, high quality and mostly locally owned and operated service providers.
Your journey will be booked through, and your Travel Package will include all the information you will need to access your lodging locations and to process your check-in.
Luggage transfer on walking days
Breakfasts (subject to availability)
Lodging for additional night(s) stays
If you wish to walk your Camino Stages with a light backpack, carrying only the basic necessities, we will be happy to arrange for your luggage to be forwarded from one hotel to the next on your walking days.
Breakfasts are not available everywhere, and they are often served late, starting around 8 am. However, if you wish to include brekfasts, we will be happy to do so, where possible.
Spending an extra night in a given town throughout your journey is often a good idea: you give your body a rest, relax and enjoy exploring the town. In Santiago, two nights are included in most of our Tours by default as we believe it’s the least a Pilgrim would need to enjoy the City; however, you have the option to opt out of it.
We will be happy to arrange for an airport shuttle transfer for you from your airport of arrival to the starting point of your journey. The same goes for the departure, unless you end your journey in Santiago and fly out of Santiago Airport. In that case, a taxi can be easily arranged for the time of your choice directly at the Reception Desk at your Hotel.
What’s NOT Included:
We do not book flights, nor organize any rail or commercial busline travel. However, if you need assistance in deciding how to get to and back from your Camino Tour, we will be happy to give you assist you with tips and ideas!
We strongly recommend to all our travelers to get a Travel Insurance; however, we do not sell any such policies. For our international clients, it is best to get a policy in their country of residence, as some countries offer insurances only to their own residents.
This is a date-flexible tour; therefore, it is self-guided – no Tour Guide will be accompnying you. If you are interested in joining a Group Tour with a Tour Guide, please check our Guided Tours page. (Note: our Guided Tours take place on set dates that are planned ahead.)
Day 1: Arrival in Astorga
Your travels bring you, at last, to the town of Astorga – the starting point of your Camino. Check in at your hotel, and explore Astorga: its Cathedral, the Episcopal Palace (by Gaudí), the city walls and the ancient architecture of this once-Roman city are but a few sights to visit, both in daylight and at dusk.
Day 2: Astorga – Rábanal del Camino • 21.4 km. (13.3 mi.)
This day’s stage is not long and quite comfortable, so there is no need to rush out of Astorga at the break of dawn. You will be passing various lovely villages and slowly, ever so gradually beginning to gain altitude. The scenery will also change rapidly before your eyes even by walker’s speed: grasslands will first turn into terrain covered with bushes and short, wind-defiant trees and, eventually, into full-sized forests. As you walk into the charming village of Santa Catalina de Somoza, marking the half-way point of today’s journey, turn around, take a look back and soak up the last panoramic view of Astorga at a far distance and bid farewell to the endless sea of Meseta beyond. And in front, no less epic views of Montes de León looming ahead will be getting you ready for mountain hiking that is to come. The end of today’s journey is the charming village of Rábanal del Camino. You can visit the medieval church in the evening for the vespers for Pilgrims, and rest up for tomorrow’s tough, but stunningly beautiful mountain trek.
Distance: 21.4 km. (13.3 mi.)
Day 3: Rábanal del Camino – Molinaseca • 24.6 km. (15.3 mi.)
As you leave Rábanal del Camino, you will begin a continuous ascent: first, up to the winded village of Foncebadón and, beyond it, to Cruz de Ferro – the Iron Cross – the iconic demarcation of the highest point on the Camino Francés. Here, pilgrims many centuries ago joined the tradition of an even older age: to leave a stone they brought from home at the Cross. Consider spending a bit of time at this summit – rest, and soak up its energies. The next several kilometers (miles) will be fairly flat as you will be walking on the mountain top, forests will give way to picturesque open mountain vistas, and then, two challenging descents will be awaiting you. First, it is a steep, rocky path down to the beautiful medieval village of El Acebo with an absolutely epic drop back view of the entire valley beyond. And then, after some level distance, the last challenge: the descent into today’s final destination – Molinaseca. You can have lunch in the beautiful medieval village of El Acebo before heading towards Molinaseca. This little town is absolute jewel, and many pilgrims rank it among their top 3 most beautiful places on the entire French Way. Spend some time resting on the pretty riverside lawn right across the gorgeous medieval bridge, and take an evening walk back to the bridge for some amazing twilight views.
Distance: 24.6 km. (15.3 mi.)
Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging
Day 4: Molinaseca – Cacabelos • 23.3 km. (14.5 mi.)
Soon after leaving Molinaseca, the Camino veers off from the street and into the fields – we recommend staying on the road as this is considerably shorter, and the alternative is not scenic enough to be worth it. The Camino takes you straight into Ponferrada – the last larger town until you reach Santiago. The most outstanding landmark of this otherwise busy modern city is the imposing medieval castle built by the Knights Templar, which is absolutely worth entering and exploring. Walking out of Ponferrada will take you Today you will enter the more densely populated region of Bierzo, famous for its excellent wines. The highlight of this day is the old Templar’s fortress in Ponferrada.
Distance: 23.3 km. (14.5 mi.)
Day 5: Cacabelos – Vega de Valcarce • 23.5 km. (14.6 mi.)
Today’s journey takes you across the picturesque wine-country landscapes of El Bierzo until you reach Villafranca. This gorgeous town, situated in a valley where two rivers converge, is another well-known pilgrim hub very much worth spending some time in to enjoy and explore. The local Romanesque Church of Santiago (located right at town entrance) is the only one on the entire Camino – other than Santiago Cathedral – that has the Gate of Forgiveness (Puerta de Perdón). Since the middle ages, pilgrims that were incapable to carry on for the remaining 185 km. (115 mi.) to Santiago because of their health could receive here their full indulgence and the “Little Compostela” – Certificate of Pilgrimage Completion. Still in Villafranca, the Camino splits into two options: straight on up the valley of the River Valcarce, or up the Camino Duro (2.2 km longer and quite steep, but considerably more beautiful). Both Caminos then meet again at Trabadelo and lead on to the charming little valley village of Vega de Valcarce.
Distance: 23.5 km. (14.6 mi.)
Camino Duro option:
Distance: 25.7 km. (16 mi.)
Day 6: Vega de Valcarce – O Cebreiro • 11.8 km. (7.3 mi.)
Today’s comparatively short-distance hike comprises a continuous, moderately difficult ascent and is highlighted by absolutely stunning mountain landscape. Shortly after leaving the Valcarce river valley, the Camino will lead you onto a forest path up to the sleepy village of La Faba. Afterwards, the forest gives way to highlands, and as you continue to go up and up, each stop you take will reward you with breath-taking mountain views. Bar La Escuela in Laguna de Castilla is the last stop in the Autonomous Community of Castilla y León; just beyond it, you will reach the iconic stone post demarcating the border of Galicia. The picturesque village of O Cebreiro – your final destination for the day – is like an open-air museum. You can marvel at the restored, traditional thatched-roof stone houses called Payozas, which stem from pre-Roman, Ibero-Celtic times and where used until the second half of the 20th century. You should also pay a visit to the Church Santa María la Real constructed on the ruins of a pre-Romanesque sanctuary. Enjoy the local desert specialty “Queso con Miel” (cream cheese with honey) and the stunning panoramic vistas both at daytime and at sunset.
Distance: 11.8 km. (7.3 mi.)
Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging
Day 7: O Cebreiro – Triacastela • 20.9 km. (13 mi.)
O Cebreiro is not only the first village in Galicia – it is also the last one to be situated in the mountains. After some 12 km. (7.5 mi.) of hilly ups and downs through forests, occasional openings with majestic highland views and a few peaceful villages, the Camino begins to descend – first, gradually, and then quite steeply into what Galicia is, really, all about: lush-green, thick and mossy forests. Just before you enter the charming town of Triacastela, you will pass the oldest chestnut tree on the Camino – Castaño de Ramil – which is said to be over 800 years old. After today’s challenging altitude drop of over 600 m. (1,970 ft.), you can now rest or take a quick walk over to the river and relax on its bank, and enjoy the peace and quiet of the lovely Triacastela.
Distance: 20.9 km. (13 mi.)
Day 8: Triacastela – Barbadelo • 23.5 km. (14.6 mi.)
As you leave Triacastela, the Camino splits once again into two options: to the left, via the Monastery of Samos (longer) and to the left toward San Xil, which is the one we recommend. The terrain that started at the end of yesterday’s journey will continue for much of today, and you will find yourself traversing lush, most of the time damp forests with moss-clad stones on both sides of your path. As you pass occasional villages, you will find lovely places to stop and rest. Eventually, the Camino will run along a road for some 3 km. (1.9 mi.) and eventually lead you into the bigger town of Sarria. For many pilgrims, Sarria is the starting point of the Camino – it is easily reachable by public transportation, and distance from Sarria to Santiago is just over 100 km., entitling those who walk it to receive their Compostela (Certificate of Pilgrimage Completion). As Sarria tends to get crowded at times, the final destination for today will be a bit farther ahead. Take your time to enjoy the gorgeous medieval bridge right as you walk out of Sarria. The Camino will then lead you up a forested hill and, once you reach its top, spaces will become wide-open and you will enjoy some lovely Galician countryside panoramas until you reach Barbadelo.
Distance: 23.5 km. (14.6 mi.)
Day 9: Barbadelo – Portomarín • 23 km. (14.3 mi.)
The mornings outside Barbadelo (as well as in many places in Galicia) tend to get quite foggy, which adds a special note of mystery and magic to be enjoyed by those who hike out early. Today’s terrain will differ very little from yesterday’s: more lovely forested pockets, fields to meander across, charming little brooks to cross, and inviting places in cute villages to stop in. However, most of the time, the influx of pilgrims starting from Sarria is usually noticeable, and from here at the latest, the Camino bocomes quite lively. Today’s stage ends in the town of Portomarín. In the 1960s, it was decided that this town, originally situated in the river valley, had to make way for a new reservoir and be moved just up the hill. The two medieval churches were dismantled stone by stone and put back together in their new location. As you walk across the bridge into town, the remains of the old village of Portomarín down in the valley can still be seen when the water levels are low, giving the whole panorama a kind of a tolkienesque feel.
Distance: 23 km. (14.3 mi.)
Day 10: Portomarín – Palas de Rei • 23.9 km. (14.9 mi.)
A hilly forested path outside Portomarín eventually levels with the road until the village of Gonzar. Afterwards, a very gradual but lengthy ascent up the Sierra de Ligonde renders some truly picturesque, far-away vistas on the quaint Galician countryside. For the remaining half of today’s journey, the Camino levels off as it leads you past small, sleepy villages and beautiful green fields on to the town of Palas de Rei, where you can relax and enjoy the many wonderful culinary options to start getting to know the wonderful Galician cuisine.
Distance: 23.9 km. (14.9 mi.)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Day 11: Palas de Rei – Castañeda • 25 km. (15.5 mi.)
More peaceful and beautiful Galician countryside is awaiting you today. Fields interchange with forests, and the terrain is not only pleasing to the eye, but also pleasant to walk. The magnificent medieval bridge over the River Furelos is the last larger one on the Camino Francés, and have the option to admire it from both sides. Consider having lunch in one of the famous Pulperías in Melide – the busy town toward the end of your day’s journey – here, you will get octopus served on wooden boards the traditional way: simply boiled, cut with scissors, accompanied by cooked potatoes and seasoned only with olive oil, salt and paprika. Pop into the charming little church of Santa María as you walk out of Melide to take a look at its well-preserved Romanesque wall paintings and its stunning altar dating back to the times of the Visigoths. The Camino will now take you into the beautiful Galician eucalyptus forests, passing a couple of more quaint villages until you reach you the end of your today’s in Castañeda.
Distance: 25 km. (15.5 mi.)
Day 12: Castañeda – O Pedrouzo • 25.5 km. (15.5 mi.)
Leaving Castañeda, you will have a few hills to go up and down, and you can reward yourself with an early rest stop just 3.5 km. (2.2 mi.) as you reach the absolutely delightful little village of Ribadiso: sit at its waterfront by the cute little medieval bridge and soak up the sheer serenity of the scenery. The Camino then leads you across the busy, larger town or Arzua before it plunges backs into the pleasant, peaceful Galician scenery. It is an easy walking day, and you will spend most of the rest of in on forest paths with occasional villages and patches of lush green grasslands in-between. The fragrance of eucalyptus will have become as familiar to your senses as the sight of these pretty trees’ tall and straight trunks. After the serenity of the forest, the atmosphere in the bustling little town of O Pedrouzo may seem a bit too busy, but it’s also worth enjoying it, as all the pilgrims are tingling with restlessness before the last Camino Francés’ stage tomorrow.
Distance: 25.5 km. (15.9 mi.)
Day 13: O Pedrouzo – Santiago de Compostela • 20.5 km. (12.7 mi.)
The Camino has yet just the perfect amount of beautiful scenery, peacefulness and calmness in store for you as you plunge into a beautiful eucalyptus forest right outside O Pedrouzo. As you pass a couple of villages, eucalyptus gives way to conifers, and you will find yourself walking alongside the Airport of Santiago – the feeling of reaching the journey’s end and the impending departure for home is often sensed quite strongly here. Walk up to the top of the Monte do Gozo – the Mount of Joy – and you will behold Santiago de Compostela for the first time! Let the Camino guide you, one last time, into the heart of this magical City. Congratulations, dear Pilgrim: You. Have. Arrived. Celebrate, and enjoy!
Distance: 20.5 km. (12.7 mi.)
Day 14: Free Day in Santiago de Compostela
We strongly feel that, after this amazing journey, it is instrumental to spend (at least!) one full, extra day and another night in Santiago, which is why it is added in our program “by default” (though you can opt out of it). This is both the time and the place to unwind, to reflect upon and enjoy your journey’s end and, most importantly, to take it easy on yourself with your post-Camino re-entry into the big, wide World. Aside from that, UNESCO-listed city of Santiago is full of incredible places to explore, and you can collect your very well-earned Compostela (Certificate of Completion) as well as attend the Pilgrims’ Mass at the Cathedral.
Day 15: Departure from Santiago de Compostela
Farewell, Santiago; farewell, Camino – and sage travels on your journey back home or to your next adventure! And here is another option well-worth considering: to continue the Camino on to Finisterre (the “End of the World”) and / or to Muxía – two stunning, mystical places on the majestic Atlantic coast.
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Camino Francés: Part 3 Quote Request
tour combination options
our camino francés: Part 3 tour can be easily combined with:
Camino Francés: Part 2
Burgos ⇒ Astorga
Starting at € 850
Duration: 14 Days
Distance: 215 km. (134 mi.)
Santiago de Compostela ⇒ Finisterre
Starting at € 280
Duration: 6 Days
Distance: 90 km. (56 mi.)
Camino Finisterre Muxía
Santiago de Compostela ⇒ Finisterre ⇒ Muxía
Starting at € 370
Duration: 8 Days
Distance: 112 km. (70 mi.)
other Camino trails
|⇒||Via de la Plata|
|⇒||Camino del Norte|