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5 {Almost} Perfect Days Walking the Camino de Santiago

Is walking the Camino de Santiago on your bucket list? If so, I hope you enjoy my photos and this guide, as I share my own adventures walking the last portion of the Camino Frances from Sarria to Santiago, along with my tips for planning your own trip of a lifetime!

The magical town of Santiago de Compostela, Spain || The Spicy RDI can hardly believe that one year ago today, my friends and I reached our final destination on the Camino Frances-the magical town of Santiago de Compostela in Northwestern Spain!

When we arrived, both of my feet were wet and blistered, one knee was aching, and all I could think about was the *private* hot shower awaiting me after walking 113 kilometers {~70 miles} in 5 wet, rainy days.

Looking back, walking {the last potion} of the Camino de Santigao truly was a trip-of-a-lifetime.

I just didn’t know it at the time.

But 1 year later, blisters gone, knee in tip-top-shape, and wonderful, priceless, memories flooding back, I’m ready to share my Camino de Santiago adventures with you, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll convince you to go on this trip-of-a-lifetime too!

In an effort to share as many pictures as I can with you, I’ll try and keep my commentary brief, and will include some tips and recommendations for planning your own Camino de Santiago walking adventure at the end of this post. Enjoy!

Pre-Camino de Santiago in Madrid, Spain

Catedral de la Almudena in Madrid, Spain || The Spicy RDJet-lagged, and bleary eyed, my friends and I set out to explore a glimpse of Madrid. Pictured above is the beautiful Catedral de la Almudena just before sunset.

Street Life in Madrid, Spain || The Spicy RDAfter more aimless rambling through the streets of Madrid, we stumbled upon a tapas bar, enjoyed a quick dinner of ??? and wine, then, fading fast, walked back to our hotel for a long night of beauty sleep.

Pictured from left to right above: Top row-1. My FABULOUS friends and walking companions  2. A glimpse in to the glorious Plaza Mayor. Middle row-1. Street performer at the Plaza Mayor. 2. Happy people sitting on a bench. Totally my aspiration when I grow up! Bottom row-1. Me in front of some fancy building. 2. More people walking and enjoying the beautiful Madrid evening.

The Journey from Madrid to Sarria, Spain

The journey from Madrid to Sarria, Spain-the starting point for walking the final portion of the Camino Frances on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. || The Spicy RDOur unofficial journey began the next morning, after a quick “farewell to Madrid breakfast”, and we boarded the train for a 6+ hour train ride to our official starting point in Sarria, Spain.

Pictured from left to right above: Top row-1. Our “last breakfast in Madrid.” 2. Scenery on our walk from the train station to our digs for the night. Middle row-1. Planning our route on a cocktail napkin at dinner that night 2. A typical Galician dish of  Pulpo a la Gallega. If you think you don’t like octopus, this dish will absolutely change your mind. Delicious!! Bottom row-1. Pretty wall mural in the town of Sarria, Spain 2. Me. At the Sarria train station. Wearing my last clean clothes for the next several days.

Camino Frances Walk Day 1: Sarria to Portomarin {22 km, 13.5 mi}

Walking from Sarria to Portomarin, Spain on The Camino Frances || The Spicy RD Our official Camino de Santiago pilgrimage begins on the Camino Frances route before the sun is up! But, oh, once the sun comes up, it is a beautiful day {we didn’t know it at the time that this would be our last full day without rain}, and the scenery is stunning!

Pictured from left to right above: Top row-1. Hiking up the hill out of Sarria in the dark. My friend Monica looks so happy! 2. Starting to get lighter as I reach the top of the hill and look down in to the town of Sarria. 3. The start of some gorgeous, wooded scenery in Galacia, Spain. Middle row-1. Happy horse. 2. Pretty countryside church. 3. Happy cows. Bottom row-1. Dinner with a view in our stopping point for the first day-Portomarin. 2. Statue in the pretty town of Portomarin.

Food, food, glorious food along the Camino Frances in Galacia, Spain || The Spicy RDFood, food, glorious food, along the Camino Fances in Galacia, Spain! In addition to the Chestnut trees that were growing EVERYWHERE, here’s a glimpse at some of the food we saw on the first day of our walk…

Pictured from left to right above: Top row-1. Beans growing in someone’s garden. 2. My friend Vinita picking an apple from one of many trees growing along the road. Middle row-1. A pumpkin growing in someone’s garden. 2. Wild blackberries growing along the road. Yes, I stuffed myself full of them! Bottom row-1. I had to research these greens, after we saw them growing in everyone’s yard. Turns out, they’re called Grelos {aka turnip greens or rapini/broccoli raab} and they are used extensively in Galician dishes, including the most delicious soup, Caldo de Gallego  2. Corn?? There sure was a lot of it!

Camino Frances Walk Day 2: Portomarin to Palais de Rei {24 km, 15 mi}

Spectacular sunrise on the Camino Frances walking from Portomarin to Palas de Rei SpainDay 2 of our journey from Portomarin to Palas de Rei began in the dark again. I’d say it was well worth it, just to see this gorgeous sunrise in the Galacian countryside, don’t you think?!

Walking from Portomarin to Palas de Rei, Spain on The Camino Frances || The Spicy RDAfter that spectacular sunrise, we wandered through the countryside, stopped for coffee, and stopped again for lunch. Then, after lunch, the rain began!!!

Pictured from left to right above: Top row-1. My friend Elizabeth at the middle of a labyrinth we stumbled upon, and added to-1 pinecone for myself, Mr. Spicy, SiSi and Big Tex! 2. A gorgeous flower in bloom. 3. The long road ahead…Middle row-1. And the road continues… 2. And then the rain begins…Me in my yellow poncho and backpack “hump”. Sexy look, huh? 3. And, still, the road continues…and starts to get muddy. Bottom row-1. We finally made it to Palas de Rei and enjoyed a much deserved bottle of wine. 2. Pretty little chapel in Palas de Rei. 3. Our digs for the night.

Camino Frances Walk Day 3: Palas de Rei to Ribadiso {~29 km, ~18 mi}

Walking from Palas de Rei to Ribadiso, Spain on The Camino Frances || The Spicy RDAhh…this day. Our longest day. Mostly in heavy rain. My most “trying” day. The one where I picked up my pace, sped ahead of everyone after lunch, and counted 17,000 steps-in my head {my Fitbit had died}-just to keep me going the next 8 1/2 miles to the tiny town of Ribadiso. Where we found the last room to sleep in. The one we shared with 2o other people, including a very amorous couple. And a very wobbly bunkbed.

Pictured from left to right above: Top row-1. The day started out dry, and was quite lovely as we walked through the misty forest. 2. Chestnuts!!! 3. My friend, Kavita, stopping for a break in the forest. Second row-1. Yes, it’s me wearing the same sexy yellow poncho in front of a pretty chapel. 2. A bridge entering the pretty town of Melide. Third row-1. Elizabeth, Vinita, and Kavita in front of the restaurant we ate at that evening in Ribadiso. As I recall, the wine flowed freely. 2. Best lunch ever at Pulperia A Garnacha~The Caldos de Gallego was SO good after walking almost 9 miles in the rain! As I recall, the wine flowed freely. Bottom row-Maybe, just maybe, all that rain was worth it, for green pastures, and views like this.

Pretty wildflowers on the Camino Frances || The Spicy RDAnd pretty wildflowers like this…

Camino Frances Walk Day 4: Ribadiso to O’Pedrouzo {22 km, ~14 mi}

Walking from Ribadiso to O'Pedrouzo, Spain on The Camino Frances || The Spicy RDWe headed off in the dark again to make our way to Aruza for a little breakfast, before heading to our last night on the Camino Frances in O’Pedrouzo…

Pictured from left to right above: Top row-1. Breakfast for my friends. Not gluten-free. 2. Breakfast for me. Gluten-free Tarta de Santiago {Almond Cake}, cafe con leche, and fresh squeezed OJ. Perfection. Middle row-1,2, and 3. 50+ Shades of Green! Bottom row-1. The long {muddy} but {gorgeous} road ahead. 2. Blue and red ponchos are pretty sexy too, don’t you think?!

Camino Frances Walk Day 5: O’Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostelo {20 km, ~12 mi}

Sunrise on the Camino Frances - O'Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela || The Spicy RDOn day 5, the last day of our trek, we couldn’t have asked for a more picture perfect morning. As we were walking West, it was hard to not keeping looking back on this gorgeous sunrise emerging behind us. Thank goodness we had this image to keep on our minds, because another hour later, the rain set in again, and remained our constant companion until almost the end.

Although this was our shortest walking day {on paper} it felt like the longest, as it truly seemed liked the mileage signs {“x” miles to Santiago} along the road kept increasing the further we walked. Not to mention, with my water trodden boots, my blisters, and the now constant pain in my right knee, I was hobbling along at a snails pace. But, in the end, we arrived at the magical town of Santiago de Compostela

Walking from O'Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela, Spain on The Camino Frances || The Spicy RDPictured from left to right above: Top row-1. Wooden crosses on the road to Santiago de Compostela 2. Taking a break before the rain sets in. The scallop shell is seen all along the Camino de Santiago as a guide, and is said to represent the different pilgrimage routes, all leading to one point-the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela. Middle row-1. Monte do Gozo {Hill of Joy} where we got our first view down into Santiago de Compostela. 2. The long walk down, and still 3 km/2mi to go. Not fun with knee pain. Bottom row-1. We’ve {almost} made it. But there’s still a lot of walking in to the old part of town. 2. Pretty much the best bed ever. And best shower {in our private bathroom!} ever-at Pension San Roque.

The magical town of Santiago de Compostela, Spain || The Spicy RDMore photos from the {truly} magical town of Santiago de Compostela where we stayed for two nights.

Botafumeiro inside the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela.We were fortunate to attend services and see the Botafumeiro at the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela on our second day there. What a beautiful experience!

As I touched upon at the beginning of my post, walking the Camino de Santiago truly was a journey of a lifetime for me.

When I first reached Santiago de Compostela, my initial thoughts, after having perhaps the best shower of my life, was that it felt really good to switch things up bit, and get out of my comfort zone. Although we stayed in hostels/pensions, and weren’t “roughing it in the wild”, it had been a LONG time since I had last stayed in a hostel, let alone walk 14 miles a day for 5 days in a row. It definitely made me more appreciative of how fortunate and blessed I have been in life.

My second thoughts were a bit more reflective, after I got the phone call from my husband the afternoon we arrived in Santiago, letting me know that my father was in the hospital recovering from a broken hip after a traumatic fall where he had tumbled down the canyon in my parents backyard. This had happened 5 days prior, and he had made my husband promise not to tell me until I had arrived in Santiago. This was on top of my mother already having been quite sick for some time, and the doctors having no idea how to help her.

Do you feel that things happen for a reason? I do. Although I hadn’t set out to walk the Camino de Santiago as a pilgrimage, like so many do, I felt like I arrived in Santiago for a reason,and that evening after sunset, there seemed no more perfect place to be, than in the Catedral de Santiago lighting prayer candles for my parents. I am thrilled to report that one year later, they are both doing well!

I don’t know if my prayers had anything to do with their recoveries, but I like to think they at least played a small part of something much larger than me.

Last, but not least, I want to thank my friends, Elizabeth, Kavita, Monica, and Vinita for being such FABULOUS travel companions! I can truly say that I enjoyed each and every step with you. Well, almost 🙂 And, I am ready for our next adventure!!!

I hope you enjoyed this post, and maybe, just maybe, are ready to go on your own adventure of a lifetime. Who knows? Maybe you’ll decide to walk the whole 500 miles.The guide to 5 Almost Perfect Days Walking the Camino de Santiago || The Spicy RDPlanning Your Camino de Santiago Walking Adventure ~ Resources and Links

  • A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago ~ John Brierley. This was our “go to guide” that we had photocopied, and used to help us pick places to stay along the route. Highly recommend!
  • Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago film. This movie, that covers walking the entire Camino Frances {500 miles} had just come out before we did our walk, and we were able to go to a special screening and Q&A with the directors.
  • A Million Steps by Kurt Koontz ~ I didn’t actually read the book, but the author came to our local library and talked about his Camino adventure.
  • My Camino Packing List and Gear Review on You Tube ~ I used this guide to help me decide wha to pack. See my suggestions in the tips section below for other tips!

Places to Stay & Eat along the Camino Frances route on the Camino de Santiago Trail: Sarria to Santiago

Tips for Walking the Camino de Santiago

  • Be prepared for any type of weather, including rain! You will definitely need a poncho which can be used to cover yourself AND your backpack. If I had to choose between a poncho or rain gear AND a backpack cover, I would definitely choose the poncho which covers everything. Except your boots.
  • If you’re doing the last portion of the Camino from Sarria to Santiago, you might consider skipping doing laundry. I brought laundry soap and clothespins, but, honestly, with the rain, and being tired at the end of the day, I never did laundry. Bring clean underwear for everyday, a couple of pairs of good quality wool socks {I promise they won’t smell!}, 2 shirts, 1 sweatshirt {for cooler weather}, 2 pairs of lightweight hiking pants, and don’t forget your poncho!!
  • If you are going in the “off season” like we did, you should be fine NOT planning where to stay ahead of time. I can’t speak for walking the Camino in the summer when it is very crowded, but in early October, we were able to find a place to stay every afternoon when we arrived in the towns. The only place we *almost* couldn’t find a place was in O’Pedrouzo which was very small. As long as you can keep walking, most towns are pretty close together, so you can always walk to the next town if needed.
  • Traveling on a special diet? It was pretty easy for me to find gluten-free meals for lunch and dinner. Breakfast was not as easy {a typical pension breakfast was a croissant}, but I had  big supply of Zing Bars which I supplemented with Cafe con Leche and fresh squeezed orange juice that was included in the pension breakfast. Lunch and dinner were very similar in all the towns and restaurants, and a typical Pilgrim meal included soup or salad, meat/vegetable/potatoes, wine/water, and dessert for 10-15 euro. Other popular gluten-free options included jamon y queso {ham and cheese}, Spanish tortilla, Caldo de Gallegos, and that yummy Torta de Santiago I mentioned earlier. In addition, you can buy almost anything you want to eat in many of the larger towns. I promise you will not go hungry!
  • Most importantly, keep in mind that this guide is just that-a *guide*.You will not go wrong choosing your own pensions, restaurants, and adventures along the way. This is, after all, your own trip-of-a-lifetime!

Did I miss anything? I’d love to help you out with any questions you have about walking the Camino de Santiago, and if you’ve already done the Camino yourself, I’d love it if you share your own experiences and tips in the comment section! Also, if you think your friends would enjoy this post, I’d truly appreciate you sharing it with them too!

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CHEERS!

26 thoughts on “5 {Almost} Perfect Days Walking the Camino de Santiago”

  1. I am truly blown away by the depth of this reflective and beautiful post. C de S is on our list of places to go/do (we aren’t that far away after all). This wonderful post has been pinned and shared for others to marvel at and dream about. I hope your parents are recovered and back to full health, too. That opening image – just wow. All best, Kellie xx

    1. Thanks so much Kellie!! It took me awhile to write, and so many wonderful memories to share 🙂 You are lucky to be so close-I imagine I will be reading about your own Camino adventures one day soon. Thanks so much for your kind words about my parents-they are doing MUCH better! xoxo

  2. Fun piece, EA! I’ve contemplated this for several years, myself. Of most benefit is your packing tips. We always tend to pack too much the first time on such adventures.

    And, reading this makes me think I REALLY should put a piece together about my 3 week New Zealand adventure! Thanks! I bookmarked this so I could go back to the resources you shared.

    1. Thanks Margie! I worked hard on “pairing down” my backpack before we let, but there were definitely things I packed, liked I shared, that I didn’t need. Now I just need to go on another trip with my lighter load 🙂 I really hope you share your New Zealand photos soon-one of my favorite countries to visit too!

  3. I’ve been waiting for this! Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos and journey. I want to do this. There is no better way to get a sense of place than on two feet.

    1. Ha! I’m a little on the slow side with posting my travel pics-it’s always so overwhelming to me when I first get home because I take SO many pictures 🙂 I hope you get to do the Camino walk one day Katie-you will love it!

  4. Spain is my #1 travel destination so this is perfect! I am stunned by the beauty of it all – amazing! Those chestnut trees are so cool and I bet all of the food was spectacular 🙂

    1. Hi Alanna! I’m lucky to have been to Spain twice now, and it is a gorgeous country, not to mention I can speak a very teensy weensy bit of Spanish to get by 🙂 I had no idea what those “green pokey things” were at first, but then one of my friends told me she thought they were chestnuts-I had no idea!

    1. Thanks so much Jeanette! I am a new convert to walking travel, but I love it now too-you see so many things {and meet so many people} you wouldn’t have otherwise. I hope you get to Santiago too one day!

  5. Wow! I think you covered it! Beautiful pictures, your personal story (with emotion; glad your parents are doing well) and recommendations for traveling gluten free!

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