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Destinations-Walking the Pilgrim’s Way During a Pandemic

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Due to the ongoing pandemic and uncertainty in travel, we were anxiously awaiting this trip that we had planned for nearly two years and despite the travel hassles, it was well-worth the wait and effort. Walking the Camino was our primary journey in Spain, but we spent a few days in Madrid and in Barcelona on pre- and post-tour trips to tour the cities and surrounding attractions in conjunction with our hiking adventure.

The Pilgrim’s Way journey with Wilderness Travel is normally composed of a small group, between 6-14 people; there were 11 in our group. We all were seasoned travelers, and many were repeat travelers of Wilderness Travel’s exotic destinations. Our extremely knowledgeable, organized, and experienced tour leaders, Patricia Raczkowski and Rob Noonan, provided an excellent experience. We were a fun group and got along very well during our pilgrim journey.

We hiked nearly 80 miles over 8 days on the Camino de Santiago/Camino Frances (The French Way) in northern Spain. The first stop on our journey was a tour of the remarkable Burgos Cathedral.

We hit the (wet) trail on the first day covering mostly flat harvested fields of the high plains in the autonomous community of Castile-Leon.

The second day started with a visit to the Basilica de San Isidoro museum and the Leon Cathedral. The cathedral is an extraordinary example of Gothic architecture, compared to older Romanesque architecture of the basilica. The cathedral’s magnificent stain glass windows were a spectacular sight to behold.

As we continued on, the landscape transitioned from the high plains to rolling hills with vineyards, toward lush green hills and valleys on the way to the community of Galicia.

The gorgeous landscape was picturesque while the terrain became somewhat strenuous in certain areas. We arrived at the famed “Iron Cross” (Cruz de Ferro) on Day 3. We left our stones that we brought from home at the foot of the cross.

Day 5 was a hotel-to-hotel hike that covered 14 miles, from Sarria to Portomarin. It was a wonderfully long and exhausting hike, but the scenery along the way was fabulous and worth the effort.

We arrived at Santiago de Compostela on Day 7; we entered the Porto de Camino and followed the path through the old town that all pilgrims follow to the Santiago Cathedral. We checked into the 5-star Parador Dos Reis Catolicos adjacent to the cathedral, which was our lodging for two nights, and toured the historic parador followed by a tour of the cathedral and surrounding historic sights.

Our last day of the hike continued on the Camino to the beach at Finisterre and on to Kilometer 0 at the Finisterre Lighthouse.

The food on the tour was excellent! Each day we were served a surprisingly wonderful, delicious, and plentiful lunch (with continuously flowing wine!); dinner was no different. All our meals included area specialties prepared and served from fresh locally grown quality produce, cheeses, and meats (and wine) of the area. We had to adjust to the meal times at first since lunch was typically served at 2:00pm, with special accommodations for ‘early’ dinner at 8:30pm. Dinner normally begins around 10:00pm in Spain.

We learned and experienced so much of Spain’s history, culture, art, religions, food, and much more. Spain’s restrictions and COVID-19 protocols were stringent while we were there, but people followed them. We were fortunate to test negative for COVID-19 before arriving at the airport for our flight back to the U.S.; so many protocols to follow when traveling abroad, but we were glad to have gone on the journey.

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