Spanish Camino by Bike: Leon to Santiago

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Trip highlights

  • Cycling through the magical landscapes of Galicia en route to Santiago de Compostela
  • Exploring interesting pilgrimage towns and villages
  • Arriving in Santiago and receiving a pilgrimage certificate for cycling almost 300km along the Camino
  • Experiencing the terrific sense of camaraderie on the trail
  • Soaking up the hospitality of family run hotels

Set off from the cathedral city of Leon to the ultimate destination for most modern day pilgrims on the Camino, Santiago de Compostela, on this exciting cycling trip. This itinerary is Stage 2 of our epic full length ride of the Spanish Camino. For more than 1000 years the Camino de Santiago has represented the ultimate adventure for pilgrims and history buffs alike. While the 783km French route from Roncesvalles to the Cathedral of Santiago has been well trodden by hiking boots and horse hooves through the centuries, in more recent times the pilgrimage route has become a natural magnet for cyclists seeking out iconic routes. Beginning just over half way along the route in the historic city of Leon, this exhilarating cycle takes in some of the most breathtaking landscapes, unique monuments and typical villages of northern Spain. There are some challenging stages, such as the O Cebreiro Pass, but you will be more than rewarded when you savour the rich Spanish gastronomy, traditional regional cuisine and excellent wines. Each night you’ll return to comfortable, atmospheric hotels, which at the end of a hard day’s cycle is intrinsic to this cycle itinerary.


Day 1

Arrive León

On arrival in León, you will find the information required for your journey at the hotel: a complete package including hotel vouchers, detailed documentation with maps and a road book. Your mountain bike with all accessories will be delivered to the hotel lobby at 8pm. Founded in 884 AD, León has abundant gastronomic and architectural riches – take in a pre-dinner drink and snack at one of the many atmospheric bars located along the narrow streets of the Barrio Húmedo. The cathedral is a stunning example of Gothic architecture and don’t miss the Basílica de San Isidoro de León museum.

Day 2

Cycle through Castilian landscapes to Astorga (54km/34mi)

Today’s route takes you through the quintessential Castilian landscapes of holm oaks, golden wheat fields and gentle ups and downs. As the route closely follows the N120 highway it is an easy day to navigate. The landscape in the first half of the route is relatively dry but gets greener further west. You’ll cross fields full of diverse crops such as wheat, corn, hops and wine grapes. Wildlife isn’t a big feature of the first part of the trip, though you will see geckoes, birds of prey and a lot of dairy cows! The town of Astorga is at the crossroads of the Camino and the Ruta de la Plata (Silver Road), the Roman route used to transport ores and metals extracted from mines in the north to shipping ports in the south of the peninsula, and is known for its impressive architecture including the Gaudi-designed Episcopal Palace.

Day 3

Cycle up to Cruz de Ferro and on to Ponferrada (53km/33mi)

From Astorga, the Camino climbs gently until it meets the first mountain on the way. Once you’ve reached the top of Foncebadón and Cruz de Ferro, take it easy and enjoy the sweeping downhill ride and the gorgeous views as you head to Molinaseca and on to Ponferrada, located on the Sil River. The old town sits below an impressive Templar Castle, which is open daily (except Mondays Oct to Mar) in the late afternoon (entry fee applies).

Day 4

Through vineyards before a demanding cycle to mythical O Cebreiro (53km/33mi)

This is the most challenging day of the cycle. From Ponferrada there are a few ups and downs to Villafranca del Bierzo, an historical and artistic town that was established to give refuge and sanctuary to pilgrims before they undertook the most difficult part of their pilgrimage. The monastery cloister is a Renaissance jewel. From Villafranca you ascend gradually towards the mythical O Cebreiro pass, the most demanding peak along the western section of the Camino. With some effort (and perhaps a chocolate bar), you’ll reach the stone built mountain village atop the pass (1330m). O Cebreiro has several surviving pallozas (thatch-roofed cottages) and a small church which may be the oldest church on the Spanish Camino.

Day 5

Downhill via Sarria to Portomarín (64km/40mi)

From the pass it’s downhill all the way to Sarria and onward via a rolling route to Portomarín. Portomarin’s older neighbourhoods once belonged to the Order of St John of Jerusalem but now lie submerged, covered by the waters of the Miño River dam. The town was moved in the 1960s to its current location, including the church in the main square, which was moved stone by stone.

Day 6

A more relaxing cycle through Galicia’s rural landscape to Arzúa (53km/33mi)

This day provides a lovely contrast to the previous days. Cycle uphill to Castromaior then there are several easy uphills and downhills through rolling terrain giving you a view of Galicia’s rural landscape.

Day 7

A short but demanding cycle to the Cathedral of Santiago (39km/24mi)

Whilst the distance today is relatively short, this final stage is surprisingly demanding. After approximately four hours of riding, you finish your cycle trip upon arriving at the Pórtico de la Gloria (“The Façade of Glory”) at the Cathedral of Santiago. After taking a breather (and celebrating with others arriving by foot and on horseback!), you can visit the Pilgrims’ Office where you can obtain the “Compostela” certificate which certifies you as an official pilgrim. Leave your bike at your centrally located accommodation and explore the streets and bars of the atmospheric historic centre. This city, without any doubt, is the most important of the Christian Middle Ages. It has worldwide renown and each year thousands of travellers come to visit its treasures. The are many restaurants and bars in the old centre to eat at tonight.

Day 8

Trip concludes Santiago de Compostela

Trip concludes after breakfast. Bask in the glory of completing your Camino and reflect on a truly memorable journey. Arrangements conclude after breakfast, or if you’d like to stay an extra night or two, or continue to Cape Finisterre on the Atlantic for a day trip, we can assist with reservations – please ask for our rates.

Images courtesy of UTracks