Fermín Calbetón Kalea, 27, 1º
20003 Donostia/San Sebastián

The Camino

"The trip was personalized to accommodate our personal hiking abilities, our taste in food and wine as well as offering up the best accommodations the region had to offer. All aspects of the trip were executed flawlessly.”

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John and Sima are a well-traveled couple from the west coast of the U.S., and their first trip to the Basque Country was a quick one. We met them for an evening of pintxos and wine on their stopover in San Sebastian at the tail-end of a whirlwind wine country journey in the Rioja.

The northeastern coast was love-at-first-sight for them, and they wanted to dig deeper into the region, as well as explore other parts of northern Spain that hug the Atlantic Ocean. The strip of land running from west to east is known by some as Green Spain because of its lush verdant landscapes and oceanic climate.

Just a few months after their first time in San Sebastian, John and Sima returned to town for a few nights’ R&R at the gorgeous 5* Akelarre hotel perched high above the sea. Shortly thereafter, they hit the road (ahem, the trail) with our guides on a modified version of the Camino de Santiago.

Beginning in the 9th century, kings, Christian pilgrims, and other travelers have made their way across Spain from distant European points to the city of Santiago de Compostela, located in the far northwest corner of the country. Legend has it that in the year 820, the remains of the Apostle Saint James the Greater were discovered in the area, and a temple was built to mark the spot. As time went on, the temple & the town grew larger in both size and importance, until the current-day Cathedral was completed.

In modern times, the popularity of El Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James in English) has grown exponentially, from a few hundred per year in the 1980s to more than a quarter of a million annual pilgrims in the 2010s. While in the Middle Ages, walking the pilgrimage route was a surefire way to earn indulgences and be forgiven of sins, many who walk The Way today do so for the experience itself: the stunning landscapes, the camaraderie along the trail, the physical challenge, and a retreat from the daily grind are powerful attractions for modern-day pilgrims from all faiths and walks of life.

With hiking sticks ready and boots firmly tied, John and Sima trekked across the northern coast from the French border all the way to the Atlantic. Our guide--drawing from her many years of experience--had gone on a pre-trip reconnaissance mission to scout out the most beautiful day-long walks to traverse with John and Sima, so each day's scenery was perfect.  She tailored the trip to their walking level, taking into account all the information they had given us about their preferences and style of travel. Their basic guideline was: let’s have a wonderful time in beautiful surroundings with great food, good conversation, and a nice place to rest our heads at night. Needless to say, their style is right up our alley!

When the trio set off each morning, their driver leapfrogged ahead to set up fresh and delicious picnics which were waiting when they came into a clearing. Fresh baguettes, seasonal tomato salads, local cheeses and charcuterie, and crisp wine are just the thing to refresh and revive after a long morning’s walk (and in keeping with our less-waste ethos, our picnics are always done with real plates and glasses and bunches of wildflowers, of course!).

John and Sima’s route took them along the sweeping seaside cliffs, the snow capped Picos de Europa mountains, and the lush green forests of Galicia, all before arriving to the captivating city of Santiago de Compostela, an UNESCO world heritage site. In the evenings we reserved beautiful guesthouses, eco-resorts, and charming hotels set in nature and exuding warmth and hospitality, all the better to cap off a day of strong walking.

As in the past when pilgrims throughout Europe would set out from wherever their home might be, all walking in the direction of Santiago, there are many historical routes of the Camino, each with charming hotels in far-flung villages, excellent regional cuisine to be sampled, and, of course Spanish wines from the Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Rias Baixas to slake your thirst in the evenings.

Our tailor-made northern Spain trips are an excellent option for groups of friends, couples, and families who want the Camino tailored to their style and timeline; wish for distinctive luxe lodgings and expert guides; and like to have a driver on hand for a change in plans or dinner further afield. Our detailed planning leaves room for spontaneity and on-the-go changes while ensuring that your trip flows smoothly.

While it is commonly thought that taking the road less-traveled is the way to go, sometimes The Way is the perfect way to go. You’ll be walking where millions have walked for over a thousand years before you, smelling the same ocean spray in the air, passing by grazing flocks of sheep with their shepherds. Whether for spiritual, religious, adventure, or any other reason, you’ll carry a piece of this European heritage experience with you forever.