Cycle the Camino de SantiagoPosted on December 16, 2013
The Camino de Santiago or way of St. James is one of the oldest and most popular pilgrimage routes in Europe. Since medieval times pilgrims have set out on long treks across Europe to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Northern Spain where legend has it that the remains of the apostle St James are buried. The route, always marked with clam shells, has waxed and waned in popularity through the ages and today is enjoying something of a renaissance, as many walkers and cyclists from all over the world discover the rewards of simple contemplative travel.
The recent BBC programme, Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve, did a great job of evoking the atmosphere and sense of camaraderie found along the route, as well as showcasing the wonderful scenery. Simon Reeve pointed out that cycling the route is a very popular and viable alternative to walking it.
Pilgrimages traditionally start from your own home and so naturally there are many different routes to Santiago, but the most popular is the Via Regia, a wonderful, if at times rather hilly itinerary across Northern Spain. Many consider the last 160 miles from Astorga to Santiago itself to be the perfect stretch for a 7 night cycling holiday. Its quite up and down but the scenery is gorgeous and very green, quite different to the parched Costas familiar to so many of us further south. Cycle along quiet lanes and paths, through cool forests and open meadows giving a friendly nod or wave to other pilgrims on the way. Stay in simple but quaint guesthouses along the route where you can swap tales with other pilgrims on the trail. In Santiago a festive mood pervades the city as weary walkers and cyclists celebrate their achievement. If you wish, you can attend the special Pilgrims’ Mass in the Cathedral where the world’s largest incense burner, originally used to drown out the stench of the pilgrims, hurtles spectacularly from side to side.