Private Bedroom and Bathroom
We understand that people do want to walk the Camino, but would rather not sleep in albergues, the communal dormitories available along the trail. Some pilgrims enjoy having their own bedrooms with a door, an en-suite bathroom, and plenty of hot water!
Freedom From Your Bags
Our self-guided clients do not want or cannot carry all their belongings with them. In fact, they enjoy being able to add some extra weight to their load and have some creature comforts, such as that Ipad!
A Live Person to Help
Are you nervous and scared! Coming to a foreign country to walk for a couple of weeks is daunting no matter how many books and web forums you've read. You want more than just an Orientation Packet sent to you in the mail - you want a LIVE person to answer your questions and help you take those first steps on your journey.
Meals with Friends, IF you wish
Independence can be great when traveling, but it is also nice to have some occasional companions to share those tales from the trail and a meal or two!
Our itinerary qualifies you for the Compostela certificate upon your arrival to Santiago.
PonferradaWelcome to the Camino
In the afternoon (6:00PM), we meet the group in the town of Ponferrada, home of the Knights Templar's amazing 12th century castle. Your Fresco Tours guide will hand out your Orientation Packets and review all the materials to get you ready for your Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago! Afterwards, we'll take you to get your first stamp in your Pilgrim's Passport before enjoying a traditional meal from the Bierzo Valley. (D)
Ponferrada to Villafranca23 KMs / 14 miles
With our boots and scallop shells on, your Fresco Tours guide escorts you out of town following various Camino markers and the famous yellow arrow. Shortly after, we find ourselves among the vineyards of this up-and-coming wine region. Here we bid you a last "Buen Camino" as you continue on your own along the Way to Santiago! You finish the walk in the town of Villafranca del Bierzo, where you first come upon the 12th century Romanesque church dedicated to Santiago. (B)
Villafranca to Ambasmestas15 KMs / 9 miles
Today is a short day to give your feet some relief. You have a gentle walk along the Valcarce River Valley passing through serene hamlets of classic slate roofs and tiny gardens. As you walk through shady stretches, you see evidence of the lumber industry that is helping to support this area. Although you have yet to enter into Galicia, this area certainly feels very Gallego/Galician, the Ireland of Spain. Listen carefully and you'll note the melodic rhythms of the locals as they speak and go about their day. (B)
Ambasmestas to O Cebreiro13 KMs / 8 miles
Have an extra coffee at breakfast, as today you walk up to O Cebreiro! Fortunately, today is another light day, which will give you plenty of time to meander up to the top at a leisurely pace. Make sure you enjoy the hamlets along the way - perhaps a stop in Herrarias to dip your toes in its refreshing river! Once in O Cebreiro, sit on the stone wall and watch the setting sun. After a magnificent view, visit the tiny church of Santa Maria. (B)
O Cebreiro to Triacastela21 KMs / 13 miles
After breakfast, get the blood going with a steady climb to the Alto do Poio, the highest point on the Camino de Santiago in Galicia. Keep an eye out for Carmen, a local villager who sells freshly made crepes to the pilgrims that pass by her door! After a stamp and a coffee, you begin your steady descent down to the town of Triacastela, named after the three castles that once stood watch over the village. (B)
Triacastela to SarriaSan Xil: 17 KMs / 11 miles, Samos: 24KMs / 15 miles
Today is the day of the difficult decision! What to do? The Camino de Santiago has two paths to reach Sarria - take the high road through San Xil (shorter) and enjoy the beautiful views from atop the ridge or visit the ancient monastery of Samos along the river valley. You'll have to choose one or the other, or maybe do both! By day, walk along the hills of San Xil and in the evening, catch a taxi to visit one of Spain's oldest monasteries! (B)
Sarria to Portomarín23 KMs / 14 miles
Sarria is a large market town filled with small shops that cater to both locals and faraway pilgrims. Strolling through the countryside on a combination of tiny backroads and country footpaths, you will pass the 100km marker, a milestone (or kmstone!) for the millions of pilgrims who have traversed this same spot during the last millennium. Onward, we continue to Portomarín, where we see the 12th-century Church of San Juan, a fortified church, standing guard over the River Miño. (B)
Portomarín to Lestedo20 KMs / 12 miles
More than halfway to Santiago, leaving Portomarín the walk begins with a gentle climb out of the river valley and through typical Galician villages, decorated with hórreos, raised corncribs, and the occasional carved granite cross that marks the way to Santiago. In the hamlet of Lameiros, pay special attention to the 17th century Cross showing the Crucifixion of Christ. As you work your way into Palas de Rei, you'll begin to notice the many eucalyptus forests of Galicia. (B)
Lestedo to Melide19 KMs / 12 miles
Following the yellow arrows, you continue to ramble up and down gentle rolling hills along quiet forest paths. Little has changed in this quiet corner of Spain, and the peaceful rural environment of local farmers in stone houses accompanies us back to another time. You quickly arrive to the present-day at the bustling market town of Melide, where octopus (pulpo) is boiled in large copper kettles next to the street! (B)
Melide to Arzúa14 KMs / 9 miles
On the outskirts of Melide, stop to admire the 12th century church of Santa Maria, a gem of the Romanesque period. Following the Camino through eucalyptus forests, you quickly come into Boente, whose tiny Santiago Church has a simple, but lovely wooden altarpiece. (B)
Arzúa to Arca18 KMs / 11 miles
Today, you start to get closer to Santiago and the excitement starts to build! Get a feel for the people and greet a local villager with a “Buenos dias" or “Hola". You’ll see how these quiet and reserved people quickly wish you well on your journey to Santiago. On this trek, you’re no longer a tourist, but a pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago! Just a few steps from Santiago... (B)
Arca to Santiago21 KMs / 13 miles
11 days, 205 kilometers, and you have arrived to Santiago de Compostela. Congratulations! Head to the Pilgrims' Office for your last stamp in your passport and request that well-deserved certificate, the Compostela, for having walked to Santiago. You are going to love this magical city filled with fantastic monuments and with the lively buzz from the international pilgrims and university students that fill its medieval streets. (B)
After breakfast, our local historian gives us a closer look at the amazing Cathedral that has seen so many transformations since the original chapel built in the 9th-century. After the tour, we sadly say our last Buen Camino! as we leave you at the Cathedral in time for the pilgrims' mass at noon. (B)
A Fresco Tour guide will hand deliver you an Orientation Packet and give you a detailed meeting on the first night in Ponferrada. Your Welcome Packet is filled with all the materials you'll need to transform into a pilgrim: Your credentials (Pilgrim's Passport), a scallop shell, daily maps of the route, a guide book with historical information of the villages that you will pass through, and a few other goodies for the trail! We'll answer any questions that you have before starting your journey to Santiago and on the next morning lead you out on The Way!
12 nights in a combination of 3 & 4 star hotels, restored manor homes, and small pensions / inns located on the Camino. All rooms have their own bathrooms. We've chosen places for their hospitality, comfort, and location.
* Keep in mind that as you will be walking through rural countryside, the availability of 3 & 4 star hotels all along the route is not possible.
All breakfasts are included with your hotels. We have arranged that they will be supplemented from the standard Spanish breakfast of coffee & toast. The first night of the itinerary, our guide will take you for dinner at one of our favorite places in Ponferrada - wine and beer included. Afterwards, we will provide you with a list of places along the Camino with food recommendations. Let us know if you have any dietary restrictions and we can ask our hotels to accommodate for those as well!
Limited Group Size
Although this tour is Self-Guided, we've limited the size of each departure to 15 passengers. Availability is on a first come, first serve basis.
We will arrange for the transfer of 1 suitcase / piece of luggage (51 lbs) per person between your hotels on your walk along the Camino. If you require more than 1 bag, please contact us for details.
In Santiago, our local art historian will provide you with a guided visit of the Cathedral and the surrounding squares. Minimum of 5 people for this service to be provided.
Pre / During / Post Service:
We are here to help! Need assistance with hotels prior to or after your trip? Train tickets to Ponferrada? Returning from Santiago? Questions about what to wear? Need a taxi while on the trail? Based in Spain, we are here to make sure that your trip runs smooth as can be - we are available!
On the Road
What is the weather like on A Fresco Start 200KM Tour?
The Camino de Santiago covers over 750 KMs of Northern Spain and therefore has very different weather conditions depending on the region.
A Fresco Start 200KM covers the last 200 KM's of the Camino in the Northwest region called Galicia. Here we enjoy a more temperate climate than other parts of the Camino de Santiago and in July and August the heat is not overwhelming like it can be on the plains of Castilla y Leon.
For current and average monthly temperatures of Ponferrada and Santiago de Compostela, please click below:
What is the terrain like on A Fresco Start 200KM Tour?
In Galicia, the region where we walk, the terrain is green rolling hills - there are neither steep climbs nor treacherous descents. The trail itself is a combination of very well maintained compact dirt and stone footpaths and small country roads.
What is the change in elevation on A Fresco Start 200KM Tour?
You will be walking from Ponferrada to Santiago de Compostela, the last 200 KM's of the Camino de Santiago. For a detailed map of the distances between towns along the Camino and their respective altitudes, please click here. This data has been kindly provided to us by Arturo Murias of: http://www.godesalco.com
How many kilometers are walked each day on A Fresco Start 200KM Tour?
The amount of KMs scheduled for each day varies from 13KMs to 23KMs. You will walk the last 100KMs to Santiago, which is the requirement by the Pilgrims' Office in Santiago if you are going to ask for the Compostela Certificate.
What if I am unable to walk the scheduled daily kilometers?
We will provide you with daily maps of your walk. These maps include the elevation gain and loss along the stage, the address and a detailed map of where your hotel is located, our favorite restaurant recommendations along the trail for lunch and dinner, and a list of taxi phone numbers in case you need a lift.
Will I have access to WiFi?
Yes, but you will be walking in one of the most rural parts of Spain so the service may be a bit difficult or slow in certain locations. Nonetheless, many cafes along the way also offer Wi-Fi so you'll have several opportunities to be online. Finally, remember that one of the greatest joys of the Camino is cultivating the ability to disconnect and enjoy your immediate surroundings!
Getting There & Back
How do I get to A Fresco Start 200KM Tour starting point?
Ponferrada (Spain) is the official starting point of A Fresco Start 200KM tour and can be reached via train or bus.
How do I get from Santiago Compostela to Madrid and other cities?
There are now RENFE trains that will get you from Santiago to Madrid in less than 6 hours. While routes and availability may vary upon time of booking, click here for a sample timetable. The direct trains are listed as Alvia. If you are looking to fly, there are excellent internal flights that fly Santiago to Madrid. For a complete list of companies that service the Santiago airport, please click here.
Can you help with purchasing online train tickets on the RENFE site?
The RENFE website can be a bit temperamental and is not very user friendly. However, all is not lost! We would be happy to have our local travel agent assist in making those arrangements for you. Keep in mind that train tickets cannot be purchased until 60 days prior to departure. Routes and availability are subject to vary based on maintenance needs.
How do I get from the Madrid Airport to the Madrid Train Stations?
If your flight flies into Madrid's T-4 (Aeropuerto T-4) terminal, you have a local Cercanias train that will get you from the airport to the Atocha and Chamartín train station in 25-30 minutes. These trains leave the T-4 station more or less every half an hour. For more information, please see: http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/cercanias/madrid/index.html
In addition, there is an express bus that services the all terminals at the airport with the Atocha Train Station: http://www.emtmadrid.es/Bloques-EMT/Aeropuerto.aspx?lang=en-GB.
How do I get to and from the Airport?
The national organization of airports in Spain (AENA) has a great website that explains how to get to and from the major city for your airport of choice. It also has information regarding the routes serviced, the corresponding airlines, terminal information, and much more. You may have to re-click the "English" tab at the top once you have chosen your airport.
Before You Go / Preparing
What type of boots do I need for A Fresco Start 200KM Tour?
Footwear is a very personal question - depending on how active you are and how much support you will need. Since we will be walking on a daily basis on the Camino de Santiago, I believe that comfort is key - you do not want to get blisters. You probably won't need a full high boot that covers your ankle (unless you need this support), but rather light trail walkers or even running shoes if you are used to walking. In the spring, there may be mud and water along the trail, so keep that in mind. Most important: Make sure that they are well broken in!
What sort of conditioning do I need to undertake A Fresco Start 200KM Tour?
We encourage you to walk before and be prepared for your own enjoyment. As you will be walking from inn to inn, you should be prepared to cover the day's full stage. They say your Camino begins once you decide to do it, so enjoy your "training" walks and get those KM's in before your arrive to Spain! As a bit of insurance, we will also provide you will a list of taxi phone numbers...just in case!
How do I purchase travel insurance?
If you are interested in travel insurance, we like Squaremouth.com, which allows you to compare various policies across the top Insurance Providers. Visit our personalized Squaremouth for Fresco Tours Clients page, where we have taken the time to wade through policies that don't fit your needs (such as immigrant travel, golfing and/or other specialized trips, etc.) to make your selection process easier.
In addition, we encourage you to check out TravelInsuranceReview.net, which explains the different insurance policy options in simplified lingo and it provides editorial reviews of the insurance companies in terms of "The Good, The Drawbacks & The Bottom Line".
Where do Fresco Tour clients come from?
We are very fortunate to have had clients join us from around the world giving us a wonderful mix of diversity. The internet allows us access to the world, and since 2006 we have had travelers from the USA, Canada, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Panama, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, the United Kingdom (England & Scotland), Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, China, India, South Africa, Namibia and even Egypt! It truly is a small world after all!
When do most people walk the Camino de Santiago?
According to the Pilgrim's Office in Santiago de Compostela, in 2018, 34% of all pilgrims who requested the Compostela arrived in July and August. This makes sense since many Europeans and students have their vacation time in the summer. Whenever you decide to walk, you will always be able to find that "quiet time" for yourself along the trail. In addition, walking with Fresco Tours means that you won't have to worry about your meals, your pack, where you'll sleep, or anything else. You do the walking and leave everything else up to us!
For complete pilgrim statistics, click here.