Highlights of the Northern Caminos: Camino Primitivo & Camino del Norte

A Guided Walking Trip – 12 Days & 11 Nights

The oldest of all the Ways to Santiago is the “Camino Primitivo” -  the route taken in the early 9th century by the reigning Christian monarch Alfonso II to visit the Apostle’s recently discovered tomb. The “Camino del Norte” along Iberia’s northern coast came into use shortly thereafter and was used by many pilgrims to link up with the Camino Primitivo. Our exclusive itinerary starts with 4 days of hiking the most beautiful stages of the Camino in Asturias, including 2 days of spectacular trails on the “Camino del Norte” along the rugged Atlantic coast, before heading inland for 2 days on the wonderful forest and mountain paths of the “Camino Primitivo”. On reaching the Galician city of Lugo, we spend our last 5 days walking the final 100 km of the Camino Primitivo to Santiago in order meet the requirement to qualify for “la Compostela” – the official pilgrim’s certificate on arrival at the holy city. IBERIAN ADVENTURES has been running trips on this fabulous Camino route since the late 1990′s. NOBODY knows this route like we do. Join us and we’ll show you some of the many secrets of this oldest of all the Caminos!

  • Bilbao: this dynamic port city has become a global model for excellence in urban renewal, and a showcase for some of the world’s best architects, crowned by Frank Gehry’s fantastic Guggenheim Museum building.
  • Oviedo: declared the “cleanest city in Spain”, with a beautifully conserved, pedestrian-only old quarter, and a cathedral containing relics that made it Spain’s second most important pilgrimage site after Santiago de Compostela.
  • Lugo: very important in the history of the Camino, the world’s best preserved Roman walls encircling the old town and its impressive cathedral with the Holy Sacrament on permanent display combine to merit its UNESCO World Heritage.
  • Coastal Camino Trails: this trip features 2 days of hikes on the coast of Asturias, some of the most beautiful walking terrain in all of Europe. Scenic paths, beautiful sandy beaches, rocky coves, green pastures and gorse and heather clad clifftops.
  • Asturias: a “principality” within Spain, this is the peninsula’s most mountainous region and the Camino traverses its most rural and isolated corner, home to western Europe’s largest populations of wolves and brown bears. Here, traditional lifestyles prevail, and the people are fiercely proud of their Celtic legacy and indomitable spirit – the Christian Reconquest of Iberia from the Moors began here with the 1st major defeat of the Moors at the Battle of Covadonga in 792.
  • Fewer pilgrims, wilder terrain and more authenticity: the first part of this Camino covers mountainous, remote and wild landscapes with relatively few towns and villages, chapels, churches and pilgrim’s refuges. The more challenging terrain and relative scarcity of services results in noticeably fewer pilgrims and a sense of authenticity often lacking on the much busier French Way.
  • Santiago de Compostela: one of the world’s great historic cities, its ancient granite-clad old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to Galicia’s regional government, one of Europe’s oldest universities and the magnificent cathedral that has drawn millions over the centuries like a magnet, it virtually buzzes with a unique energy and is a fascinating place to explore.

DAY 1 - Bilbao

Welcome to Bilbao! Meet your trip leader and other guests in the afternoon for a short orientation meeting. Then, a walking tour to explore the area around the world famous Guggenheim Museum and Bilbao’s old town. Dinner at a typical Basque tavern, sharing “pintxos” – the local version of “tapas” – tasty morsels of varied kinds. Overnight: Bilbao – 4 star hotel convenient to the Guggenheim and old town.

DAY 2 - Cave Art, coastal trails of the Camino del Norte & Llanes

This morning we leave the Basque Country, transferring westward along the coast to the picturesque former whaling town of Llanes, in the “Principality of Asturias”. We stop en-route in Cantabria to visit a fascinating cave with prehistoric art – a UNESCO World Heritage site. After lunch by an old fish market, we take our first hike on the Camino de Santiago, along lovely clifftop trails linking sandy beaches and rocky coves. Overnight: 4 star historic hotel in the old quarter of Llanes.

DAY 3 - Coastal trails of the Camino del Norte & Oviedo

We explore the historic old quarter of Llanes before our next hike on the Camino de Santiago, more scenic paths crossing meadows, beautiful beaches and rugged coastline. In the afternoon, we transfer to stately Oviedo, capital of Asturias, then tour its Gothic cathedral and attractive old quarter.  Overnight: 4 star hotel in the old quarter of Oviedo.

DAY 4 - Forest paths of the Camino Primitivo & Tineo

Today we head inland, for our 1st walk on the Camino Primitivo, farm tracks and country lanes through beautiful rolling countryside with sweeping views, into Tineo, one of the highest towns in Asturias and birthplace of Doña Isabel, first queen of Portugal and, Doña Ximena, the wife of El Cid. Our route ends with a visit to an abandoned 11h century Benedictine Monastery. Overnight:  in 4* hotel in a 16th C. palace in Tineo

DAY 5 - Mountain trails of the Camino Primitivo & Lugo

One of the most challenging stages of the medieval Camino, this is perhaps the most spectacular in terms of scenery. Even now, this is one of Spain’s most uninhabited regions, home to roaming wild horses and wolves. We revel in our solitude as our path climbs among heather and gorse to an isolated pass where our efforts are rewarded with sweeping views (or swirling fog!) and further appreciation for the achievements of those early pilgrims. Transfer to Lugo (Galicia) Overnight: 4* hotel in Lugo

DAY 6 - Begin the last 100 km & San Román

Our day begins a visit to the Lugo’s impressive Gothic cathedral, and a walk atop the perfectly preserved 2nd C. Roman walls surrounding the old down town (UNESCO World Heritage). So it’s no surprise that the Camino Primitivo now follows an old Roman road all the way to Santiago, these days just quiet country lanes meandering through gentle green landscapes. Shortly after departing Lugo we pass the distance marker indicating just 100km to Santiago! Return to Lugo to sleep a 2nd night. Overnight: Lugo.

DAY 7 - Last 100 km & Merlan

Our route wends through tiny hamlets scattered among lovely rolling green Galician countryside, and we enjoy our last complete day of relative solitude in the knowledge that tomorrow we’ll merge with the bustling flow of pilgrims on the busy French Way. Overnight: a comfortable family-run inn at a lovingly renovated traditional Galician farm house.

DAY 8 - Last 100 km & Merge with the Camino Frances

Verdant hill and rural scenes accompany our steps towards Melide where we merge with the “Camino Frances”. The town is famed for its Pulpo a la Feira – tender morsels of boiled octopus drenched in virgin olive oil, sea salt and paprika, which we naturally taste for lunch. In the afternoon, an especially enchanting stretch of forest trail leads us to our lodgings. Overnight: a renovated family run 15th C. “pazo” (traditional Galician manor house).

DAY 9 - Last 100 km & Pino

Rural paths and country lanes lead through vegetable patches, fields and oak groves, then pine and eucalyptus woods as we near Santiago. Overnight: a renovated family run 16th C. “pazo” (traditional Galician manor house).

DAY 10 - Last 100 km & Santiago de Compostela

Quiet lanes and forest paths wend through increasingly populated countryside until we finally reach the Monte del Gozo—“Mount of Joy”, so named for the emotion of those who were rewarded with their first view of the cathedral spires. Now downhill, following in the footsteps of millions before you, until the magical moment of arrival at the impressive cathedral in the Plaza del Obradoiro – Santiago’s grandiose central square. Overnight: close to the magnificent Obradoiro square and cathedral, this 4* hotel in a beautifully restored wing of a working Franciscan monastery is a fine place to rest your weary bones. 1st of 2 nights.

DAY 11 - Santiago

An early morning tour of Santiago’s bustling market and the main squares surrounding the cathedral with a local licensed guide, finishing in time to attend 12:00 noon pilgrim’s mass. Lunch on your own and afternoon free to explore. We’ll meet in the evening for a celebratory supper at one of Santiago’s finest restaurants. Overnight: as on Day 10.

DAY 12 - Departure

Adios! If you’re flying out, it’s just a 15 minute transfer to the Santiago international airport. NOTE: If you aren’t in a hurry and want to see more of the area or another part of Spain, consider hiring a car and driving from Santiago along the northern coast back to Bilbao, or across the country to Madrid or Barcelona, Andalusia, etc. We can help you to plan your itinerary. Ask us!

Camino Primitivo 
  • 11 nights in high quality accommodation (see descriptions in “The Facts”)
  • 11 breakfasts, 4 picnic or tapas lunches, 6 evening meals with house wine and bottled water. Other meals you’re free to explore on your own (suggestions provided!)
  • All vehicular support as required to complete the itinerary.
  • Experienced bilingual trip leader
  • Walking tours with local expert government-licensed guides in Bilbao, Oviedo, Lugo and Santiago.
  • Entrance fees to scheduled historic sites, including prehistoric cave art site, cathedrals etc.

Price per person: from 3,050€
Single room Supplement: from 395€

  • Duration: 12 Days, 11 Nights
  • Meeting Point: Bilbao (several daily connections from Madrid and Barcelona by air, rail or bus)
  • Ending Point: Santiago de Compostela (several daily connections to Madrid, Barcelona and certain European cities by air, as well as rail connections to Madrid and other cities.)
  • Walk Difficulty and Terrain: Moderate due to lengths of walks – mostly gently rolling terrain / occasional steep ascents. Surfaces range from hard-packed earthen paths and dirt or muddy farm tracks to ancient paved trails and quiet asphalted backroads
  • Daily distances & times: 14.5 – 24.5 km / 9 – 15 miles. Most days are about 5 to 6 hours of walking. Daily distances might seem challenging, but be assured that completing this itinerary is well within reach of anyone who maintains a moderate level of fitness.
  • Accommodations: In Bilbao, Oviedo, Lugo and Santiago we use quality 4* hotels, usually in restored historic buildings in great locations in the pedestrian-only zones of the old cities, just steps from the magnificent cathedrals. For the rest of the itinerary where we stay in rural areas along the Camino , we use mostly 3* or equivalent (there is no “star” system for rating inns or similar in Spain) small family-run hotels and rural inns in stylishly restored historic buildings, all rooms  with en-suite facilities and modern fittings. All properties are personally chosen for their comfort, character, location and overall quality.
  • Trip Dates: see calendar.
  • Custom Dates: Custom dates can be arranged for groups of 3 or more people: mid-April to early July, June, and September to late October.
  • Group size: 6 – 14

See our Picture Gallery of photos taken on the Camino Primitivo