Monday, 14 May 2012 9:18 AM
The Camino de Santiago is one of the oldest pilgrimage routes in the world, covering more than 800 km from the Pyrenees across northern Spain. Even walking along part of this trail is an unforgettable experience, making it ideal for an active break.
In fact, it would be hard to find anywhere better for walking holidays in Spain, due to the track's historical significance and the beautiful and varied scenery you will pass during your trip. Of course, tackling the entire route takes longer than the average holiday, but it is perfectly possible to pick up the trail partway through, allowing you to experience the magic of the Camino de Santiago over the course of two weeks.
Starting out in Leon, you will steadily make your way west towards the famous Santiago de Compostela, covering more than 150 km during your 12 day trip. One of the most special things about taking this well-trodden route is the people you will meet along the way. Everyone following the Camino has a story to tell and there is a remarkable sense of camaraderie among the hikers on this pilgrimage trail.
Setting out on your first day, you will be driven to the hilltop chapel of Cruz de Ferro, where you can join the Camino and begin your walk. This section of the trail is surrounded by picturesque pine forest, cherry trees and wild chestnuts - a wonderful introduction to Galicia's peaceful scenery.
The next morning, you will wander through the Rio Valcarce Valley en route to O'Cebreiro, a charming village that is home to the oldest remaining fully-intact church on the pilgrim's trail. The pre-Romanesque place of worship is said to contain a holy grail, while the traditional pallozas - round stone houses with straw roofs - are delightful.
Resting here for the evening, you will be refreshed when you set off on the next leg via Triacastela to Sarria. After walking through farmland and pretty villages, you will reach Sarria - a beautiful town where you can relax on the riverbank in the evening or explore some of its impressive buildings. There is a castle and numerous churches in the settlement, as well as various antiques shops.
Leaving Sarria behind, you will carry on to Portomarin, before spending a couple of days enjoying views across Galicia's vineyards as you wander to Lestedo and on to Melide. This country town is renowned for the quality of its seafood, with octopus a particular speciality. There are also several religious buildings worth exploring, including the 12th century Church of Santa Maria Melide.
Your final few days will take you from Melide to Arzua and eventually to Santiago de Compostela. As you set out from Arzua on your last morning of hiking, you will head towards Monte de Gozo - or the Mount of Joy. At the top, you can see the spires of the famous cathedral rising in the distance, spurring you on for the last few kilometres.
After a full day of walking, you will reach the historic centre of this beautiful city, where you can admire the facade of the cathedral in all its glory. If your legs aren't too tired, it is worth climbing to the top of the building to look out over the streets below and soak up some stunning views before you head home.