Camino de Santiago: Camino del Norte (The Northern Way)

7 days / Self-guided walking

Bilbao to Santander

Camino del Norte (The Northern Way)

Lace up your boots and walk the middle section of the Camino del Norte from Bilbao to Santander. These two wonderful cities are the perfect bookends for a pilgrimage, both bursting with history, architecture and mouth-watering seafood dishes. The walking takes in the stunning Atlantic coastline as well as the forested interior landscapes, with the trail providing a good mix of flat terrain and more testing sections.

TRIP STYLE

Self-Guided Walking

DURATION/LENGTH

7 days/112 kms

DATES

Any date to suit you

START/END POINT

Bilbao to Santander

GRADING

Moderate Walk

PRICE P/P TWIN SHARE

From EURO 740 / AUD 1,300

Make Enquiry SAVE/PRINT ITINERARY

Beginning your pilgrimage in Bilbao, you’d be forgiven for never wanting to leave. Though it is an industrial port city, Bilbao is also packed with cultural experiences and historical sights, surrounded by verdant green mountains and, of course, the ocean. When you do leave, you’ll be rewarded with scenic walking and the quaint seaside villages typical of Spain’s Atlantic Coast, as well as larger towns like Castro Urdiales. Finishing with a traditional boat trip across the Bay of Santander, this 7-day pilgrimage is a little slice of the Camino del Norte that will no doubt leave you both satiated and wanting more.

Day 1 | Arrive in Bilbao

Make your way to Bilbao, your starting point for this section of the Camino del Norte. Bilbao is the de facto capital of the Basque Autonomous Community and a great place to spend some time exploring. It’s famous for the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum, which was opened in 1997 and consequently sparked a revitalisation of the city. These days, the city is a popular tourist destination and a cultural hotspot with world-renowned dining options, beautiful landscapes and a truly cosmopolitan buzz about it. We highly recommend going for a pintxos (tapas) crawl through the market square and trying the spider crabs – utterly delicious.

Day 2 | Bilbao – Portugalete | 15 km / 3–4 hours

Ease into the Camino del Norte with a flat section taking you out of Bilbao’s city limits to Portugalete. You’ll follow the Camino’s yellow markers all the way, finding your rhythm along the city streets. Sitting at the mouth of the Estuary of Bilbao, Portugalete is a relatively large coastal town and has an incredible World Heritage-listed bridge, the Vizcaya Bridge, which must be seen to be believed.

Day 3 | Portugalete – Castro Urdiales | 26 km / 7 hours

Leave Portugalete and the Atlantic coastline, you’ll make tracks inland through the region’s fragrant forests. It’s a great a day of walking, especially if the weather is fine, and Castro Urdiales is a welcoming destination at the end of your final descent. The town is a pleasing mix of medieval and modern design, with a huge Gothic church in the centre of town and a pretty harbour and beach. It’s also known for its seafood – particularly sardines and anchovies – so don’t hesitate to fuel up for tomorrow’s stretch of the Camino del Norte.

Day 4 | Castro Urdiales – Laredo | 30 km / 7–8 hours

The Camino del Norte continues along the coastline today with spectacular cliffs overlooking the Cantabrian Sea. Before reaching Laredo, you can choose to either cross the valley and pass the Church of Nuestra Senora de Liendo in Hazas, or follow the paths up to the Chapel of St Julian. Whatever you decide, all roads lead to Laredo and the beauty of its beaches and well-preserved medieval quarter.

Day 5 | Laredo – Noja / 14 km / 3–4 hours

Begin the day with a beach walk and catch the ferry to the town of Santona before continuing along the coast to Noja. You’ll eventually graduate from sand to pavement and it’s a flat, easy day along the Camino del Norte to arrive in town. There is the option of an inland variant if you wish, but the walk along the beach is lovely when the sun is shining. As this is the penultimate day of your pilgrimage along the Camino del Norte, don’t be afraid to stop for a refreshing swim and make the most of the lovely coast!

Day 6 | Noja – Santander | 30 km / 7–8 hours

Today is a big walking day with plenty of rewarding views as you pass through San Miguel de Meruelo and Bareyo. The highlight of the day is, without a doubt, arriving into Santander by catching a traditional boat, known as a pedrenera, and staring up at the enormous Gothic Catedral de Santander, which was constructed between the 12th and 14th centuries.

It’s here, in Santander, that your journey along the Camino del Norte comes to an end. This was once the capital city of the Cantabria region and there are plenty of sights including the Palacio de la Magdalena, which was once the royal summer residence and sits on the rocky La Magdalena Peninsula overlooking the Bay of Santander.

Santander is a great place to celebrate your achievements on the Camino del Norte. The food is sublime – as it is along the entire coastline – with the fish stew a dish not to be missed by seafood lovers. It combines fresh seafood of every description including prawns, scallops, crab, octopus and more.

Day 7 | Finish in Santander

Your pilgrimage along the Camino del Norte officially ends after breakfast this morning. Unless of course you decide to continue walking the Northern Way to Santiago.

 

Visit www.wanderingtheworld.com.au for more information.

Inclusions

  • 6 nights accommodation, all carefully selected to enhance your Camino experience
  • Private en-suite facilities
  • Daily luggage transfers from hotel to hotel (1 x 20kg bag unless indicated otherwise)
  • Daily breakfast
  • Information packs with route maps and instructions on how to locate hotels
  • Luggage identification tags
  • Pilgrim’s passport
  • Emergency contact details and 24/7 local on-the-ground support
  • Pre-departure and ongoing support from Australian office

Optional Inclusions

  • Three-course dinners with local wine
  • Suggested rest days as outlined in itinerary or if required
  • Upgraded accommodation including paradors, country properties and premium/high-end styles
  • Private vehicle transfers to the trip’s starting point
  • Single supplement for your own room
  • Additional night’s accommodation before or after trip (please advise at time of booking)

Not Included

  • Flights
  • Travel to trip’s starting point
  • Transfers not already outlined in detailed trip itinerary
  • Lunches

Accommodation

We know from personal experience that a good night’s rest can make or break a trip, which is why we carefully hand-select all our accommodation. We ensure that our knowledge and firsthand experience of the best places to stay is passed on to all our walkers.

Your accommodation along the Camino is booked in advance, on a twin-share basis with private facilities, and chosen to make your pilgrimage experience as rewarding as possible. You may be staying in a refurbished farmhouse, some of which have been in the same family for centuries, or perhaps a boutique hotel with a chef who would not be out of place in a Michelin-starred restaurant. There are unique properties scattered throughout the different routes including converted monasteries, lighthouses and tiny B&Bs with the most generous hosts you could possibly imagine. Best of all, you’ll always have private en-suite facilities. Wherever you end up, you’ll be well looked after, warm and comfortable and, most importantly, ready to tackle the next day’s walk.

Single supplements are also available so you can enjoy your room with private en-suite. This supplement will apply if you are travelling alone or if there is no gender-share option. You can request a shared room through Wandering the World at the time of booking, however this is not guaranteed.

There are opportunities to upgrade to more luxurious lodgings in many places along the Camino. These are perfect for celebrating special occasions and milestones, or even to enhance your entire journey. We can recommend some very special, unique places to indulge in the Camino hospitality in spectacular style, so please ask us about these options when booking.

Food & Dining

The local cuisine is a definite highlight of your walk. The Camino regions are famous for their culinary delights, and you’ll end up exploring the destination using not only your feet, but also your taste buds.

Breakfast at your place of accommodation is usually continental style and may include cereals, yoghurt, bread, pastries, ham, tea, coffee and juices.

Lunch – at your own expense – will depend on where you are on your walk and what is available. It’s often purchased at a local café or bar, with choices along the trail perhaps including Spanish omelette (tortilla Espanola), tuna empanadas, soups or sandwiches (boccadillo). Alternatively, you may wish to enjoy a picnic in a perfect spot along the path.

Evening meals are a hearty, three-course affair known as the ‘pilgrims’ menu’. These usually consist of a salad or soup to start, followed by a choice of a meat or pasta dish, then finishing with a dessert. This is always accompanied by a bottle of local wine, of course. On occasion, the owner of the accommodation may be in the kitchen preparing the house special, which will not disappoint.

Most evening meals are included on guided group trips, and for self-guided itineraries, Wandering the World can include as many evening meals as you wish. We may strongly recommend this in some places because it’s either been a long walking day or there are limited choices available in certain destinations. We can share our advice and talk to you about this at the time of booking. We can accommodate most dietary requirements, so please let us know in advance.

THE WALKING

This trip is a self-guided itinerary, ideal for groups and independent travellers who prefer to navigate in their own way and their own time.

You will be provided with an information pack including easy-to-read maps and instructions, complete with directions to guide you on the well-marked paths and tracks. On the Camino, you will be following the yellow arrows and Camino scallop shells, while the Chemin is marked with red and white stripes. This information pack will be available at your joining hotel on the first day of your trip.

TRIP GRADE

Challenging – This itinerary is carefully designed for easy-to-manage walking days that generally average less than 20 km, or approximately 4–6 walking hours. The surfaces are fairly even with moderate ascents and descents. A reasonable level of fitness is recommended.

Given you only need carry a lightweight day pack, this trip is very manageable for those who are new to walking holidays. Whatever your previous experience, preparation and training make all our walks more enjoyable.

LUGGAGE TRANSFERS

Wandering the World arranges a daily luggage transfer to maximise your comfort and enjoyment, so all you need to carry is a day pack. Luggage allowance is one bag per person of no more than 20 kg (13 kg on the Chemin). Your luggage must be left in the reception of your hotel before breakfast (8 am) each day.

Please note:

  • It is essential to attach the bag tag provided to ensure your luggage is delivered to your next accommodation.
  • Only one bag will be moved each day and additional charges will apply if your bag is heavier than 20 kg (13 kg on the Chemin).
  • Should you require special arrangements for additional luggage transfers, these can be made ahead of time and must be paid as part of your final payment to Wandering the World.

GROUP SIZE

Wandering the World’s guided groups have a maximum group size of 12 participants. This small group size means that we have the flexibility to stay in a wider range of accommodations, can dine together in the evenings, have the freedom to walk alone or together, and there are more opportunities to get to know your travelling companions.

TRANSFERS/TAXIS

If, for any reason, you wish to shorten your walking day, there are options along the Camino and in the villages to arrange a taxi.

On some itineraries, there are times when Wandering the World may arrange a transfer for you or can do so at your request. This might happen where small villages do not have accommodation with private facilities, for example, or when we want to take you to a special country property that we know you are going to love. In this case, Wandering the World will either arrange a transfer for you or suggest a taxi.

Transfers on the Camino are common in parts. A simple procedure is outlined in your trip notes explaining the details of your private transfer, the designated meeting point and the agreed transfer time.

WEATHER

The weather and climate on the Camino can vary from country to country, region to region and, of course, from day to day. Each season has its own benefits, with long, warm and sunny days in spring and early summer, while early spring and late autumn tend to enjoy cooler walking temperatures. Some sections may be too hot for walking mid-summer, while others are more likely to be wet at certain times. The experts at Wandering the World can discuss your preferences and guide you when you are planning your trip.

Once you’ve started your walk, the weather can play an important role in your overall enjoyment of the journey. Checking the forecast can be a great help when planning your days. If you do strike hotter weather, leaving early to avoid the warmest part of the day will make a huge difference.

24/7 SUPPORT & CARE

Your information pack will include details of local emergency contacts and international contacts. We have local, on-the-ground support to provide any assistance you may require and we’ll also check-in with your hotel at the end of each day to ensure that you’ve arrived safely.

GETTING THERE / GETTING HOME

This itinerary begins in San Sebastian and ends in Santiago de Compostela.

The closest airports to San Sebastian are Barcelona, Biarritz or Bilbao.

From your airport of choice there are bus, train and flight options as per the links below.

Train bookings are recommended.  Please note you can only book two months in advance of the date of travel.

Bus:  ALSA

Train:

The Train Line

Rail Europe

RENFE

Bus/Train : Rome2Rio

Flights:

Vueling

Ryan Air

Iberia Express

Iberia:

TAP

BA

Easyjet

Alitalia

Also, check out: Skyscanner OR Spanish Airport Guide

INSURANCE

Insurance is compulsory for everyone who travels with Wandering the World. The insurance policy must include cover against personal accident, medical expenses, emergency repatriation and personal liability. Wandering the World recommends insurance coverage for cancellation to be taken at the same time your deposit is paid, as no exception to the cancellation provisions can be made.

BOOKING AND TRAVEL TERMS AND CONDITIONS

Wandering the World’s full booking terms and conditions are available upon request and will also accompany your initial invoice for deposit.

“I underestimated the character and charm of Santander, as well as the journey of actually getting there! The stage was packed with goodies ranging from medieval architecture to the roaring waves of the Cantabrian Sea. The gastronomic variety of seafood was incredible, as was crossing the bay to Santander by ‘pedrenera’, a definite highlight and a great way to see this city by the sea for the first time”.  Glenyce, Founder of Wandering the World.

I had the most wonderful trip on the Camino del Norte with Wandering the World. It was a holiday of a lifetime for me and it certainly lived up to those expectations. We had some challenging days but that is all part of this amazing walk and it was full of beautiful scenery, some astonishing accommodation, delicious food, caring guides and ocean views, which made this trip very special….. it was the best trip ever. I would recommend everyone complete a Wandering the Word trip because it will not disappoint.

Judith W – Camino Del Norte from Bilbao, 2019

I undertook this Camino as an independent traveller, travelling with a friend from mid-September through October.  It is a good time to go as the weather has cooled down from the hot summer months and there is little rain.  We opted to stay in good quality standard hotels with luggage transfer and breakfast included.  The Camino del Norte is of similar length and duration to the Camino Frances but quite a different experience.  There are fewer pilgrims, there are more hills and valleys to traverse, but the landscapes are more varied and interesting overall.

If you enjoy views of the ocean and ocean scenery with the mighty Picos de Europa mountain range on your left hand for a lot of the walk, this is a great way to get to Santiago.

David Symonds, Camino el Norte, 2013

Wow, we just finished and loved our fourth self-guided Camino on the Camino del Norte organized by Glenyce and the WTW team … Jane and I loved this Camino as it predominantly goes along the Northern Spanish Coast then traverses down to the spiritual destination of SDC. The first week offered some great challenges as we hugged the coast and wandered through beautiful little fishing villages. Great towns including San Sebastián, Bilbao and Santander make everyday part of probably our favourite Camino … every detail and organization of our journey was first class.

 C&J Gale, Camino del Norte, 2019