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Del Norte advice

MMcA

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP - Los Arcos (2012)
- Burgos (2014)
- León (2015)
- Villafranca (2016)
- SdC - Fisterra (2017)
Hi all. Having completed the CF/ Muxia- Finisterre over 5 years, finishing in 2017, my feet are starting to get itchy again ( least I hope it's an itch and not the start of a blister! 😉) . I'v been thinking of maybe doing part of del Norte. For those in the know, how does it compare to CF and Finisterre. I've heard that there's more road walking 😕 But more bearable temperatures in the summer 🙂 And wonderful scenery 😀. What about, for example, availability of albergues and just how much road walking. I would be going in July or August (most likely July) and walk for about a week to 10 days. As I'll be travelling from Dublin my flight options are Biarritz (for Irun), Bilbao and Santander. Has anyone any recommendations for this part of del Norte for a 7/10 day trip, and are there any not-to-be-missed sights/landmarks, in the way CF has for example Cruz de Ferro. Thanks.
 

H Richards

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
June 2017 Francés
Oct 2017 Incomplete Le Puy / Francés
June/July 2018 Norte
Oct/Nov 2018 Francés
Walking to Santander would be a great plan for this time. You could start somewhere from Zarautz to Gernika, depending on your speed and time. I found this stretch some of the most beautiful, encompassing some amazing coastline and beaches (Islares is a dream). You'd get to see two cities, the incredible hanging bridge at Portugalete, the Gernika tree, the Guemes albergue, the lovely ferry crossing to Santander.

If you wanted to save a day, you could take light rail out to the edge of Bilbao instead of walking through the industrial area.

This would be my choice for a 10 day hike!
 
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H Richards

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
June 2017 Francés
Oct 2017 Incomplete Le Puy / Francés
June/July 2018 Norte
Oct/Nov 2018 Francés
To address your question about the road walking, it is hugely dependent on:
a) which section of the camino you are in
b) which alternative routes you take

The worst section for road walking is straight after Santander, where you will have several days which are largely asphalt only. However most of the Basque country and early Cantabria is mud trails.

There are often alternative routes taking you over mountains or along coastlines that avoid the asphalt. The down side to this is they may add many kilometers to your day, which not only means walking further or more stops, but also means you may easily get out of step forever with walking companions who take the faster routes.
 

H Richards

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
June 2017 Francés
Oct 2017 Incomplete Le Puy / Francés
June/July 2018 Norte
Oct/Nov 2018 Francés
As for availability of albergues, it will certainly be very busy in July. I went in June last year and already some municipal albergues were full, but they managed to fit me in on spare mattresses. Check gronze.com each day to plan, leave early, and have an emergency fund for when you need to get an unplanned private room.

You may notice that the different regions of Spain care quite differently in providing for pilgrims. I found Basque Country very good and Asturias the worst. There were sections later on in Cantabria and Asturias without any municipals, so you can't always count on there being a municipal albergue, just because you've walked 25km that day!
 
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nathanael

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Via de la Plata
Hi all. Having completed the CF/ Muxia- Finisterre over 5 years, finishing in 2017, my feet are starting to get itchy again ( least I hope it's an itch and not the start of a blister! 😉) . I'v been thinking of maybe doing part of del Norte. For those in the know, how does it compare to CF and Finisterre. I've heard that there's more road walking 😕 But more bearable temperatures in the summer 🙂 And wonderful scenery 😀. What about, for example, availability of albergues and just how much road walking. I would be going in July or August (most likely July) and walk for about a week to 10 days. As I'll be travelling from Dublin my flight options are Biarritz (for Irun), Bilbao and Santander. Has anyone any recommendations for this part of del Norte for a 7/10 day trip, and are there any not-to-be-missed sights/landmarks, in the way CF has for example Cruz de Ferro. Thanks.
I have done the Norte twice and plan on doing it again this summer. I personally believe the whole route is grand and none to be missed. It can be rugged at points but the scenery is spectacular.
 

MMcA

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP - Los Arcos (2012)
- Burgos (2014)
- León (2015)
- Villafranca (2016)
- SdC - Fisterra (2017)
To address your question about the road walking, it is hugely dependent on:
a) which section of the camino you are in
b) which alternative routes you take

The worst section for road walking is straight after Santander, where you will have several days which are largely asphalt only. However most of the Basque country and early Cantabria is mud trails.

There are often alternative routes taking you over mountains or along coastlines that avoid the asphalt. The down side to this is they may add many kilometers to your day, which not only means walking further or more stops, but also means you may easily get out of step forever with walking companions who take the faster routes.
Thanks H. On the CF I was averaging about 25km a day and I tend to take the alternative path when there was one, (eg, the Dragonte after Villafranca on the CF was a must for me!).
 

MMcA

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP - Los Arcos (2012)
- Burgos (2014)
- León (2015)
- Villafranca (2016)
- SdC - Fisterra (2017)
I have done the Norte twice and plan on doing it again this summer. I personally believe the whole route is grand and none to be missed. It can be rugged at points but the scenery is spectacular.
Thanks Nathanael.
Rugged? That sounds good!
 

lt56ny

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2013-Frances SJP-Finisterre, 2015 Camino Le Puy-Santiago, 2017 Portugues Lisbon-Santiago 2018 Norte
Thanks H. On the CF I was averaging about 25km a day and I tend to take the alternative path when there was one, (eg, the Dragonte after Villafranca on the CF was a must for me!).
I haven’t walked the CF in a long time but if you like variants then you picked the right Camino. There are variants to the variants on the Norte. It is beautiful. Especially if you like looking at the sea. It is tougher than the CF. I have heard in the summer, I walked in fall, it cN be tougher to find beds as there are not a lot of Albergues. I would think some of the private facilities would be more crowded and I would think more money because it is summer and there are lots of tourists and surfers. Although it seems the surfers in the fall were often camping.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Hi all. Having completed the CF/ Muxia- Finisterre over 5 years, finishing in 2017, my feet are starting to get itchy again ( least I hope it's an itch and not the start of a blister! 😉) . I'v been thinking of maybe doing part of del Norte. For those in the know, how does it compare to CF and Finisterre. I've heard that there's more road walking 😕 But more bearable temperatures in the summer 🙂 And wonderful scenery 😀. What about, for example, availability of albergues and just how much road walking. I would be going in July or August (most likely July) and walk for about a week to 10 days. As I'll be travelling from Dublin my flight options are Biarritz (for Irun), Bilbao and Santander. Has anyone any recommendations for this part of del Norte for a 7/10 day trip, and are there any not-to-be-missed sights/landmarks, in the way CF has for example Cruz de Ferro. Thanks.
Hi, MMcA,
The asphalt on the Norte is a force to be reckoned with. Those whose feet don’t mind asphalt are sometimes surprised to hear me complain about all the asphalt on the Norte. But I once wound up with my foot in a walking cast/boot for months after my return from the camino. I had undoubtedly exacerbated the problem by walking with a custom hard plastic orthotic. Fast forward more than 10 years, I now have a silicone orthotic, I now walk in extremely well-cushioned trail runners (no more hiking boots or shoes for me), yet I still try to find alternatives to the asphalt. You will probably come across this thread, but just in case, there is a great discussion about the various coastal alternatives on the Norte. Lots of times you can SEE the ocean from the camino as it runs along the national highway, but with just one little detour you can actually WALK along the coast. These alternatives made my most recent norte heavenly.


Since you are a repeat camino offender, it’s likely that you will return, so I would suggest starting in Irún and seeing how far you get. It’s not the most beautiful part of the Norte, IMO, but there are a couple of early coastal alternatives (particularly on day 1 from Irún) and it will give you a good introduction.

The Norte is very popular and albergues can get filled. I walked in June and we had the advantage that the tourists had not yet arrived en masse. As a result, owners of tourist facilities were happy to rent to us, and we stayed in several very nice tourist apartments for about 15 euros each. In August,you will not get that opportunity, and everything will be much more crowded. The locals obviously prefer the tourist revenue to the pilgrim´srevenue. My recommendation would be to walk as early in summer as possible, June onward.

Buen camino, Laurie
 

MMcA

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP - Los Arcos (2012)
- Burgos (2014)
- León (2015)
- Villafranca (2016)
- SdC - Fisterra (2017)
Hi, MMcA,
The asphalt on the Norte is a force to be reckoned with. Those whose feet don’t mind asphalt are sometimes surprised to hear me complain about all the asphalt on the Norte. But I once wound up with my foot in a walking cast/boot for months after my return from the camino. I had undoubtedly exacerbated the problem by walking with a custom hard plastic orthotic. Fast forward more than 10 years, I now have a silicone orthotic, I now walk in extremely well-cushioned trail runners (no more hiking boots or shoes for me), yet I still try to find alternatives to the asphalt. You will probably come across this thread, but just in case, there is a great discussion about the various coastal alternatives on the Norte. Lots of times you can SEE the ocean from the camino as it runs along the national highway, but with just one little detour you can actually WALK along the coast. These alternatives made my most recent norte heavenly.


Since you are a repeat camino offender, it’s likely that you will return, so I would suggest starting in Irún and seeing how far you get. It’s not the most beautiful part of the Norte, IMO, but there are a couple of early coastal alternatives (particularly on day 1 from Irún) and it will give you a good introduction.

The Norte is very popular and albergues can get filled. I walked in June and we had the advantage that the tourists had not yet arrived en masse. As a result, owners of tourist facilities were happy to rent to us, and we stayed in several very nice tourist apartments for about 15 euros each. In August,you will not get that opportunity, and everything will be much more crowded. The locals obviously prefer the tourist revenue to the pilgrim´srevenue. My recommendation would be to walk as early in summer as possible, June onward.

Buen camino, Laurie
Thanks Peregrina2000
Unfortunately due to my work schudule July is the earliest I can make it. It was the amount of asphalt I'd heard people talking about worried me so me I thought I'd try and find a bit more about it.
Thanks also for the link the that other thread.
Buen Camino, Michael
 

H Richards

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
June 2017 Francés
Oct 2017 Incomplete Le Puy / Francés
June/July 2018 Norte
Oct/Nov 2018 Francés
Thanks Peregrina2000
Unfortunately due to my work schudule July is the earliest I can make it. It was the amount of asphalt I'd heard people talking about worried me so me I thought I'd try and find a bit more about it.
Thanks also for the link the that other thread.
Buen Camino, Michael
Until you get to around day 10 of the Norte, you will have no issues at all with the asphalt, I can assure you. Until about Guemes there are always non-asphalt routes which aren't much different in length than the road routes. After Santander things start to change radically. I found I couldn't do more than about 20k on these road stages because of the impact on my feet.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Until about Guemes there are always non-asphalt routes which aren't much different in length than the road routes.
Oh, I would LOVE to hear more about those options. I only found off-camino alternatives when the coast was nearby, but never thought to look for them to find alternatives more in the interior, essentially Deba to Portugalete. I do remember some logging forests after Markina, and some nice off road walks after the monastery at Zenarruza, but I did think the asphalt was a factor. Not nearly as bad as in Cantabria, though!

Zarautz to Getaria is a nice "costal walk" but unfortunately it is all on a paved path!
 

H Richards

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
June 2017 Francés
Oct 2017 Incomplete Le Puy / Francés
June/July 2018 Norte
Oct/Nov 2018 Francés
Oh, I would LOVE to hear more about those options. I only found off-camino alternatives when the coast was nearby, but never thought to look for them to find alternatives more in the interior, essentially Deba to Portugalete. I do remember some logging forests after Markina, and some nice off road walks after the monastery at Zenarruza, but I did think the asphalt was a factor. Not nearly as bad as in Cantabria, though!

Zarautz to Getaria is a nice "costal walk" but unfortunately it is all on a paved path!
I had the Wise Pilgrm app on my phone. It shows the alternate routes in red and the main route in blue. I've attached a screenshot of Zarautz to Deba as an example.
 

Attachments

H Richards

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
June 2017 Francés
Oct 2017 Incomplete Le Puy / Francés
June/July 2018 Norte
Oct/Nov 2018 Francés
There's also a thread on this forum with detailed instructions on many costal variants, GPS trails to load into an app or GPS machine, and photos. I don't have the link to hand. Anyone know the one I mean?
 

cbacino

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte - Primitivo (2018)
Via Francigena (2017)
Appalachian Trail (2016)
Hi all. Having completed the CF/ Muxia- Finisterre over 5 years, finishing in 2017, my feet are starting to get itchy again ( least I hope it's an itch and not the start of a blister! 😉) . I'v been thinking of maybe doing part of del Norte. For those in the know, how does it compare to CF and Finisterre. I've heard that there's more road walking 😕 But more bearable temperatures in the summer 🙂 And wonderful scenery 😀. What about, for example, availability of albergues and just how much road walking. I would be going in July or August (most likely July) and walk for about a week to 10 days. As I'll be travelling from Dublin my flight options are Biarritz (for Irun), Bilbao and Santander. Has anyone any recommendations for this part of del Norte for a 7/10 day trip, and are there any not-to-be-missed sights/landmarks, in the way CF has for example Cruz de Ferro. Thanks.
Do the Primitivo. Finish by early July.
 

Camino Chris

One step forward...
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I never have problems walking on asphalt, so I barely remember that the Norte had much. I only remember all the "good stuff"...Great memories!
 

Craig Towers

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino de Santiago
Hi all. Having completed the CF/ Muxia- Finisterre over 5 years, finishing in 2017, my feet are starting to get itchy again ( least I hope it's an itch and not the start of a blister! 😉) . I'v been thinking of maybe doing part of del Norte. For those in the know, how does it compare to CF and Finisterre. I've heard that there's more road walking 😕 But more bearable temperatures in the summer 🙂 And wonderful scenery 😀. What about, for example, availability of albergues and just how much road walking. I would be going in July or August (most likely July) and walk for about a week to 10 days. As I'll be travelling from Dublin my flight options are Biarritz (for Irun), Bilbao and Santander. Has anyone any recommendations for this part of del Norte for a 7/10 day trip, and are there any not-to-be-missed sights/landmarks, in the way CF has for example Cruz de Ferro. Thanks.
One small tip. Irun is honestly a bit of a pit. But the walk from there to San Sebastián is one of the better days. ( do hill route for view) We stayed in San Sebastián and caught local train back to Irun early in morning. 3€. Starts early. You can leave you pack in San Sebastián just take a day pack. May the first day a lot of fun. Enjoy one more night of tapas in San Sebastián.
 

Shippers

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2013, Camino Norte 2018, Camino Primitivo 2018
Hi all. Having completed the CF/ Muxia- Finisterre over 5 years, finishing in 2017, my feet are starting to get itchy again ( least I hope it's an itch and not the start of a blister! 😉) . I'v been thinking of maybe doing part of del Norte. For those in the know, how does it compare to CF and Finisterre. I've heard that there's more road walking 😕 But more bearable temperatures in the summer 🙂 And wonderful scenery 😀. What about, for example, availability of albergues and just how much road walking. I would be going in July or August (most likely July) and walk for about a week to 10 days. As I'll be travelling from Dublin my flight options are Biarritz (for Irun), Bilbao and Santander. Has anyone any recommendations for this part of del Norte for a 7/10 day trip, and are there any not-to-be-missed sights/landmarks, in the way CF has for example Cruz de Ferro. Thanks.
Hi MMcA,
I did the Norte up to the the Primitivo and followed the Primitivo into SdC. For me and everyone else in my group of 6 the Norte got better the further west we went. There was just too much road walking on busy roads compared to the CF. I got the impression that the pilgrims weren't particularly welcome in the tourist towns because we only stayed for one night and didn't spend enough money. Also, there just isn't enough accommodation (of any description) in some places (I went in Sep 18). The Primitivo was so much better and had much more of a camino feel.

Sorry to be a misery guts. Some people had a different experience but for me (and my group) it wasn't good. I would recommend doing the Primitivo instead.

Simon.
 

Mugatu

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, Finisterre, Muxia (2018)
Camino Frances or Norte (2019 , June 27-Aug 8)
I got the impression that the pilgrims weren't particularly welcome in the tourist towns because we only stayed for one night and didn't spend enough money. Also, there just isn't enough accommodation (of any description) in some places (I went in Sep 18). The Primitivo was so much better and had much more of a camino feel.
It’s nice to see these varying perspectives, makes a person really ask themselves if what they’re looking for is just a long walk, or the feeling, of being on the “Camino”
 
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trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
. I got the impression that the pilgrims weren't particularly welcome in the tourist towns
There definitely was less of a Camino spirit in most of the towns on the Norte. Unlike the small villages on the Francés that depend on the Camino for survival. I did find more appreciation for pilgrims after the split with the Primitivo and as the trail left the coast.
 

firstshirt

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
November (2018)
I have done the Norte twice and plan on doing it again this summer. I personally believe the whole route is grand and none to be missed. It can be rugged at points but the scenery is spectacular.
Really glad to hear your view on the Norte. On my list for 2020, Thanks
 

J.Patrick

Member
Camino(s) past & future
From Porto, Portugal, through Tui, Spain, in 2015.
Northern route in August/September 2017
I personally believe the whole route is grand and none to be missed. It can be rugged at points but the scenery is spectacular.
I agree! A beautiful hike with lots of room!
 

Thomas Yingst

Tom ... “the kid”
Camino(s) past & future
Portugal. May 2019
Hi all. Having completed the CF/ Muxia- Finisterre over 5 years, finishing in 2017, my feet are starting to get itchy again ( least I hope it's an itch and not the start of a blister! 😉) . I'v been thinking of maybe doing part of del Norte. For those in the know, how does it compare to CF and Finisterre. I've heard that there's more road walking 😕 But more bearable temperatures in the summer 🙂 And wonderful scenery 😀. What about, for example, availability of albergues and just how much road walking. I would be going in July or August (most likely July) and walk for about a week to 10 days. As I'll be travelling from Dublin my flight options are Biarritz (for Irun), Bilbao and Santander. Has anyone any recommendations for this part of del Norte for a 7/10 day trip, and are there any not-to-be-missed sights/landmarks, in the way CF has for example Cruz de Ferro. Thanks.
Lots of rain and lots of mud ... but the beauty is overwhelming...
 

AJGuillaume

Pélerin du monde
Camino(s) past & future
Via Gebennensis (2018)
Via Podiensis (2018)
Voie Nive Bidassoa (2018)
Camino Del Norte (2018)
It all comes down to expectations. Last year, we walked the Norte as part of a long 2178km walk in 133 days. We were told the Norte was going to be hard, that we would not have a 'Camino experience' (the definition of which is very vague), that there would be endless road walking.
As this was our first Camino, and we had no point of comparison, we spoke to many people and set our own expectations.
We walked the Norte in September and October 2018. As we had walked from Switzerland to Irun, we didn't find the Norte hard. We met many pilgrims and enjoyed what we considered was an amazing Camino experience. We found that we were welcomed as pilgrims everywhere. And as we had planned well, we followed the advice of many on this forum, and avoided road walking by not following the yellow arrows, and taking coastal alternatives.
The Norte was awesome!
Buen Camino!
Andrew
 

H Richards

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
June 2017 Francés
Oct 2017 Incomplete Le Puy / Francés
June/July 2018 Norte
Oct/Nov 2018 Francés
Sorry to be a misery guts. Some people had a different experience but for me (and my group) it wasn't good. I would recommend doing the Primitivo instead.

Simon.
I'd like to sound a note of "this wasn't true for me", to balance out the views. The Norte was gorgeous. The road-walking was a pain in the @*** but occasional and managable. Accommodation was occasionally tricky to find but I was never left without a bed. There was less camino community spirit, it was true, but this was compensated by a much greater sense of exploration and adventure, and being exposed to beautiful wild forces of nature. I never felt for a moment unwelcome at any place, and in fact some of the most amazingly hospitable and unique donotivo albergues in Spain are only found on the Norte. Food on the Norte was a level better (and often cheaper) than on the Frances.

Don't go expecting a Camino Frances + beaches. It's a totally different beast, but every bit as amazing in other ways.
 

MMcA

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP - Los Arcos (2012)
- Burgos (2014)
- León (2015)
- Villafranca (2016)
- SdC - Fisterra (2017)

MMcA

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP - Los Arcos (2012)
- Burgos (2014)
- León (2015)
- Villafranca (2016)
- SdC - Fisterra (2017)
Hi MMcA,
I did the Norte up to the the Primitivo and followed the Primitivo into SdC. For me and everyone else in my group of 6 the Norte got better the further west we went. There was just too much road walking on busy roads compared to the CF. I got the impression that the pilgrims weren't particularly welcome in the tourist towns because we only stayed for one night and didn't spend enough money. Also, there just isn't enough accommodation (of any description) in some places (I went in Sep 18). The Primitivo was so much better and had much more of a camino feel.

Sorry to be a misery guts. Some people had a different experience but for me (and my group) it wasn't good. I would recommend doing the Primitivo instead.

Simon.
Thanks Shippers.

I wouldn'd have the time off to do the whole lot in one go. I done the CF in stages and as the Cathedral in SdC is having internal renovations I thought do a stage on del Norte this year and leave doing the Primitivo into SdC until next year.
 

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