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First time on Camino del Norte

Elaine M

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Finisterre Way Aug 2016
Sarria to SdC Sept 2016
Oia to Santiago Jun 2017
Finisterre Way Sept 2019
We have previously walked the final stretch of the CdeF from Sarria to SdeC, have walked twice from SdeC to Finisterre and also we have walked the last 100km or so of the Portuguese Camino into SdeC. This year we are planning to walk for a few days from Bilbao to Santander, starting in the last week of September. I have a few questions:-
1. this route appears generally to be following the coast line so we thought that would be pleasant and also starts and ends at two places we would like to explore before going home (Bilbao and Santander), but I see many people recommending the earlier parts of the del Norte as being more scenic although a more challenging terrain, so I just wondered if anyone could advise how these stretches compare?
2. I know this camino route is much quieter than others but is it nevertheless well signposted for pilgrims? are there any parts which are particularly tricky in terms of losing the way?
3. I know Correo does luggage transfer but are there any other luggage transfer options?
4. I know we can get a passport and collect stamps, is there a certificate of any sort for completing this stretch?

Many thanks in advance for reading and for any advice anyone can offer.
 
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Ali@59

Alison
Time of past OR future Camino
2022
The route from Bilbao to Santander is just as beautiful as the previous stage as there are some lovely towns, Castro Urdiales and Laredo to name a few, a small boat trip from Laredo to Santoña then it a few hilly parts but it's not difficult, some more stunning scenery then another boat trip to Santander. Its not quite as strenuous as stage 1, and you don't get a certificate for that stage. I loved walking that north route, it was pretty tough but you can take time with plenty of rests. I'm not sure about other luggage carriers though, if you go, enjoy!!
 
Time of past OR future Camino
See signature. Too many to list here.
If you start in Irun, I think the first 4 days are the most difficult (most elevation gain) but totally doable and beautiful. After that it chills out a bit but still varied. You are usually going up and down on the Norte compared to the Frances which really only has two climbs (SJPdP to Roncesvalles + 0 Cebriero). Everyday has a climb on the Norte but not as pronounced after the first 4 days. The thing about the Norte is it's so beautiful (if you like the sea / coast) and the people are fewer, tho never lacking friends.

Totally well marked. Yes you get a compostela. Prices slightly higher.

The Norte is my favorite Camino, tho I schedule for the weather... (May or early September).

Edit: three of my friends had luggage carried every day on my last Norte... April/May 2022. They used Caminoways which also scheduled their accommodations. Not the way I do it but it worked for them.
 
Last edited:

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
It is very well signposted. Both stretches have many, many really beautiful and memorable sights and sounds. Irun to Bilbao is tougher for sure and that toughness may make the stretch from Bilbao to Santander even a little easier. I have never heard of any certificates of completion for particular stretches of the Norte. Carried my pack but Damien answered that question.
It is much harder than any of the caminos you have walked previously but the payoffs are great and well worth it.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
CF 13, CF 14, CP 16, VF 17, CN 18, CN+RC 19, CF 22
Between Bilbao and Santander ... when there are alternate routes, be sure to take the one by the ocean. Especially the day you leave Castro Urdiales. And the final walk before you catch the ferry into Santander. Beautiful, memorable paths.
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
2019
Enjoy Casa Viejo and the cathedral in Bilbao, then for a nicer start take the metro to Portugalete and walk - or ride - across the iron bridge. Take good rain gear in late September. I carry that plus an umbrella. There is a good outdoor store in Bilbao if you lack anything. The coast of the Mar de Cantabria is beautiful. Buen Camino
 

Lindy Loo

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 21 October 2014
Portugese Way October 2018
Hello Elaine,

Reading this is like getting inside my thought! I've done the same walks as you and am contemplating the Bilbao Santander walk this year so will follow your Post closely. It's this or Porto to Tui to add a section to my Portugese Camino 🤔🤔🤔

Enjoy! Buen Camino, Lindy
 
Time of past OR future Camino
.
but I see many people recommending the earlier parts of the del Norte as being more scenic although a more challenging terrain, so I just wondered if anyone could advise how these stretches compare?
Irun to Bilbao is a longer section, which Gronze splits into 7 stages. Bibao to Santander is 4.5 or 5 stages - or just 4 if you take the metro out of Bilbao to Portugalete. You can make Bilbao-Santander a stage longer by walking round the bay, which I'm told is nice (but I liked the ferry!).
I'd say that if you are reasonably fit, go for Irun-Bilbao. It is pretty amazing and then next year you can come back and continue from Bilbao. I recommended it to a friend a few months ago and she and a friend (early 60s) came back exhilarated by it.

I know this camino route is much quieter than others but is it nevertheless well signposted for pilgrims? are there any parts which are particularly tricky in terms of losing the way?
Very well signposted. The one consideration for you really is whether you decide to take some of the optional detours along the coastal paths (recommended). You'll find a Peregrina2000's thread about this pinned to the the Norte folder
I know we can get a passport and collect stamps, is there a certificate of any sort for completing this stretch?
Not that I know of. The only ones I can think of that aren't issued in Santiago are the one for the Muxia-Finisterre way and the (very hansome) one for the San Salvador
 
Time of past OR future Camino
2022
We have previously walked the final stretch of the CdeF from Sarria to SdeC, have walked twice from SdeC to Finisterre and also we have walked the last 100km or so of the Portuguese Camino into SdeC. This year we are planning to walk for a few days from Bilbao to Santander, starting in the last week of September. I have a few questions:-
1. this route appears generally to be following the coast line so we thought that would be pleasant and also starts and ends at two places we would like to explore before going home (Bilbao and Santander), but I see many people recommending the earlier parts of the del Norte as being more scenic although a more challenging terrain, so I just wondered if anyone could advise how these stretches compare?
2. I know this camino route is much quieter than others but is it nevertheless well signposted for pilgrims? are there any parts which are particularly tricky in terms of losing the way?
3. I know Correo does luggage transfer but are there any other luggage transfer options?
4. I know we can get a passport and collect stamps, is there a certificate of any sort for completing this stretch?

Many thanks in advance for reading and for any advice anyone can offer.
I love Bilbao - I'll be there in October for a while, then heading west. My favourite part of the city is the Casco Viejo.
 
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andarapie

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2021
Irun to Bilbao is a little more difficult than Bilbao to Santander, but it is also much more beautiful and has much better food (food in the Basque Country is leagues above the standard Spanish fare in Cantabria). Gronze has 7 stages for this part, but you can easily do it in 6 days. I would recommend spending a day or two in San Sebastian before you start (you can take a bus to Irun, 45 minutes) because the food is excellent there and it is a very picturesque city with fine beaches.

Santander, on the other hand, is kind of ugly, with not much historic architecture and a lot of modern high rise condos and office buildings.
 

Wandalina

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Portuguese in September '18
Primitivo in September '19
Im starting 21st September from Irun might see you on the path x
 

Elaine M

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Finisterre Way Aug 2016
Sarria to SdC Sept 2016
Oia to Santiago Jun 2017
Finisterre Way Sept 2019
The route from Bilbao to Santander is just as beautiful as the previous stage as there are some lovely towns, Castro Urdiales and Laredo to name a few, a small boat trip from Laredo to Santoña then it a few hilly parts but it's not difficult, some more stunning scenery then another boat trip to Santander. Its not quite as strenuous as stage 1, and you don't get a certificate for that stage. I loved walking that north route, it was pretty tough but you can take time with plenty of rests. I'm not sure about other luggage carriers though, if you go, enjoy!!
The route from Bilbao to Santander is just as beautiful as the previous stage as there are some lovely towns, Castro Urdiales and Laredo to name a few, a small boat trip from Laredo to Santoña then it a few hilly parts but it's not difficult, some more stunning scenery then another boat trip to Santander. Its not quite as strenuous as stage 1, and you don't get a certificate for that stage. I loved walking that north route, it was pretty tough but you can take time with plenty of rests. I'm not sure about other luggage carriers though, if you go, enjoy!!
Thank you 🙏
 

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