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Information on El Camino Norte


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Well I guess I am now committed to doing a 2nd Camino. Did Camino Francis in Sept 2005 and now would like to do Camino Norte, Camino Primativo and on to Finnisterre in Sept 2008. Having some trouble finding similar info to that which was available for my initial Camino. Would appreciate comments from anyone who could share their experiences relative to the Camino Francis.

Also, would like to commence by flying into Bilboa from Canada and was hoping to visit the Guggenheim museum. Does anyone have a recommendation as to where I should stay this first night?. I was looking at the Albergue Bilboa Ateroetaxa. Apparently it is a youth hostel. I am far from being a youth. Does that in any way limit the possibility of staying at this facility.

Thanks for any info that you could provide!
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How exiting to be planning your 2nd camino! Most Youth Hostels accept anybody - whereas some Backpackers usually mention if there is an age restriction.

"Albergue Bilbao" is a good place. Another reasonable place is the Hostal Gurea, Bidebarrieta 14, 3rd floor, phone +34 944 163 299.

For a Pilgrim's Credential stop by at the Friends of the Camino office in Bilbao: Asociación De Amigos Del Camino De Santiago De Bilbao - Nicolás Alcorta, 7 - Pza. de Zabalburu

There is a good diary here: and here:

And a few websites: (Has a few pages and info on the Primitivo as well.) ... norte.html

Some distances:

Irún - Santiago 789,2 km.
San Sebastian - Santiago 764,8 km.
Bilbao - Santiago 639,5 km.
Santander - Santiago 533,0 km.
Ribadsella - Santiago 387,1 km.

For the camino Primitivo:

Here are some links that I have for this route: Assoc. Astur – Leonesa Del Camino with info on Oviedo, the cathedral, the Sudarium (ancient relic) as well as routes and maps. ... mitivo.asp Large site with stages, maps, albergues etc. ... o.asp?id=3
Maps etc on the Concello de Lugo website. High Section - Click on "Ways" and then Primitive Way Oviedo-Alto Section - The Asociación de Amigos del Camino de Santiago del Interior - includes profiles maps for each stage ... :1&lang=en Excellent pages on the stages, refuges, maps etc.

Happy surfing!
What a pity! She had a delightful way of writing - straight from the heart.

However, I am not called a camino 'Ardilla' (squirrel) for nothing. I hoard anything to do with the camino. At the time that she was writing, I saved each instalment - as they were written - and still have all 16 pages on file.
So, if anyone would like a copy, I will send it to you with pleasure.
3rd Edition. More content, training & pack guides avoid common mistakes, bed bugs etc
bjorgts said:
Annette on is not there anymore. I have tried to find her, but no...

I only do know that she has moved definitely to Barcelona to live and work there........ about a year ago(?). Maybe she does not have her danish provider anymore.........

I did found an old message on the Navarra-forum:

Re: For Annette - still here... :)
Posted by: Annette
Date: November 29, 2006 12:55PM

Ohh... my :)
I haven´t been here for a long time... and now I see that I have been missed or aleast my webpage
I too noticed that it was missing... there was a problem with the webserver. But problem solved. I would never give up on the website or the camino. it has been a huge part of my life.
Though right now I have difficulties updating the site... as I am with out internet i my (new) home... For those of you who do not know, the camino has changed my life alot... I have now moved my life from Copenhagen to Barcelona. And I love it.
Thinking of doing a small winter Camino in December... only for 10 days...

And when you can read Danish:

Hi Caserta,

I walked the Camino del Norte last summer and put a description of the stages I did on a post on this forum that is entitled "Pictures from the Norte." If you can't find it, I will be happy to post it again or send it to you. When I got to Oviedo, though, I went back up to the coast and continued along the Norte at Aviles to Santiago, so I didn't walk on the Camino Primitivo. Several of the people we met along the way did walk the Primitivo from Oviedo and said it was quite beautiful. There appears to be one long stretch without albergue right after Lugo, and some walkers we met left the Primitivo to rejoin the Norte at Sobrado dos Monxes so they would have an albergue after Lugo and before the Camino Frances. But they had to make their own way over paved roads just using a map.

We also stayed a night in Bilbao before going up to Irun to start walking. We stayed at a very nice hostal -- the Iturriena Ostatua right in the Casco Viejo. It's not dirt cheap, but it was very nice, great location, very good breakfast.
It's a beautiful walk,you'll love it!
Thanks everyone for the information provided on the Camino Norte and the suggestions for accomodation.

Peregrina2000 I would very much appreciate reading your descriptions of the stages.

Also Sillydoll, I would also welcome the information from Annette. I too remember Annette from my research in 2005. In a substanial way, she was responsible for me being pursuing the Camino Francis. Disappointed when I tried to revisit her blogs on her various camino's. If you could somehow repost the info from her Camino North blog, I assume a lot of people would be appreciative.

Thanks again everyone!
Hi, Caserta,
I've pasted in here the information I posted last summer about the stages on my Norte walk. It's more of a nuts and bolts description than anything else. It was a really beautiful walk and all in all I didn't think the amount of pavement walking was as bad as I had been led to believe. Happy to answer questions -- Laurie

Albergue in Irun. Opens at 4 p.m., very nice.

Irun-San Sebastian 25 km (stayed in pension b/c albergue is out of town).

San Sebastian to Zarautz (20 km). Well this was one of those silly days. A man Jose Mari who has a little "information kiosk" for pilgrims right outside of San Sebastian told us that we really should stay at the albergue in Orio. We did, and it's really nice, private run by a woman who has walked, it's right in her house, in what used to be a garage. Nice new bathrooms, small number of beds. But that was such a short walk that, at his advice, we walked on to Zarautz and then took the bus back to Orio, and repeated the process (took the bus back to Zarautz) the next day. Silly, but we did it.

Zarautz to Deba (22 km). Again we stayed in a pension. There is an albergue but when we got there it was almost full and it is very very tiny, with three beds on top of each other and absolutely no room. Pension was right on the beach, very reasonable, and it was a nice evening spent in cafes next to the water.

Deba to the monastery at Cernautza (28 km). The monastery has sleeping room for about 14 people, but there is a HUGE private albergue nearby. It wasn't open when we were there. The monastery was full about two hours after we arrived. The priests serve an evening meal and breakfast, but we really should have brought some food with us.

Cernauzza to Gernika (20 km) nice albergue but doesn't open till 3 pm

Gernika to Sta. Maria de Lezama (28 km). Some people stayed in the school on the floor. I went to a hotel rural and paid 38 euros. (it has both a "casa rural" and "hotel rural" and the casa is much cheaper, though I'm not sure what the difference is).

Lezama to Portugalete (32 km). Walking through Bilbao and through a very industrial, ugly part to Barracaldo, and then on through Sestao (where we walked through a scary site with a 6 or 7 story building that had been abandoned and was being occupied by families and lots of men. Looked like some not so good things were happening there, we saw a couple of fancy new BMWs come down and quickly leave, so we assumed there were drugs involved). Portugalete is actually the last stop on the Bilbao metro line and we met others who instead of taking the roundabout way we did, just walked straight from Bilbao to Portugalete, which is probably 15 km (?). There is no albergue here, though.

Portugalete to Castro Urdiales (27 km). Last 9 km on the highway. A long slog. There is a detour possibility here that adds many km to the trip, but didn't have an albergue there, so we were kind of stuck. (this is one of many places where the http://www.mundicamino site was not helpful, nor was the confraternity site. The German guide is absolutely precise and very accurate, we were lucky to have met some Germans who had the guide).

Castro Urdiales to Islares. (10 km). Sort of a rest day, we stayed in a two star hotel on the highway, las Arenillas, which had some of the best food we had all trip. Paella, fish soup, all was fabulous. There is a camping here.

Islares to Laredo (29 km). Very nice walk. Two albergues in town, but they told us they were both full, even though people who arrived after we did were given a place to sleep. Maybe the sisters didn't like the way we looked.

Laredo to Guemes (26 km). Another very nice walk (we got lost once about 4 km outside of Guemes). This albergue is one of the "must" albergues, though actually its original purpose was not as an albergue but as a sort of "religious expedition center" or something like that. The man who runs it is the village priest. It was a very nice stop.

Guemes to Santander (who knows, anywhere between 9 and 15 km). The priest gave us a detour that would take us on the coast, turn off at a place called Galizano, and it was beautiful. Very glad we did. Then many kms walking on the Somo beach across from Santander, again beautiful, and finally the ferry to Santander. Nice albergue but only opens at 3 p.m. and you have to "get in the line" at a restaurant nearby, it's well marked. (only 18 beds, and it filled up early the night we were there, May 15). The restaurant serves a not-so-great meal to pilgrims early, but we found a cafe down the street with some excellent platos combinados, with all kinds of fish and seafood.

Santander to the Albergue Arco Iris outside Santillana (about 29 km). This albergue is also on a lot of people's lists of top albergues on the Norte, but the five of us thought it was AWFUL. Bad hygiene, terrible bathrooms, run down place, a very sad and probably dysfunctional family of three (aging couple and their son in say his 40s). The setting is very nice, but we really had to eat there because there wasn't any alternative, it's very rural. I thought it was a bad choice. The camping in Santillana is also pretty bad, people told us (I don't know that for a fact), but in Santillana there are lots of private pensiones, etc. But probably pretty pricey because Santillana is very touristy. This was a stage with a lot of pavement, we arrived at a town with an albergue around 1 p.m., right before we did the prohibited walk across the railroad tracks. It's not as hair-raising as the books make it sound, and many villagers confirmed that "everyone does it."

Arco Iris to Comillas (about 24 or 26 km). Very very nice day. We stopped for a couple of hours for breakfast and to visit the church in Santillana, and then on to Comillas. There is also a monastery in Cobreces where some people stay, but we went on to Comillas and stayed at the new municipal albergue (so new it wasn't in the German girls' guidebook). It's one of the nicest, very good place to stay. And the town is very nice as well. Our dinner in the Bar Filipinas was outstanding-- very simple, cheap, but yummy.

Comillas to San Vicente de la Barquera (about 15 km ?). We took a short day because one of the German girls had to catch the bus from San Vicente. There is an albergue there, where we stayed. For some reason, the hospitalero just didn't like us from the very beginning. In the morning when we left, he told me that the problem with Americans (though only two of us were Americans) is that we are so arrogant. I was pretty stunned. Anyway, it's a nice town, castle, long medieval bridge, old church up on top of town.

San Vicente to El Peral (19 km). Cheap and very clean pension here (24 E for two of us). Excellent restaurant across the street. Took an afternoon walk about 6 km to the coast and back, where there are some ancient caves. Others stayed at a youth hostel a few km before El Peral, but I liked our choice.

El Peral to Llanes (20 km). Beautiful walk (we took the Coastal route, the E-9, instead of the Camino. Our general rule of thumb was to take the E-9 whenever it was a possibility. It always comes back to the camino, and it is always on the coast and beautiful.

Llanes to Ribadesella (28 km). Great looking albergue across the river from town on the beach (but we didn't stay there). It's also a youth hostel, not just a peregrino albergue.

Ribadesella to Colunga. (24 km). Another absolutely wonderful day, lots of km on the beach, lots of totally deserted beautiful beaches. Did not go to the albergue a few km before this town. There are several possiblities for private lodging. We stayed in a very nice rural hotel, Nice place, also we went over to Lastres (about 6 km away) in a big group in a taxi to see the town and have an excellent fish dinner. Lastres is, they tell us, an overrun tourist town in summer, but in mid May it was just a pretty, cliff-hanging town

Colunga to Villaviciosa (23 km). No albergue here, stayed in a hotel. Pleasant town, and the walk was nice.

Villaviciosa to Pola de Siero (Siera?) (30 +). After Villaviciosa we took the turn off for Oviedo. Everyone else we knew stayed north along the coast. But then they missed (or had to take a big detour) to get to Valdedios, which is a BEAUTIFUL 9th century church in a meadow with a monastery that has an albergue. People who stayed in the albergue said it was nice, I wish we had, because it was a very long walk to Pola de Siero. No albergue, just one business *** hotel. About 55 E for the two of us. Kind of like a Hampton Inn.

Pola to Oviedo (17 km). There's an albergue here, but when we got there we learned it didn't open till 7 p.m. Lots of pensiones, etc. We stayed in a very nice hotel, and took a rest day. Rooms were large, tons of windows, an excellent breakfast, and I think it was around 60E for the two of us. We had a great time in Oviedo. I can give you the names of some good places to eat. For tapas, don't miss La Paloma -- their trademark tapa is something that can best be described as a "shrimp corndog." Hard to imagine, but it's quite good.

Oviedo to Aviles (28 km). About half way back up to the coast to rejoin the norte (by dropping down to Oviedo we missed the stretch between Villaviciosa and Aviles), in the totwn of La Posada, we lost the arrows, and no one in the town, absolutely no one we could find, knew anything about the camino. So we wound up walking the 14 km from La Posada to Aviles on the highway. Very bad idea, very dangerous, lots of trucks, no shoulder to walk on. The only good thing about this part was that the entrance into Aviles (which is a very industrial city) did not take us through the industrial part, but rather through the residential part. People who came straight west from Villaviciosa-Gijon-Aviles had to walk through heavy industry. Stayed at the albergue in Aviles. Nice hospitalero, nice old town.

Avilles to Cudillero (29 km). Cudillero is actually about 1.5 km off the camino, but it is a beautiful little place. We stayed in a hotel here, we're suckers for those hotels in old redone stone houses, La Casona de Pio, And the restaurant in the hotel is outstanding, a bit pricey, but it was really great.

Cudillero to Santa Marina. no idea how many kms, just know that it was a LONG day, getting lost, going through lots of muddy, overgrown paths. Maybe 9 hours walk or more. We stayed at a 24 E pension on the road, it's the only option in town, but we were tired. Dinner in the bar was about as bad as they come, but hey.

Santa Marina to Luarca (31 km). nice walk, but mostly all on asphalt. Stayed in a hotel in Luarca, one of those casas indianas/casas de indios, I forget what they're called, the Hotel Villa Argentina.

Luarca to Navia (19 km). Short, good walk. No albergue, we stayed in a hotel. There is a very nice walk down the river to the ocean here that gave us several hours of walking in the afternoon.

Navia to Tapia (23 km). Ont of the nicest walks of the trip. Again we took the E-9. The albergue is right on the coast, just beautiful. Nice places to eat, too.

Tapia to Villamartin el Pequeno (24 km). Here was another "fake" day. Walked to a town named Villamartin el Pequeno, where there was absolutely nothing but a few houses and a church. Then we called a taxi to take us back to Ribadesella (about 8 km from Tapia). Ribadasella was a very nice place to spend a day, we splurged and stayed at the parador, beautiful views out on the ria. The next day started with a 20 E taxi ride back to Villamartin. It turns out there was an albergue a few kms beyond (Gontan, Gondan, something like that) that our friends liked a lot, so if we had forged on ahead a bit more we could have avoided the out and back.

Villamartin el Pequeno to Mondonedo (18 km). Albergue is new and fine, but there's no hot water (a sign says it's "not working", but people who were there last year say it "wasn't working" then either.. Nice town, good food.

Mondonedo to Gontan (16 km). Very nice walk, some old bridges, beautiful off-road scenery (not on the coast, we left the coast in Ribadesella). No albergue here, but one was scheduled to open in a couple of weeks (this was in early June 2007), it looked fine. Stayed in a room above a bar, I think it was 18 E or something.

Gontan to Villaba (20 km). Very beautiful walk, very easy, very flat, very nice. Villaba has a relatively new albergue, but it's about 2 or 3 km outside of town. Not much going on in thte town, either. Albergue is in a black new building. Ugly but functionql.

Villaba to Baamonde (19 km). Very nice albergue in the oldest building in town. Small rooms and nice outside space. GREAT restaurant, "Galicia" with quite a character running it (he's the guy with the long white beard in my picture). The food was really excellent and not expensive at all.

Baamonde to Miraz (about 15 km). the new confraternity albergue, very nice. The village has one bar, no restaurant, nothing going on. But there's a nice big yard, and of course they serve tea and cookies all afternoon.

Miraz to Sobrado dos Monxes (26 km). Albergue in the monastery. It's a huge old monastery, there are private rooms for about 30 E for full pension, but we stayed in the albergue. Everything is fine except for the bathrooms, which are really unsanitary. I would hate to be here when the albergue is full. There were about 20 of us, and I think there must be room for more than 60. Town has shops, restaurants. Nice stop.

Sobrado dos Monxes to Arzua (24 km). There is a new private albergue beyond the official one, and the official one has been remodeled, so Arzua is a fine place to stay. We were just dumbstruck by the numbers of pilgrims, though, it was such a shock to hit the camino frances. Thankfully we only had two days to walk on it. You jsut can't believe it -- every bar you pass along the road after ARzua has about 20 backpacks piled up outside.

Arzua to Sta Irene (16 km). We like the private albergue here and we spent the night.

Sta. Irene to Santiago (about 25 km). Of course this meant we missed the pilgrim's mass on the day of arrival, but we just didn't want to stay in Monte de Gozo.
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I don't think I can post Annette's diary in a PM because it is 16 pages long.
If anyone would like me to send it to them, please mail me and I will send it to you.
As well as the CSJ guides by Eric Walker, I have also recently bought one in French (Le Chemin Cotier by Gregoire and Pinguet, 220 pages, c300g, ISBN 978-2-85182-346-8) - though it goes inland through Oviedo and Lugo rather than staying along the coast; and one in German (Nordspanien: Jakobsweg Kustenweg by Kapser and Moll, 220 pages, c175g, OutdoorHandbuch Band 71 ISBN 978-3-86686-071-1)

My guess is that all three guides have sufficient detail on routes and distances though the French and German ones also have pictures and maps, though the German one with more maps for towns and information on gradients is more useful (as well as being smaller and lighter)
Thanks to Sillydoll, I finally got to read Annette's diary. Would have liked to speak to her, or anyone else , who have done both Camino's (Francais and Norte). Her diary gives me the impression that she was spending considerable time walking through tourists town and walking on highways with very few other pilgrims. I could do the same thing here in Canada! I guess my memories of Francais was quite different. Great distances with minimal highway walking, occasional big city escapes but always great opportunities to renew and discuss the day's activities with other similar pilgrims at the refugios.

Perigrina 2000, have you done both Caminos? You mention that there was not as much highway walking as you had anticipated. Obviously I am trying to decide on attempting to repeat the Camino Francais, what most us have come to understand, has been a very memorable experience or , as we did in our first camino, venture out into a journey that was , for me anyway, a completely unknown experience.

Interested in any thoughts on the matter.

Thanks again!
Hi, Caserta,
To answer your question, I have walked both the Camino Frances and the Norte. Actually, I've walked the Frances several times (yes, another Camino addict). Last summer I walked from Irun to Santiago on the Norte. I've posted a couple of thoughts about the differences, but since you asked -- I'd say one fo the main differences was the "feel." The Norte feels more like the GR65 from LePuy, except a little more touristy. The Norte goes through some very beautiful coastal towns, but in May-June we didn't find them overrun. But there aren't vacation walkers on the Norte like there are on the GR65. All the walkers you're likely to meet on the Norte are headed to Santiago, but there are way fewer of them. And as a result, there are many fewer albergues. We met people who carefully planned their walk to stay at albergues, but we didn't, and because of that we didn't really get into the rhythm with a bunch of other walkers like you do on the Frances. Having said that, though, we did spend two big chunks of time with other walkers -- about 6 days with three German women, and at the end, about a week or maybe a bit more with a German couple, a German man, and a Swiss guy. I think that if you go, determined to stay at albergues, you will connect with a loosely formed group, but it is likely to be pretty small.

As far as asphalt walking, the notes I put in an earlier post on the stages point out some of the biggest chunks of road walking. I have had some really bad flare-ups of heel pain on the Camino, and I've found that staying off pavement is a big help, so I am very sensitive to the asphalt. Some of the long pavement days, there were narrow dirt shoulders on the side, but some of the time there was no alternative to walking on the road itself. With a few exceptions, though, the roads were not busy highways. Maybe it's like childbirth, in that you don't remember all the pain in the afterglow, but I don't have the impression of the walk on the Norte as being "all pavement" at all. In fact, my most prominent memories are of those glorious coastal walks on paths where no vehicles could go. I live in the middle of midwestern US cornfields, so for me, the opportunity to walk for hours along the coast was a gift from heaven.

I'm hoping to walk again in September, and I'm heading back to the Frances, but I would love to walk on the Norte again. It's a tough choice. Buen camino, Laurie
Hey Caserta and everyone,
I'm leaving on the 15th of may to Pau. I would like to do the Camino del Norte or the Camino Francés, but to be honest... I like to walk nearby the coast. On the other hand,I'm a 25 year old woman and a bit afraid to walk completely alone. Is it a good option to take the Norte than,cause I guess there are less people taking that road, no?

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Hi, Heleen,

I walked the Norte last May with another female (we're both in our 50s, on the "closer to 60" side). We had many stretches of being completely alone but never felt anxious or in danger. Over the course of the walk, on maybe 4 different occasions I walked the day's stage by myself while my partner took a day off. I was frequently all alone and felt totally at ease. I didn't have a cell phone, which was probably stupid, though, and my family has persuaded me to get one if I walk alone on a remote camino again. May is a great month to walk the Norte -- the problem with summer walking is that the route goes through many tourist towns and accommodations get tight, not because of an overflow of pilgrims, but because of an overflow of tourists.

I and others have posted lots of opinions about the differences between the two Caminos on this forum. Of the 35 or so people we met on the Norte (and that's my estimate of the total number we met over a 5 week period from Irun to Santiago), I can only think of two who had not previously walked the Camino Frances. The rest were, like us, those who had walked the Frances one or more times and were interested in trying something new or getting away from the crowds or seeing the coast.

The northern coast of Spain is truly spectacular. I am so glad I walked it, and would gladly walk it again, but you will not get the same community camino feeling that so envelops walkers on the Camino Frances. It's really a personal decision, either way you'll probably be hooked and soon be back here planning your next Camino! Best of luck to you in your decision, Laurie
There´s only one place I know of along the Norte where a young woman might think twice: the albergue at Luarca.

I was up there recently, and the hospitalero, a young man in his 20´s, had several of his friends from Madrid staying there with him to "keep him company." It looked like a long-term beer party to me, and as a woman -- even at my advanced age -- there´s not much of a chance I´d stay there if I was traveling alone. I understand a different caretaker, a hospitalera, sometimes runs the place, but she lets transeuntes stay there for weeks at a time. (She´s too soft-hearted to tell them it´s ´pilgrims only,´ or ´hit the road.´)

The albergue is a couple of km. before you reach Luarca, and it´s very worthwhile to just keep going into this beautiful seaside town.

ALSO: Mariann, an experienced camino hospitalera from Switzerland who spent many months at Eunate, is opening her home soon to pilgrims on the Norte -- she can take up to four people at her little beach house in Otur. Look for her postings in the albergues in the Luarca area. You have to call first to let her know you´re coming! I will post more as the news comes in, I am translating her announcements right now.

buen camino

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