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My impressions and stages of Norte/Primitivo May 25-June 27, 2014

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
I did the CF last October and wanted a bit more challenge on my 2nd Camino. I was a bit hesitant based on all the reviews of Norte and primitivo. But, overall what a stunning walk. Unlike some parts of the CF, where the scenery was predictable and the trails were relatively flat, the Norte/Primitivo was entirely unpredictable with stunning views. Only predictable thing was that the ocean will be to your right and the mountains to the left.

Yes, lot fewer people. On the Norte (in June), i counted about 30 of us in one Alberque at the begining. Once split towards Primitivo, that number reduced to about 15 on any given stage. Of those, 10 of us really bonded well and would stay together for most of that walk.

Lot has been written about the difficulty of the Norte/Primitivo. I think it is a bit exaggerated. I am 50+, overweight and not in great shape. Up and down slows be down considerably. Mental preparation to climb 500-800 Meters with several ups/downs every day helped me immensely. Of course after Bilbao, the trail difficulty level reduces, but continues with the rolling-hill type until Primitivo.

The weather plays a major part in how well one enjoys this walk. I faced about 4-5 days of light rain from Irun to Bilbao and faced no rain at all for the rest of June. So the toughest part is walking through some of the muddy dirt roads and couple of steep rocky/muddy descends before Bilbao. Several people walking without proper boots were falling left and right. Some parts of the Primitivo would have been a lot tougher also had there been more rain.

After some 20 days of along the coast, i turned towards the Primitivo. Although the highest elevation gain was in Primitivo (about 900m), I found that Irun to Bilbao was tougher than the Primitivo; perhaps it was due to the weather or it was at the beginning of my walk). Nevertheless, be prepared for a daily grind of about 500-600m through the Primitivo. Most ascents/descents are on relatively good trails. Challenge posed only by one steep descent into Grandas de salime and a very steep ascent before Cadavo. Otherwise, Primitivo is a beautiful walk.

In terms of accommodation, compared to the CF, i was not impressed with municipal ones, specially on the primitivo. Most of them are not administered properly. Whenever the key is to be picked up at a bar or restaurant be warned. But, some municipals cannot be avoided as there may be only one alberque at a particular stop. So, be prepared.

I booked my accommodation 1-2 day in advance, i could not have done it without some Spanish. Most alberques and hostels/hotels only spoke Spanish except in big towns.

I did the CF with one of those Michelin maps. I don't think you can do the Norte/Primitivo without a good guidebook. Mainly because most hostels/pensions you stay in are not helpful when it comes to camino or accommodation options. I relied on Dave Whitson/Laura Perazzoli guide (The Northern Caminos) for most of the walk and consulted the Spanish guide "Northern way to santiago" for the Primitivo because it provides elevation profile and better staging for the Primitivo.

Here are my stages and accommodations:

Note: All accommodation references are in Dave's guidebook, except some private ones i named.
Whenever a stage is more than 25k, notice that i shortened the walk by taking a bus/taxi.

0.Start Irun - Alberque de peregrinos (Near renfe station)
1.[26.5k], San Sebastian (Hostel La Sirena,, 15eu)
2. [18.5k], Zarautz (Hostel Igarain, 12eu)
3. [24k] Deba (Alberque de peregrinos, 5eu)
4. [23k] Markina-Xemein (Casa Intxauspe 12eu)
5. [25k] Gernika (Hostel Gernika, 18eu)
6. [35.5k], Bilbao, walked to Lezama and took the bus into Bilbao (Hostel Akalarre, 16eu)
7. [22k] Pobena, mostly boring road walk, took the train
8. [17.5k] Castro Urdales (Alb Municipal, 5eu, 3km from town, avoid it if you want town action)
9. [30.1k] Laredo, walked to Liendo 24k and then bus to Laredo(casa trinidad, 10eu, private, run by the nuns)
10.[30.6k]Guemes (bus to Santona & walk 25.xk to Guemes (motel style alb Guemes, donativo)
11.[17.1k]Santander (hostel b&b&b, 15eu, Dinner at La Barboletta)
12.[33k]Santilla del mar, bus out of Santander and then walked 25k (pension Posada Revolgo, 20eu)
13.[27.5k]San vicente, walked to camillas 23k, bus to san vicente(Alb basic, 10eu)
14.[26.5k]Perubeles (Alb aves de paso, Donativo, private, communal meals)
15.[19k]Playa de poo (Private alberque, food not the best)
16.[20k]Cuerres, 6km before Ribadesella (Private alb run by a German couple, excellent)
17.[6k]Ribadasella, my break day (hostel Juvenile,on the beach, 15eu)
18.[20.5k]Colunga (Confeteria las palmeras, 20eu)
19.[14k]Villaviciosa, 3km before town centre (La llarmarga, private house, donativo, bf/dinner)
20.[20.3k]Le vega (alb municipal, 5eu)
21.[27k] Oviedo ,bus from colloto(Alb Villa ceceila, private room 20eu, don't eat here)
22.[29.5]Grado , bus to san lazaro(Hotel autobar, 15 eu for double)
23.[24.5k]Salas (Alb la campa, 10eu, private)
24.[19k]Tineo Hotel don miguel, 10eu double)
25.[15k]Borreas,(Alb de peregrinos 5eu, key at bar tfn 663785266)
Staying at Borreas helps take the high level route early next day.
26.[24k]Berducedo , taxied the last 4k(Alb Antigua, 30eu private room)
I took the high level Hospitales route. It was not as tough as the guide describes.
No bars/cafes for break for sure, but easy and steady ascent. Some loose scree on decent.
Very hot afternoon, exhausted by Largo and took a taxi.
27.[20k]Grandas de salime (Alb Municipal, 5eu)
28.[25k]Fonsagrada (Pension monola, 30eu dbl)
29.[24k]Cadavo (Hotel Moneda 40eu dbl)
30.[30.5k]Lugo , last 7km by bus into town(Alb roots and boots, 1oeu)
31.[24.5k]Ferreira (Ponte ferreira, private 10eu)
32.[25.8k]Boente (Private alb 10eu)
33.[24.5k]Santa Irene (Alb Private 10eu)
34.[20.5]Santiago de compostelo(Hostel Mapoula, 18eu quad)
 
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OzAnnie

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
'Portuguese,Frances,Norte,Salvador/primitivo,Le puy, Inglés, CDM, Invierno, Fin/Mux, VDLP spring19
Thanks Raj for sharing your impressions. It will help a lot of us with researching.
Annie
 

jpflavin1

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(10,11,17), Vasco(12), Salvador(13), CP(13), CN(14), Madrid (16), Mozarabe (18), VdlP(19)
[QUOTE (motel style alb Guemes, donativo) QUOTE]
that's brilliant, but not sure it fits with Ernesto's idea of the place!
I agree with you Tom, this was a great stop and not like any Motel I have ever seen.

Ultreya,
Joe
 

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
I agree with you Tom, this was a great stop and not like any Motel I have ever seen.

Ultreya,
Joe
Well, May be a motel style with a unique reception/dining area. I don't think this is necessarily the best alb on the Norte as the guidebook claims. They spent so much time plugging for donation, it turned me off. First before dinner and then during breakfast. I have stayed in lot more cozy private alb, without perhaps similar history.
 

johns

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF "2010" Ingles and Finisterre "2011" CP - L-P-S "2012" F /M "2013" c norte may 2014 CP 2015
i agree i found it the same not good if you nead dinner before nine.
 

jpflavin1

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(10,11,17), Vasco(12), Salvador(13), CP(13), CN(14), Madrid (16), Mozarabe (18), VdlP(19)
In my opinion this is definitely one of the better Albergues on the Norte. There is a History lesson and they do ask for donations. While that might not be everyone's cup of tea, it certainly does not take away from the welcoming nature of the volunteer staff, a served dinner (9:00pm normal for Spain) and breakfast (7:00am), clean rooms, and a relaxing environment. While this is not the best Albergue on the Norte, It is in the top 5 and donativo.

Ultreya,
Joe
 

OzAnnie

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
'Portuguese,Frances,Norte,Salvador/primitivo,Le puy, Inglés, CDM, Invierno, Fin/Mux, VDLP spring19
Lol. I have been hoping that someone would make a comment on the last few posts which would indicate 'which stop/Alburgue. ?' Is being described /comments begin by Tom ? Sorry to admit I can't work it out?
Annie
 

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
Lol. I have been hoping that someone would make a comment on the last few posts which would indicate 'which stop/Alburgue. ?' Is being described /comments begin by Tom ? Sorry to admit I can't work it out?
Annie
The comments are about the Alberque Guemes. Dave's guidebook claims it is the best one on Norte. I have a different impression w.r.t it being the best. As others have pointed out, it is a good one; It has a long history, very friendly staff, clean facilities etc.
 
Camino(s) past & future
.
Guemes is a fine albergue that looks after the pilgrim with lovely accommodation in relaxing surroundings. Raj's reference to it being in the motel style reminded me that we thought it was a bit like a swiss chalet.
We had a very pleasant time there but the requests for donations were rather charmless and we did have to wait long into the evening before Ernesto returned, gave his considerable speech, and we were allowed to eat.
It may be a topic for another thread but I've noticed that where the hospitalero is as famous as the albergue (or more so), like Alejandro at Bodeneyas and Don Blas at Fuenterroble you sometimes find that everything is taken care of, but very much on their terms. I'm not knocking it, just observing that there's a more defined house-style operating, and one needs to maintain some flexibility towards it, which can be hard after a tiring day.
 

tominrm

Hiking to Celebrate the End of Working Life.
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2014)
del Norte ( 2015)
Portuguese ( 2016)
Primitivo ( 2017)
VdlP (2018)
Raj, thank you for the info. I will probably follow your footsteps next spring. Do you remember approximately how many days it rained during that time? Were there any stages you would do differently if you were to do it again?
Thank you in advance.
 

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
Raj, thank you for the info. I will probably follow your footsteps next spring. Do you remember approximately how many days it rained during that time? Were there any stages you would do differently if you were to do it again?
Thank you in advance.
Lucky for me the weather has cooperated . I faced about 5 days of light rain at the end of May, between Irun and Bilbao. Rain was manageable with a light poncho and rain pants. During the entire month of June, no rain at all except we were caught by a 2 hr ice storm in Primitivo. If i were to bet on weather, i would pick the month of June.
In terms of staging, I had to adjust the stages based on the elevation gain/trail conditions and keep the distance under 20/25k. Would I do anything differently? Yes, i would add a break day at Embalse de Salime. My guidebook does not say much about this location. It has a gorgeous lake and has one hotel/bar with a stunning view of the lake/dam. In fact your walk that day will circle around this lake/river and if you like remote/quite place to relax, this is the one in Primitivo. Good luck next spring.
 

Jodipup

Member
Camino(s) past & future
del Norte, Primitivo, Finisterre 2014, Portugeuse 2015, Frances 2016,2017, del Norte 2017,
Thanks Raj for the info. Start the same route as you did 8 weeks today. Your stages sound good and I like your idea of bussing some of longer bits if necessary. I have been a bit worried about the Primitivo but it does not sound too bad.
Lesley
 

shefollowsshells

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several alone and with children
The comments are about the Alberque Guemes. Dave's guidebook claims it is the best one on Norte. I have a different impression w.r.t it being the best. As others have pointed out, it is a good one; It has a long history, very friendly staff, clean facilities etc.
So gotta admit I have heard these exact words from several people!
I arrived there thinking it was the cat's meow (great), but I was the only non Spanish speaking person at the table and this was one of my top three exhausting walks of the trip so I appreciated the showers, great food, friendly welcome and the huge dog...and I might have missed a "sales schpiel", though I would not have minded it too much I donate to such places pretty generously. :)
From the gal who sat beside me who donates time there twice a year and was willing to translate for me she described the adventures of the albergue owner and I love to hear of World travel and really wish that I got to hear more about that.
There were only three of us this night so I really got to exhale ...so I enjoyed it...
With that said I have met about several folks who describe it like this.
Would I stay again...yes and would look forward to it!
Is it my favorite pilgrim experience (Norte or Frances) ...far from...
It is beautiful! It is totally dedicated to pilgrims, mission etc... and I loved how the towns people come and eat with you at night. I also loved how when I walked towns folks would stop what they were doing and point me to the direction, they are proud of this alburgue that I think they have helped to create.

Just had to share that the poster's remarks are shared by many.
 

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
Thanks Raj for the info. Start the same route as you did 8 weeks today. Your stages sound good and I like your idea of bussing some of longer bits if necessary. I have been a bit worried about the Primitivo but it does not sound too bad.
Lesley
Hi Jodi, i don't know about you. I hate walking through town/sidewalks and/or industrial surroundings. So, i intentionally skipped those sections most of which are getting in/or out of town. Occasionally when my feet says enough i taxied in. Several sections between Irun-Bilbao are just dirt roads and not well maintained for hiking. Primitivo on the other hand are mostly on well developed hiking trails and therefore easier to walk with beautiful views. Just approach the decent towards Embalse de salime and steep climb to Cadavo very carefully. I would even recommend skipping the climb before Cadavo by staying on the road or taxi in. Good luck!
 

obinjatoo@yahoo.com

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2012 Dieppe, FR Bici CF.
2014 Ruta Vasco/CF/Primativo
Can you be more specific about the guide book you mentioned? Dave Whitson/Laura Perazzoli...
 

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
Can you be more specific about the guide book you mentioned? Dave Whitson/Laura Perazzoli...
Guidebook is called "The Northern Caminos" published by cicerone. You can find it on amazon also.
 
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werther59

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2012) Saint Jean to Santiago. (august 2013) plan to walk fron Porto to Santiago
I will be walking the primitivo with my friends in August. Thanks for the useful information. Just one question... One of us has sclerosis so we might have to get a taxi or bus from time to time, how did you manage to call a taxi on the camino?
 

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
I will be walking the primitivo with my friends in August. Thanks for the useful information. Just one question... One of us has sclerosis so we might have to get a taxi or bus from time to time, how did you manage to call a taxi on the camino?
I would normally plan my daily walk so that i know where a cafe/bar is along the way and their distances. So when i can no longer continue walking i would ask the cafe/bar to call for taxi or ask for the bus schedule. Occasionally when there are no bars/cafes along the way, make sure you get a taxi phone number handy with you before you head out. Now i should caution you that most of the time these taxi drivers and cafe owners don't speak a word of english. So if you don't know any Spanish it is important to learn some relevant phrases. Secondly, international roaming phone calls costs 1euro/min or more. I had bought a special roaming plan from my operator giving me 150 minutes of talk and 250 text msges. You should consider similar plan from you carrier or get a local prepaid phone while in Spain. If you have a smartphone you can access all your internet apps for free via wifi of course. If you are walking in August booking accommodation in advance might also be necessary. Already end of June hostels were getting full. You could ask the hostels you are staying in to book the next night for you. Good luck.
 
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werther59

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2012) Saint Jean to Santiago. (august 2013) plan to walk fron Porto to Santiago
I would normally plan my daily walk so that i know where a cafe/bar is along the way and their distances. So when i can no longer continue walking i would ask the cafe/bar to call for taxi or ask for the bus schedule. Occasionally when there are no bars/cafes along the way, make sure you get a taxi phone number handy with you before you head out. Now i should caution you that most of the time these taxi drivers and cafe owners don't speak a word of english. So if you don't know any Spanish it is important to learn some relevant phrases. Secondly, international roaming phone calls costs 1euro/min or more. I had bought a special roaming plan from my operator giving me 150 minutes of talk and 250 text msges. You should consider similar plan from you carrier or get a local prepaid phone while in Spain. If you have a smartphone you can access all your internet apps for free via wifi of course. If you are walking in August booking accommodation in advance might also be necessary. Already end of June hostels were getting full. You could ask the hostels you are staying in to book the next night for you. Good luck.
Thanks Raj, you have been very helpful.
We all speak Spanish so that is not a problem.
Ciao from Italy
 

Mary Kate

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte to Santiago and Finisterre/Muxia (Sep/Oct 2014)
Thank you for giving this report and information. I'm doing the Norte in Sep & Oct and this is helpful.
 

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
Thank you for giving this report and information. I'm doing the Norte in Sep & Oct and this is helpful.
.
Mary, i learned everything i needed to know from other members in this forum, So, it is my pleasure sharing my experience. Good luck with your walk.
 

Thornley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances x 2 , Norte x 2 , Le Puy x 3 , Portuguese x 2,
Mont St Michel , Primitivo .
.
Mary, i learned everything i needed to know from other members in this forum, So, it is my pleasure sharing my experience. Good luck with your walk.
Well written Raj,

I loved Cuerres on the Norte , a must stop albergue with lovely hosts .

The short day to Ribadasella is great because there are very good restaurants in the seaside village, great feeling with kind locals.

Went to a camino dinner in Melbourne last month and every single person who has walked the Primitivo said exactly what you recommended;
Stay @ the Hotel in Embalse de Salime , enjoy the beer, laughter and scenery.

When we walked into Guemes from Laredo [ a long day ] and it became extra km's as we missed a turn off with the temp. very high. We stopped in the first pension on your left as you enter Guemes for a very belated beer and never took another step. Its a beautiful place.
 

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
Well written Raj,

I loved Cuerres on the Norte , a must stop albergue with lovely hosts .

The short day to Ribadasella is great because there are very good restaurants in the seaside village, great feeling with kind locals.

Went to a camino dinner in Melbourne last month and every single person who has walked the Primitivo said exactly what you recommended;
Stay @ the Hotel in Embalse de Salime , enjoy the beer, laughter and scenery.

When we walked into Guemes from Laredo [ a long day ] and it became extra km's as we missed a turn off with the temp. very high. We stopped in the first pension on your left as you enter Guemes for a very belated beer and never took another step. Its a beautiful place.
Thank you Thornley.

Cuerres was memorable for me as well. We were not fortunate to taste their food though as his wife was visiting Germany that week, We ended up going to a restaurant nearby. I took a break in Ribadasella as well.

Guemes is few km away from town centre and felt a bit long getting there. Other than being a very nice Alberque with good Camino history on the Norte, you haven't missed much.I am glad you enjoyed the walk.
 

zzotte

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2012 Camino Frances, 2014 Lourdes to SDC, 2016 Camino del Norte
I did the CF last October and wanted a bit more challenge on my 2nd Camino. I was a bit hesitant based on all the reviews of Norte and primitivo. But, overall what a stunning walk. Unlike some parts of the CF, where the scenery was predictable and the trails were relatively flat, the Norte/Primitivo was entirely unpredictable with stunning views. Only predictable thing was that the ocean will be to your right and the mountains to the left.

Yes, lot fewer people. On the Norte (in June), i counted about 30 of us in one Alberque at the begining. Once split towards Primitivo, that number reduced to about 15 on any given stage. Of those, 10 of us really bonded well and would stay together for most of that walk.

Lot has been written about the difficulty of the Norte/Primitivo. I think it is a bit exaggerated. I am 50+, overweight and not in great shape. Up and down slows be down considerably. Mental preparation to climb 500-800 Meters with several ups/downs every day helped me immensely. Of course after Bilbao, the trail difficulty level reduces, but continues with the rolling-hill type until Primitivo.

The weather plays a major part in how well one enjoys this walk. I faced about 4-5 days of light rain from Irun to Bilbao and faced no rain at all for the rest of June. So the toughest part is walking through some of the muddy dirt roads and couple of steep rocky/muddy descends before Bilbao. Several people walking without proper boots were falling left and right. Some parts of the Primitivo would have been a lot tougher also had there been more rain.

After some 20 days of along the coast, i turned towards the Primitivo. Although the highest elevation gain was in Primitivo (about 900m), I found that Irun to Bilbao was tougher than the Primitivo; perhaps it was due to the weather or it was at the beginning of my walk). Nevertheless, be prepared for a daily grind of about 500-600m through the Primitivo. Most ascents/descents are on relatively good trails. Challenge posed only by one steep descent into Grandas de salime and a very steep ascent before Cadavo. Otherwise, Primitivo is a beautiful walk.

In terms of accommodation, compared to the CF, i was not impressed with municipal ones, specially on the primitivo. Most of them are not administered properly. Whenever the key is to be picked up at a bar or restaurant be warned. But, some municipals cannot be avoided as there may be only one alberque at a particular stop. So, be prepared.

I booked my accommodation 1-2 day in advance, i could not have done it without some Spanish. Most alberques and hostels/hotels only spoke Spanish except in big towns.

I did the CF with one of those Michelin maps. I don't think you can do the Norte/Primitivo without a good guidebook. Mainly because most hostels/pensions you stay in are not helpful when it comes to camino or accommodation options. I relied on Dave Whitson/Laura Perazzoli guide (The Northern Caminos) for most of the walk and consulted the Spanish guide "Northern way to santiago" for the Primitivo because it provides elevation profile and better staging for the Primitivo.

Here are my stages and accommodations:

Note: All accommodation references are in Dave's guidebook, except some private ones i named.
Whenever a stage is more than 25k, notice that i shortened the walk by taking a bus/taxi.

0.Start Irun - Alberque de peregrinos (Near renfe station)
1.[26.5k], San Sebastian (Hostel La Sirena,, 15eu)
2. [18.5k], Zarautz (Hostel Igarain, 12eu)
3. [24k] Deba (Alberque de peregrinos, 5eu)
4. [23k] Markina-Xemein (Casa Intxauspe 12eu)
5. [25k] Gernika (Hostel Gernika, 18eu)
6. [35.5k], Bilbao, walked to Lezama and took the bus into Bilbao (Hostel Akalarre, 16eu)
7. [22k] Pobena, mostly boring road walk, took the train
8. [17.5k] Castro Urdales (Alb Municipal, 5eu, 3km from town, avoid it if you want town action)
9. [30.1k] Laredo, walked to Liendo 24k and then bus to Laredo(casa trinidad, 10eu, private, run by the nuns)
10.[30.6k]Guemes (bus to Santona & walk 25.xk to Guemes (motel style alb Guemes, donativo)
11.[17.1k]Santander (hostel b&b&b, 15eu, Dinner at La Barboletta)
12.[33k]Santilla del mar, bus out of Santander and then walked 25k (pension Posada Revolgo, 20eu)
13.[27.5k]San vicente, walked to camillas 23k, bus to san vicente(Alb basic, 10eu)
14.[26.5k]Perubeles (Alb aves de paso, Donativo, private, communal meals)
15.[19k]Playa de poo (Private alberque, food not the best)
16.[20k]Cuerres, 6km before Ribadesella (Private alb run by a German couple, excellent)
17.[6k]Ribadasella, my break day (hostel Juvenile,on the beach, 15eu)
18.[20.5k]Colunga (Confeteria las palmeras, 20eu)
19.[14k]Villaviciosa, 3km before town centre (La llarmarga, private house, donativo, bf/dinner)
20.[20.3k]Le vega (alb municipal, 5eu)
21.[27k] Oviedo ,bus from colloto(Alb Villa ceceila, private room 20eu, don't eat here)
22.[29.5]Grado , bus to san lazaro(Hotel autobar, 15 eu for double)
23.[24.5k]Salas (Alb la campa, 10eu, private)
24.[19k]Tineo Hotel don miguel, 10eu double)
25.[15k]Borreas,(Alb de peregrinos 5eu, key at bar tfn 663785266)
Staying at Borreas helps take the high level route early next day.
26.[24k]Berducedo , taxied the last 4k(Alb Antigua, 30eu private room)
I took the high level Hospitales route. It was not as tough as the guide describes.
No bars/cafes for break for sure, but easy and steady ascent. Some loose scree on decent.
Very hot afternoon, exhausted by Largo and took a taxi.
27.[20k]Grandas de salime (Alb Municipal, 5eu)
28.[25k]Fonsagrada (Pension monola, 30eu dbl)
29.[24k]Cadavo (Hotel Moneda 40eu dbl)
30.[30.5k]Lugo , last 7km by bus into town(Alb roots and boots, 1oeu)
31.[24.5k]Ferreira (Ponte ferreira, private 10eu)
32.[25.8k]Boente (Private alb 10eu)
33.[24.5k]Santa Irene (Alb Private 10eu)
34.[20.5]Santiago de compostelo(Hostel Mapoula, 18eu quad)

Please by no means I'm not casting any judgment on you choices, my only words are the Norte is tough and if had walked all of it you would know by taking taking the bus/train you spared your self a lot of pain

Zzotte
 

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
Please by no means I'm not casting any judgment on you choices, my only words are the Norte is tough and if had walked all of it you would know by taking taking the bus/train you spared your self a lot of pain

Zzotte
I do not like walking through side walks/concrete or industrial slums. So whenever a stage was over about 25k, and next to a major town I was happy to bus in or out. In addition to skipping an entire stage (Bilbao-Pobena), I bused about 38km out of the 825km Norte/primitivo. So, I am not sure whether i spared any pain, but I made my walk more enjoyable by skipping the most boring parts.

In terms of toughness, with the exception of Irun-Bibao and Primitivo, I don't believe the Norte is any tougher than the Frances. But weather plays a major role in how much one enjoys this walk. I was lucky, almost no rain during the entire month of June. Trails were dry and easier to walk. Except at the beginning (Irun-Bilbao) where i faced constant rain and muddy/slippery ascends/descends. For some of the physical challenge, you are rewarded with stunning views/scenery in my opinion.
 

Denzil

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Plan (2017)
I did the CF last October and wanted a bit more challenge on my 2nd Camino. I was a bit hesitant based on all the reviews of Norte and primitivo. But, overall what a stunning walk. Unlike some parts of the CF, where the scenery was predictable and the trails were relatively flat, the Norte/Primitivo was entirely unpredictable with stunning views. Only predictable thing was that the ocean will be to your right and the mountains to the left.

Yes, lot fewer people. On the Norte (in June), i counted about 30 of us in one Alberque at the begining. Once split towards Primitivo, that number reduced to about 15 on any given stage. Of those, 10 of us really bonded well and would stay together for most of that walk.

Lot has been written about the difficulty of the Norte/Primitivo. I think it is a bit exaggerated. I am 50+, overweight and not in great shape. Up and down slows be down considerably. Mental preparation to climb 500-800 Meters with several ups/downs every day helped me immensely. Of course after Bilbao, the trail difficulty level reduces, but continues with the rolling-hill type until Primitivo.

The weather plays a major part in how well one enjoys this walk. I faced about 4-5 days of light rain from Irun to Bilbao and faced no rain at all for the rest of June. So the toughest part is walking through some of the muddy dirt roads and couple of steep rocky/muddy descends before Bilbao. Several people walking without proper boots were falling left and right. Some parts of the Primitivo would have been a lot tougher also had there been more rain.

After some 20 days of along the coast, i turned towards the Primitivo. Although the highest elevation gain was in Primitivo (about 900m), I found that Irun to Bilbao was tougher than the Primitivo; perhaps it was due to the weather or it was at the beginning of my walk). Nevertheless, be prepared for a daily grind of about 500-600m through the Primitivo. Most ascents/descents are on relatively good trails. Challenge posed only by one steep descent into Grandas de salime and a very steep ascent before Cadavo. Otherwise, Primitivo is a beautiful walk.

In terms of accommodation, compared to the CF, i was not impressed with municipal ones, specially on the primitivo. Most of them are not administered properly. Whenever the key is to be picked up at a bar or restaurant be warned. But, some municipals cannot be avoided as there may be only one alberque at a particular stop. So, be prepared.

I booked my accommodation 1-2 day in advance, i could not have done it without some Spanish. Most alberques and hostels/hotels only spoke Spanish except in big towns.

I did the CF with one of those Michelin maps. I don't think you can do the Norte/Primitivo without a good guidebook. Mainly because most hostels/pensions you stay in are not helpful when it comes to camino or accommodation options. I relied on Dave Whitson/Laura Perazzoli guide (The Northern Caminos) for most of the walk and consulted the Spanish guide "Northern way to santiago" for the Primitivo because it provides elevation profile and better staging for the Primitivo.

Here are my stages and accommodations:

Note: All accommodation references are in Dave's guidebook, except some private ones i named.
Whenever a stage is more than 25k, notice that i shortened the walk by taking a bus/taxi.

0.Start Irun - Alberque de peregrinos (Near renfe station)
1.[26.5k], San Sebastian (Hostel La Sirena,, 15eu)
2. [18.5k], Zarautz (Hostel Igarain, 12eu)
3. [24k] Deba (Alberque de peregrinos, 5eu)
4. [23k] Markina-Xemein (Casa Intxauspe 12eu)
5. [25k] Gernika (Hostel Gernika, 18eu)
6. [35.5k], Bilbao, walked to Lezama and took the bus into Bilbao (Hostel Akalarre, 16eu)
7. [22k] Pobena, mostly boring road walk, took the train
8. [17.5k] Castro Urdales (Alb Municipal, 5eu, 3km from town, avoid it if you want town action)
9. [30.1k] Laredo, walked to Liendo 24k and then bus to Laredo(casa trinidad, 10eu, private, run by the nuns)
10.[30.6k]Guemes (bus to Santona & walk 25.xk to Guemes (motel style alb Guemes, donativo)
11.[17.1k]Santander (hostel b&b&b, 15eu, Dinner at La Barboletta)
12.[33k]Santilla del mar, bus out of Santander and then walked 25k (pension Posada Revolgo, 20eu)
13.[27.5k]San vicente, walked to camillas 23k, bus to san vicente(Alb basic, 10eu)
14.[26.5k]Perubeles (Alb aves de paso, Donativo, private, communal meals)
15.[19k]Playa de poo (Private alberque, food not the best)
16.[20k]Cuerres, 6km before Ribadesella (Private alb run by a German couple, excellent)
17.[6k]Ribadasella, my break day (hostel Juvenile,on the beach, 15eu)
18.[20.5k]Colunga (Confeteria las palmeras, 20eu)
19.[14k]Villaviciosa, 3km before town centre (La llarmarga, private house, donativo, bf/dinner)
20.[20.3k]Le vega (alb municipal, 5eu)
21.[27k] Oviedo ,bus from colloto(Alb Villa ceceila, private room 20eu, don't eat here)
22.[29.5]Grado , bus to san lazaro(Hotel autobar, 15 eu for double)
23.[24.5k]Salas (Alb la campa, 10eu, private)
24.[19k]Tineo Hotel don miguel, 10eu double)
25.[15k]Borreas,(Alb de peregrinos 5eu, key at bar tfn 663785266)
Staying at Borreas helps take the high level route early next day.
26.[24k]Berducedo , taxied the last 4k(Alb Antigua, 30eu private room)
I took the high level Hospitales route. It was not as tough as the guide describes.
No bars/cafes for break for sure, but easy and steady ascent. Some loose scree on decent.
Very hot afternoon, exhausted by Largo and took a taxi.
27.[20k]Grandas de salime (Alb Municipal, 5eu)
28.[25k]Fonsagrada (Pension monola, 30eu dbl)
29.[24k]Cadavo (Hotel Moneda 40eu dbl)
30.[30.5k]Lugo , last 7km by bus into town(Alb roots and boots, 1oeu)
31.[24.5k]Ferreira (Ponte ferreira, private 10eu)
32.[25.8k]Boente (Private alb 10eu)
33.[24.5k]Santa Irene (Alb Private 10eu)
34.[20.5]Santiago de compostelo(Hostel Mapoula, 18eu quad)
thanks I enjoyed the information you provided and will be combining walks with busses etc. I am interested to know how you find the walking - is it mainly on roads? or are there tracks. if they are on roads was there traffic.. did you feel safe from vehicles?
thanks
Denzil
 

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
thanks I enjoyed the information you provided and will be combining walks with busses etc. I am interested to know how you find the walking - is it mainly on roads? or are there tracks. if they are on roads was there traffic.. did you feel safe from vehicles?
thanks
Denzil
The coast is a well developed region, popular even among Spaniards for its beaches, food and cooler climate. Most of the route interconnects fishing/farming villages along the coast. So, expect to walk through smaller paved roads. I am not sure if you have walked the Frances, i would say the amount of road walking would be the about the same, 50% trails, 50% mostly small country roads. I don't recall any major highways with any significant traffic of concerns. Of course around some major cities one cannot avoid roads with some traffic, I took the Primitivo, not sure how the rest of the Norte would be like.
When walking off road, uneven terrain, one has to pay more attention to the steps. Walking along paved roads, instead of my footing I can fully absorb the views/environment. You will love it.
 

VeganCamino

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Future Frances from Saint Jean Pied du Port to Burgos, starting in June.
I did the CF last October and wanted a bit more challenge on my 2nd Camino. I was a bit hesitant based on all the reviews of Norte and primitivo. But, overall what a stunning walk. Unlike some parts of the CF, where the scenery was predictable and the trails were relatively flat, the Norte/Primitivo was entirely unpredictable with stunning views. Only predictable thing was that the ocean will be to your right and the mountains to the left.

Yes, lot fewer people. On the Norte (in June), i counted about 30 of us in one Alberque at the begining. Once split towards Primitivo, that number reduced to about 15 on any given stage. Of those, 10 of us really bonded well and would stay together for most of that walk.

Lot has been written about the difficulty of the Norte/Primitivo. I think it is a bit exaggerated. I am 50+, overweight and not in great shape. Up and down slows be down considerably. Mental preparation to climb 500-800 Meters with several ups/downs every day helped me immensely. Of course after Bilbao, the trail difficulty level reduces, but continues with the rolling-hill type until Primitivo.

The weather plays a major part in how well one enjoys this walk. I faced about 4-5 days of light rain from Irun to Bilbao and faced no rain at all for the rest of June. So the toughest part is walking through some of the muddy dirt roads and couple of steep rocky/muddy descends before Bilbao. Several people walking without proper boots were falling left and right. Some parts of the Primitivo would have been a lot tougher also had there been more rain.

After some 20 days of along the coast, i turned towards the Primitivo. Although the highest elevation gain was in Primitivo (about 900m), I found that Irun to Bilbao was tougher than the Primitivo; perhaps it was due to the weather or it was at the beginning of my walk). Nevertheless, be prepared for a daily grind of about 500-600m through the Primitivo. Most ascents/descents are on relatively good trails. Challenge posed only by one steep descent into Grandas de salime and a very steep ascent before Cadavo. Otherwise, Primitivo is a beautiful walk.

In terms of accommodation, compared to the CF, i was not impressed with municipal ones, specially on the primitivo. Most of them are not administered properly. Whenever the key is to be picked up at a bar or restaurant be warned. But, some municipals cannot be avoided as there may be only one alberque at a particular stop. So, be prepared.

I booked my accommodation 1-2 day in advance, i could not have done it without some Spanish. Most alberques and hostels/hotels only spoke Spanish except in big towns.

I did the CF with one of those Michelin maps. I don't think you can do the Norte/Primitivo without a good guidebook. Mainly because most hostels/pensions you stay in are not helpful when it comes to camino or accommodation options. I relied on Dave Whitson/Laura Perazzoli guide (The Northern Caminos) for most of the walk and consulted the Spanish guide "Northern way to santiago" for the Primitivo because it provides elevation profile and better staging for the Primitivo.

Here are my stages and accommodations:

Note: All accommodation references are in Dave's guidebook, except some private ones i named.
Whenever a stage is more than 25k, notice that i shortened the walk by taking a bus/taxi.

0.Start Irun - Alberque de peregrinos (Near renfe station)
1.[26.5k], San Sebastian (Hostel La Sirena,, 15eu)
2. [18.5k], Zarautz (Hostel Igarain, 12eu)
3. [24k] Deba (Alberque de peregrinos, 5eu)
4. [23k] Markina-Xemein (Casa Intxauspe 12eu)
5. [25k] Gernika (Hostel Gernika, 18eu)
6. [35.5k], Bilbao, walked to Lezama and took the bus into Bilbao (Hostel Akalarre, 16eu)
7. [22k] Pobena, mostly boring road walk, took the train
8. [17.5k] Castro Urdales (Alb Municipal, 5eu, 3km from town, avoid it if you want town action)
9. [30.1k] Laredo, walked to Liendo 24k and then bus to Laredo(casa trinidad, 10eu, private, run by the nuns)
10.[30.6k]Guemes (bus to Santona & walk 25.xk to Guemes (motel style alb Guemes, donativo)
11.[17.1k]Santander (hostel b&b&b, 15eu, Dinner at La Barboletta)
12.[33k]Santilla del mar, bus out of Santander and then walked 25k (pension Posada Revolgo, 20eu)
13.[27.5k]San vicente, walked to camillas 23k, bus to san vicente(Alb basic, 10eu)
14.[26.5k]Perubeles (Alb aves de paso, Donativo, private, communal meals)
15.[19k]Playa de poo (Private alberque, food not the best)
16.[20k]Cuerres, 6km before Ribadesella (Private alb run by a German couple, excellent)
17.[6k]Ribadasella, my break day (hostel Juvenile,on the beach, 15eu)
18.[20.5k]Colunga (Confeteria las palmeras, 20eu)
19.[14k]Villaviciosa, 3km before town centre (La llarmarga, private house, donativo, bf/dinner)
20.[20.3k]Le vega (alb municipal, 5eu)
21.[27k] Oviedo ,bus from colloto(Alb Villa ceceila, private room 20eu, don't eat here)
22.[29.5]Grado , bus to san lazaro(Hotel autobar, 15 eu for double)
23.[24.5k]Salas (Alb la campa, 10eu, private)
24.[19k]Tineo Hotel don miguel, 10eu double)
25.[15k]Borreas,(Alb de peregrinos 5eu, key at bar tfn 663785266)
Staying at Borreas helps take the high level route early next day.
26.[24k]Berducedo , taxied the last 4k(Alb Antigua, 30eu private room)
I took the high level Hospitales route. It was not as tough as the guide describes.
No bars/cafes for break for sure, but easy and steady ascent. Some loose scree on decent.
Very hot afternoon, exhausted by Largo and took a taxi.
27.[20k]Grandas de salime (Alb Municipal, 5eu)
28.[25k]Fonsagrada (Pension monola, 30eu dbl)
29.[24k]Cadavo (Hotel Moneda 40eu dbl)
30.[30.5k]Lugo , last 7km by bus into town(Alb roots and boots, 1oeu)
31.[24.5k]Ferreira (Ponte ferreira, private 10eu)
32.[25.8k]Boente (Private alb 10eu)
33.[24.5k]Santa Irene (Alb Private 10eu)
34.[20.5]Santiago de compostelo(Hostel Mapoula, 18eu quad)
Curious how the scenery from Bilbao to Castro Uradales and Laredo is, if you recall. Scenic area? I have heard that from Bilbao out of town is industrial, which has it's own charms perhaps. I am thinking of taking public transport out of Bilbao. Where would you suggest I be dropped off to catch the more scenic trail? Thanks!
 

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
Curious how the scenery from Bilbao to Castro Uradales and Laredo is, if you recall. Scenic area? I have heard that from Bilbao out of town is industrial, which has it's own charms perhaps. I am thinking of taking public transport out of Bilbao. Where would you suggest I be dropped off to catch the more scenic trail? Thanks!
Yes. Thats exactly what I did. Took the train from Bilbao to Pobena overnight and then a bus in the morning to the trail that reconnects at a beach. The walk from Pobena to Urdales is spectacular.
 

calmeg

Member
Vegan- you can take the metro/subway from central Bilbao to Portugalete very cheaply, and then walk the 12 Km or so to Pobena along mainly a dirt/paved pedestrian / bike route.
 

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