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Planning first few days between arrival and camino start

Embee12

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
First time: Fall 2022
Hello, again:

I’ll be walking in October. Dates not definitive, but something like: 10/3-25. My question at the moment pertains to the first day/days when I get there. I will be arriving in Madrid and starting from Leon. The Air Canada flight from San Francisco I’m eyeing leaves on a Monday and gets in to Madrid on Tuesday at 11:05 am (2:05 a.m. California time). Just so you know: I can’t sleep on airplanes, but nor do I nap upon arrival because that will mess up my getting-over-jetlag plan of making it through the day until local bedtime, and waking up the next morning somewhat sane. (Changing time zones is a big problem for me, especially going east, and I need to maneuver it carefully.) Also, FYI, I will be staying in private rooms in albergues (where available) and other lodging.

So… how should I play the following?

Monday – Depart San Francisco

Tuesday – Arrive Madrid, 11:05 a.m. *Should I stay in Madrid and take train to Leon Wednesday? **Or should I take train straightaway to Leon?

Wednesday
– (per above: either take train from Madrid to Leon, or already be in Leon)

Thursday – begin Camino

*With what little knowledge I have, the pro about staying in Madrid Tuesday night is that it’s just less tiring than traveling on by train to Leon. My choice of trains on Wednesday are: 7:00 am (ain’t gonna happen) or 2:40 p.m. (or later), and I’d have a good portion of the day in Madrid, and arrive to Leon by late-afternoon.

**Pros about going to Leon on Tuesday after flying in are that I get myself to Leon sooner, where I can park myself for two nights, have a slow start on Wednesday, spend a full day there, and just get my bearings. Con is that I have to push myself for further travel and connections after flight arrival. Also, I would not see Madrid (though could do that on the way back home). After I get in at 11:05 a.m., the next train to Leon is the 2:40 p.m. one, which I assume gives me enough time to get to the station (and if not there are a number of trains over the next few hours). The 2:40 gets in to Leon at 4:41. I’d find my way to wherever it is that I’m staying, and do whatever it is that exhausted travelers do until it’s time to pass out. This option appeals to me more, but want to hear from y’all about the realities of any of this!

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
 
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Marbe2

Active member
Past OR future Camino
2015-2019 walked all or more than half of CF 7 times... CP recently cancelled by Covid 19!
Easy answer! There are few direct fast trains to Leon. Do take the 2:40pm (circa) from Madrid Charmartin. You arrive in Leon around 4:41. Best train connection!
Splurge…get the comfort class ticket. It has a one seat side. It is worth the few extra dollars if you buy a few months in advance! Then, You will only have about a 10 minute walk from most accommodations in Leon. https://www.seat61.com/train-travel-in-spain.htm
 

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Sheesh

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2009, 2013, (2022)
Most definitely, my choice would be to splurge on a comfort class Renfe ticket (as @Marbe2 says) and get to Leon the same day as arrival. The train station in Leon is an easy walk to most lodgings in el centro. You can check in and then stretch your legs with a little walk around the cathedral area in the early evening before turning in. Then you have the entire following day to discover some of the delights of the compact central city, pick up any basic supplies you may need, and tour the interior of the cathedral - it's a real beauty.

Also, on a side note, I would get the local bus to Virgen del Camino on the Thursday and cut out about 7 km of uninspiring city pavement slog.

Buen Camino

PS: I too am currently making plans for a fall Camino and will likely be in the Leon/Orbigo/Astorga area that first week in October, might see you en route.
 
Last edited:
Past OR future Camino
CF 2022
I absolutely agree with Sheesh. Done it myself four weeks ago. The trainride from Madrid is easy and comfortable. I bought a comfort ticket a few months earlier, which was cheaper than a standard one. The center of Leon is close to the railway station, very compact and beautiful.
On my first walking day I took the bus to Virgin del Camino. It leaves from Plaza de Santo Domingo, right in front of the BBVA building. When I started to walk in VdC I immediately was in de the countryside. A excellent start of my Camino.
 
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Sha-Ron

La peregrina lenta
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2015
Camino Portugues 2017
Camino Frances 2019
My suggestion is take a bus from the airport to Leon.
Find out what time the bus leaves from which airport terminal. It's either terminal 1 or terminal 4.
In this way you will avoid Madrid stations and trains. Im not sure how fluent your Spanish is. You will be able to sleep and relax in Leon for a day or two before your Camino commences.
 
Past OR future Camino
First one in 1977 by train. Many since then by foot. Next one ASAP.
What Sha-Ron said. Take the ALSA bus from the airport. Clean and cheap, quite comfortable enough, and about as fast as the train.

Leon is one of the most beautiful and historic cities en toda Espana, chock-a-block with historic churches, museums, parks and plazas. It even houses the Holy Grail over at S. Isidoro (or so some people say)… I am always aghast when I hear some peregrino say that he breezed thru Leon without taking the time to appreciate all that it has to offer.
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Seven km from Leon on the CF is
the town La Virgen del Camino;
do stop and visit the splendid contemporary Basilica. Opposite the church in La Virgen del Camino one can choose to either continue on the main CF which parallels the N120 or follow the peaceful alternate camino going slightly SW towards Villar de Mazarife.

Carpe diem and Buen camino.
 
Last edited:

jeanineonthecamino

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2021, 2022
If possible, I would take the train to Leon the same day you arrive. Give yourself enough time to get through customs/immigration to the train station. I like to give myself 3 hours on any international flight to get somewhere in the city I land in. The extra time can be used to stretch and get lunch - but also gives plenty of time in case you have airline or immigration/customs or baggage delays. Get a good night sleep in Leon. Tour Leon or start the Camino the following day according to your personal preference. I am only doing 1 night sleep and then a short day walk the next day instead of taking 2 nights plus a full day to rest. I am always anxious to get started on any trip and would rather just get going. But - Leon is a beautiful city so hanging out there for a day is good too!
 
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CPURKS

New Member
Past OR future Camino
future Camino Frances
Most definitely, my choice would be to splurge on a comfort class Renfe ticket (as @Marbe2 says) and get to Leon the same day as arrival. The train station in Leon is an easy walk to most lodgings in el centro. You can check in and then stretch your legs with a little walk around the cathedral area in the early evening before turning in. Then you have the entire following day to discover some of the delights of the compact central city, pick up any basic supplies you may need, and tour the interior of the cathedral - it's a real beauty.

Also, on a side note, I would get the local bus to Virgen del Camino on the Thursday and cut out about 7 km of uninspiring city pavement slog.

Buen Camino

PS: I too am currently making plans for a fall Camino and will likely be in the Leon/Orbigo/Astorga area that first week in October, might see you en route.
So glad to have read this thread, this is exactly what I have planned for my start in early June. Nice to see some confirmation on my first couple of days and my first camino.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
1989
My general approach is to start the Camino ASAP. That gives you more of a cushion in case you need to walk shorter distances than anticipated, or get shin splints and need to rest a couple of days, or whatever. If you don't need the cushion - great - you can spend the extra days sightseeing in a city at the end. That said, if the jet lag is too much to start right away and you want to see something first, Leon has lots to offer and may be easier to navigate than Madrid. (And you can scope out the way out of town in advance. ;-))

If you are going to sightsee in Leon, particularly recommend the cathedral (probably my favourite on the Frances), and the Basilica of San Isidoro with the attached Pantheon of the Kings of Leon, sometimes referred to as the "Sistine Chapel of Romanesque Art".
 

Embee12

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
First time: Fall 2022
Easy answer! There are few direct fast trains to Leon. Do take the 2:40pm (circa) from Madrid Charmartin. You arrive in Leon around 4:41. Best train connection!
Splurge…get the comfort class ticket. It has a one seat side. It is worth the few extra dollars if you buy a few months in advance! Then, You will only have about a 10 minute walk from most accommodations in Leon. https://www.seat61.com/train-travel-in-spain.htm
Thanks for the info. I'm sold!
 

Embee12

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
First time: Fall 2022
Without a doubt for me : go directly to Leon. Leave Madrid for another moment.
For someone who is jetlagged , Leon is easier to navigate than Madrid.

Enjoy!
Thanks! I will do that. I was also thinking that Leon is much more petite than the big city!
 

Embee12

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
First time: Fall 2022
Most definitely, my choice would be to splurge on a comfort class Renfe ticket (as @Marbe2 says) and get to Leon the same day as arrival. The train station in Leon is an easy walk to most lodgings in el centro. You can check in and then stretch your legs with a little walk around the cathedral area in the early evening before turning in. Then you have the entire following day to discover some of the delights of the compact central city, pick up any basic supplies you may need, and tour the interior of the cathedral - it's a real beauty.

Also, on a side note, I would get the local bus to Virgen del Camino on the Thursday and cut out about 7 km of uninspiring city pavement slog.

Buen Camino

PS: I too am currently making plans for a fall Camino and will likely be in the Leon/Orbigo/Astorga area that first week in October, might see you en route.
Thanks, @Sheesh . Let's keep in touch about when you're there in case our paths might cross! Since I'm staying in privates, I do worry about meeting people! (though I hope to often be staying at private albergues, so built-in people there...) May I ask if you know what your stages will be? (or ballpark?). I'm also trying to figure out something like: Leon/VdC to Mazarife to Orbigo to Astorga? But don't know if that's too leisurely, but then don't know how else to do it... (Don't really want to do 25km+ days. But, then again, who knows, as I've not yet walked one step...)
 
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Embee12

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
First time: Fall 2022
I absolutely agree with Sheesh. Done it myself four weeks ago. The trainride from Madrid is easy and comfortable. I bought a comfort ticket a few months earlier, which was cheaper than a standard one. The center of Leon is close to the railway station, very compact and beautiful.
On my first walking day I took the bus to Virgin del Camino. It leaves from Plaza de Santo Domingo, right in front of the BBVA building. When I started to walk in VdC I immediately was in de the countryside. A excellent start of my Camino.
Thanks, @Mrs. Bloem 🌻 . May I asked what towns you stayed in up to Astorga? Thanks.
 

Embee12

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
First time: Fall 2022
My suggestion is take a bus from the airport to Leon.
Find out what time the bus leaves from which airport terminal. It's either terminal 1 or terminal 4.
In this way you will avoid Madrid stations and trains. Im not sure how fluent your Spanish is. You will be able to sleep and relax in Leon for a day or two before your Camino commences.
Thanks! Sounds like a great idea to avoid connections. Alas, I just looked into the schedule, and most of the buses take 4.5-5.5 hours, and get me in evening time. The one that takes a shorter time leaves too soon for me to get to after landing... :(
 

Embee12

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
First time: Fall 2022
What Sha-Ron said. Take the ALSA bus from the airport. Clean and cheap, quite comfortable enough, and about as fast as the train.

Leon is one of the most beautiful and historic cities en toda Espana, chock-a-block with historic churches, museums, parks and plazas. It even houses the Holy Grail over at S. Isidoro (or so some people say)… I am always aghast when I hear some peregrino say that he breezed thru Leon without taking the time to appreciate all that it has to offer.
Thanks for replying! Yes, I look forward to seeing a bit of Leon before setting out.
 

Embee12

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
First time: Fall 2022
Seven km from Leon on the CF is
the town La Virgen del Camino;
do stop and visit the splendid contmporary Basilica. Opposite the church in La Virgen del Camino one can choose to either continue on the main CF which parallels the N120 or follow the peaceful alternate camino going slightly SW towards Villar de Mazarife.

Carpe diem and Buen camino.
Thanks for the tip, @mspath ! I will stop there! And I do plan on taking the peaceful alternative!
 

Embee12

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
First time: Fall 2022
If possible, I would take the train to Leon the same day you arrive. Give yourself enough time to get through customs/immigration to the train station. I like to give myself 3 hours on any international flight to get somewhere in the city I land in. The extra time can be used to stretch and get lunch - but also gives plenty of time in case you have airline or immigration/customs or baggage delays. Get a good night sleep in Leon. Tour Leon or start the Camino the following day according to your personal preference. I am only doing 1 night sleep and then a short day walk the next day instead of taking 2 nights plus a full day to rest. I am always anxious to get started on any trip and would rather just get going. But - Leon is a beautiful city so hanging out there for a day is good too!
Thank, @jeanineonthecamino . The plane arrives at 11:05 and the train leaves at 2:40, so it seems like that will be ample time? (And then there's another train about an hour later.) My feeling is to take that extra day just to look around Leon and get myself prepared mentally, spiritually, etc.
 
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Embee12

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
First time: Fall 2022
So glad to have read this thread, this is exactly what I have planned for my start in early June. Nice to see some confirmation on my first couple of days and my first camino.
Yay! Keep us (me) posted as you go... Do you know where you'll be stopping for the night the next days after Leon?
 

Embee12

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
First time: Fall 2022
My general approach is to start the Camino ASAP. That gives you more of a cushion in case you need to walk shorter distances than anticipated, or get shin splints and need to rest a couple of days, or whatever. If you don't need the cushion - great - you can spend the extra days sightseeing in a city at the end. That said, if the jet lag is too much to start right away and you want to see something first, Leon has lots to offer and may be easier to navigate than Madrid. (And you can scope out the way out of town in advance. ;-))

If you are going to sightsee in Leon, particularly recommend the cathedral (probably my favourite on the Frances), and the Basilica of San Isidoro with the attached Pantheon of the Kings of Leon, sometimes referred to as the "Sistine Chapel of Romanesque Art".
Thanks for the input, @David Tallan. My feeling is to stay the extra day/night. Not sure that I'll be apprehensive (probably will be!), but feel like after the chaos of the travels, I'll welcome a bit of calm and control before starting... I will definitely check out the Cathedral and the Basilica.
 

Sheesh

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2009, 2013, (2022)
... Let's keep in touch about when you're there in case our paths might cross! Since I'm staying in privates, I do worry about meeting people! (though I hope to often be staying at private albergues, so built-in people there...) May I ask if you know what your stages will be? (or ballpark?). I'm also trying to figure out something like: Leon/VdC to Mazarife to Orbigo to Astorga? But don't know if that's too leisurely, but then don't know how else to do it... (Don't really want to do 25km+ days. But, then again, who knows, as I've not yet walked one step...)

You bet, I will PM once I have a clearer idea of when I will be passing through Leon. I too will be mostly staying in privates, so there are a number of logistics to sort out, as you will well know. It's been nine years since I last had feet on the ground in Spain. Back then I walked with almost no structure to my itinerary and didn't even carry a phone. It's a whole different ball game this time around.

As for how far you walk in the first few days, that's such a personal thing with so many variables. For me, I will start off quite slowly and over a few days work up to my personal "sweet spot" of about 18-20 km, give or take, depending on the terrain.
 
Last edited:
Past OR future Camino
Next up 2022?
Leon, definitely, as others have said.

Also, on a side note, I would get the local bus to Virgen del Camino on the Thursday and cut out about 7 km of uninspiring city pavement slog.
I wouldn't.
I've done both and enjoyed walking out of town much more than busing. If you're walking in the morning, you see the city waking up, and walk through the real Spain normal people inhabit. It might not be 'inspiring,' but then again it might be. It's definitely connecting.

At Virgen del Camino, do take the alternative route, rather than the main drag by the highway.
 

Anamiri

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2016, 2017, 2019 Camino Frances
What Sha-Ron said. Take the ALSA bus from the airport. Clean and cheap, quite comfortable enough, and about as fast as the train.

Leon is one of the most beautiful and historic cities en toda Espana, chock-a-block with historic churches, museums, parks and plazas. It even houses the Holy Grail over at S. Isidoro (or so some people say)… I am always aghast when I hear some peregrino say that he breezed thru Leon without taking the time to appreciate all that it has to offer.
Yes, take the bus straight from the airport. There are cafe and toilets close by while you're waiting. The Alsa bus station is literally at the airport. The bus is cheap, super comfortable, prompt, and almost direct, as fast if not faster than the train. They are really nice. We got complementary water and nuts. Better than the flight from Paris. It stops close to the city centre in Leon. I took a train the first time, and would now always take the bus.
Unless you really want to go into Madrid, go directly to Leon. Take the chance to look around there, the cathedral is amazing, and the city centre is small enough to wander around - one of my favourite places on the CF..
 
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Richard Smith

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2016
Kumano Kodo 2014
Leon is great but a word of warning _ Hotel Riosol is the closest hotel to Leon train station and has the hardest beds on the Camino!
 

jeanineonthecamino

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2021, 2022
Thank, @jeanineonthecamino . The plane arrives at 11:05 and the train leaves at 2:40, so it seems like that will be ample time? (And then there's another train about an hour later.) My feeling is to take that extra day just to look around Leon and get myself prepared mentally, spiritually, etc.
Yep - that should be perfect, with the bonus of a backup train should you be delayed more than the 3 hours (unlikely as it may be). So - reserve 2 nights in Leon, near the Cathedral is good!
 

CPURKS

New Member
Past OR future Camino
future Camino Frances
Yay! Keep us (me) posted as you go... Do you know where you'll be stopping for the night the next days after Leon?
Well the plan and that is if my body cooperates will be starting off from Leon June 9th (plan to arrive afternoon before from Madrid via train), take bus out of Leon to La Virgen del Camino and start camino towards Villar de Mazarife (stay there) for night and next day head toward Villares de Obrigo for night then to Astorga next morning. I specifically planned shorter starter days because I am not so sure how my body will handle and hope to work up to longer days. I have booked placed for first 3 nights only. Happy to connect somewhere on our travels if works out.
 
Past OR future Camino
First one in 1977 by train. Many since then by foot. Next one ASAP.
The walk from Leon to Virgin is easy and not in the least unpleasant -- I genuinely don't understand the animus some express! -- and it's a very valid part of the Camino experience. Forget the bus thing!

Excellent albergue in Villar de Mazarife, the Tio Pepe. (Book a space!!) I stayed there last year, and wouldn't stay any place else.
 

CPURKS

New Member
Past OR future Camino
future Camino Frances
The walk from Leon to Virgin is easy and not in the least unpleasant -- I genuinely don't understand the animus some express! -- and it's a very valid part of the Camino experience. Forget the bus thing!

Excellent albergue in Villar de Mazarife, the Tio Pepe. (Book a space!!) I stayed there last year, and wouldn't stay any place else.
Lol, already booked my spot at Tio Pepe. Nothing set in stone about this trip, I may end up walking out of Leon instead of bus. Realized I was worrying too much about what to do and when, then my son says "mom this is your trip do as you like, if you make it to the end fine if not then maybe next time". So that is my motto for this trip, btw, love all the different views and advice from this forum.
 
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Peaceable Projects Inc. is a U.S.-based non-profit group that brings the vast resources of the wide world together with the ongoing needs of the people who live, work, and travel on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail network in Spain.
Past OR future Camino
First one in 1977 by train. Many since then by foot. Next one ASAP.
Lol, already booked my spot at Tio Pepe. Nothing set in stone about this trip, I may end up walking out of Leon instead of bus. Realized I was worrying too much about what to do and when, then my so

Do keep us informed about your trip! When do you expect to arrive Sarria? Santiago?

I fly to Spain on Monday for my 6th Camino.

Pax, Fr. J
 

Embee12

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
First time: Fall 2022
You bet, I will PM once I have a clearer idea of when I will be passing through Leon. I too will be mostly staying in privates, so there are a number of logistics to sort out, as you will well know. It's been nine years since I last had feet on the ground in Spain. Back then I walked with almost no structure to my itinerary and didn't even carry a phone. It's a whole different ball game this time around.

As for how far you walk in the first few days, that's such a personal thing with so many variables. For me, I will start off quite slowly and over a few days work up to my personal "sweet spot" of about 18-20 km, give or take, depending on the terrain.
@Sheesh Are you starting in SJPdP? When you pass through Leon, what are your stops? I guess by then you've gotten to your sweet spot, right? (I don't know if I'm taking this off-track of the original question. If you prefer to PM about specifics, let me know.) Thanks!
 

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