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Semana Santa Olvidado vs Norte

Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
So. the only thing I know for sure (assuming all goes properly) is that I will arrive in Bilbao on April 4th. I plan to see cultural sights and sites in town on the 5th and to begin walking on the 6th.

If the weather is cooperating, I intend to head down the Olvidado (ie: snowstorms are not threatening...)

If the weather is very cold, then I will stay on the Norte (more support, and less elevation).

I am seeking input on whether I'm likely to need to be very careful about booking spots for the Norte as follows below (which could preclude going on the Olvidado).

And as for the Olvidado... I really am not sure where I would be by April 10th... at issue is that I'm not sure the first 2 stages will have anywhere for me to stay at all... so I'd love more general advice or thoughts on these two routes.

Either one will be a "first" for me, and I'm going in April to be ale to meet a friend for a significant birthday on the day in SdC. I'm also not able to go when the weather will be warmer/hotter because I am taking on administration duties that will be in the way of an extended trek in summer. So I'm stuck with the schedule I have.

On the Norte I would end up with a situation like this for the Semana Santa:

April 10: Santander to Mogro. EASTER WEEK BEGINS
23.5k

April 11: Mogro to Santillana del Mar
21.2k


April 12: Santillana to San Vicente de la Barquera
33.3k


April 13: San Vicente to Colombres 17.2 — Colombres to Pendueles 10.7
= 27.9


April 14: Pendueles to Villahormes
29.


April 15:Villahormes to Vega de Ribadisella
22.6


April 16: Vega de Ribadisella to Villaviciosa
31


April 17: Villaviciosa to Gijon EASTER SUNDAY
30.6

Thoughts about this versus the unknowns for the Olvidado? I know the Norte will be rainy and cold/cool for many days. That's OK.

I really want to do the Olvidado as my first choice, but I don't know if the first re-opened year after COV, in a "shoulder season" is the best time to try it...

Thanks to any with some wisdom on these options.
 
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2012
Faye, I can't speak directly to your itinerary but I can relate to Semana Santa and deep rural Spain. For many years I hiked the Picos de Europa in March & April. The audit year had finished and I was permitted two or even three weeks continuous leave. My trips frequently coincided with Semana Santa. One of the things I learnt were just how many of those young people who had left their rural villages to work in Bilbao, Santander, Gijon, Madrid, came home to mamá for Easter. And brought their young families with them. The result was that accommodation was not booked-out but was simply not available. The local Fondas & Hostales were not taking paying customers. They were full of family. One night, Black Friday, in La Hermida I was offered the opportunity to sleep in the back of an estate car (station wagon) once the family had unpacked their luggage & kids. All of which is to say that if you decide to head for the Olivado take a bivvy and a warm sleeping bag.

And that said: another year I came down to Potes the day before that Friday and could find nothing so took a bus to the coast. The friendly woman in the Turismo in Llanes actually giggled when I asked if she could help me find a room. I did, at €:eek: a night.

I hate the regime of booking ahead. For that reason alone I avoid rural Spain in Semana Santa. Well, to be honest it's 'cos my old bones can't cope with a night in a church porch or an Invierno anymore, though I like to think its because I want to avoid inconveniencing mamá.
 

Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
Faye, I can't speak directly to your itinerary but I can relate to Semana Santa and deep rural Spain. For many years I hiked the Picos de Europa in March & April. The audit year had finished and I was permitted two or even three weeks continuous leave. My trips frequently coincided with Semana Santa. One of the things I learnt were just how many of those young people who had left their rural villages to work in Bilbao, Santander, Gijon, Madrid, came home to mamá for Easter. And brought their young families with them. The result was that accommodation was not booked-out but was simply not available. The local Fondas & Hostales were not taking paying customers. They were full of family. One night, Black Friday, in La Hermida I was offered the opportunity to sleep in the back of an estate car (station wagon) once the family had unpacked their luggage & kids. All of which is to say that if you decide to head for the Olivado take a bivvy and a warm sleeping bag.

And that said: another year I came down to Potes the day before that Friday and could find nothing so took a bus to the coast. The friendly woman in the Turismo in Llanes actually giggled when I asked if she could help me find a room. I did, at €:eek: a night.

I hate the regime of booking ahead. For that reason alone I avoid rural Spain in Semana Santa. Well, to be honest it's 'cos my old bones can't cope with a night in a church porch or an Invierno anymore, though I like to think its because I want to avoid inconveniencing mamá.
I don't like booking ahead either because it locks my feet into distances I might regret. OTOH... I did Arzua to SdC in one day because we had not been able to find any place to sleep in the little villages before Arzua (Ribadiseo something something?) so one can get locked in because one has *not* secured anything either.

But it sounds, @Tincatinker like you are suggesting that my Norte plans are less precarious than my Olvidado hopes... Yes?

With arthritis in 3 regions of my spine now, I'm a little disinclined to sleep on the church steps myself...
 
Past OR future Camino
2012
Faye, yes, in your circumstances I’d be inclined to the Norte but I’d also want to be sure of a bed for those crucial few days- Thursday through Monday. At least on the Norte you have the fall-back of the FEVE railway and the buses to get you out of a hole and/or a chance to hunker down in one spot for those few days and enjoy the “holiday”.
 

Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
Really nice thing about my Norte plans is that I have a 2-day buffer on arrival to SdC... so if there's a need to slow down somewhere, take a rest day... I can do that, and I was thinking I might do exactly that in each of Santander and Gijon. I've only seen them from travellers' photos and vlogs... but I'm from an ocean coast myself, and they feel based on guidebook information and what I can see online like they'd be perfect resting points.
I got completely, stunningly lucky with my airfare (because I hadn't realized I had gobs of airmiles saved up over 10 years!!). The result is that I had only to pay the taxes and extra insurance, so I can afford more on accommodation and on-the-ground costs than usual.
 
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dick bird

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
The first stop on the Olvidado is problematic, hotels only, but the one we treated ourselves to in Zalla was very nice. After that, the first few days should be OK as the albergues are run by very dedicated volunteers. For example, in Nava de Ordunte, Adolfo is definitely not running an unlicensed donativo, but he will let you sleep in his 'garage' which looks remarkably like an albergue. In Villasante, Casa Isabel is in the house of the lovely and welcoming Isabel, Espinosa has a vast youth hostel and Santalices has the never-used railway station being restored as an albergue by Chuchi who is also doing his best to keep his stretch of the Olvidado open and well way-marked. After that, accommodation gets a bit trickier (Arija was a real low point for us), but not impossible. I would guess though, that the places you mention on the Norte will have open and functioning albergues. It certainly won't be crowded. That is a guess so my advice is to check. I would also be very careful about the weather on the Olvidado and take a good look at the weather forecast before you set out. Buen camino, whichever you choose.
 

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!
Faye, yes, in your circumstances I’d be inclined to the Norte but I’d also want to be sure of a bed for those crucial few days- Thursday through Monday. At least on the Norte you have the fall-back of the FEVE railway and the buses to get you out of a hole and/or a chance to hunker down in one spot for those few days and enjoy the “holiday”.
Faye, I’m with Tincatinker. For the Triduum, book ahead. Better to have a secure place to stay on those days.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I’ve never walked in Semana Santa but have traveled in Spain during those days and learned my lesson early about traveling then without reservations. Four people ”sleeping” in a car is ok at age 19 (and if you know what size Spanish cars were in the 1970s you can feel my pain) but not now!

I would expect the hotels along the Norte to be very busy too, with prices at the same level as high summer season. If enough albergues are open, that’s likely to be your best bet, but then you can’t reserve.

There are a lot of days on the Olvidado with high elevation, and April might still have snow. Olvidado, IMO, is definitely a camino for full blown summer.
 

Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
The first stop on the Olvidado is problematic, hotels only, but the one we treated ourselves to in Zalla was very nice. After that, the first few days should be OK as the albergues are run by very dedicated volunteers. For example, in Nava de Ordunte, Adolfo is definitely not running an unlicensed donativo, but he will let you sleep in his 'garage' which looks remarkably like an albergue. In Villasante, Casa Isabel is in the house of the lovely and welcoming Isabel, Espinosa has a vast youth hostel and Santalices has the never-used railway station being restored as an albergue by Chuchi who is also doing his best to keep his stretch of the Olvidado open and well way-marked. After that, accommodation gets a bit trickier (Arija was a real low point for us), but not impossible. I would guess though, that the places you mention on the Norte will have open and functioning albergues. It certainly won't be crowded. That is a guess so my advice is to check. I would also be very careful about the weather on the Olvidado and take a good look at the weather forecast before you set out. Buen camino, whichever you choose.
Thank you so much! I love walking in the cold… sleeping in the cold, not so much… so I will be careful about weather. As I actually land in Lisbon on the 4th, I have loads of options. I just happen to live land-locked, but was born and grew up where mountains collide with the Pacific… so I am called to the Olvidado and the Norte…. This is definitely a problem of too many choices…. But one will come out as the most viable for the timeframe…
my son, who isn’t at this time, much into the idea of walking for a month solid, is a fan of Basquiat, and has already indicated a hope for me to send home a bit of memorabilia from the Guggenheim, so there’s that…
 

Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
I’ve never walked in Semana Santa but have traveled in Spain during those days and learned my lesson early about traveling then without reservations. Four people ”sleeping” in a car is ok at age 19 (and if you know what size Spanish cars were in the 1970s you can feel my pain) but not now!

I would expect the hotels along the Norte to be very busy too, with prices at the same level as high summer season. If enough albergues are open, that’s likely to be your best bet, but then you can’t reserve.

There are a lot of days on the Olvidado with high elevation, and April might still have snow. Olvidado, IMO, is definitely a camino for full blown summer.
Yes, I was sort of hoping that not reaching the higher points until late April might make it OK…. But I suppose that the good news is that when my administration duties end in 2 years, I can take a July walk on the Olvidado if the weather is uncooperative this year….
 
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