This post summarizes our Camino de Santiago from Almería to Fisterra, Spain. It’s intended as an overview for people interested in a similar route.
Camino Mozárabe – Almería to Granada (216.78 km total)
Camino Mozárabe – Granada to Córdoba (175.84 km total)
Camino Mozárabe – Córdoba to Mérida (256.61 km total)
Vía de la Plata – Mérida to Salamanca (293.85 km total)
Vía de la Plata – Salamanca to Astorga (211.36 km total)
Camino Francés – Astorga to Santiago (266.8 km total)
Santiago to Muxía and Fisterra (119.67 km total)
Part I: Route Summary and Statistics
Our route began in Almería, Spain on the Mediterranean and continued 1540.91 km (957.48 mi) to Fisterra on the Atlantic Coast. We passed several major cities including: Granada, Guadix, Córdoba, Mérida, Cáceres, Salamanca, Zamora, Astorga, and Santiago de Compostela. We arrived in Fisterra by way of Muxía, also on the Atlantic.
The hike covered four Spanish Autonomous Regions (roughly equivalent to US states): Andalusia, Extremadura, Castilla y León, and Galicia.
We passed through 11 provinces: Almería, Jaén, Granada, Córdoba, Badajoz, Cáceres, Salamanca, Zamora, León, Lugo, and La Coruña.
For a US comparison, this is roughly like hiking from the San Diego-Tijuana border area; up the coast through Los Angeles and Santa Barbara; turning north at Vandenberg Air Force Base; continuing until the Yosemite Valley; hanging a left and walking past Sacramento to Chico; then taking another left and ending on the coast north of San Francisco.
Elevation: we reached ~1420 meters above sea level in the mountains outside of the Granada and nearly 1530 masl near the Cruz de Ferro in Galicia. According to our GPS, our “total accent” was 17,553 meters (57,587 ft) during the hike (all the “ups” added together, not absolute elevation).
Time: we took 70 days to complete the hike from 23 October to 31 December, 2016. We had ten rest days.
Average stage length: 25.68 km (15.96 mi), with a range of 14.8-46 km.
Part II: Legs and Stages
Headers link to descriptive blog posts. Posts have links to our accommodations and restaurants, where possible. Each leg starts with a small description.
A note on food: throughout Spain, a thrifty meal option is a 8-12 euro lunch “menu”: entrée, main dish, and dessert often served with a cup, or even a bottle, of wine. Spanish mealtimes are rigid. It’s hard to get a substantial meal outside of 1-3 pm or 8-11 pm. Breakfast and dinners are small and lunch is the main meal. Hostels can sometimes arrange a meal outside of normal hours if you ask ahead. We found that gas station restaurants are the best bet for food outside of customary mealtimes. Also, ask the day before what time a bar-cafe opens for breakfast. 7-8 am is a good wager. Be aware: Spanish customer service is might be the worst in the world. They’re doing you a favor just by showing up. Just get used to it and don’t stress.
A note on accommodations: in rural villages or in December through mid-March, call ahead if possible. They sometimes close unexpectedly. Or are closed for the holidays or low season. Or are simply closed forever. Or never existed. Or this, that, and the other. Google Map info/locations aren’t reliable in small villages.
Bring cash! Buy a sim card for your phone!! Learn some Spanish!!!
Mediterranean coast of Almería to Granada. Dry, warm, mountainous. Covered with citrus and olive trees. Terrain is dry, rocky river beds and scrubby mountains (Sierra Nevadas). Mostly small villages. Need to bring cash because there aren’t any ATMs for the first few days. No other pilgrims with us. Very rural. Spanish language skills a must until Camino Francés, especially this first leg. Bring a phone with data. Granada is famous for free tapas with drinks. Tapas are low quality: potato chips, a piece bread, or a few olives. If you want the tapa, just order the drink and shut up. Eventually they’ll bring you something. If you betray an interest in food, you’ll lose out on your free tapa when they bring you the carta (menu). Just be cool.
Day 1 – Almería to Santa Fé de Mondujar (28.43 km)
Day 2 – Santa Fé de Mondujar to Alboloduy (15.71 km)
Day 3 – Alboloduy to Abla (28.74 km)
Day 4 – Abla to Dólar (28.17 km)
Day 5 – Dólar to Alquife (16.80 km)
Day 6 – Alquife to Guadix (25.23 km)
Day 7 – Guadix to La Peza (24.17 km)
Day 8 – La Peza to Quéntar (30.60 km)
Day 9 – Quéntar to Granada (18.93 km)
Day 10 – Rest Day in Granada
Dry, warm, hilly approaching Córdoba. Outskirts of Granada unpleasant, full of abandoned factories. More olive trees, occasional stream. Very agricultural. A rainy night created a lot of difficult-to-navigate mud once. If it rains, consider sticking to paved roads instead of Camino. Córdoba has many historical sites, including a cathedral converted from a grand mosque.
Day 11 – Granada to Pinos Puente (22.54 km)
Day 12 – Pinos Puente to Moclín (15.78 km)
Day 13 – Moclín to Alcalá la Real (24.53 km)
Day 14 – Alcalá Real to Alcaudete (26.69 km)
Day 15 – Alcaudete to Baena (25.87 km)
Day 16 – Baena to Castro del Río (20.15 km)
Day 17 – Castro del Río to Córdoba (40.28 km)
Day 18 – Rest Day in Córdoba
Getting colder at this point in the year, but it didn’t rain on us. Terrain is rolling hills. Greener than Almería or Granada. Near Medellín there is an unpleasant highway hike. Mérida is full of Roman ruins. Extremadura’s specialty is iberico pork. You’ll see these fat, happy pigs eating acorns. Lots of sheep, but they don’t seem to make the menu.
Day 19 – Córdoba to Cerro Muriano (19.94 km)
Day 20 – Cerro Muriano to Villaharta (20.59 km)
Day 21 – Villaharta to Alcaracejos (36.35 km)
Day 22 – Alcaracejos to Hinojosa del Duque (20.83 km)
Day 23 – Hinojosa del Duque to Monterrubio de la Serena (34.37 km)
Day 24 – Monterrubio to Castuera (20.84 km)
Day 25 – Castuera to Campanario (23.39 km)
Day 26 – Campanario to Medellín (37.97 km)
Day 27 – Medellín to San Pedro de Mérida (25.88 km)
Day 28 – San Pedro de Mérida to Mérida (16.45 km)
Day 29 – Rest Day in Mérida
Getting colder. We walked through a bad rain storm on day 34. Got in a tight spot with a wrong turn at night (see post). After some stunning mountains, monotonous Meseta (plateau) begins near Fuenterroble. Salamanca boasts Europe’s oldest continuously operating university.
Day 30 – Mérida to Aljucén (17.68 km)
Day 31 – Aljucén to Alcuéscar (17.70 km)
Day 32 – Alcuéscar to Cáceres (39.42 km)
Day 33 – Rest Day in Cáceres
Day 34 – Cáceres to Cañaveral (~46 km)
Day 35 – Rest Day in Cañaveral
Day 36 – Cañaveral to Riobolos (20.84 km)
Day 37 – Riobolos to Carcaboso (18.72 km)
Day 38 – Carcaboso to Aldeanueva (38.76 km)
Day 39 – Aldeanueva del Camino to Calzada de Béjar (22.63 km)
Day 40 – Calzada de Béjar to Fuenterroble (20.35 km)
Day 41 – Fuenterroble to San Pedro de Rozados (27.79 km)
Day 42 – San Pedro de Rozados to Salamanca (23.96 km)
Day 43 – Rest Day in Salamanca
More Meseta. You need to decide whether to take Camino Sanabrés or the Camino Francés at Granja. Former had a lot of albergue closures in December so we chose the latter. Up until Astorga, the Camino is pretty deserted. After getting to the famous Camino Francés things got relatively crowded. Astorga is a pleasant mid-sized city that boasts a Guadí building and a chocolate museum. Cocido is a must try.
Day 44 – Salamanca to El Cubo de Tierra del Vino (35.67 km)
Day 45 – El Cubo to Zamora (32.56 km)
Day 46 – Zamora to Montamarta (21.85 km)
Day 47 – Montamarta to Granja de Moreruela (22.81 km)
Day 48 – Granja to Benavente (27.11 km)
Day 49 – Benavente to Alija del Infantado (22.75 km)
Day 50 – Alija to La Bañeza (23.30 km)
Day 51 – La Bañeza to Astorga (25.31 km)
Days 52-53 – Rest Days in Astorga
Need winter clothing. Meseta stopped by mountains followed by rolling, green hills. Moderately difficult mountain pass into Galicia before O Cebreiro. We got snowed on in the mountains. Locals begin to speak Galician, but can still talk to you in Spanish. Pulpo is the must try food. If you’re hiking near Christmas, arrive in Santiago on the 24th and go to midnight mass at the cathedral. Try the free pilgrim meal if you can.
Day 54 – Astorga to Foncebadón (26.21 km)
Day 55 – Foncebadón to Ponferrada (28.13 km)
Day 56 – Ponferrada to Villafranca de Bierzo (24.82 km)
Day 57 – Villafranca to O Cebreiro (29.66 km)
Day 58 – O Cebreiro to Triacastela (21.26 km)
Day 59 – Triacastela to Sarria (16.83 km)
Day 60 – Sarria to Portomarin (22.69 km)
Day 61 – Portomarín to Palas de Rei (27.63 km)
Day 62 – Palas de Rei to Arzúa (28.98 km)
Day 63 (Christmas Eve) – Arzúa to Santiago (40.59 km)
Santiago is ok, but not amazing. Super crowded with other pilgrims so a chance to party if desired. If hiking to Fisterra around New Year’s, call ahead for accommodations. The trail is packed around the end of the year and the albergues fill up. Many will have closed for the season. Note: Muxía more “relaxed” than Fisterra. Fisterra is touristy. If hiking between the two, split it with a stay in beautiful Lires. Hike the coastal route. Harder, but much more scenic than the standard Camino route, which is kind of an oceanless bummer after hiking so far.
Days 64-65 – Rest Days in Santiago
Day 66 – Santiago to Negreira (21.69 km)
Day 67 – Negreira to Olveiroa (33.59 km)
Day 68 – Olveiroa to Muxía (31.96 km)
Day 69 – Muxía to Lires (14.8 km)
Part III: Thoughts on Packing
- Our packs weighed ~17% of our body weight, not including water. (That’s 12 kilos, 27 lbs for me). We hiked with 60+ liter bags. That’s too big, but I didn’t want to buy another backpack just for the Camino. A few people seemed to sneer at our backpack size. “I use a 30 liter, no more.” Etc, etc. Yeah, and you smell because you have no spare clothing.
- Don’t buy a new bag just for the Camino. A nice, comfortable bag is expensive. Just try your best not to overpack a larger bag if you already own one for other types of backpacking.
- A lot of our weight was electronics. A MacBook, iPad, chords, adaptors, a Kindle, two phones. We were gone for nearly three months. We are experienced hikers and in good shape and wanted to bring our gear. After 1500+ kilometers, our knees are just fine. Our feet are still feeling it, but no permanent injuries. Never got a blister.
- If you are out of shape, have bad knees, or just want to hike faster, by all means pack less. Our computer was definitely a luxury item.
- We sent the Kindle back home in the mail at one point. Used the Kindle app on our phone and iPad instead.
- Camel backs are really helpful.
- Unless you have knee problems or are carrying a massive backpack, don’t bring hiking poles. Just not needed.
- We started in October in the south with warmer clothes. We sent some clothes back as the weather got cooler.
- There are Decathlon sporting goods stores in major cities. As winter set in, we bought some warmer clothes. (Quechua brand is good and cheap).
- We had rain gear. We used it in a major storm once, but after 10 hours of pouring rain we got soaked anyway. The rain jackets and pants came in handy during a snow fall, with warmer layers underneath.
- We did not bring sleeping bags. We decided to stay in our own room when possible. Angela eventually bought a sleeping bag liner after a rough night in a dirty donativo albergue, but then we never used it.
- Angela had hightop Merrell hiking boots, which worked out well. I used “barefoot” Merrell trail running shoes. Cons: Not enough cushion on rocky terrain and they got sucked off in a mud pit once. Got soaked easily. Pros: very light. Easy to pack.
- Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses.
- Get a sim card, cheap skate.
Part IV: Budget Notes
The cost of a decent room with bathroom is pretty reasonable: 20-40 euros a night. Sometimes we had to sleep in barrack-style rooms, and that was of course much cheaper. 5-20 euros or so (including small donations at “free” places of varying quality). Sometimes we splurged for nicer digs in the city, like an Airbnb or mid-range hotel.
Food for two people was usually about 0-5 euros for breakfast, 20-25 for lunch, and maybe another 10-20 for dinner. (Breakfast was often included in the hostel fee). We had a few more expensive meals along the way (such as Angela’s birthday dinner).
We bought a data plan in Madrid for 30 euros each with maybe another 40 euros for data refills and plan renewals. “Tuenti.” Good coverage except in remote areas. Map data saved us a few times.
We bought some tours, museum tickets, gifts, and souvenirs as well. Maybe a few hundred euros of this stuff.
Airfare in and out of Spain was reasonable. Fall/Winter are low tourist times. Train tickets from Madrid to Almería were about 50 euros each. Our bus tickets from Fisterra to Santiago were 13 each. We flew from Santiago to Barcelona for 130 each (the train was booked by the time we made our decision to go to Barcelona). We left from Barcelona.
Part V: Resources
Here are our GPX tracks Almería to Fisterra. Please use at your own risk. Carry your own map and verify your route with a second source. Our tracks include a few lunch/tourism detours, “looking around for hotels” detours, some “technical malfunction” gaps, and, dare I admit, a few wrong turns.
I found these websites helpful in planning/navigating:
- Asociación de Amigos del Camino de Santiago de Almería – Almería’s Camino page. Has links to lots of other Camino pages. Spanish only.
- Gaia GPS app. Excellent map app with an official Spanish topographical map layer. Worth the 20 bucks and will use it for further hikes.
- The very detailed Trepidatious traveller – camino blog. English.
- Eroski Consumer’s Camino guide. Really good if you can read Spanish.
- Wise Pilgrim app is worth getting for your phone. English.
- A good place to download some free guides in English.
- Info from Confraternity of St James (UK) and American Pilgrims on the Camino (USA)
- Angela enjoyed reading The Way, My Way for Camino background, although it was all Camino Francés. You do pick up some Camino “culture” tidbits you miss out on the less popular routes
- I read The Story of Spanish and The Story of Spain for historical background. Really good reads as you pass Roman and Islamic ruins
Part VI: Wrap Up
If you want a long, less-crowded hike and speak a little Spanish, consider going the distance from Almería. You’ll see a broad array of what Spain has to offer: beach; mountains; Islamic architecture; Roman ruins; all things iberico; city, village, countryside; and four diverse Autonomous Regions with cultural, culinary, and linguistic idiosyncrasies. Go in the Fall/Winter to beat the heat and tourists. Train before you go.