If you're interested in the sights and experience, but don't have the time (or the willingness) to hike 780km to Santiago de Compostela, give those tootsies a rest and consider taking a car- or even a campervan- along Spain's revered Pilgrims Way, also known as the Camino de Santiago. Take it from us, you'll probably appreciate the cathedral in Laon and the village of O Cebreiro a lot more if you can actually feel your legs.
This enlightening journey actually begins in France where, lucky for you, Auto Europe offers cars, campervans and even Peugeot leasing for a nice, long holiday in Europe. Savour the all delectable treats France has given the world and then start your pilgrimage in the town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, located right at the base of the Pyrenees. Drive south for about 30 minutes along the D933 and over the Spanish border onto the N135 until you reach Roncesvalles. Spend an evening here to attend an evening mass at the 12th century Augustinian monastery in Roncesvalles. Regardless of religion, this is a special experience during which the monks offer a special blessing for pilgrims along this route.
The next stop is Pamplona, home to the famous Running of the Bulls, where the very brave risk their lives for the sake of tradition and sport. Angry bulls aren't a part of the pilgrimage, but if you're travelling in early July you may just catch this adrenaline pumping spectacle. The purpose of stopping in Pamplona is to visit the city's cathedral, where the original pilgrims were given food as they made their way to Santiago. Continue on toward Santo Domingo de la Calzada, with a quick detour over to Eunate, which once served as a burial site for pilgrims, but now holds an architecturally unique church. Upon arriving in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, visit the cathedral where you can purchase a chicken feather for good luck (and learn the story behind this unusual good luck charm).
Chicken feather in tow, follow the A12 to the N120 heading south west. You'll pass through the town of Gran, population just over 300, and continue the journey into Burgos. As with most stops along this route, you'll want to visit the cathedral, which serves as the resting place of El Cid, a celebrated medieval Spanish military leader. Afterwards, enjoy the old quarter of Burgos, one of Spain's culinary epicentres. Spend a night or two here before travelling to Lean. While here, taste the local specialty, called embutidos, before checking out the cathedral and the Basilica of San Isidro.
Almost there! Drive along the A6 and up through the mountains to the historical village of O Cebreiro, passing through Villafranca del Bierzo on your way. O Cebreiro sits an incredible 1300m above sea level and is a tiny, yet fascinating mountain village with breathtaking views all around. This village is purportedly the site of a great miracle, during which stale bread and sour wine became flesh and blood.
You made it. The last stop on the Pilgrims Way, the whole reason you've taken this journey, is Santiago de Compostela. Make sure to arrive by midday in order to attend the pilgrim mass at the cathedral, said to be the resting place of the apostle St James. The old town of Santiago de Compostela is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and definitely worth a visit while you're here. The city is filled with structures originally constructed to aid pilgrims upon their arrival and their story is incorporated in many facets of life in Santiago de Compostela. Tour the gorgeous churches, schools and homes of the Catholic pilgrims before heading to the Praza de Abastos, a traditional Galacian market. Afterwards, enjoy the fabulous museums, restaurants and, of course, welcoming Spanish locals. Relax in the city and relish the rare and extraordinary experiences you've had before continuing north to the beachside town of A Coruna or south along the coast into Portugal.
To learn more about car hire and self drive travel in Spain, check out Auto Europe's website. We've gathered information on tolls, border crossing, must-see attractions and more. With over 60 years of experience, Auto Europe is a leader in Australian car hire. Contact our reservations team at 1300 656 601 to book a vehicle for your journey along the Pilgrims Way in Spain.