Fly-drive – 10 nights/ 11 daysFollow the Way of Saint James (otherwise known as the Camino de Santiago) across northern Spain, travelling from Pamplona in the east to Santiago de Compostela in the west. Santiago de Compostela is the supposed resting place of Saint James the Apostle, and thus attracts thousands of pilgrims each year. While pilgrims traditionally walk the length of the trail, this 10-night touring holiday allows you to enjoy the scenery from the comfort of your car, facilitating the discovery of the charming towns and historical monuments which line the route.There are a number of pilgrimage routes across Spain to Santiago Compostela, but the most popular, the ‘Camino Francés’, runs from southwest France, and on into towns and cities such as Pamplona, Burgos, and León. This luxury touring holiday joins this route after your arrival in Bilbao. Spend your first two nights in Pamplona, at the Palacio Guendulain. This ancient walled city was founded by the Romans, but is now the capital of the Navarre province and home to the Running of the Bulls, a famous Spanish festival. On your third day, join the Saint James Route in Burgos, where you will spend two nights in the NH Collection Palacio de Burgos. Spend time exploring the Gothic tour-de-force that is the Our Lady of Burgos Cathedral, and the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas, as well as enjoying the local food. Move on from here to León, and spend two nights in the Parador housed inside the Convent of San Marcos, once a hospital for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Over the next two days, explore every corner of this ancient walled city, seeking out the buildings of religious and cultural significance, and admiring the modern works of Gaudi. Drive off the Saint James Way for two nights in the Parador de Santo Estevo, nestled in an exclusive location amidst the green hills and mountains of Galicia. Take this opportunity to relax and experience nature, or to explore the city of Ourense with its many bridges, virtually untouched by tourism. Finally, arrive on your tenth day in Santiago de Compostela, final resting place of Saint James the Apostle, and your final destination on this luxury tour. Marvel at the beauty of the cathedral, drive up to the Rías Baixas inlets, sample the excellent seafood, and spend your last two nights in the Parador, an old royal hospital just on the doorstep of the city’s cathedral. From the inland capital to the beautiful Atlantic coast, this tour captures the scope and beauty of the Saint James Way, but with all the comforts and relaxation of four- and five-star accommodation. End your tour by catching a flight from Santiago de Compostela to Gatwick.Click here to download a pdf with details about this touring holiday.PRICESPrices start at £1,440 per person.What’s included:• Scheduled flights with Easyjet, from London Gatwick to Bilbao, and Santiago de Compostela to London Gatwick• Group C car hire for ten days• 2 nights bed and breakfast in a standard double room at the Palacio Guendulain in Pamplona• 2 nights bed and breakfast in a standard double room at the NH Collection Palacio de Burgos, formerly the Hotel Palacio de la Merced• 2 nights bed and breakfast in a standard double room at the Parador de Leon• 2 nights bed and breakfast in a standard double room at the Parador de Santo Estevo• 2 nights bed and breakfast in a standard double room at the Parador de Santiago de CompostelaClick the tabs above to view our suggested day-by-day touring itinerary and to find out more about the hotels featured.Click here to find out more about how our touring holidays work.
Day-by-Day ItineraryDAYS ONE TO TWO:Fly from London to Bilbao, and drive south east to Pamplona, where you will spend your first two nightsCollect your hire car in Bilbao and drive south towards Pamplona and the start of the Camino pilgrimage route. Pamplona is an ancient fortress city known for its annual festival in July in honour of San Fermín, which includes the famous ‘running of the bulls’. Founded by the Romans, but with much mediaeval heritage, the city is rich in interesting history. The Fortress, which forms an impressively geometric star shape on the open green space which has now been surrounded by more modern development, still stands almost in its entirety. Now idyllically coated with grass, its scale and depth is still visible in the walkways, high walls, and arches. It is believed to be one of the best preserved military structures in Spain. The shape of the old walls and fortress still define the city today. Ancient walls and platforms emerge from underneath tall contemporary buildings. Have lunch in a local restaurant to try the local tapas: ‘pintxos’. If time permits, drive out to the nearby town of Sangüesa, which retains much of its original mediaeval design, or venture into the Basque Pyrenees. The Parque Natural Urbasa Andia is one of the most beautiful natural sights of the area, punctuated by waterfalls, pools, and caves with stalactites, though it is mostly known for the bright azure hue of its flowing waters. Also worth a visit are the Baroque Palacio del Gobierno de Navarra, with its white architrave reminiscent of ancient Greek design, and the Museo de Navarra, which exhibits artefacts dating back to Prehistoric Navarre, paintings by Goya, a Mozarabic chest, and a 1st century Roman mosaic. In the evening dine in the fantastic dining room of the Palacio Guendulain, on signature dishes from Castile and La Mancha and the Cinco Villas region, made from the best local ingredients, including Manchego cheese, local meats, and fish.DAYS THREE TO FOUR:Begin your journey west, stopping first for two nights in BurgosToday, you start making your way along the pilgrimage route in earnest. Continue your way along the Camino towards Burgos, travelling via Puente la Reina, Estella, Logroño, and Santo Domingo de la Calzada - all traditional stops on the way. Your journey should only take about two hours through undulating countryside, and past vineyards and pretty villages with mediaeval castles and Romanesque churches. You might want to stop off along the way in the area around Logroño, which is home to La Rioja wine. Local wineries will be able to give you atmospheric and traditional wine tasting opportunities. Your hotel in Burgos is the NH Collection Palacio de Burgos, formerly the NH Palacio de la Merced, a four-star hotel from which you can easily walk to the breath-taking Gothic cathedral and the city’s historic quarter. Spend the day exploring the former capital of Castile y León. Noted for its extremes in temperature, the area straddles the banks of the Arlanzón River and is home to a mighty Gothic cathedral which houses the tomb of El Cid, who was born just north of the city. This cathedral reputedly displays the entire history of Gothic art in its architecture and unique collections within, which include stained glass, paintings, and tombs. Home to many museums and galleries, you may choose to visit the hugely insightful and modern Museo de la Evolución Humana, which traces with great detail, innovation, and sensitivity, the evolution of man. Just outside of the city is the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas. This monastery of Cistercian nuns is comprised of a church, monastery, and nuns’ premises. The Arabic design on the sacristy door dates back to the 12th century, and is in direct and brilliant contrast with the rest of the architecture, especially the Chapter Room, which is particularly austere. Take dinner one night at your hotel, tasting the speciality squid, artichokes, and ham, and then at the El Lagar de Isilla restaurant in Burgos the next, which serves elegant locally sourced dishes.DAYS FIVE TO SIX:Continue west to León, where you will spend two nightsContinue westwards through the pastures that cover the vast plateau towards León, where you will stay at its historic Parador hotel, within walking distance of the city’s historic centre. León is an attractive mediaeval walled city and a popular stop for pilgrims. The Parador Hotel is situated within the renovated Convent of San Marcos, and was once a hospital for those travelling to Santiago de Compostela. Behind its Plateresque-style façade, it still houses some original Jacobean medallions, as well as other interesting period features. Begin your tour of León in the old town, winding your way down the one-way streets into arcaded squares akin to those in Venice, marvelling at the historic houses as you pass. The impressive 13th century cathedral, often called The House of Light, is renowned for the 1,200 square feet of glass that is integrated into the stone walls, which is radiantly colourful and casts a golden glow on the cavernous interior of the cathedral. The breath-taking sight of this building from the inside is kept a secret from passers-by by its relatively unremarkable exterior; yet, when in León a visit seems necessary. Be aware that mass is held regularly, and though this service is sure to be exceptionally moving, the cathedral is strictly closed to tourists at these times. León also has a Royal Pantheon, housing exceptional frescoes from the 12th century, and a number of lively tapas bars perfect for a lunchtime or afternoon snack. Next door to the Royal Pantheon is the Basilica of San Isidoro, built into the old town walls on the site of a Roman Temple of Mercury. The church that stands there today was built in the 11th century, and provided the blueprint for all other Romanesque churches in the north of Spain. Its beautifully painted ceiling curves are supported by short, wide Corinthian pillars, which serve to cast your attention upwards, to appreciate the colour. Track down Gaudi’s Casa de los Botines. This building is somewhat reserved in comparison to Gaudi’s other works, but still has the soft, rounded, surreal aspect we have come to associate with the architect, as well as tall, thin turrets. Just southwest of León is Astorga, home of Gaudi’s fairy-tale Episcopal Palace. The arched windows, unusual hue of the stone, narrow turrets, and pointed blue-black roofs are a marvel to behold, and well-worth the short trip. Driving south will bring you to La Bañeza, a small, picturesque town defined by its colourful townhouses with uniquely decorated windows, and the irregular shapes of its open squares. Back in León, the MUSAC contemporary art museum aims to take a revolutionary outlook on modern works, necessitating its wildly experimental and challenging exhibitions. Spend your evenings back at the Parador hotel, wandering around the cloister, chapter house, and library, before dining on the elegant cuisine in the restaurant.DAYS SEVEN TO EIGHT:Drive on from León to Santo Estevo and spend two nightsDrive westwards over gentle hills, travelling past the interesting walled town of Astorga as well as Ponferrada, whose imposing castle was built to protect the pilgrims. Perhaps stop off at Las Médulas en route. These craggy red cliffs mark not only a phenomenal site of natural beauty, but the site of an ancient Roman gold mine, the tunnels of which can still be explored. It is here that you leave the pilgrimage route, heading instead to the wooded mountains of Galicia where you will stay at the remarkable Parador de Santo Estevo for two nights, located within a former monastery overlooking the River Sil. Enveloped in idyllic seclusion, seize the opportunity to relax in the Spanish sun and appreciate the fantastically varied local landscape. Take a relaxing walk along the river or between the trees, or simply sit reading in one of the monastery’s courtyards, with the magnificence of this ancient building rising around you. The next two days also provide an excellent chance to hike through the forests and to enjoy local delicacies such as cinnamon-topped sponge cake. If you do wish to explore the more built up parts of the local area, we would recommend the city of Ourense, situated thirty-five minutes southwest of Santo Estevo. This city has many intriguing and enchanting secrets to uncover. Its narrow streets, lined with pretty buildings, seem to tumble out of one another, revealing more and more of the maze as you navigate your way in. Its peaceful arcaded squares are very typically Spanish, while closer to the riverside the streets begin to widen, opening the view out onto the many bridges, some of which date back to the Middle Ages. Dotted around the city are several places to enjoy the benefits of the hot springs and escape the sometimes extreme weather. You may also wish to visit the serene cathedral, to see the unique column capitals, and textbook Romanesque style which is infiltrated around the doorways by the emerging Gothic. Virtually untouched by commercial tourism, Ourense is the perfect mid-point between the natural seclusion of Santo Estevo and the larger, busier towns of Spain, and provides an excellent day of relaxing activities for the earnest explorer. Back at your hotel, make the most of the spa facilities, and dine on Galician cuisine in the Restaurante Dos Abades.DAYS NINE TO TEN:Complete your tour along the Saint James Way with two nights in Santiago de CompostelaSet off on the final leg of your journey through rolling green countryside towards Santiago de Compostela. Check in to the Parador Hotel, a former Royal Hospital, and arguably the most luxurious of all the hotels on this tour, where you will spend two nights. Discover the city’s sights from this base, conveniently located just a few steps away from the elaborately decorated cathedral, the final resting place of Saint James the Apostle, and the final destination for thousands of pilgrims. You will have plenty of time to visit the religious highlights, explore the compact old quarter within its mediaeval walls, and sample Galicia’s marvellous cuisine. The Romanesque cathedral was begun in the 11th century, but not completed until the 13th, with a wealth of decorative and iconographic exterior detail added in the early 18th century in the Baroque style. The Plateresque cloister is one of the most important in Spain, with annex rooms which include the library, Chapter Room, and the Chapel of Relics, which houses a series of wonderfully ornate golden pieces. The Ceremonial room has a grandiose arched ceiling and corbels that depict a royal banquet. The second most popular sight in Santiago de Compostela is the Mercado de Abastos, a very traditional Spanish food market. If possible, see this market on a Thursday or Saturday, as this is when the most local producers set up shop. However, on any day, this is an excellent place to pick up some of the local cheeses, crafts, flowers, and wines. Consider driving up to the Rías Baixas inlets to see the stunning scenery and sample the exquisite shellfish and white wine. The neighbouring hilly green landscape is dotted with the undulating roofs of Pazos, or ancient homes, Hórreos, or stone granaries, and forts, monasteries, and acropolises. Back in Santiago de Compostela, the focus on the outstanding natural landscape continues in the green parks and gardens that punctuate the city. Perhaps partake in a sport such as hiking, golf, or fishing. If you plan this holiday for the summer months, there is sure to be some sort of cultural celebration unfolding in the city centre, from music, film, and theatre, to exhibitions and festivals. In the evenings, dine on the regional specialities with sensational views of the cathedral’s breath-taking front façade: small crabs, barnacles, angler fish stew, Galician pork, beef, and the regional wines, Monterrei, Ribeiro, Rías Baixas and Valdeorras.DAY ELEVEN:Return to the UK from Santiago de Compostela airportEnd your holiday by dropping your hire-car off at Santiago de Compostela airport and embarking your flight back to the UK.Driving times for this touring holiday:Bilbao to Pamplona: 1 hour 35 minutesPamplona to Burgos: 2 hoursBurgos to León: 1 hour 45 minutesLeón to Santo Estevo: 3 hours 35 minutesSanto Estevo to Santiago de Compostela: 1 hour 40 minutesClick the 'Hotel Information' tab to find out more about the hotels featured in this touring itinerary.
These are the luxury hotels that feature on this touring holiday of western Spain. Alternative hotels are available in some destinations – please contact us for full details.Palacio GuendulainPamplonaPalacio Guendulain is a four star hotel in the heart of Pampalona’s historic old town, occupying a grand 18th Century building. Formerly a family home for over two centuries, the hotel was briefly the royal residence of Queen Isabel II in 1845. Today, a museum of beautifully ornate carriages marks the opulent history of the hotel and flanks its inner courtyard. Palacio Guendulain is maintained and decorated to luxuriously high standards, its staircase of shallow, pale stone steps spirals to the top floor whilst golden guilt furniture topped in marble embellishes its high ceilinged rooms. The 25 bedrooms are a welcoming blend of traditional and modern luxury. Displaying a simple elegance, the rooms are decorated in soft, pastel colours whilst wide armchairs and crisp bed linens offer guests the upmost comfort. A gastronomic restaurant, fit for the hotel’s previous aristocratic inhabitants, is of impeccably high standards and has been mentioned in the Michelin guide for the past 5 years for its succulent meat and sea food tied with the earthy and spicy flavours of the Basque Country’s cuisine. Head to the hotel’s rooftop terrace to relax in the brilliant sunshine or watch the dwindling sunset over Pamplona’s rooftops. Palacio Guendulain’s location makes it ideal for days spent exploring Pamplona’s old town, soaking it up history and culture.Find out more here.NH Collection Palacio de BurgosBurgosBelonging to the NH Collection of unique and characterful hotels, the four-star NH Collection Palacio de Burgos sits comfortably among other members. Adorning the banks of the Arlanzón River in Burgos, this city centre hotel is an inviting base for your exploration, its sober façade and pointed bell tower overlooking the river. It is the hotel’s architecture that makes Palacio de Burgos so special, with original features such as a peaceful Gothic cloister well maintained beyond the grey stone exterior. The hotel’s 16th century structure hasn’t remained untouched over the years, and the addition of a contemporary wing with 101 new guest rooms spells a new age for the property. From lobby to the bar, the predominant design style is sleek and contemporary, with original brickwork showing through. The effect is very elegant and sophisticated. This continues into El Rincón de la Merced, the hotel’s restaurant, which is also located in the oldest part of the building. Lunches, dinners and snacks are served here throughout the day, incorporating the freshest local ingredients and seasonal produce to create a menu of international and local cuisine. After your day wandering Burgos’ old quarter nearby, you may wish to unwind with complimentary use of the steam bath and dry sauna at the wellness centre. Otherwise, each guestroom is a haven of relaxation in the city, with plush linens, hard wood floors and heavy drapes. Whether you are in the old or new part of the hotel, make sure to opt for a room with the best views overlooking the river to the Cathedral.Find out more here.Parador de LeonLeonThe five star Parador de Leon is a luxury hotel of extraordinary history and stunning architecture found in the centre of Leon. Located on the banks of the Rio Bernesga, the hotel was formerly the 16th Century centre for the Military Order of Saint James, financed by King Ferdinand and containing numerous stately rooms, a cloister and chapter house. Historically the building has been used as a hospital, grain store, and as a prison during the Spanish Civil War, there still remains something undeniably palatial about the exterior and ambience of the grand hotel. Found on the vast and tree edged Plaza de San Marcos, Parador de Leon has rows of windows which are surrounded by beautifully carved pale stone, its roof crowned with a diadem of ornate pillars which rise from the sides of each French balcony. Inside, the decoration remains luxuriously historical with large chandeliers handing from arched ceilings and rich brocade covered furniture. Tapestries and aged portraits hang on the walls, whilst in the 226 rooms soft low lighting and ornately carved, dark wooden furniture adds a romantic appearance. The Restaurante Rey Don Sancho is found in a large stately room and is decorated in a modern, chic style with monochromatic colours. Dishes authentic to Leon are proudly served at the restaurant, giving a taste of history and tradition but with a gourmet edge such salt beef with chestnut and sour fig puree or venison with grape sauce, all paired with a varied and local wine list. The hotel’s courtyard garden contains neat and lush boarders and is surrounded by tall archways with a number of ornate statues. Parador de Leon combines an historical ambience with modern luxuries and is ideal for those seeking to explore the history and culture of Leon with its grand cathedral, Basilica de San Isidoro and the MUSAC modern art museum all within 20 minutes’ walk from the hotel.Find out more here.Parador de Santo EstevoSanto EstevoBeside the Sil River Canyon and surrounded by a thick canopy of woodland, the four-star Parador de Santo Estevo enjoys rugged isolation outside Ourense in Galicia. The natural landscape is majestic and inspiring, yet the hotel structure itself holds its own as an attraction in its own right. A former monastery that dates from the 6-7th century, it is a masterpiece of mediaeval ecclesiastical architecture that was declared a historic-artistic site in 1923. Step through the remarkable carved stone façade, and you will be struck by the uniqueness of this Parador, where oversized interiors feature exquisite exposed brickwork alongside an ultra-contemporary design style. In case the natural setting isn’t enough to inspire contemplation, three cloisters at the monastery’s heart – one Romanesque, one Gothic, and one Renaissance - are designed for that purpose. Here, manicured lawns are surrounded by shady arcades from which some of the guestrooms are accessible. Each of the 77 rooms and suites are individually styled, though all prioritise comfort and boast views of the chestnut wood or over the Canyon. A modern wing is home to a museum, while various lookout posts are dotted here and there, providing sun terraces for enjoying the views. Restaurante Dos Abades is the central dining venue at Parador de Santo Estevo, where each table is dwarfed by the lofty vaulted ceiling. The cuisine here draws on the varied and simple flavours of Galicia, with meat, river fish, vegetables, and seafood dominating the menu alongside chestnuts from the surrounding woods. The hotel’s spa is firmly of the 21st century, and its sleek, modern and minimalist style is a pleasant surprise within the mediaeval walls. Here, water-based treatments include hydro-massage bath, essential oil showers and a contrast pool to aid relaxation. Find out more here.Parador de Santiago de CompostelaSantiago de CompostelaOpposite the pilgrimage site of the city’s famous Cathedral, the five-star GL Parador de Santiago de Compostela is a historic monument in its own right. Also known as Hostal Reis Catolicos, the structure was erected as a Royal Hospital in 1499 and became one of the earliest hotels in the world by providing lodgings for pilgrims. From its home on the perimeter of the cobblestone Obradoiro Square, the hotel’s austere façade betrays a sense of its impressive size; stretching back from here, the building is a maze of exquisite architecture constructed around four beautiful cloisters. You enter through an ornately-carved stone archway and into a world of exuberant luxury, where the interior design speaks of the property’s regal heritage. Plush fabrics, rich carpets and tapestries and antique decorations; wherever you go, the mediaeval interior design is maintained well to immerse guests in the building’s history. Original features include vaulted and coffered ceilings and stone archways, while the ornamental nature of the four cloisters lulls guests into peaceful contemplation. There are two restaurants to choose from at the hotel, each located on the basement levels of the building, where the low light creates an ambient setting for romantic meals. Enxebre do Hostal serves Atlantic cuisine and Restaurante dos Reis occupies the former stables of the Royal Hospital, where you can indulge in local cuisine under vaulted ceilings and lantern light. Traditional Galician meals exploit fish and meats prepared in a contemporary style, and dishes are accompanied by famous labels from local wineries. Other lounging areas include a bar and several lounge areas, while the 137 guestrooms accommodate guests in the utmost style and comfort.Find out more here.
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