Stages 13-20, 184km
-Experience the epitome of solitude synonymous with the Camino.
-Feel like you’re in a Spanish western movie and feel like El Cid.
-Visit historical towns like Castrojeriz, Honatanas and Boadilla del Camino.
-Obtain your halfway Compostela in Saharan.
-Rest in and explore the historical and fascinating city of Leon.
This midsection of the Camino connects two of the most historic and beautiful cities of the Camino, both with incredible medieval cathedrals and historic city centres. The walking encompasses the Meseta, the elevated and lonely plain that is a joy to seekers of solitude and contemplation but a sore trial to walkers whose eyes crave variety.
The open country of the Meseta with endless wheat fields and few trees can be a real test to Pilgrims when the weather conditions are harsh. The sun will beat down mercilessly in July/August with no shade and the wind may whip across the plain unimpeded in the colder months of the year.
The small villages and towns that you come across are a delight: places like Hontanas which is reminiscent of a Mexican village and Castrojeriz with its echoes of a grander past reflected in its castle, 12thc Church, monastery and ruined convent. They are atmospheric places made all the more so by the mid-day siesta when you’ll rarely see a local on the streets. This is rural Spain, largely undisturbed by the modern world and hard country.
The meseta is much maligned and often overlooked, especially by people short on time. But it offers its own beauty in the desolate landscapes and endless horizons. In a way, the meseta is the true essence of the Camino insofar as it’s where you can really go within with no distractions. This can be daunting for some people but if introspection and self evaluation are among your Camino goals then this could be exactly what you’re looking for.
Physically, it’s one of the easiest portions of the Camino Frances due to its almost compete flatness, apart from one or two short uphill bursts. But it’s the lack of shelter from the elements that can make this stretch extra taxing, especially in the height of summer when it becomes an oven.
When planning a Camino route this is usually the first casualty if short on time. This is understandable, but if you miss it the first time we highly recommend going back another time to experience it as it really is an integral part of the full Camino.
Hints and tips
-HONTANAS: You almost stumble over this town as it appears out of nowhere on the peseta. With a lovely small town feel it’s a wonderful place for lunch. Great hamburgers at the restaurant opposite the church. And the church is very cool if it’s hot outside.
-CARRION DE LOS CONDES: Or rather, what’s after it. There’s a 17km stretch straight after this town with no towns or amenities. There is a pop up café if you’re lucky and are there on the right day, but otherwise you really need to stock up on food and water in Carrion.
-SAHAGUN: The official halfway point if you’re walking the full Camino from St Jean. You can get a halfway credentiale (certificate of completion) by visiting the Church of San Francisco on the south side of town up the hill. There is a 3 euro fee for this.
-MANSILLA: From here to Leon is one of the worst days walking on the Camino. You walk on footpaths and through suburbs much of the way. There is a regular bus service that runs from here to Leon. If your feet are giving you grief or something, there’s no shame inskipping this day’s walk and going straight to Leon in the morning.
-LEON: Too much to list here! But definitely the cathedral with its impressive rose window.
This was produced by the French friends of the Way of St. Jacques