CAMINO DE SAN­TI­AGO

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - JA­CLYN LOFTS TRAVEL SPE­CIAL­IST

GO: Each year about 200,000 people em­bark on a jour­ney along the Camino de San­ti­ago, or Way of St James. The most pop­u­lar route is the Camino Frances from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France to San­ti­ago de Com­postela in Spain (790km). What­ever sec­tion you choose, be sure to visit the tiny vil­lage of O Ce­breiro, high in the moun­tains of Gali­cia; it has fewer than 50 res­i­dents and is dot­ted with pre-Ro­man round stone huts with thatched roofs; san­ti­ago-com­postela.net.

BUY: The scal­lop shell is the sym­bol of the Camino, adorn­ing shops, trees, guide posts and pil­grims’ back­packs. Leg­end links the shell to St James and how his body came to rest in this cor­ner of Spain. Buy one to show you are on The Way and as a great me­mento.

TASTE: Sam­ple the cui­sine of north­ern Spain, in­clud­ing ta­pas or pin­txos in the Basque re­gion and mor­cilla (blood sausage) in Bur­gos. Try the tarta de San­ti­ago (cake of St James), an al­mond de­light marked with a cross that is made only in Gali­cia.

DRINK: The Camino Frances passes through La Rioja re­gion, which pro­duces some of the best red wines in Spain. A vino tinto is a very ac­cept­able house red; or­der cri­anza and be served a wine aged at least two years; ask for re­serve and en­joy a drop aged three years with time on oak. En route to La Rioja, stop at the wine foun­tain at Bode­gas Irache where pil­grims serve them­selves a free glass of red.

EX­PE­RI­ENCE: Re­flect on your jour­ney at the Cruz de Ferro, an iron cross mark­ing the high­est point on the Camino Frances, near the vil­lage of Fon­ce­badon. Many pil­grims bring a rock or other item from home to place at the foot of the cross as a sym­bol of leav­ing their bur­dens be­hind.

VISIT: The grand San­ti­ago Cathe­dral is the pil­grim­age end point. There is a spe­cial at­mos­phere in the plaza out­side as people from across the world take their fi­nal steps to the tomb of St James. A pil­grim mass is held daily at noon, but ar­rive by 11am.

EX­PLORE: The path of­fi­cially con­tin­ues be­yond San­ti­ago a fur­ther 86km to Cape Fin­is­terre. A day or two at the sea­side to re­lax out of your walk­ing boots and en­joy fine seafood is a fit­ting fi­nale.

Ja­clyn Lofts is tour op­er­a­tor UTracks’s Camino ex­pert and has been walk­ing and cy­cling through­out Europe for more than a decade. UTracks of­fers walk­ing and cy­cling trips, guided and self-guided, along the Span­ish Camino, French Way of St James and the Por­tuguese Camino. More: utracks.com.

In­sid­ers edi­tor:

Gra­ham Er­bacher Gra­ham.Er­bacher@news.com.au

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