Tailor-made journey. A special journey created specially for your enjoyment
ON THE FOOTSTEPS OF ST. JAMES: A SPANISH ADVENTURE THROUGH THE FRENCH ROUTE
The Way of Saint James is more than just a tempting travelling route, it´s a journey through ancient history. Studied with thousands of religious architectural gems, the old pilgrims´path traverses some of Northern Spain´s most stirring scenery. We follow the rugged North Route along the coast, then detour onto the popular French Route, delighting in the well-known an unsung attractions of La Rioja and Castilla y León.
- Discover the millenary route of the Way of Saint James with style and a sense of adventure.
- Take a thrilling balloon ride in La Riojaa wine region.
- Visit the craddle os Spanish language, the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Yuso and Suso monasteries.
- Admire the Pre-Romanesque architectural dating from the 8th century.
- Spend the night in a real monastery.
PhotoXpeditions custom-designs immersive and experiential-based journeys and photography adventures that allow our travelers to connect with the communities and cultures they visit, and work with the globally-renownedh experts and photographers who lead our programs and contribute to the creation of exciting, memorable life-enriching experiences.
We work in some of the most interesting destinations on the planet and, while we run several scheduled trips and workshops, we offer the option of fully customized, unique and exciting itineraries that match the needs and interests of the people and organization we work with.
Our destinations include Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Iceland and and Spain, among others, and our programs range from photographing Day of the Dead celebrations in Oaxaca, Mexico to trying Iberian ham in a pig farm in Southern Spain, to an adventure along the Way of St. James, to a private train adventure across Northern Spain. We carefully personalize the details of each journey to your interests and preferences to make it a meaningful and memorable experience.
Whether you would like to have a private photography workshop, an adventure for your group led by an award-winning photographer, a culinary adventure with a renowned food critic and writer, a cultural journey with a history or archaeology expert, or to build a very special itinerary for your group, we would love to help!
To explore the possibilities and begin planning your journey:
DAY 1 & 2 - ARRIVAL AT BILBAO - GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM
Following your overnight flight, you will arrive in Bilbao. Settle into a hotel near to the famous Guggenheim Museum, then spend the evening enjoying the Basque city’s nightlife. Bilbao is currently enjoying a culinary renaissance, so if you would like to get a taste of this gastronomic revival first hand, we can assist by making reservations at a restaurant of your choice.
DAY 2 - BILBAO - GERNIKA - SAN SEBASTIAN
Once a decaying industrial city, Bilbao has experienced radical regeneration over the last 20 years, much of it spurred on by the visionary genius of Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry and his fêted Guggenheim Museum. Enjoy breakfast on the hotel terrace overlooking Gehry’s shining cultural mecca, followed by a walking tour through the soul of the city – Bilbao’s pedestrianized old town, which is known locally as “The Seven Streets”. Head inside the Guggenheim to browse its fine collection of modern and contemporary art.
After lunch, we visit Gernika-Lumo. This small city was razed by the German Luftwaffe during the Spanish Civil War, an event that prompted Picasso to create his monochrome masterpiece “Guernica.” These days, Gernika embraces its status as a symbol of peace. Delve into its history at Museo de la Paz (Gernika Peace Museum), the Casa de Juntas (the Assembly House), and the Parque de la Paz, which features large-scale sculptures by Henry Moore and Eduardo Chillida.
Check into our 5* hotel in San Sebastian and enjoy dinner at your leisure.
DAY 3 - FUENTERRABIA - SAN SEBASTIAN
Fuenterrabia is a pretty seaside town on a peninsula near the French frontier. Explore its charming stone streets, which are peppered with colorful Basque-style houses. Climb aboard a private tuna-fishing boat that will drift along the calm waters to the fishing village of San Juan (Pasai Donibane). Among the historic buildings in San Juan is a house that was once home to French literary luminary Victor Hugo, the author of “Les Misérables.”
Return to San Sebastian to tour the bastion of Basque culture by foot. Over dinner at a gastronomic society, acquaint yourself with Basque folklore. Return to rest at the 5* Maria Cristine Hotel.
Optional: a) Lunch at the private country house Torre Satrustegui / b) A private visit to the Chillida Museum.
DAY 4 - NAVARRA - LA RIOJA
Today we set off towards the fortified French border town of Saint Jean Pied de Port. Here, we hit the road on foot to tackle a spectacular portion of the Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago), which will take up to two hours. The path here is rich in history and the presence of the thousands of pilgrims who have trodden here is palpable. After working up an appetite, stop at a winery where the owners share stories over lunch.
Next, we will stop at the remote Romanesque church of Santa María de Eunate, a circular stone structure surrounded by an octagonal cloister. Little is known about this mysterious chapel’s origins. Some theorists suggest it is a Templar church, while other historians believe it was constructed as a funeral chapel for a local noblewoman. At some point in history it operated as a hospital or cemetery for pilgrims, a fact corroborated by the graves that have been found on site.
We journey further into the La Rioja wine region, with a stopp for a concert in the Gothic cathedral Santa Domingo de la Calzada. Later on, we arrive at our 4* wine hotel, where the rest of the evening is your own.
DAY 5 - LA RIOJA
You might choose to start your day with a thrilling hot air balloon ride at dawn (optional), where you can admire the beauty of the verdant La Rioja vineyards from a sky-high vantage point, followed by a country breakfast.
La Rioja’s fertile soils have made the region a centre for viticulture. Enjoy the fruits of its fields as we visit a winery in the medieval town of Laguardia, then picnic in the rolling hillsides where the grapes for the eponymous wine are grown.
Follow this with a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Yuso and Suso monasteries in San Millán de la Cogolla. Susa is believed to be the site where the first Castilian phrases were written down and is hailed as the cradle of the Spanish language. Then glide by the glistening vineyards of the surrounding countryside on an electric bike.
FLater, we make our way to another monastery that is situated in a remote mountain location on a site of great natural beauty. Its secluded setting and the presence of practising Benedictine monks lend this place a peaceful ambiance, making it the perfect environment to reflect upon the spiritual nature of the Way of St. James. We will dine here and stay overnight in the abbey.
- Although the monks live in the monastery, they are not necessarily present at the abbey. If you wish, we can request to join the monks during their prayers or we can ask that the monks join us for dinner.
- Depending on timing, our trip to La Rioja may coincide with the wine harvest. If so, we can arrange for the group to participate in the grape harvest at a winery.
DAY 6 - BURGOS - ROMANTICO PALENTINO
Today we head to Burgos, the historical capital of the old kingdom of Castilla y León, where you can glimpse the many beautiful buildings that dot the city, none more impressive than the imposing Gothic cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features intricate stone carvings.
After lunch, stop by the restored 17th century monastery of Santa María la Real de Aguilar and take a look at the curious erotic figures that adorn the exterior of the church of San Pedro de Cervatos. Spend the evening enjoying the unique medieval charms of the “living museum” Santillana del Mar. Eat dinner with your fellow travelers and then leisurely explore Santillana del Mar’s excellent collection of historic casonas (mansions).
Accommodation tonight is at the Parador de Santillana del Mar.
DAY 7 - CANTABRIA - PICOS DE EUROPA
Begin with a guided tour of the Altamira Museum and New-Caves, which relay the incredible true story behind the ice-age art of the cave of Altamira. Frequently called the “Sistine Chapel” of cave art, these drawings stunned the world when they were first found here in 1879.
Then we make our way to the seaside village of Comillas to marvel at the creative genius of the Catalan Modernist, Antoni Gaudí, who designed Comillas’ distinctive “El Capricho de Gaudi,” one of only a few buildings he created outside his native Cataluña. We will next move toward the foreboding peaks of the Picos de Europa mountain range, then descend to the depths of the ‘El Soplao’ cave, where subterranean surfaces are covered in crowds of stalactites, stalagmites, and other fascinating geological formations.
Take advantage of a free evening by enjoying a sparkling cider and pintxos (the Basque snack equivalent of tapas) in the medieval village of Santillana del Mar. Spend the night at the Parador de Santillana del Mar.
DAY 8 - ASTURIAS - COVADONGA
We will continue west to the town of Llanes, an idyllic hamlet that is perched between the Cantabrian Sea and the vibrant green hills of Asturias.
Asturias is famed for producing some of the finest cheeses in Spain and its sparkling cider is something of a national treasure. We taste our way through the local delicacies on a cider and cheese tour that includes a demonstration of how goat cheese and cider are produced, and culminates in an “espicha” (a casual meal) in a “llagar” (cider factory).
Later, stop to admire the Basílica of Covadonga, a striking pink marble structure that sits on a hilltop, with the sky behind it punctuated by the limestone peaks of the Picos de Europa.
Our next port of call is Oviedo, a city that has captured the heart of director Woody Allen, who filmed ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ here and is now immortalized in a bronze statue near Oviedo’s central park. The city, with its pretty plazas, abundant sculptures, and the peacock-inhabited park, appears to have been plucked from the pages of a fairytale. Luckily, you have the whole evening to yourself to relish in its charms, before sleeping in a luxurious 5* hotel.
DAY 9 - OVIEDO
Visit Santa María del Naranco, a pre-Romanesque jewel that sits at the foot of Naranco mountain. Originally built as a palatial hunting residence by King Ramiro I, it was later converted into a church. We continue to take stock of Asturias’ architectural glory, first visiting the 9th century church of San Julián de los Prados, and then later exploring the fine gothic features of Oviedo’s cathedral complex.
The remainder of the afternoon is free for you to relax in Oviedo’s picture-book plazas, before we regroup for dinner. We will indulge in a meal fit for a king at a 13th century palace, or alternatively, we can dine at one of Oviedo’s many fine restaurants. Accommodation for the night will be in a 5* hotel.
DAY 10 - GALICIA - LUGO
Much of Spain’s north coast appears untouched by the hands of modernity. Get lost in time as we tour the unspoiled coastline, visiting the seaside city of Gijón, the sheer cliffs of Cabo Peñas and the colorful coastal hamlet of Cudillero. With some free time in Cudillero, you might choose to watch the fishermen hauling up their nets before sampling some of the legendary seafood for yourself at a local tavern. Continue your coastal expedition at the port town of Ribadeo and the nearby Cathedral Beach, which is named for its spectacular arches and caves.
The final destination for the day is the historic walled city of Lugo, where you can unwind over dinner at our accommodation for the night – an enchanting country house set on the banks of the river Miño.
DAY 11 - SAMOS - SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
Today we hit the pilgrims’ path to walk a scenic stage of the Way of St. James, from Triacastela to Samos. Take respite along the way in a monastery, then continue on towards a rural house where the owner and the chef invite us in for some restorative Galician cuisine. A little later we arrive at Santiago dToday we hit the pilgrims’ path to walk a scenic stage of the Way of St. James, from Triacastela to Samos. Take respite along the way in a monastery, then continue on towards a rural house where the owner and the chef invite us in for some restorative Galician cuisine. A little later we arrive at Santiago de Compostela, the final destination for the Camino’s thousands of walkers and pilgrims.
This evening we stay in a 5* hotel.
DAY 12 - SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
Explore the historic hub of Santiago de Compostela. See the concentrated cluster of chapels, churches, palaces, and cloisters, then enjoy a private rooftop visit to the city’s magnificent granite cathedral. Join pilgrims celebrating their trek during the mass at noon, where the huge incense burner (Botafumerio) is swung.
Spend an afternoon wandering the romantic streets of the pilgrims’ city, then regroup for a final farewell dinner. Dine in the elegant setting of an 18th century private country residence that bears Italian design influences courtesy of its Genoese founder. This historic building also has a connection to the Way of St. James as part of the Southern Route crosses the property.
After dinner, head back to the luxury of a 5* hotel.
DAY 13 - DEPARTURES
Departures – End of Trip
- $TBDbased on your choices and preferences
- TRIP DURATION: 13 Days, 12 Nights
- DATES: Call to personalize this journey
- ACCOMMODATIONS: Private Homes Collection (Greatness), National Parador, 4* and 5* Hotels, Charming rural accommodation in Lugo (Galicia)
- EXPERT GUIDE: Knowledgeable english-speaking guide throughout the trip
- PRICING: TBD based on your choices and preferences once the itinerary has been tailor-made for you