Commencing the Camino de Santiago is a journey of both body and spirit. However, it’s the rest days that often bring unexpected adventures and profound relaxation. Whether it’s to overcome jetlag before you commence your trek, or as a welcome interlude midway, incorporating rest days can enhance and rejuvenate your Camino experience. Let’s explore some hidden gems along various routes of the Camino, where you can pause, reflect, and discover.
1. Ponferrada – Las Medulas: A Historical Retreat
Discovering Ancient Roman Gold Mines
Ponferrada, nestled in the Bierzo region’s heart, offers an ideal spot for a restful pause. Situated on the Camino Francés, this location is among the most renowned on the Camino de Santiago routes. A short trip will take you to Las Médulas, a stunning landscape formed by ancient Roman gold mines. The red-hued mountains and lush greenery create a breathtaking contrast, offering a serene backdrop for your rest day. Should you choose to cycle the final 200km of the Camino Francés, Ponferrada serves as your starting point, offering the perfect opportunity to explore this before you begin your journey.
2. Vigo – Cíes Islands: A Coastal Escape
Unveiling the Beauty of the Atlantic
The Camino Portugués Coastal last 100km from Vigo to Santiago is the final stretch of the Camino Portugues Coastal. From the coastal city of Vigo, a ferry ride brings you to the Cíes Islands, a natural paradise. Here, you can bask on pristine beaches, hike to panoramic viewpoints, and enjoy the tranquillity of these untouched islands. Vigo, marking the beginning of the final 100km on the Camino Portugués, provides a pleasant haven for relaxation and preparation before you embark on your journey.
3. Caldas de Reis: Soaking in Thermal Springs
Rejuvenating in Nature’s Spa
While travelling along the final 100 km of the Camino Portugués, make a stop halfway at Caldas de Reis. Known for its thermal hot springs, this town offers the perfect setting to soothe your muscles and relax in the warm, mineral-rich waters.
4. Burgos: A Gothic Treasure
Exploring an 812-Year-Old Castle
Burgos, a key stop on the Camino Francés, is situated at the edge of the central plateau and is the capital of the province of the same name, in the autonomous community of Castile and León. It is home to the magnificent Gothic, Burgos Cathedral, built in 1221. Spend your rest day wandering through the historic ruins and absorbing the centuries of history that echo through its walls.
5. Bilbao: A Modern Art Haven
The Guggenheim Museum Experience
As you journey along the Camino del Norte, take a detour to Bilbao to visit the iconic, awe-striking Guggenheim Museum. This modern art museum, famed for its stunning architecture and contemporary art collections, offers a different kind of pilgrimage – one for art lovers.
6. Siena: A Tuscan Dream
Immersed in Medieval Splendour
In Italy, the medieval city of Siena, along the Via Francigena, is a rest day must-see. The city’s rich history, exemplified by its well-preserved streets and buildings, provides a picturesque setting for exploration and relaxation. Immerse yourself in Siena’s vibrant festivals and artistic heritage, experiencing the heart of Tuscan tradition. Visit the iconic Piazza del Campo, a hub of social life and architectural marvel in Siena.
7. Bolsena: A Serene Stop on the Via Francigena
Lakeside Leisure and Historic Exploration
Bolsena is another hidden gem on the Via Francigena, known for its beautiful lake and tranquil surroundings, and is an ideal rest stop. The town’s charm and the lake’s soothing presence offer a peaceful respite on your journey. Engage in leisurely activities like boating or lakeside picnics, embracing Bolsena’s serene natural beauty. Delve into local history by exploring ancient churches and the town’s medieval fortress. This stop offers a perfect rest day from the Camino.
8. Coimbra – University Town: A Blend of Culture and History
The Grandeur of Portugal’s Oldest University
On the Camino Portugués, Coimbra awaits with its prestigious university and impressive palace. The blend of vibrant student life and historic grandeur makes for an enriching rest day experience. Stroll through ancient streets, immersing yourself in a city rich with academic and architectural history. Discover hidden cafes and serene spots, perfect for reflecting on your journey and planning ahead.
9. Fátima – A Spiritual Sanctuary
Discovering the Holy City and Nearby Tomar
Along the Camino Portugués and just 30km/14 miles from Tomar, Fátima is a holy city in Portugal known for its religious significance. A visit here offers a reflective and serene experience, complementing the spiritual journey of the Camino. Explore the tranquil sanctuaries and vibrant cultural heritage that make Fátima a unique spiritual haven. Engage with local traditions and festivities, deepening your understanding of Portugal’s rich religious tapestry.
10. Viana do Castelo – A Medieval Epicentre
Castle Exploration and Cultural Immersion
A regular stop on the Camino Portugués route, Viana do Castelo presents a medieval epicentre with a history dating back to the 700s. A 15-minute bus ride brings you to this cultural hub, where you can explore ancient castles and soak in the rich heritage. Take the opportunity to taste the local cuisine, explore the historic centre of town and take the funicular to the Basílica de Santa Luzía for amazing views. Legend has it that the Romans were so impressed by Viana’s beauty when they reached the town in the first century BC that they thought they had reached paradise.
11. Oviedo: A Nature Lover’s Paradise
Starting Your Journey with Natural Wonders
The Camino Primitivo begins in Oviedo, a city that’s not just a starting point but a destination in itself. With natural hiking resorts and historical architecture, including its famous arches, it offers a unique blend of nature and history. Take a rest day from the Camino and wander through Oviedo’s charming streets, discovering a mix of contemporary life and medieval ambience. Indulge in local culinary delights and artisanal crafts, enriching your journey with authentic Asturian culture.
Your Camino journey is more than just the walk; it’s about the experiences, the places, and the moments of tranquillity. These rest day locations are not just stops on your route; they are destinations within themselves, each offering a unique story and a chance to deepen your Camino experience.