Camino update travel 2: Pamplona to Burgos

This was posted originally a year ago on travelalphabetabc.wordpress.com. 

When I reached Burgos yesterday around 3pm I was so pleased as it signalled my 2nd rest day which is much needed after so many days of walking. So my last post ended in Pamplona as I was finishing my 1st rest day after 3 hard days of walking from St Jean pied de port. Let’s pick up from there.

I had really struggled from Zubiri to Pamplona as my right heel was red raw and my feet were screaming out due to the paved walking. So when I started from Pamplona to Puente la Reina I didn’t know how far I would get. However the thought of climbing up to Alto del Perdon pulled me and somehow I found the energy and perseverance to keep walking. It is easy to get lost leaving cities however as I love seeing the different style of Camino signs I think I find them ok but you do have to remain vigilant.

The climb to Alto del Perdon is steep and hard especially when muddy and raining. Arriving at the top is worth all the hard work I believe especially as you get to pose with the pilgrim statues and think of those who have travelled these routes before you.

The descent on rocks and small stones is not ideal but you are rewarded with delightful little villages and beautiful views. I was so tired and cold after being battered by rain throughout the walk that on arriving at Puente la Reina all I could do was shower to get warm again and lie down before dinner. I would have loved to have explored a little as it looked so interesting on the walk in. My advice would be to try to keep some energy stored up if like me you are interested in seeing the places of interest in the villages and towns you will pass through or stay in.

On leaving Puente la Reina pilgrims cross a bridge built by the queen to protect the medieval pilgrims from being ripped off trying to cross the river. Don’t be fooled by any guidebooks which lead you to believe that leaving Puente la Reina is flat as you’ll get an awful surprise. I’ve learnt not to take any notice when it looks like the walk is flat as there is always a steep climb to shock you. A lot of these paths have since been closed as they were deemed unsafe due to the flooding and when I walked them they were certainly difficult to navigate and to choose a path which wouldn’t result in a fall or injury. If you are walking in the next weeks then it is worth checking to make sure routes from your starting point are open otherwise you may need to change your starting point.

There was a lovely part of the Camino where volunteers have tried to make it very welcoming and to break up the monotony of walking. There is a bell to ring for good vibrations and many sayings along the way.

Each pilgrim seems to choose different places to stay along the route but I headed to Estella which in the rain was a very long walk and then on arrival you have to navigate the streets to find your accommodation.

The next place of interest for many along the way is the Irache monastery which offers free red wine and water to drink from a fountain. Worth a stop even if just to watch others fill up their water carriers with wine or gulp it down. It states ‘Pilgrims if you wish to arrive at Santiago full of strength and vitality, have a drink of this great wine and make a toast to happiness’. Who can resist that one?

Further on Los Arcos has Iglesia de Santa Maria, a church worth visiting either in the day or for the Pilgrim’s mass at 8pm. When the natural light comes through it shows off the altar and the tableaux around the church are beautiful too.

Viana definitely surprised me as I hadn’t expected it to be so beautiful and is also bigger than I thought. Well worth an overnight stop rather than rushing through and then it is a short walk to Logrono the next day. A few pilgrims were using Logrono as their rest point whilst others didn’t want to stop off at a city. I found it a worthwhile place to stay over as you can get there early in the morning after a short walk of 7 miles or so. This gives you time to buy supplies if needed or visit the church which you will pass by in your way out of the city following the Camino route.

After Logrono there is another short walk to Navarette where some pilgrims choose to stay if they have skipped Logrono altogether. On leaving Logrono you walk through the rioja vineyards and the scenery is beautiful along the way. At Navarette a pilgrim’s mass is offered and when I was there the church was full which created a lovely atmosphere.

The walk into Nareja is 11 miles without much shade along the way. The bus station seemed to be used mostly by pilgrims skipping on to Burgos either due to injury or wanting to get back on schedule as the weather had made it more difficult to walk longer distances on some days.

Santo Domingo de la Calzada is definitely worth a visit even if it is just to pass by the cathedral and see the live chickens. The pilgrim story behind the reasoning of having these chickens is worth a read.

Onto Belforado, a walk of 14 miles through different scenes, various terrains and inclines. This seems longer as you pass through villages which are generally closed at the time you walk and you don’t see many people or gave opportunities for refreshments. I have been surprised by how many villages seem empty with lots of properties for sale.

After this, I stayed in San Juan d’Ortega but again others chose different places to stay which brought them closer to Burgos. Some didn’t want to stay in a busy and noisy city after having experienced such calm and peaceful surroundings on the Camino. They chose to stay just before Burgos and then walk through the next day on the way to their next destination.

In my opinion, Burgos is worth an overnight and also offers the perfect place for a rest day. Taking time to visit the cathedral with audio guide (€4.50 for pilgrims with credencial) and the museums provides a cultural break from the walking. There are also shops to fill up on supplies if needed.

Tomorrow I enter the Meseta stage of the Camino and my next rest day is in Leon after another 9 or 10 days of walking.

I’ve provided a shortened version of the stages here but there is so much more to see and experience. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have but in the meantime Buen Camino!

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