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Cycling pilgrimages in Spain - Camino Francés and Camino Finisterre

Tobias

Cycling pilgrimages in Spain - Camino Francés and Camino Finisterre

Bike Touring Collection by Tobias

11-23

days

3-6 h

/ day

589 mi

42,150 ft

42,425 ft

When people talk about the Camino de Santiago, they often mean the Camino Francés. Yet there are countless other Camino de Santiago routes, all of which have the tomb of the Apostle James in Santiago de Compostela as their destination. However, the Camino Francés is the most popular – around two-thirds of all pilgrims choose this route. But can you also cycle the route?

Of course you can! And it is even officially recognised as a pilgrimage. Compared to pilgrims who travel on foot, you only have to have 100 kilometers (62 miles) more on your speedometer when you arrive to receive your pilgrimage certificate. The route is 200 kilometres (124 miles) in total.

In times gone by, it was not uncommon to make the pilgrimage on horseback rather than on foot. And even today, you still occasionally meet riders on the Way of St. James. In the meantime, however, the horse has been replaced by the steel steed in modern times, something that is now evident in Santiago.

In place, the path’s condition might cause the average touring cyclist a few difficulties. This is why the EuroVelo 3, which runs through Europe as a pilgrimage route, has set itself the task of creating an acceptable and easily navigable alternative route to the Way of St. James. To a large extent, the EuroVelo 3 follows the Camino Francés at every turn but deviates from it when it gets too bumpy. I went one step further in this Collection and tried to find the perfect middle ground between the two routes. It certainly isn’t meant for a road bike, but a touring bike should be suitable and a gravel bike is even better.

Scenically, the route includes one highlight after another. Spain is much more than Mediterranean beaches and tomato plantations. You will be amazed at the lofty height of the Spanish interior as you cross many mountain passes that tower above 1,000 metres (3,280 feet). You ride through endless stretches of land where the blue sky contrasts with golden fields, green hills that you wouldn't necessarily expect to find in Spain and dense eucalyptus forests that make you feel like you’ve strayed into Australia. In the cities, you can explore cultural treasures, artfully-built cathedrals and delicious tapas on almost every street corner.

Whatever the motivation for your pilgrimage – be it religious, spiritual or educative, the longing for a sporting challenge, or the need to distance yourself from everyday life and take some time for yourself – you will have an unforgettable adventure. As the kilometre markers show ever decreasing numbers and the last mountain pass is conquered, you catch sight of the Cathedral of Santiago and, a little later, Cape Finisterre. This will be a journey with many stories to tell for years to come.

The Way of St. James is waymarked with a yellow scallop shell on a blue background. When the lines join together, you’ve reached your destination. However, in the region of Galicia, people seem to think that the lines make sense the other way round. Be careful not to suddenly turn back before you’ve even reached Santiago. Fortunately, there are also yellow arrows that are the second waymarker and a little clearer. Of course, you still have komoot in your pocket to help you out, which you will also need on the alternative routes.

I have divided up the 857 kilometres (532 miles) to Santiago into 19 stages so that you can comfortably ride each leg in about half a day. This gives you enough time to get to know other pilgrims, the country and its people. If the stages are considerably longer, then I give you information about accommodation halfway along the route in the stage description. The 19 stages are followed by two additional routes: a 90-kilometre (56 mile) stretch from Santiago to Cape Finisterre, a grateful extension of the Way of Saint James. Some pilgrims choose this route to get away from the crowds in Santiago and have some time to themselves. If you are interested in the complete EuroVelo 3 pilgrimage route, you can find all the other Tours in this Collection: komoot.de/collection/1077286

Since the Camino Francés is one of the most touristy of all the pilgrimage routes, you will find more accommodation options than there are scallops in the sea. The best ‘pilgrimage feeling’ is, of course, in the Albergues – the pilgrimage hostels. They are inexpensive and sometimes you can even get a bed for a small donation. However, the hostels are often overcrowded, which makes the Camino a race for the (still) empty beds for many pilgrims. As you can carry a bit more luggage on your bike, I would suggest camping as a relaxed alternative to the hostels. If you follow the stages in this Collection, you always find a campsite or another camping option near the end. Sometimes you can pitch your tent in the garden of a hostel on request. This allows you to enjoy the company of fellow pilgrims, exchanging ideas and sharing stories, but spend the night undisturbed in your tent.

Before setting off, you can pick up a pilgrim’s passport from a hostel in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. You can get your passport stamped at any accommodation, church, or monastery you visit along the route. When you arrive in Santiago, you can hand in your passport at the pilgrim’s office as proof that you followed the route. In return, you receive a Compostela pilgrimage certificate.

I wish you a "Buen Camino!

On The Map

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Camino Francés & Camino Finisterre (Variante)

580 mi

41,625 ft

41,875 ft

Last updated: May 25, 2022

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Etappe 1: Von Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port nach Auritz – Camino Francés

    Difficult
    03:12
    19.4 mi
    6.1 mph
    4,350 ft
    2,100 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - this is where the Camino Francés begins. The small village, which apparently consists almost exclusively of pilgrims' hostels, is one of the most famous entry points on the Way of St. James. For many, their pilgrimage begins right here.

    

    You too start here on the Camino Franc

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  • Intermediate
    02:28
    22.8 mi
    9.2 mph
    1,000 ft
    2,425 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Today, a few more meters of altitude await you at the beginning of the stage, then it goes comfortably downhill into the Arga Ibaia valley. After crossing the Pyrenees yesterday, you can look forward to a relaxed ride. First you follow the N-135 until you have reached the first hill and then turn right

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  • Difficult
    04:04
    35.8 mi
    8.8 mph
    2,800 ft
    2,800 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Coming from the suburbs you drive into the city center of Pamplona, circle the star-shaped citadel and arrive in the southwest to Cizur Menor, a small town outside of the big city, where there used to be a Johanniter monastery. Shortly afterwards, you branch off from the Camino de Santiago, which leads

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  • Difficult
    03:38
    30.6 mi
    8.4 mph
    2,000 ft
    2,175 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Today's route takes you from Estella-Lizarra via los Arcos and Torres del Río to Logroño. Shortly before you reach the city you cross the border of the Autonomous Community of Navarre to La Rioja - red wine lovers will get their money's worth here, because in most restaurants even the cheap house wine

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  • Difficult
    04:59
    45.3 mi
    9.1 mph
    3,150 ft
    2,275 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    From Logroño you first drive past the Pantano de La Grajera to Navarette. The pretty village was built around a small cone hill and therefore stands out from the landscape from a distance. For a short distance the way runs along the motorway. On a fence that separates it from the busy road, pilgrims

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  • Intermediate
    02:06
    17.1 mi
    8.2 mph
    1,225 ft
    775 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Today's stage is less than 30 kilometers a day and only a few meters in altitude a lot more relaxed than yesterday. Time to breathe, regenerate and enjoy the country and its people. Halfway through the Redecilla del Camino you reach the border with the autonomous community of Castile and León. So it

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  • Difficult
    04:05
    29.8 mi
    7.3 mph
    1,800 ft
    1,425 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    Shortly after Belorado you cross the valley of the Río Tirón, then it goes increasingly uphill. At first the ascent is quite gentle, then the Río Oca marks the last almost flat point before you can expect inclines of ten percent over the next two and a half kilometers.

    

    The ground during the ascent consists

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  • Difficult
    03:14
    24.1 mi
    7.5 mph
    1,125 ft
    1,125 ft
    Expert bike ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    In addition to a visit to the cathedral, it is also worth making a detour to the castle in Burgos, from which you can enjoy an amazing view over the city. Then it goes to the west out of the city.

    

    In the meantime, the landscape has also changed increasingly. You are in the heart of the Castilian plateau

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  • Intermediate
    04:00
    32.9 mi
    8.2 mph
    1,125 ft
    1,250 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    From Hontanas we continue through the Iberian Meseta to Carrión de los Condes. Shortly after Castrojeriz you have the choice. Either you follow the tour over the Alto de Mostelares, a mountain that seems to stand half lost in the landscape, or you drive around it in the north via Castrillo Mota de Jud

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  • Intermediate
    03:19
    25.1 mi
    7.6 mph
    700 ft
    800 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The landscape still hardly changes noticeably, but this is exactly what makes this wasteland so attractive. There is also a lot to discover: artistically designed irrigation canals, beautiful dry thistles along the way and small storage cellars, the entrances of which peek out from the hills as if you

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  • Intermediate
    03:59
    30.8 mi
    7.7 mph
    800 ft
    500 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    From Sahagún, the Camino takes you today via Reliegos to the gates of León. Enjoy the flat landscape of the Castilian plateau again before it slowly but surely gets a little more mountainous again in the next few days.

    

    In Reliegos, a stop at the unique Bar Elvis is definitely worthwhile. Here every pilgrim

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  • Intermediate
    02:56
    25.5 mi
    8.7 mph
    700 ft
    950 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    After you have made a little round through the old town of León to the cathedral, you drive a short distance in the west of the city on Via de la Plata until you have left the busy streets behind and in the south-west again on EuroVelo 3 turn in.

    

    The journey continues over Villar de Mazarife and seemingly

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  • Difficult
    03:05
    23.2 mi
    7.5 mph
    1,650 ft
    575 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    It is not far from Hospital del Órbigo and you will reach Astorga. Here you can take a long break, look at the city with its impressive architecture or just take a breather and recharge your batteries, because from then on it slowly but surely goes uphill again and you get closer to the border with Galicia

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  • Difficult
    04:43
    44.4 mi
    9.4 mph
    2,925 ft
    4,775 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The day begins with an ascent, but after seven kilometers the roughest is over. You are at almost 1,500 meters and therefore significantly higher than in the Pyrenees. A large iron cross marks the highest point of the Camino Francés here. Incidentally, over the decades this will get higher and higher

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  • Difficult
    02:29
    16.3 mi
    6.6 mph
    3,225 ft
    800 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    After a ten-kilometer warm-up phase through the valley of the Río Valcarce, today you will embark on the so-called Camino Duro - the hard way. It will take you high up once more, to the mountain pass that separates the Galician from the Castilian plateau. Roughly you stick to the pilgrimage route, but

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  • Difficult
    02:26
    25.1 mi
    10.3 mph
    1,800 ft
    4,725 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Today you can expect a refreshing descent to Sarria. In places it gets a little flatter, which takes the momentum out of the wheels, but the tough climbs of the last few days are now done. If you prefer to save yourself the little extra hump at the beginning of the route, you can initially just make

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  • Difficult
    03:17
    27.9 mi
    8.5 mph
    2,975 ft
    2,350 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Although you have already made the Camino Duro behind you, the area is still criss-crossed by many small hills, which gives the route profile a lot of altitude. Even switching to the main road is of little use and would only mean giving up the wonderful landscape.

    

    With the landscape, the language has

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  • Difficult
    02:48
    25.9 mi
    9.3 mph
    1,825 ft
    2,625 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The local landscape has a certain positive aura, that cannot be denied. Over gentle hills, on rural roads through small hamlets, cozy houses made of dry stone walls and the Galician pantries traditionally built on stilts come into the picture. Eucalyptus groves and mixed forests alternate with lush green

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  • Difficult
    03:25
    30.9 mi
    9.0 mph
    2,450 ft
    2,875 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Today the last stage on the Camino de Santiago welcomes you at dawn - a venerable moment. During the last few days you have certainly not missed how the kilometers on the way markers are getting smaller and smaller. 49.2 is on your very personal milestone today when you get on your bike and start to

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  • Difficult
    02:40
    20.8 mi
    7.8 mph
    2,175 ft
    1,850 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    For some pilgrims, the Way of St. James does not end in Santiago de Compostela - be it because they still have time before their return flight, or because they cannot find the peace they want in the hustle and bustle of Santiago at the end of their pilgrimage. The Camino Finisterre, which strictly speaking

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    21
  • Distance
    589 mi
  • Duration
    71:12 h
  • Elevation
    42,150 ft42,425 ft

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