The Pilgrim's Road to Santiago by bike
Iglesia de Santa María de Melide
Doing the Pilgrim's Road to Santiago on bike is an exciting and unforgettable adventure. During the route, the cyclist will know ancient customs and welcoming people, will make new friends with which to share solidarity and feelings and will discover a unique nature.
Doing the Pilgrim's Road to Santiago means plunging into landscapes full of contrasts from plateaus to mountains, from fields to coasts, monumental sites, works of art in the way of cathedrals, bridges, roads and monasteries. But this experience goes beyond that. During this special trip throughout Spain, you will also share extraordinary experiences with pilgrims of all ages, coming from all over the world, in the hostels, on the track or on the road.
Choosing the route
It is essential to plan the route correctly before starting the trip. The first step is tracing out the route that leads to the Galician capital. There are several itineraries, although the French Pilgrim's Route, passing through the interior of the peninsula, is the most used by thousands of pilgrims every year on their way to Santiago. This network of pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela was declared World Heritage in 1993 by the UNESCO.
Planning the time
The route should be planned based on the rhythm, resistance and physical condition of each person or of the group. If you do not have much experience on long cycling trips, you should train before. But if you are in good physical condition, you can do stages of 80 to 140Km per day, although the ideal distance is 50Km a day. Keeping this rhythm, would mean doing the whole route in two weeks. If you do not wish to do the whole route, you can start from somewhere closer to Santiago. However, it is essential to do at least 200Km on bike to be an officially recognized pilgrim by a document called the Compostela, which you will receive upon arrival to the final destination and which proves you have satisfactorily fulfilled the pilgrimage route. During the trip, we recommend you alternate with some days of rest, to recover your energy and enjoy the most relevant sites of the route, there are plenty to see.
Preparing your luggage
Once the route has been chosen, the next step is packing your luggage. You should never pack too much, but we recommend you include spare parts for your bike (inner tubes, a tire, patches, wrenches, air pumps, a spray to remove grease, cloths); water; glasses; petroleum jelly to prevent blisters; a lock; a torch; appropriate clothes, including raincoat and gloves. And always wear a helmet and a reflecting waistcoat, specially when on the road. Do not forget a basic first aid kit, a sleeping bag, a washbag, sun protection, personal identification papers and a guide.
Once the bike is packed, the route is planned and you are greatly excited, all there is left to do is to start out. Any self-respecting pilgrim should have a credential to validate in the different hostels and parish churches, proving you have fulfilled the Pilgrim's Route. You can get this document at the Association of Friends of the Road to Santiago found throughout Spain and abroad, in the Royal Collegiate Church of Roncesvalles and in the towns the pilgrim's road goes through. If you do not have the document at the start of your trip, ask at the tourist office of the town or village where you are. Please remember that, during the route, food and drink are crucial. It is important to carry some food in case of emergency (figs, nuts and dried fruit or chocolate); always have something to drink to avoid dehydration and never strain yourself: rest whenever necessary.
Enjoy the adventure
A new way of knowing Spain comes in motion. The route, perfectly indicated to avoid mistakes and constantly guide cyclists, offers villages, people, landscapes, festivities, gastronomy and countless artistic elements. It is a route full of contrasts, with exceptional nature reserves and natural treasures, including the Pyrenees; the banks of the Ebro river and its fertile market gardens; the great Castilian planes, with wheat fields covering the horizon; the ascent to the shrine Cruz de Ferro, which is 1,500m above sea level; and the pastures and green fields of Galicia and Asturias. And throughout the route, mountains lined by tracks. Each twist and turn of the pilgrimage route hides a surprise, either landscape or monument.
Doing the Pilgrim's Road to Santiago by bike is, therefore, a splendid chance to live a unique adventure through an itinerary that has fascinated millions of pilgrims for centuries. All in all, it is a different trip by which you can discover a good deal of Spain and will get to know yourself much better.