A journey in the Footsteps of Saint Teresa of Ávila
We suggest a route including 17 cities to discover the figure of Saint Teresa of Ávila, a 16th century female icon. She was a leading literary figure and mystic who dedicated her life to reforming the Christian Order of the Carmelite nuns.
The route includes the convents founded by her, known as "The Footsteps of Saint Teresa". We have divided it into two different routes lasting about a week each, so it's easier for you to get organised. We start off in the city of Madrid, which has excellent international connections, and a fantastic railway and road network that links it to the rest of Spain.
Northern Route: Castile-León
- 1 DAY 1 - SEGOVIA
- 2 DAY 2 - SORIA & BURGOS
- 3 DAY 3 - PALENCIA & VALLADOLID
- 4 DAY 4 - VALLADOLID & MEDINA DEL CAMPO
- 5 DAY 5 - SALAMANCA
- 6 DAY 6 - ALBA DE TORMES & ÁVILA
- 7 DAY 7 - ÁVILA
Day 1 - Segovia
How to get there: It is less than an hour from Madrid by car, and less than 30 minutes by train.
The city and Saint Teresa
In this World Heritage City, known for its Roman aqueduct, Saint Teresa founded her ninth convent in 1574 – the Convent of the Discalced Carmelites. The opening mass was led by Saint John of the Cross, whose remains can be found today in the convent's church. Nearby, as well as visiting the Nuestra Señora de la Fuencisla Shrine and the Church of La Vera Cruz, you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Alcázar fortress from the Eresma River. Here your can see a way of discovering the city in one day .
Day 2 - Soria & Burgos
How to get there: We recommend going by car. It takes two hours from Segovia to Soria, and then just under two hours from Soria to Burgos. Saint Teresa arrived in Soria in 1581 and founded the Convent of El Carmen. One outstanding feature is the open chapel located on one side of the church. Other important places to visit are the Monastery of San Juan de Duero and the Shrine of San Saturio.
Burgos, the last convent
Saint Teresa arrived here in 1581 to establish her last convent: the Convent of San José and Santa Ana. Here you can see several of Saint Teresa's relics, like espadrilles, a veil and a letter that she wrote. You can also visit the Church of San Ginés, where Saint Teresa would go to mass. Other places where we can follow Saint Teresa's footsteps are the Hospital of La Concepción, and the Church of San Cosme and San Damián, where she stayed.
Day 3 - Palencia & Valladolid
How to get there: You can get to Palencia by train, car or bus in about an hour. From Palencia it takes just over half an hour to get to Valladolid, using the same means of transport. Saint Teresa visited Palencia several times. A convent was temporarily set up on the current Calle Colón in 1580. It was finally moved to the Calle de San Bernardo, next to the Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Calle. In order to discover the city, we recommend walking along the Carrión River. Today Saint Teresa is a "neighbour of honour" of Valladolid and the neighbourhood where the convent is situated is called "Rondilla de Santa Teresa". You can spend an afternoon and part of the next day following in her footsteps.
Day 4 - Valladolid & Medina del Campo
How to get there: It takes about 25 minutes by train and about 45 minutes by car to travel between both these cities. In Valladolid you can find the fourth convent founded by Saint Teresa – a convent with exceptional works of art in the cloister and the choirs. In what used to be her cell you can also see the original handwritten text of her main literary work, "The Way of Perfection", and many of her letters. Saint Teresa in Medina del Campo The Convent of San José was the second one that Saint Teresa of Ávila established (1567), but there are many other places that are linked to her. For example, the Carmelite community stayed in one of the houses in Plaza Mayor square for some time. The city was also influenced by Saint John of the Cross.
DAY 5 - Salamanca
How to get there: The best way to get there is by car. It takes just under an hour to get to Salamanca from Medina del Campo. Salamanca is a World Heritage City and has many places that have to be visited, like the cathedrals. Here your can find all you can see in this city in one day.
Following Saint Teresa
“I live without living in myself, / and in such a way I hope / I die because I do not die”… Thus begins one of the best-known poems by Saint Teresa for which she found inspiration in Salamanca. Saint Teresa's presence in Salamanca can be seen from Plaza Mayor square to the University. In the square you can see a medallion dedicated to the saint, and she is Doctor Honoris Causa of Salamanca University. In the New Cathedral there is a chapel in her honour, and she used to go to the Convent of San Esteban to ask the Dominican friars for advice. Saint Teresa of Ávila wrote a kind chronological diary of her travels: "The Book of Her Foundations". She was commissioned to write this book by the Jesuit community at the Pontifical University of Salamanca.
DAY 6 - Alba de Tormes & Ávila
How to get there: It takes about half an hour to get to Alba de Tormes from Salamanca. The journey to Ávila takes about an hour. Saint Teresa of Ávila died in 1582 in Alba de Tormes. You can visit her tomb and see two of her most important relics: her heart and her left arm. They can be found in the Convent of La Anunciación, which she founded in 1571. It is about 80 kilometres from Ávila, which is the city where she was born. If you take a short walk through the city you can see how important it was in her life. She is also present in the town's gastronomy, as there are popular sweets called "yemas de Santa Teresa".
DAY 7 - Ávila
The northern route of the Footsteps of Saint Teresa finishes in Ávila, which has good transport links to Madrid by road and train, and takes just an hour and a half. In this city you visit her birthplace, which is now the site of a church and convent named after her. The crypt houses the Museum of Saint Teresa.
Places linked to the saint
She was baptised in the Church of San Juan Bautista, in a baptismal font that can still be found there. When she was 16 she joined the Convent of Nuestra Señora de Gracia. She spent about 30 years in the Convent of la Encarnación, where she prepared the reform of the Carmelite community and the monasteries that she would found in the future. She founded the first one in Ávila – the Convent of San José, which is a clear example of how she thought a convent should be: simple and austere. The Royal Monastery of Santo Tomás is a must. The main altarpiece depicts the saint's vision in which Mary and Joseph clothed her in a blue cloak and a necklace. You can also see the place where the saint used to go to confession. Outside you can find the monument of the Four Posts. Saint Teresa fled there to suffer martyrdom in the land of the Moors. It is also a viewpoint that affords stunning views.
Tips and interesting facts
- The "Footsteps of Saint Teresa" route has its own official website, where you can find more information.
- Bear in mind that many of the monasteries and convents are cloistered and the places to visit may be limited.
- There is a Pilgrim's Passport that you can get if you cover the route. You only have to visit a minimum of four cities in at least two Autonomous Regions (choose from Andalusia, Murcia, Castile-La Mancha, Madrid and Castile-León), and finish your route in Avila, where you can collect your distinction at the Pilgrim's Office (Visitor Reception Centre). You can download the passport here.
- This route crosses Castile-León. In order to get the passport we recommend including Toledo in your trip. It is less than two hours from Ávila and you can get there from Madrid in about 30 minutes (by train) or an hour (by car).
- There is a wide range of tourism companies and travel agencies that organise tours of the "Footsteps of Saint Teresa" cities.
How to get there and get around
You can travel by car and cover short distances. For more information, check the sections on " Driving in Spain " and " Transport ". Madrid Airport, where the route starts, has air connections with large cities all over the world. Valladolid and Salamanca have airports with flights to other Spanish destinations at different times of the year. If you decide to travel by train, there is an interesting option for foreigners: the Renfe Spain Pass, a pass with 4 to 12 train journeys on high-speed and mid-distance trains. It includes free short-distance connections.