Monday, November 24, 2008

- Day by day ITINERARY

B=Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner

DAY 1 D Casa Sarasa, Berdún

Arrival. Transfer from Pau/Zaragoza/Bilbao/Biarritz to Casa Sarasa in Berdún.

Set at the foot of the village of Berdún, Casa Sarasa is a charming and comfortable casa rural with very nice en-suite rooms each looking out onto the garden and fields. Kites, Marsh Harriers, Short Toed and Booted Eagles are often seen hovering overhead, whilst the Nightingales liven up the spring nights. Casa Sarasa makes a very comfortable and relaxing base for the week. Excellent breakfasts, dinner and picnic lunches are provided.

DAY 2 Somport to Villanua BLD

Following the Camino de Santiago from the French - Spanish border at Somport (1640 m) to the village of Villanua (953 m) the walk follows the Rio Aragón on a path through alpine pasture, woods and fields. After the walk we make a trip to see the ancient church of San Adrian de Sasabe.

At the high pass we are in Lammergeier territory, while Citril Finch and Golden Eagles are often seen.
The Hospital de Santa Cristina – one of the most famous pilgrim hostels of the middle ages is now a ruin (being excavated) in the high pastures just below the Somport pass.
Canfranc International Railway Station built in the 1920s to serve the rail tunnel to France. An amazing Belle Epoque building in alpine scenery - all the more spectacular in full autumn colours!
Romanesque pilgrim bridges over the beautiful Rio Aragón.
San Adrián Church hidden in a beautiful valley this Lombard/Romanesque building founded in the late 900s was once an important monastery church and was the base of the earliest aragonese bishopric at the start of the Reconquista (reconquest of Spain from the Moors).
Side trip to Sta María de Iguacel/San Adrian de Sasabe.

DAY 3 Castiello to Jaca BLD

The Camino follows the drovers' road (cabañera) along the river banks from Castiello on a short and picturesque walk (7.5 km) to Jaca, the first large town medieval pilgrims would have come to when walking into Spain. A bustling provincial town, Jaca has a magnificent Romanesque cathedral and the Ciudadela fortress started by Philip the second in 1595 and built with an impregnable star shaped design. The spectacular Cathedral Museum has just reopened after 8 years of restoration, and houses the most important collection of Romanesque murals in Spain
After having a good look around Jaca we make an optional walk to the summit of Peña Oroel (1775m) – the mountain to the south which dominates Jaca. Fantastic views of the Pyrenees!

A pretty and easy 7.5 km walk approaching Jaca along the drovers/pilgrim road. We walk along the river banks in the woods and can expect to see dippers and wagtails on the water's edge, while Golden Oriole is amongst the poplar trees.

Jaca Cathedral The first cathedral built in Spain.

Peña Oroel the sacred mountain. This is a beautiful walk to the top of the mountain dominating Jaca to the South. There are magnificent 360° views over the surrounding mountains and valleys and the walk to the top takes us through superb silver fir and beech forest. Golden Eagles, Griffon Vultures, Red-Billed and Alpine Chough accompany us on the summit, whilst in the woods Nuthatch, Tree creeper and Greater Spotted woodpeckers are often found.

DAY 4 The Monastery of San Juan de La Peña BLD

A fascinating walk on a rarely trodden path that once would have been taken by medieval pilgrims as a detour from the main Camino path to see the holy relics (including the Holy Grail) at the monastery of San Juan de La Peña. Oak forest, views of Pyrenees, Atarés village, traditional stone roofs.

A walk in a magical landscape, unchanged since the middle ages, with ancient oak forest, honey coloured cliffs where vultures nest and, at the top of the Peña (hill/mountain), views for miles north and south.
The Monastery of San Juan de La Peña. The monks of San Juan knew how to pick a good spot for their monastery. The earlier monastery founded in the early 1000´s nestles under an overhang in the cliffs by a holy well and has an open air cloister with fantastic Romanesque, sculpted capitals. The newer Baroque monastery set in meadows at the top of La Peña was built after a disastrous fire destroyed most of the first monastery. The woods are a favourite spot for finding Black Woodpecker.

DAY 5 The Camino de Santiago down the Hecho Valley BLD

Todays´ walk is along another branch of the Camino de Santiago which comes into Spain over the Col de Pau and along the Roman road down the Hecho Valley – one of the most beautiful valleys in the Pyrenees.

The walk in beautiful alpine scenery follows the course of the Roman road built by Caesar Agustus 2000 years ago.
Neolithic and early Bronze age dolmens and stone circles dated at 4 - 5000 years old are testimony to the first inhabitants of the valley who would have spent the summers here with their flocks.
Alpine flowers and birds of prey. The Hecho Valley is unrivalled for its huge variety of flora and fauna. We will see many birds of prey soaring above us, including the magnificent Lammergeier the ´Condor of the Pyrenees´, the rarest of the vulture family with an 8 feet wingspan. The alpine meadows are studded with many alpine flowers, orchids especially, in early summer.
The Boca del Infierno gorge is really impressive with limestone pinnacles towering above the best preserved part of the Roman Road.
We end the walk at the lovely village of Siresa where we visit the Monastery church of San Pedro de Siresa. The monastery was founded by Charlemagne in the late 800´s when the valley was a Frankish foothold in a country mostly controlled by the Moors. The church itself dates from the 1100´s and is a beautiful Romanesque constuction with some exceptional and very rare medieval sculptures.
La Mina – Hecho. Siresa. Dolmens

DAY 6 On the Camino from Hecho to Biniés past the Hermitage of the Eleven Thousand Virgins BLD

Todays walk from Hecho to Biniés follows the Hecho branch of the Camino up and over the Sierra de Los Dos Rios to descend to Biniés in the Veral/Ansó Valley. The walk is through open mixed, mountain woodland and fields and descends on a dramatic path above the amazing Biniés Gorge (Foz de Biniés).

A fascinating route taking you back in time. These hills are nowadays rarely visited but until recently were used as winter farms by the people of Hecho. We´ll see the old farms and fields and the ruins of a Romanesque monastery called the Hermitage of the Eleven Thousand Virgins!
Fabulous views from the Sierra de Los Dos Rios and down into the Biniés Gorge.
Birds and wildlife are fascinating in this virtually deserted corner of the Pyrenees. We often see wild boar, many birds of prey soaring above us and we´ll look down on the Griffon Vultures in their nests in the Biniés Gorge.
The Biniés Gorge is a majestic landscape of high cliffs carved out by the River Veral. At the end of the gorge lies the village of the same name with its traditional houses and castle dominating the entrance to the valley.

DAY 7 The Camino from La Virgen de La Peña to Escó BLD

The final walk of the trip starts with a visit to the Ermita de La Virgen de La Peña – a chapel dramatically perched on a cliff edge 600m above the Escá Valley and follows a dramatic limestone gorge out of the High Pyrenees and into the gentler terrain of the Canal de Berdún – for milenia the main east-west route for Celts, Romans, Moors and, of course, for pilgrims on their way to Santiago. The last part of the walk follows ancient walled pathways through abandoned fields to the fascinating abandoned village of Escó. Nearby on the shores of the Yesa reservoir there are opportunities for seing migrating Osprey, Black Kites fishing and resident and migrating waders. We continue by car to the Leyre monastery to hear Gregorian chants sung by the monks in the beautiful Romanesque monastery church. A magical finale to the week.

We walk the Sigües Gorge along the old path a few hundred metres above the river. There are many vulture nests, huge stands of box trees, high cliffs and gorgeous vistas over the valley.
Perhaps the most authentic, untouched part of the Camino. Ancient walled tracks through farmland take us on a gentle route to the abandoned village of Escó which is a mysterious and fascinating relic of preindustral Spain.
Gregorian Chants at The Leyre Monastery. Leyre is one of the most important monasteries of Northern Spain and has a Romanesque church with a stunning doorway and a unique Crypt dating from the 9th Century. Each evening the monks practice Gregorian chants/plainsong in the church and it is a moving experience to hear sacred music which has been sung here since the Camino de Santiago was first trodden by pilgrims in the 11th Century.

DAY 8 B Transfer to Pau/Zaragoza/Bilbao/ Biarritz airport

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