Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela
Concierge.com's insider take:
For centuries, religious pilgrims have walked from various points across the country to reach this city, in Spain's northwestern region of Galicia. It's said that the body of Saint James the Apostle is buried in the ornate cathedral. There are various routes one can take to Santiago de Compostela—and these days, hikers and other adventurers make the journey, too—but one of the oldest is the coastal Camino del Norte, or "northern way." This roughly 500-mile passage starts in the Basque border town of Irún, passes through San Sebastián and Bilbao, and hugs the dramatic Cantabrian coastline. The route varies at different points—sometimes it's a rural hiking trail through farmland, sometimes it's a gravel track overlooking the sea, and at other points it parallels paved roads—but following it is a unique way to see some of Spain's most beautiful country. Spanish Steps, based in Aspen, offers 13-day half-walk/half-guided-drive trips to Santiago along the Camino del Norte. The tours require about eight to ten miles of walking per day but also include plush accommodations and meals (877-787-9255; www.spanishsteps.com). For general information about the pilgrimage, its history, and its routes, check out the website of the Confraternity of Saint James, a non-denominational association of former and current pilgrims (www.csj.org.uk).