Monday, 15 December 2008

Camino de Santiago in Aragón. New Guided Holiday

One week walking, culture & nature
Stunning High Pyrenees and Foothills scenery

Wonderful accommodation at Casa Sarasa
for details of accommodation see:

For details of our company see:

For nearly 1000 years The Camino de Santiago has been Europe´s most important pilgrimage route in Europe. The Via Tolosana crosses the Pyrenees at the Somport pass, and descends through Aragón to link up with the main route at Puente la Reina in Navarra.

This unusual walk takes in the lesser known routes of the Camino Aragonés, one of the most authentic pilgrimage routes to Santiago. Discover the spectacular mountain scenery of the high Pyrenees and Foothills, the marvellous Romanesque cathedral at Jaca and the mysterious monastery of San Juan de la Peña, legendary resting place for the Holy Grail.The holiday is based at a single location, the Casa Sarasa in Berdún, on the very Camino itself. The idea is to explore the highlights of the Aragonese route, with deviations off the beaten track to hidden sights that the ordinary pilgrim can never visit. We use ancient footpaths, from a Roman road onwards to discover the most original, exciting and unknown parts of Northern Spain.

We provide transport to and from the day’s walk, the services of an experienced guide, and all meals. Walks are 15 to 20 kms a day, and curiously, mostly downhill!

B=Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner

Day 1 Casa Sarasa, Berdún D
Arrival. Transfer from Pau/Zaragoza/Bilbao to Casa Sarasa in Berdún. Casa Sarasa set at the foot of the village of Berdún is a charming and comfortable casa rural with very nice en-suite rooms each looking out onto the garden and fields. Casa Sarasa makes a very comfortable and relaxing base for the week. Excellent breakfasts are provided and dinner is in the village in a restaurant providing good aragonese food. We provide superlative picnics using local ingredients (grown by ourselves). No dry sandwiches here!

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.

Highlights: 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 1920´s to serve the rail tunnel to France. An amazing Belle Epoque building in alpine scenery!
Romanesque pilgrim bridges over the beautiful Rio Aragón.
San Adrián Church. Hidden in a beautiful valley this Lombard/Romanesque building founded in the late 900´s 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).

Day 3 Castiello to Jaca BLD

The Camino follows the drovers road (cabañera) 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.
After having a good look around Jaca we make an optional walk to Peña Oroel – the mountain to the south which dominates Jaca and has been a place of magic and worship since before the Romans came to Spain.

A pretty and easy 7.5 km walk approaching Jaca along the drovers/pilgrim road.
Jaca Cathedral The first cathedral built in Spain. Founded in 1058 by Sancho, king of Aragón and Navarre. This pilgrim church was built under the influence of the Benedictine monastery of Cluny in France. The church has many wonderful sculptures (capitals and timpana) made by the Maestro de Jaca between 1065 and 1080. In the cloister, there is a superb museum with Romanesque frescoes and sculptures from hermitages and churches in the Jaca area.

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. Peña Oroel has always been a sacred spot and we visit the cave/hermitage of the Virgen de la Cueva where the local people of the area venerate the Virgin Mary with a Romeria (pilgrimage) every May as they have done for over 1000 years and possibly well before when the cave was most likely a place of pagan worship.

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. The views of the Pyrenees are magnificent on this walk.

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. San Juan de la Peña was founded and sponsored by the kings of Aragón and many of them are buried here in the Royal Mausoleum. The monastery was one of the richest in Aragón with and was a centre for painting and the arts during the middle ages.

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.

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). At 25 km this is the longest walk of the week with a 425 metre ascent.

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 at 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. 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.

The Hermitage of La Virgen de La Peña. Perched on a cliff edge 650 metres above the Escá Valley, this chapel is still used by the Cofradia (brotherhood) de La Virgen. The local villages have long disputed the ownership of the Ermita and there are stories from the middle ages of fights and killings over ownership. These places were very important!

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. On the last part of the walk it is easy to imagine that you are back in the middle ages as there is nothing to suggest the 21st Century. 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 Biarritz airport for those who require.

DATES 2009

Sat 18 April – Sat 25 April
Sun 21 June – Sun 28 June
Sun 13 Sept – Sun 20 sept
Sat 17 Oct – Sat 24 Oct

PRICES£920 Land Based only

£70 Single Supplement
Max 2 singles Min group size 4 people

Contact us for prices if you would like to do this holiday with a group of friends

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