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Eyes too short on the Camino del Norte

Cliffs, deep blue sea and the snowy peaks of the Picos de Europa


I was recently on the Camino del Norte for three days. I had been looking forward to it, this pilgrimage had been on my wish list for a while after the camino Frances last year and a piece of camino Portugues this year.

In 3 days I walked from Pendueles to Ribadesella, along the Cantabrian coastline. The cliffs and deep blue sea stand out sharply against the snowy peaks of the Picos de Europa. I saw deserted beaches and medieval coastal towns. Occasionally the path turns inland into the forested hills, but it never took long before I descended to the ocean. And the view? That is unbeatable on this part of the Camino del Norte!

Pendueles - Llanes

After Pendueles you can walk to Llanes in 2 ways as a pilgrim. Via the coastal road or along a busy road with cars. Both are signed. The coastal road is longer and more challenging, but what you get in return cannot be described. After Pendueles you quickly reach the coastline and walk on top of the high cliffs. That means that you also have to climb and descend! I take a short break at the bufones de Arenillas. These are the largest bufones along the east coast and they can reach a height of 40 meters. These days the seawater is not powerful enough, but the sound produced by the water is enormous. It looks like a kettle. A beautiful natural phenomenon! A little further I arrive at Mirador de la Boriza, a viewpoint from where you have an indescribably cool view of the Picos de Europa, the high cliffs of the coast, 2 beautiful beaches just before Llanes and the city Llanes. Don't walk the last part to Llanes along the busy road, but cross the road and walk through the golf course. It goes a bit inland, but is worth it. Llanes itself is a pleasant city There are many bars and restaurants. Typically in Llanes is the architecture, brought by Spanish emigrants who traveled to America and returned to their home village. They showed their prosperity by building large mansions, with tropical gardens and a palm trees. For that reason you will also find the Museum of Emigration in Llanes, where numerous stories and images about these emigrants are shown. But after walking such a day, I go to the beach of Llanes to rest.

Llanes - Naves

After a good breakfast I continue my camino. It takes a while to find out how to get out of Llanes. The way in which they place the famous 'yellow shell' apparently doesn't get that close (with the yellow rays to the left, right or straight on). A shell simply means straight on. The coast disappears a bit from my sight, but I pass small villages where time seems to have stood still. I see the blue water again via an idyllic coastal road. It is Sunday, nice weather and so many Spaniards are at the coast. And I understand why, the beaches are so beautiful. Clean, small, white sand and beautiful bays. And there are plenty of them, so it's not really busy anywhere.

Just before Naves I leave the pilgrimroute and walk to Playa de Gulpiyuri. Although it is sometimes called 'the smallest beach in the world', Playa de Gulpiyuri is certainly one of the world's strangest: it is a beach without a sea! This small sandy beach, with crystal clear water and enclosed by cliffs, is regularly chosen as the best. The water levels are completely dependent on the tide. Gulpiyuri appears at high tide and disappears at low tide.

Naves - Ribadesella

The last day already. Today I walk to Ribadesella. This part of the camino del Norte runs entirely through the inlsnf. Sloping, with an occasional tough climb. As a pilgrim you see the coast again in Ribadesella. But instead, I experience the authentic Northern Spain. I pass the medieval bridge of Mia, which is still in very good condition. And just before that I am completely surprised by a real 'camino wall'. A wall with painted stones, in all kinds of colors. With beautiful drawings and texts on it, la magia del camino is one of them. After a good 3.5 hours' walk, I reach the coastal town of Ribadesella. A tip for this day: eat and / or drink something in Nueva, after that you will not find a lot on the way to Ribadesella. The town has a small harbor, a nice and old center, the atmosphere is again pleasant. It is also the home of the Tito Bustillo cave, which contains petroglyphs. In the Rock Art Center of Tito Bustillo you can learn more about the history of this cave. From Ribadesella it is about 375 km to Santiago and I am jealous of those who continue the camino. But my mini camino is unfortunately finished. I enjoyed it and I will definitely be back for more!

About the Camino del Norte

The camino del Norte starts in Hondarribia and ends, after 825 km, in Santiago de Compostela. The pilgrim route extends along the northern Spanish coast. This route was often used in the past by Dutch and Belgian pilgrims who docked in the northern Spanish port. They then traveled west along the ocean, to around Oviedo, and then walked via the Primitivo camino to Santiago.

In recent years, the number of pilgrims on the Camino del Norte has grown considerably. Partly because people who have previously done the Camino Francés want to go out again and then choose the Norte for example. Partly because people who go on a pilgrimage path for the first time choose the Norte as an alternative to the "full" Camino Francés.

Do you also want to walk on the camino del Norte? Look here for more information.

Annemiek Nefkens, Happy Holiday manager