In the previous two posts on this topic we covered the 3 Main Stages of the El Camino Itinerary and the Overall Sentiments of the experience along the famed pilgrimage route. In this post I want to delve a little deeper and share with you my personal highlights from the trip and what I believe are some of the most stunning and amazing locations along the final 6 days of The Way.
Now I want you to bear in mind that I often work as a travel photographer and absolutely love taking photographs (and making videos), so this selection of highlights weighs heavily on the side of photogenic locations. I also am a bit of a history nerd and love learning about the intricate stories of days gone by, especially in Europe. So this selection also fares strongly towards the appeal of ancient times. Okay lets jump into it.
The very first day you arrive in Spain you stay the night in the beautiful city of Lugo. Lugo has an amazing history and is surrounded by one of the best preserved full Roman stone walls in the world. The old town is enclosed by a 2km wall which you can walk or run along with great views of the happenings in the city at every turn.
The old wall is also an amazing place to shoot sunset or sunrise and I was lucky to get some really great light the first evening of the trip.
As you walk the 116km of the final stage of El Camino you pass a number of medieval walls and villages, and old ruin farmsteads, etc. You also get the chance to cross a few ancient Roman bridges and stone which have been used by pilgrims for centuries.
Two of my favourites were on the day 3 of hiking from Palas de Rei to Melide where you first cross one smaller stone bridge and then a few kilometres further another beautiful example of prime Roman architecture in the heart of the forest with a small river running beneath it. Perfect for photography and an amazing sight to understand.
All along the way you cross through farmer’s fields of wheat and corn, quaint villages with friendly local smiles, and dense green forests covered with moss and leaves. Many of the forest paths have grown over completely and you end up walking through a tunnel of light and shadow. It is extremely photogenic and I couldn’t help but ask members of the group to stop and model within these incredible spaces through the trees.
There is something special about walking through a quiet forest surrounded by old and mature trees, knowing that hundreds of thousands of people have walked this same path before you and the same amount are still to come. Yet even with this knowledge of hectic activity your own little slice of peace and beauty resides perfectly in that one special moment, under the trees.
Maybe I just got lucky, or maybe it’s the spirit of The Way, but man we had an amazing group!! There were eight of us in total, 4 Brits, 2 Canadians, 1 Kiwi, and 1 Spaniard. Everyone came from different backgrounds and had different stories to share. We all got along splendidly and we’re genuinely interested in one another’s reasons for joining the trip and hiking The Way.
Walking with this group of people made the trip what it was and I couldn’t have imagined it any other way. I know a lot of people decide to hike El Camino on their own, and that is totally fine, but for me personally having the group to chat with, to laugh with, and to share the experience with was a huge highlight. I hope these photos help share that sentiment.
The gem at the end of the road!! Santiago de Compestela, what a beauty!! It was such an amazing feeling to enter this ancient city after walking 116km of walking. To pass through the old town and see the cathedral in the distance. To hear the stories of Galician tradition and the history of the pilgrimage, the sounds of the bustling city streets and the church bells ringing. It was truly magical finding ourselves at the end of this challenging and exciting experience. Seeing all of the other pilgrims arriving and cheering each other on, taking photographs and laughing with one another in the streets.
From the main square we headed into the cathedral and everything went silent. There was a muted charm to the admiration people have in the face of Saint James. Hundreds filling the aisles with eyes bright and the reflections of centuries of worship and love, and prayer. The cathedral is a sight of immense beauty and a solid image portraying of the power of The Way. This is El Camino de Santiago and no matter why you choose to walk a portion of the route, the final destination has a sense of meaning and belonging that is hard to put into words. You must simply feel it for yourself.