On the Camino Del Norte in Spain, Guadalupe to Pasajes de San Juan

January 23, 2014 — 16 Comments

I often get asked what is the difference between the Camino Francés and the Camino del Norte. They are both the Camino de Santiago, right? Yes, and while they both have the exciting aspects of walking the pilgrimage, as for much of the routes, it’s like night and day. Often, on the Camino del Norte, there are long stretches without seeing another pilgrim, long stretches without a water fountain or source, longs stretches without an albergue or pilgrim hostel, and relentless climbing and descending on many days.

There is much more actual hiking than on the Camino Francés. It’s definitely more challenging, especially if you actually walk the Camino del Norte and not take some of the easier “modern” routes. In summary, the Camino Francés is more like a walk in the park compared to the Camino del Norte (please don’t take offence).

I left my last post, On the Camino Del Norte in Spain, Irún Albergue to Guadalupe, here at the Santuario de Guadalupe, just as the skies began to clear. Now let’s continue and I will show you what I mean about the difference in tracks between the Camino Francés and the Camino del Norte.

church guadalupe basque country Euskadi spain camino del norte


Not far from Guadalupe, this is one of those stretches that more resembles hiking. Since I wore hiking shoes instead of boots, I had to be extra careful, especially when it was wet.

guadalupe basque 1 country Euskadi spain camino del norte


  Looking back to Hondarribia. Hendaye is across the inlet and Irún would be toward the right.

guadalupe basque country 2 Euskadi spain camino del norte


In the hills between Guadalupe and Pasajes de San Juan, the track was often along this dirt road.

guadalupe basque country 3 Euskadi spain camino del norte


I wish I would have seen this on a clear day. I’m sure the view was amazing.

guadalupe basque 4 Euskadi spain camino del norte


guadalupe basque 5 Euskadi spain camino del norte


One of my more memorable experiences on the first day was walking through this stretch by myself in complete silence, struggling because I was so out of shape. Out of the blue, a regiment of the military or Guardia Civil ran toward me in formation with rifles in hand….

guadalupe basque 6 Euskadi spain camino del norte


I was a little startled but managed to get this photo just as they passed. I wish I had my camera ready earlier because it was quite the sight.

guadalupe basque 7 Euskadi spain camino del norte


Typical forest of young pine mixed with deciduous species of trees and shrubs. You can see some of the heather blooming on the right.

guadalupe basque 8 Euskadi spain camino del norte


I came across this horse who looked a little scrawny. She was more interested in eating than in me. You can see she has a cowbell, or, in this case, a horsebell. When I mentioned complete silence, it always wasn’t in the hills. The sounds of the cowbells ringing and echoing was quite enchanting.

horse guadalupe basque 9 Euskadi spain camino del norte



horse guadalupe basque country Euskadi spain camino del norte



guadalupe basque hills Euskadi spain camino del norte


 We shall go right here.

guadalupe basque sign Euskadi spain camino del norte



guadalupe Pasajes de San Juan basque Euskadi spain camino del norte


In both of my walks in Spain, I really enjoyed seeing heather covering hillsides.

guadalupe Pasajes de San Juan heather basque  Euskadi spain camino del norte



guadalupe Pasajes de San Juan path basque Euskadi spain camino del norte


 A pleasant path!

guadalupe path Pasajes de San Juan basque Euskadi spain camino del norte


The Camino del Norte was usually well marked in Basque Country, but this was one of the confusing spots. The Camino symbol showed to go to Lezo but the yellow arrow that we followed showed to take a different route. If I was unsure, I would look ahead to find another yellow arrow or marker. In this case, walking to Lezo was unnecessary as a ferry awaits to shuttle you across the inlet.

Pasajes de San Juan sign basque country Euskadi spain camino del norte


Another interesting, and sometimes startling, aspect of the Camino del Norte would be experienced on the first day. Here, we arrive to the highway for a short stretch. It starts off with a little shoulder on the left but soon…

highway Pasajes de San Juan basque country Euskadi spain camino del norte


we were walking on a windy road without really anywhere to walk except on the road. It was very dangerous at times and nothing like you would experience on the Camino Francés. Just imagine a car, or even worse, a large truck heading toward you here.

Pasajes de San Juan highway basque country Euskadi spain camino del norte


 Cattle relaxing above Lezo.

Pasajes de San Juan cows basque Euskadi spain camino del norte



Pasajes de San Juan hills basque Euskadi spain camino del norte


Looking toward the town of Lezo. I took the route which was more scenic as you will soon tell.

Pasajes de San Juan city basque country Euskadi spain camino del norte


However, I will leave my post here, just above Pasajes de San Juan.

Pasajes de San Juan path basque Euskadi spain camino del norte

I hope you enjoyed this post as I continued to struggle from being so out of shape. My climbing wasn’t over though as soon, I would walk through one of the more scenic stretches of the Camino de Santiago to San Sebastian. On my next post, On the Camino Del Norte in Pasajes de San Juan & Pasajes de San Pedro, Spain, we will visit the the two very scenic seaside villages of Pasajes de San Juan and Pasajes de San Pedro. Please join me.

If you have my book, Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, or have ordered it, I really appreciate your support. It’s also out on Kindle and Kobo. My Goodreads and Amazon pages have reviews and more information. Please share this post, and thanks for your time.

About Randall St. Germain

Randall St. Germain, author of Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, is a middle-aged Canadian Boy who is passionate about nature, photography, hiking, music, and self-improvement. After the death of his mother, he chose to walk the famous pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago, across the north of Spain, despite knowing little about it. He certainly didn’t plan to write a book until the latter days of his Camino. Similar to walking the Camino, writing and publishing a book was a learning experience. It was also very rewarding, and part of his ongoing journey. Please join him as he takes you along on his journey in Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, and on his blog Camino My Way.


16 responses to On the Camino Del Norte in Spain, Guadalupe to Pasajes de San Juan

  1. What can I say, but your deep appreciation of the beauty and mystery of Nature is obvious with the magnificent photography that embellishes each of your posts.

    “There are an awful lot of scientists today who believe that before very long we shall have unraveled all the secrets of the universe. There will be no puzzles anymore. To me, it’d be really, really tragic because I think one of the most exciting things is this feeling of mystery, feeling of awe, the feeling of looking at a little live thing and being amazed by it and how it has emerged through these hundreds of years of evolution and there it is and it is perfect and why.”

    — Jane Goodall.

    • Wow! Thanks. I love the quote and your kind words too. I’m glad you noticed because not everyone does. I concentrate on the Camino in my blog. I’m less important and that’s why you rarely see any photos of me posing. I want to focus on the beauty of the scenes or just showing what it’s like to walk the Camino. I’m glad you enjoy it. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  2. Randall I am enjoying your adventures on the Norte route. Great pictures. I am planning On walking the route in the late spring of 2015 if all things come together. Looking forward to reading the rest of your journey on Camino Del Norte.

  3. Wow, I don’t know why or how I missed the first part from Jan 20 but from now, I’m happy to be virtually on the road again with you!
    For many reasons, it’s not sure whether I can go to Camino this year. Even that is uncertain yet whether it’s going to be the Camino del Norte or the Camino de Francés, once more. I will e-mail you. Peter

    • Peter it’s okay to take the year off. I was hoping to walk the Via de la Plata this year from Cádiz but most likely won’t be able to get out. I will do my best to show you the del Norte here on my blog 🙂

  4. Thanks for your interesting blog. My husband and I are walking our first Camino this year. We have booked and start on 9 September. We have decided on del Norte and Primitivo. Hopefully we will cope. I look forward to reading more of your adventure. Thanks

    • I also have a book 🙂
      I hope you enjoy your first Camino. Be prepared for some warm days but also a few less pilgrims. I wish you a very pleasant journey. Buen Camino 🙂

  5. The photo you title “Looking back at Irun” looks to me like looking back at Hondarribia. Are you certain it’s Irun?

  6. Thanks again for a great blog Randall. We are counting down the days. First the long flight from Oz, train from Paris then it’s simply boot leather from June 1. Can’t wait, especially after reading your entries. Keep it up! We may see you on the track.



    • Peter, I wish I was walking the Camino right now. Miss it dearly! Wishing you the most pleasant journey. Take care and Buen Camino 🙂

  7. Hi,
    I will be walking the Camino del Norte this summer starting from Irun. I would love to take my dog with me but I am a little bit worried about stray and aggressive dogs on the way. I am also a little worried about accommodation. I have no problem sleeping in a tent but I would still like to have a wash in the evenings.
    I would love to hear your advice or thoughts on this.Thank you very much!

  8. Valerie, taking a dog with you would be a challenge. The albergues don’t allow pets as far as I know so you would have to find places that may welcome them. There are some spots that will be difficult getting a bed for just yourself. I wouldn’t feet comfortable in a tent but that’s just me. There are many dogs along the Camino but most are either leashed up or behind a fence. There will be the odd one on the loose but usually they are the friendly ones. I hope that helps a little.
    Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  9. Hi Randall,

    Congrats on a terrific blog…you’ve really given me itchy feet now!

    I hope you don’t mind me picking your brain, but I’m looking for some pointers on the Camino Norte.

    Myself and a couple of friends are flying from Ireland to do a small stretch of the Camino Norte next month. We are flying into Bilbao and home from Santiago a week later. So we’re looking for a nice 4-5 day string of villages that we can get to from Bilbao, and that are also linked to Santiago to allow us get our flight.

    Sorry that’s such a specific request…

    Failing that, if you had a suggestion of a well-connected village near the coast where we could base ourselves and spend a few days hiking around, I’d love to hear it!

    Thanks and go n’eiri an bothar libh


    • Conor, that’s a little difficult for 4 to 5 days. I only walked the Camino itself and don’t know much off the del Norte. If you want your Compostela, you may want to start in Ribadeo but that is also where you leave the sea. If you want to start closer to Bilbao, I would bus to Portugalete which is in a nice location. I enjoyed Pobeña and Castro Urdiales but there is a big hill in between. Castro Urdiales has an ancient church that is the major attraction.

      I really, realy enjoyed the walk between Laredo and Noja where I would recommend staying. It may have to be at a hotel but it was a fun spot. There is a ferry ride between and one of the most beautiful walks on the Camino del Norte. From Güemes to Santander is another memorable walk that includes a ferry ride. Queveda to Comillas was an easy walk inland through villages to the coast. It includes the historic town of Santillana del Mar that should not be missed. I enjoyed visiting San Vicente de la Barquera too. Skipping ahead, Avilés to Soto de Luiña is a nice walk but there are many ups and downs. I could go on but I hope to have helped a bit. A safe journey to you all. Buen Camino 🙂

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