The villages and cities along the Camino del Norte predate the existence of Spain itself, and your journey will take you to historic, vanished kingdoms: Navarre, Castille, Asturias. When you walk ten miles along the Camino del Norte, you may easily pass through ten centuries of history, as you walk from medieval villages to 19th-century summer resorts. The city of Gijón captures the layers of history that are common here. Within the city limits, there are prehistoric dolmens, the ruins of Roman baths, and buildings from the 18th century on after it became an important port and later industrial center.
While Santander was the site of a Roman settlement, like Gijón, the city never became an industrial center. Instead from the 19th century on the coastal city has been famous for its beaches, and King Alfonso XIII put his royal seal of approval on the city. As you splash in the surf, you’ll be following in the footsteps of the Spanish elite.
For the armchair historian, perhaps one of the greatest prizes of the Camino de Santiago is also its last: Santiago de Compostela. The famous cathedral was a focus of spiritual life in Europe for centuries, and the Hostal de los Reyes Catolicos has provided a home for pilgrims visiting the city since 1499. Today it is one of the crown jewels of Spain’s network of paradors, and travelers can spend a night in what is perhaps the oldest hotel in the world.
Photo Credit: Manuel de Gijón, https://flic.kr/p/nWPACQ
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