Walk in Beauty: Pilgrimage of El Camino de Santiago, Spain
North Coast Route (A Kinder Camino)
October 6-19, 2019
Valerie Brown, Pilgrimage Leader
www.leadsmartcoaching.com Phone: 215-933-9978
El Camino: An Epic Journey Awaits
Is walking El Camino on your ‘bucket list’?
Are you in transition and wanting space and time to reflect on ‘what’s next’?
Are you celebrating a milestone life event?
Are you seeking a travel experience that aligns with your deepest values?
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of St. James, is the epic pilgrimage route of Europe. For 2019, we offer two hidden gem pilgrimage options: Camino del Norte and Camino Finisterre. Both the Camino del Norte and the Camino Finisterre, Walk in Beauty Pilgrimage combine the stunning beauty of El Camino de Santiago, Spain with the Center for Courage & Renewal® Approach to reflect on your inner capacity to lead a more authentic, meaningful, and resilient life. The Approach includes spacious time in solitude and in community, journaling, and reflection with poetry and prose to life’s big questions. In these exclusive, small group pilgrimages, you are spoiled by breathtaking natural beauty of the sun-drenched north coast of Spain, magnificent accommodations, and exquisite food.
The crown jewel of Spanish walking trails, the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela began as an act of faith as Europeans crossed Spain to visit the sacred tomb of Saint James. One thousand years later, the Camino continues to draw spiritual seekers worldwide to enjoy the beauty of green rolling hills, stunning coastal views, and small hamlets of northern Spain. Come be part of this magical trail as you explore two hidden gem pilgrimage routes.
Camino del Norte
Taking the northern route to Santiago, we begin our 14-day/13-night, 102 mile/164.1 km journey in Europe’s culinary capital, San Sebastián, a lovely seaside metropolis located in the Basque region of the northern Atlantic coast, bordering France, widely considered one of the best places to eat in the world, and home of some of the world’s best restaurants. With a focus on superb regional cuisine, this pilgrimage includes a special Pintxos lunch (Basque tapas) in San Sebastián and time to savor this charming city, as well as artisanal delights at local markets of Oviedo and Santiago, and delicious and leisurely-paced dinners, and more. Traveling through historic towns and cities, such as Bilbao, Santillana del Mar, Comillas, Cangas de Onis and Oviedo, this route includes visits to significant sites like the Guggenheim Museum, the Beach of the Cathedrals, and the Caves of Altamira.
This high-end Camino offers you breathtaking natural scenery, exceptional regional cuisine, visits to significant historical sites, and magnificent accommodations, including Spain’s superb Paradores and authentic Galician rural manor houses, known for outstanding hospitality and service. As an added bonus, you’ll receive pilgrim’s credentials, including pilgrim’s passport, and at the end of the pilgrimage, the famed, Compostela.
Now, for at least once in your lifetime, savor the luxury of the Camino your way!
About the Courage & Renewal® Approach to Reflection, Discernment, and Building Community
Walk in Beauty offers a distinctive opportunity for you to reflect intentionally and purposefully on the ‘big questions’ of your life before, during, and after the pilgrimage. As you prepare for the pilgrimage, you will receive materials designed to support your discernment of your core values. Camino Community Conference Calls allow you to get to know fellow pilgrims and to build community. In other words, you arrive in Spain not with strangers, but with friends. And, since the experience of El Camino is powerfully transformational and non-linear, you’ll be supported in reflection and discernment after you return home.
What to Expect with the Courage & Renewal® Approach
Based on the work of author and activist Parker J. Palmer and the Center for Courage & Renewal, Walk in Beauty Pilgrimage is a ‘moveable retreat’, setting this pilgrimage apart from all others. You’ll explore what is most meaningful to you and have space and time to listen to your own inner wisdom, and to reconnect who you are with what you do, and to cultivate the courage to lean into action. Guided by core principles and practices, which include the belief that everyone has an ‘inner teacher’, an inner source of truth, the pilgrimage engages contemplative practices to support personal and societal transformation.
As a capstone experience, a version of the Quaker Clearness Committees, a process of individual discernment in community, will be offered during the pilgrimage to support discernment of difficult life or vocational issues or dilemmas.Explore Courage & Renewal® reflective practices to deepen your experience, allowing the pilgrimage road to be a metaphor and open to the transformational power of this ancient trail and its culture.
Camino del Norte Walking Details: ‘Your Camino, Your Way’
Walk at your own pace within a small group of no more than 16 pilgrims.
For the Camino del Norte, during the first six days there is, less walking, offering spacious time to enjoy this beautiful coastal trail, we then hop ahead with our van to the next city and stage. The last five days are more rural and focused on walking the last 100 km. In these last 100 km, we walk each day where we left off the day before. Walking the last 100 km of El Camino qualifies the pilgrim to receive the famed Compostela, the Certificate of Completion of the Pilgrimage of El Camino.
Private Van Support & Guides
Private van support and luggage transfer, an essential feature of the Camino del Norte.
Our fully supported private van, loaded with healthy snacks, water, medicine, and first aid kits, sets this pilgrimage apart and makes it accessible to all. A vehicle and guide for logistical support is available during the entire pilgrimage route to assist you, to transport luggage, and to address any other needs. This means you can enjoy the scenery and not worry about the unexpected!
With checkpoints along the way, our support vehicle is waiting with healthy snacks and cold drinks, or another other assistance. If you do not want to keep walking for any reason, you can hop on the support vehicle at the next checkpoint.
In this customized pilgrimage, our ground support has signals in places where some people take the wrong turn to ensure you’re on the right path. After the daily walk, and after you’ve had lunch you’ll return to the hotel to shower, freshen up, enjoy well-deserved rest, reflect on the day, and savor a delicious-regionally sourced dinner.
Luggage is transferred from one hotel to the next using the support vehicle. For the pilgrimage you need only carry a small/medium backpack for your essentials, and leave the rest to us! (Please review luggage requirements under Frequently Asked Questions.)
In the Camino del Norte, mobile phones with a Spanish line will be handed out for the period of the pilgrimage for every two or three pilgrims. This allows you to communicate with the driver or guides for any reason at all times. The number can also be given to family members back home to receive phone calls.
Delicious local fare is an outstanding feature of the Camino del Norte Pilgrimage. In the Camino del Norte, we begin in Europe’s culinary capital, San Sebastián, a lovely seaside metropolis located in the Basque region of the northern Atlantic coast, bordering France, widely considered one of the best places to eat in the world, and home of some of the world’s best restaurants. With a focus on superb regional cuisine, this pilgrimage includes a special Pintxos lunch (Basque tapas) in San Sebastián and time to savor this charming city, as well as artisanal delights at local markets of Oviedo and Santiago, delicious and leisurely-paced dinners, and more.
Exceptional lodging is a hallmark of the Camino del Norte.
In the high-end Camino del Norte, accommodations include the 5-star NH Paseo del Prado, a neo-baroque hotel in the heart of Madrid, as well as stays in prestigious Paradores of Spain, elegant and exclusive hotels situated in important historical buildings and uniquely stunning locations, and small, family-operated rural manor houses of Galicia.
Preparation in Body, Mind, & Spirit
Soulful preparation is key to the pilgrimage experience. We understand that taking a pilgrimage is different from a ‘hiking vacation’ and we assist you with the preparation and training you need to have an unforgettable experience. Resources include Pilgrim Newsletters, Pilgrim Training Schedule, maps, comprehensive Pilgrimage Resource Guide, and packing list with recommendations on what to bring, as well as Camino Community Conference Calls via videoconference to get to know fellow pilgrims.
About the Landscape
The Camino del Norte offers stunning natural beauty.
Through the Basque region, Galicia, and Asturias, among others, we travel westward along an old cart tracks that wind through fields and hamlets, along beautiful, unspoiled beaches to small fishing villages, with the dramatic backdrop of the snow-capped Picos de Europa in the distance. Highlights include a visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Beach of the Cathedrals, and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Caves of Altamira, boasting some of Spain’s most magnificent prehistoric cave art, dating back from 22,000-10,000 BC.
From the North Route, the pilgrimage joins the Camino Francés, the French Way for the last 100 km until we arrive at Santiago de Compostela, the final stop on this epic journey of a lifetime!
Camino del Norte Route Map
Please visit the link below for a complete profile of route from San Sebastian to Santiago:
Watch this two-minute video on the spirit of El Camino de Santiago
Camino del Norte Daily Itinerary
*All breakfasts and all dinners are included except the dinner on day one.
Day 1 – Sunday, October 6th – Night in Madrid at NH Hotel Paseo del Prado.
Day 2 – Monday, October 7th – Transfer to San Sebastian. Welcome Cocktail + Pintxos Tour.
Day 3 – Tuesday, October 8th – San Sebastián – Buztintxuri (8.5 km / 5.3 mi)
Day 4 – Wednesday, October 9th – Otañes – Castro – Urdiales (9 km / 5.6 mi)
Day 5 – Thursday, October 10th – Comillas – San Vicente de la Barquera (12.4 km / 7.7 mi)
Day 6 – Friday, October 11th – La Isla – Priesca (13 km / 8 mi)
Day 7 – Saturday, October 12th – Soto del Barco – El Pito (10 km / 6.2 mi)
Day 8 – Sunday, October 13th – Pontevella – Vilalba (11.5 km / 7.1 mi)
Day 9 – Monday, October 14th – Baamonde – Altos de Mamoa (18 km / 11.2 mi)
Day 10 – Tuesday, October 15th – Altos de Mamoa – Sobrado dos Monxes (21 km / 13 mi)
Day 11 – Wednesday, October 16th – Sobrado dos Monxes – Arzúa (21 km / 13 mi)
Day 12 – Thursday, October 17th – Arzúa – Pedrouzo (20 km / 12.4 mi)
Day 13 – Friday, October 18th – Pedrouzo – Santiago (20 km / 12.4 mi)
Day 14 – Saturday, October 19th – Guided visit in Santiago.
*The daily itinerary is subject to change.
Day 1: Sunday, October 6
Overnight at the NH Paseo del Prado, a 5-star neo-baroque hotel in the heart of Madrid. Day at leisure. Dinner is not included. Breakfast on day 2 is included. Orientation & Welcome gathering planned.
Day 2: Monday, October 7, Meet at NH Paseo del Prado and drive to San Sebastián. Night in San Sebastian.
Theme: The Journey Begins
We depart the NH Paseo del Prado Hotel in Madrid and transfer to a charming hotel in the sophisticated city of San Sebastián. We’ll walk through the winding streets of San Sebastián on a ‘Pintxos’ tour (Basque tapas) for a delicious lunch. Dinner is on your own and is a special opportunity to enjoy one of San Sebastián’s many Michelin-rated restaurants to savor the delicacies of the New Basque Cuisine.
We spend the night in San Sebastián.
Day 3: Stage 1: Tuesday, October 8
San Sebastián – Buztintxuri (8.5 km / 5.3 mi). Night in Bilbao
Theme: Your Deepest Calling
We follow the yellow arrows along ‘La Concha’ out of San Sebastián and towards the hills of Igueldo. We make a tiny detour to the end of the promenade to visit the ‘Combs of the Wind’ created by the famed Spanish sculptor Eduardo Chillida. As we continue our walk, delightful views accompany us, the coast to our right and green hills to our left. After finishing this stage, we head to the city of Bilbao where we visit the iconic Guggenheim Museum.
We spend the night in the lovely Bilbao.
Day 4: Stage 2: Wednesday, October 9
Castro-Urdiales (9 km / 5.6 mi). Night in Santillana del Mar
Theme: The Sound of the Genuine
We walk along scenic mountain paths and through charming towns until we reach the promenade of Castro-Urdiales. We then head to the picturesque town of Santillana del Mar. At 5:00 pm, we’ll visit the Caves of Altamira, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, of extraordinary Paleolithic art.
We spend the night in the Parador in Santillana del Mar.
Day 5: Stage 3: Thursday, October 10
Comillas – San Vicente de la Barquera (12.4 km / 7.7 mi). Night in the Parador in Cangas de Onis
Theme: Eyes Wide Open: The Presence of Beauty
Before starting our walk we visit the town of Comillas, a top vacation spot for Spain’s royal family. This is the last stage in the region of Cantabria, which characterized by interesting and emblematic towns.
We spend the night in the Parador in Cangas de Onis.
Day 6: Stage 4: Friday, October 11
La Isla – Priesca (13 km / 8 mi). Night in Oviedo.
Theme: Listen Deeply, Listen Well
We start our walk near the beach and walk through the hills to Priesca. The city of Oviedo awaits us after the walk for lunch and a visit with a local guide.
We spend the night in Oviedo.
Day 7: Stage 5, Saturday, October 12
Soto del Barco – El Pito (10 km / 6.2 mi). Night in the Parador in Ribadeo.
Theme: Lay Yourself Open
Our stage for today is short and sweet. After reaching the beautiful town of El Pito, we go to Figueras and reach Ribadeo, our place of accommodation, by boat, a tradition among pilgrims. We visit the famous Playa de las Catedrales (Beach of the Cathedrals), depending on the tide.
We spend the night in the Parador in Ribadeo, footsteps from the sea.
Please note that October 12th is a national Spanish holiday.
Day 8: Stage 6, Sunday, October 13
Pontevella – Vilalba (11.5 km / 7.1 mi). Night in the Parador in Vilalba.
Theme: The Comfort of Questions
We start at a crossroads and over a bridge to find ourselves surrounded by breathtaking scenery until we enter the city of Villalba and reach our Parador. We enjoy the city and superb accommodations, rest, reflect on the day, and savor a regionally-sourced and delicious dinner.
We spend the night in the Parador in Vilalba.
Day 9: Stage 7, Monday, October 14
Baamonde – Altos de Mamoa (18 km / 11.2 mi). Night in the Parador in Vilalba.
Theme: Living with Gratitude
We begin the last hundred kilometers necessary to obtain the Compostela certificate, taking the Camino towards A Coruña. We will pass by the San Alberte chapel and lovely tiny towns along the route.
We spend the night in the Parador in Vilalba.
Day 10: Stage 8, Tuesday, October 15
Altos de Mamoa – Sobrado dos Monxes (21 km / 13 mi). Night in Arzúa in a lovely rural manor house.
Theme: The Way of Tenderness
We head towards the small town of Marcela eventually reaching the highest point of the entire North Coast Camino. Crossing the border of Lugo to enter A Coruña, we end our stage in the 10th century monastery of Santa María in Sobrado dos Monxes.
We spend the night in Arzúa in a lovely rural manor.
Day 11: Stage 9, Wednesday, October 16
Sobrado dos Monxes – Arzúa (21 km / 13 mi). Night in Arzúa in a beautiful rural manor house.
Theme: Cultivating Courage: Liberating Heart, Mind, & Spirit
Our daily mileage increases during these remaining days until reaching Santiago. We follow the paved road through rural Galicia. The end of this stage is where the North Way and the French Way unite. As a special treat, we enjoy a delicious pairing of different local cheese and honey.
We spend the night in Arzúa in a lovely rural manor.
Day 12: Stage 10, Thursday, October 17
Arzúa – Pedrouzo (20 km / 12.4 mi). Night in Lavacolla.
Theme: Remember This: Lessons of El Camino
During this stage, you will notice many more pilgrims and services along The Way of Saint James. We walk through forests and towns until we reach Pedrouzo, which has been important place for pilgrims throughout history and still is today.
Our place of accommodation is the perfect place for rest and relaxation in Lavacolla.
Day 13: Stage 11, Friday, October 18
Pedrouzo – Santiago (20 km / 12.4 mi). Night in Santiago.
Theme: Celebrating the Journey: Home By Another Way
In this mostly urban stage, we are nearing our final destination: Santiago! Walking into Santiago is a glorious moment to celebrate a significant achievement in body, mind, and spirit!
We stay at one of the most extraordinary Paradores in Spain: El Parador de los Reyes Católicos, where we will enjoy a wonderful dinner and a beautiful surprise.
Day 14: Saturday, October 19
Guided visit of Santiago
Theme: Luminosity: The Light of the Soul
In the morning we offer a guided visit through Santiago, focusing on the old city, the historical monuments, and other places of interest. We’ll enjoy an exclusive visit to the Cathedral’s roof to for spectacular views of the city. Our pilgrimage ends at approximately 1:00 pm and your Camino through life begins! Buen Camino!
What People Are Saying
“The scenery is spectacular and the beautiful rhythm of walking the Camino is truly revelatory.”
“To walk the Camino my own way empowered and stretched me into new horizons, safely and in community….”
“Everyday was a feast for the senses.”
“I am venturing home with my heart burst wide open, full of hope and possibilities. I am deeply grateful.”
Walk in Beauty Pilgrimage: Valerie Shares Her Deeply Spiritual Journey of Personal Transformation
“I’ve walked El Camino, the Way of Saint James many times, over many years, and was so moved by this experience and pilgrimages around the world that I wrote my first book, The Road that Teaches: Lessons in Transformation through Travel (Quakerbridge Media, 2012).
In those days, I walked solo, carrying a heavy backpack and sleeping rough in hostels. Being super tough and super strong meant everything to me.
It’s said that the Camino transforms lives, and it did just that for me. I began to reflect on my life and my work, my values, and beliefs. After stops, starts, and stumbles, I shifted my career from a high-pressure lawyer-lobbyist to human scale work with leaders and individuals to foster greater connectedness, compassion, authenticity, and relational trust. Walk in Beauty is a centerpiece of my work.
The Camino contributed greatly to help me shift my values. Today, my deepest aspiration is to support myself and others in this process of transformation. I believe that the Camino should be accessible to everyone, not only the physically fit. As a pilgrimage leader, I have escorted hundreds of people of varied abilities along the Way of Saint James and this gives me deep joy and inspiration.”
— Valerie Brown, Director of Meaningful & Purposeful Life and Work, Lead Smart Coaching, LLC
Are You Called to Pilgrimage, to a ‘Thin Place’?
Embark on a pilgrimage to discover something new about yourself. It isn’t so much a choice you make, as a response to a call already whispered to you. In the experience of encounter with Mystery, you begin to question your assumptions, expectations, and pre-conceived ideas, and perhaps a new way of seeing yourself and the world emerges. Discover this magical place, of El Camino, which the Celtics have aptly called, a ‘thin place’, where the material and the spiritual world meet, a place of endless beauty.
Return home transformed!
Want to Know More
Read Pilgrimage As Activism.
About Your Leader
Valerie Brown is an international retreat leader, writer, accredited leadership coach, spiritual director, and Chief Listening Officer of Lead Smart Coaching, LLC, specializing in application and integration of mindfulness and leadership. She transformed her high-pressure, twenty-year career as a lawyer-lobbyist, representing educational institutions and nonprofits, to human-scale work with leaders and teams to foster trustworthy and authentic connections.
Through her writing, she seeks to foster a more compassionate and peaceful world. Her books include, The Road that Teaches: Lessons in Transformation through Travel (QuakerBridge Media, 2012) and The Mindful School Leader: Practices to Transform Your Leadership and School (Corwin, 2014), named one of the ‘best books on courage’ in 2014 by the Center for Courage & Renewal.
She has studied and practiced mindfulness in the Plum Village tradition since 1995, was ordained in the Order of Interbeing by Thich Nhat Hanh in 2003, and ordained as a Dharma Teacher in 2018, receiving the Lamp Transmission. She is a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).
Valerie’s extensive training includes, the Center for Courage & Renewal and Parker J. Palmer, the Institute for Transformational Leadership at Georgetown University, the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care & Society, the Center for Compassion Focused Therapy, the Ojai Foundation, the C.G. Jung Foundation for Analytical Psychology (NYC), Chestnut Hill College (PA) Certificate in Holistic Spirituality, and The Leadership Circle Profile™.
As certified Kundalini yoga teacher, she helps groups and individuals discover the wisdom of the body.
$5995.00, per person, double occupancy. Single supplement: $1300.00.
Courage & Renewal® Approach to reflection and inquiry and expert facilitation
5 nights in Spain’s beautiful Paradores (based on availability)
Guided visit in Santiago & Oviedo
Visit to the Caves of Altamira
Visit to the famed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao
Visit to the Beach of the Cathedral
Pintxos tour (Basque tapas) in San Sebastian, Spain’s culinary capitol
Overnight in NH Paseo del Prado, 5-star neo-baroque hotel in the heart of Madrid
All Dinners (*Except first night)
Healthy snacks and cold drinks
Transfer from Madrid to San Sebastián
Private Van Support & Luggage transfer
English-speaking guide assistance
Informational program and route map
Pilgrim’s kit loaded with resources
Comprehensive pre-pilgrimage preparation, including customized training schedule
Pilgrim’s Passport & Credentials
Value Added Tax (VAT)
Price does NOT include:
Round trip airfare
Ground transportation from Santiago
All Lunches (*Except Pintxos tour)
Tips & gratuities
$1,100 nonrefundable, nontransferable deposit secures your space.
See registration form for details.
Contact Valerie Brown firstname.lastname@example.org