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Spain's Camino de Santiago & its Natural History

Tour Code: ESP26

An 8-day holiday of natural history walks along parts of the ancient Camino de Santiago, Europe's best known pilgrimage route, combining birds, plants and butterflies with a touch of history.

8 days from £1495(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1375 SRS: £150


The Camino de Santiago is a collection of ancient pilgrimage routes across Europe, all of which converge on the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, north-west Spain. We’ll explore the series of paths which cross the Pyrenees and descend into Aragón, where we’ll be based in a delightful 17th century ‘casa rural’ for the whole of our stay. Walking these ancient pathways provides a connection with historical tradition that is very special, and presents the naturalist with a variety of different habitats – from valleys, alpine pastures, woods and fields to rivers, cliff faces and gorges – and the wide range of flowers, butterflies and birds living in them.

  • The spectacular Foz de Lumbier gorge is home to Egyptian Vulture & a host of flowers
  • An adundance of orchids such as Early Purple, Lesser Butterfly & Fragrant
  • Rich flora includes Pyrenean specialities: Violet, Squill & Snakeshead Fritillary
  • Look for Lammergeier & Wallcreeper between Col de Pau & the beautiful Hecho Valley
  • Black Woodpecker, Spectacled Warbler, Black Kite & Alpine Chough
  • Vultures nesting beneath a monastery once reputed to house the Holy Grail!
  • Led by expert naturalist guide
  • Delightful relaxed combination of culture & natural history walks

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

A charming guesthouse situated beneath the pretty hilltop village of Berdun. All rooms have private facilities except for two singles.

Scarce Copper

Scarce Copper

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Zaragoza and transfer to Berdún

Day 2/7 A programme of day walks along the Camino de Santiago from our base in Berdún

Day 8 Fly Stansted

For nearly a thousand years, the Camino de Santiago de Compostela or ‘Way of St. James’ has been the most travelled pilgrimage route in Europe. However, rather than being a single route, the Camino is in fact a collection of many pilgrimage routes, all of which converge on the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, north-west Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle St. James are buried. Many of these ancient pathways pass through spectacular landscapes and scenery, and none are more enticing for the naturalist than the series of paths which cross the Pyrenees and then descend through Aragón to link up with the main pilgrimage route in Navarra.

While the northern, French valleys of the Pyrenees are wet, green and thickly forested, the Spanish side of this dividing range is dry, arid and generally more Mediterranean — home to a very different variety of plant and bird species. These sunny southern slopes are characterised by stunning limestone erosions, cliffs and canyons, and a rich variety of scrub, maquis and arable farmland as well as extensive beech and conifer forests. Our comfortable base for this 8-day holiday is a delightful ‘casa rural’ situated right on the Camino, in the pretty hilltop village of Berdún which enjoys fine views of the Pyrenees, surrounding foothills, and valleys of the Veral and Aragón Rivers. We’ll make leisurely daily walks exploring a combination of the wildlife and historical highlights (for many isolated and ancient wayside churches and hermitages may be found) along key Aragonese stretches of the Camino. In addition, we’ll make detours off the beaten track, along ancient footpaths, as we search for birds, plants and butterflies.

We begin this holiday with a flight to Zaragoza, exploring the spectacular limestone gorge, Foz de Lumbier, en route from the airport to Berdún. The gorge is home to such bird species as Egyptian Vulture and Spectacled Warbler; butterflies abound, as well as flowers such as Narrow-leaved Valerian and Pyrenean Saxifrage. On subsequent days we’ll walk different stretches of the Camino, one of our first excursions being to the Pyrenean pass of Somport, situated on the French-Spanish border at 1,640 metres, from where we’ll descend to the village of Villanua at 953 metres, following the Camino along the Rio Aragón as it passes through alpine pastures, woods and fields. This route offers the chance to see birds such as Griffon Vulture, Lammergeier, Short-toed Eagle, Crag Martin, Alpine Chough and Citril Finch, and we should also see many butterflies and — in June — such orchids such as Early Purple, Elder-flowered, Lesser Butterfly and Fragrant, as well as other flowers such as Pyrenean Snakeshead Fritillary, Pyrenean Squill, Pyrenean Violet and Pyrenean Scabious.

On another day, we will walk the short but picturesque cabañera or ‘drovers’ road’ to Jaca, the first large town medieval pilgrims would have come to when walking into Spain. A bustling provincial town, Jaca has a magnificent Romanesque cathedral, and for the energetic there’s an optional walk to the summit of the sacred mountain Peña Oroel, where Griffon Vultures breed. This walk also offers a wealth of wild flowers, among them Woodcock Orchid, Pyrenean Honeysuckle and Beautiful Flax. We will also spend a day on another branch of the Camino which enters Spain via the Col de Pau and drops to the Roman road down the Hecho Valley — one of the most beautiful valleys in the Pyrenees, where both Lammergeier and Wallcreeper may be found.

Taking a detour off the Camino, we will explore a route that would once have been taken by medieval pilgrims to see the holy relics (including the Holy Grail!) at the monastery of St. Juan de la Peña. For the naturalist, this is a quiet and rewarding spot, where Black Woodpeckers breed in the forest around the monastery and vultures nest on the south-facing cliffs beneath it.

Having explored the higher Pyrenean areas, we will enjoy a couple of walks at lower altitudes where the drier, more Mediterranean habitats support a very different flora and birdlife. First, we’ll walk from Hecho into the Veral/Anso Valley, descending along a dramatic path to the spectacular Biniés Gorge. Then, on our final day, we’ll walk from the Ermita de La Virgen de La Peña, spectacularly perched at the top of a cliff, to the fascinating abandoned village of Escó (close to the Yesa reservoir which attracts fishing Black Kites, and migrant Ospreys and waders in the autumn); two more walks offering the chance to savour pathways followed for a thousand years by a multitude of devout pilgrims — routes greatly enhanced for today’s naturalist by the wealth of wayside wildlife and spectacular scenery encountered along them.

Loarre castle (Colin Brown)Parasol (Colin Brown)Iberian Rock Lizard (Colin Brown)Short-toed Eagle (Colin Brown)Above Canfranc Station (Colin Brown)Jaca Castle (Colin Brown)Jaca Castle (Colin Brown)Jaca Cathedral (Colin Brown)Griffon Vullture (Colin Brown)European Roller (Colin Brown)Marmot (Colin Brown)Hecho Valley (Colin Brown)Autumn Crocus (Colin Brown)Hecho Valley (Colin Brown)Red-billed Chough (Colin Brown)Short toed Eagle (Colin Brown)Griffon Vulture (Colin Brown)Lammergeier (Colin Brown)San Juan de la Pena (Colin Brown)Processional Moth hibernariium (Colin Brown)Red Kite (Colin Brown)Berdun from Casa Sarasa (Colin Brown)Roncal Valley (Colin Brown)Juvenile Red Crossbill (Colin Brown)Berdun from NW (Colin Brown)San Salvador de Leyre (Colin Brown)Early morning from Casa Sarasa (Colin Brown)Red Kite (Colin Brown)Mallos de Riglos (Colin Brown)Hesca Plain (Colin Brown)
P.T
2015
I travel a lot and find the holidays are as I expected but this was much better than my expectations. I loved the mix of walking and nature. When the botanists were plant staring I could walk and scan the skies for Lammergeiers which I saw several times.
Mr & Mrs J
Derbyshire
Peter Rich was superb throughout. He led from the front and guaranteed that every day was full of interest. He packed an enormous amount into the itinerary.
Mr & Mrs J.
Derbyshire
Peter Rich was superb throughout. He led from the front and guaranteed that every day was full of interest. He packed an enormous amount into the itinerary.
Dr A & Dr T Watts
Lincolnshire
Drives in Kanha reserve were spectacular with two tiger sightings (3 individuals) and plenty of time for birding. Overall, a fantastic holiday. Can't thank yourself and Naturetrek as a company enough.
R.W.
Yorkshire
Days involved some hard walking, so this trip is for anyone who is quite fit. Flexible itinerary and knoweldge of local guide ensured that the trip was a success for all concerned. Accommodation and food was superb!
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Sun 16th September 2018 - Sun 23rd September 2018

YES

£1495

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Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are limited. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1375 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Spain

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Tom Mabbett
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01962 733051

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Tour Reviews

I travel a lot and find the holidays are as I expected but this was much better than my expectations. I loved the mix of walking and nature. When the botanists were plant staring I could walk and scan the skies for Lammergeiers which I saw several times.
P.T, 2015