STAGE 6: FROM SANTO DOMINGO DE LA CALZADA TO BURGOS – FRENCH ROAD BY BIKE

Distance to Santiago 562 km

Step Distance: 75 km

Estimated time: 6 – 6,5 hours

Minimal height: 640 m

Maximum height:  1165 m

Difficulty of the route:  High

Places of interest: Belorado, Villafranca de Montes de Oca, San Juan de Ortega, Atapuerca, Burgos

Map of the route: To see the route in Google Maps click here

Stage 6, from Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Burgos by bicycle

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This stage increases in difficulty due mainly to the increase in mileage compared to what we have done so far, and also because we will encounter some powerful ramps in which there will sometimes be loose stones; which will increase the technical difficulty. Anyway, in the text and in the map of stage you will be able to find the alternatives by road. 

The greatest complications will be found in some pronounced jumps in the Montes de Oca and, after crossing the Sierra de Atapuerca. There we will overcome 100 meters of unevenness in a little more than a kilometer, then descend for three kilometers about 140 meters in steep slope.

In general, you can follow the original paths of the Camino during the whole stage, although in many cases, these will parallel the N120 or other local roads. At some points, we will recommend from Tournride that you go by the road, especially if the weather conditions are bad, the ground is muddy or there are a lot of pilgrims, as some trails are narrow. Here we tell you the points where you can rejoin the trails.

Overview of the Atapuerca mountain range going to Burgos from Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Overview of the Atapuerca mountain range

PROFILE AND STAGE’S MAIN ROUTES

We leave from Santo Domingo de la Calzada and, after crossing the bridge, we can continue directly by the Road of Burgos. The path runs parallel to it and, after a little more than two kilometers, we will find a stop sign that eliminates one of the lanes of the road. At that point, we see the Path to our left and we can reincorporate ourselves there.

From that point the slope becomes stronger and even Grañón we have to make an effort, especially in the last two kilometers to the center of the town, which is in a high point called “hill of Mirabel” (120 m difference of height).

Poster with the route from Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Grañón

Poster with the route from Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Grañón (photo courtesy of Miran Rivajec under the following conditions)

After a steep descent to the exit of Grañón, we take a gravel path that leads lightly along the border between La Rioja and Castilla y León. It is marked with a large poster with a road map in this community.

From the border, throughout the Road there will be marks with permanent and short jumps. From the border, the gravel trail leaves us in “Redecilla del Camino”. By its center passes the N-120, road that will not take until Castildelgado.

When arriving at Castildelgado we can follow the yellow arrows to cross trails of land that take us to pass through Viloria of Rioja. If instead of following them we go by the N120 we will not pass through this locality and we will go directly to Villamayor of the River. The trails to Viloria de Rioja are perfectly passable; they can only be a little narrow in some points.

From Villamayor del Río to Villafranca de Montes de Oca we can go as far along the original road, it runs in the form of a gravel or dirt path more or less parallel to the road, as by the N120. If we go by road we will not pass through Villambistía. It runs on a permanent and light slope.

When arriving at Villafranca de Montes de Oca we can take the original road, we will cross these mountains and compensate for the extra effort that demands with an incredible natural environment. Transiting by dirt roads that will be swelling as we go up the slope, alternating marked descents with short but intense ramps, which can reach between 5 and 8{f83b22b844ac07a43a3f1ef6a8e10c29cb09ae7d9fbb052eb44ad624a4f02ada} of unevenness. We can also choose to continue on the N120 from Villafranca and join the tracks of the mountains 4.5 km later, entering directly into Alto de la Pedraja, maximum altitude of the mountain (1150 m). You can also enter before, but it would be just before the Civil War monument.

Road to Villafranca de Montes de Oca, surrounded by trees in a sunny day

Road to Villafranca de Montes de Oca (photo courtesy of Total13 under the following conditions)

From the Alto de la Pedraja we descend in gradual slope for about 8 km until San Juan de Ortega. From there we follow a beautiful road between pines, near Agés, places us on an upper level giving us beautiful views of the surroundings. From that point a slide leaves us Agés.

The first three kilometers from the exit of Agés will become a pleasant walk on plain by the regional road (BU-V-7012). When we see to our right the interpretation center of the deposits of Atapuerca and enter in the homonymous town, we must leave of the road to take a path of gravel to the left.

From this point it is necessary to climb for two kilometers the Atapuerca mountain range. A difference in altitude of 116 meters is exceeded and then 140 m in another 2.5 km. It is not a very steep slope but the type of firm can complicate the crossing, since there are many loose stones and steps of natural stone.

Given the technical difficulty of this section, you can make the decision to get around it. To do this you have to continue straight on the Atapuerca road until you reach Olmos de Atapuerca, where we will take the road that borders the mountains to the left and we will reach Villaba, where we will re-connect the Camino.

From Villalbal we are less than 17 km to reach Burgos. The profile is softened and, although we have some leap, it will not be comparable to what we have gone through.

After leaving behind Orbañeja Riopico and crossing the dual carriageway by an overpass we have two options to enter Burgos.

The first option is by the original path. It borders the airport by the right and enters the city by the industrial estate of the Gamonal. It is a long and tedious road of more than 10 km until arriving at the cathedral (7 km by the industrial estate, with much traffic and movement of trucks).

The second option is to enter through the river park of the Arlanzón River.. Unless it rains a lot and the grounds turn very muddy, this is surely the best option. To go here, we have to cross it the top of the motorway and, when we see urbanization to our left, we go through it to take a path that goes to the bottom. This path is also signaled vertically and horizontally, so we will have no problem following it. The distance and profile to go will be similar, but the walk becomes much more pleasant and takes us almost to the center of the city.

Statue of a pilgrim with the cathedral of Burgos in the background

Statue of a pilgrim with the cathedral of Burgos in the background (photo courtesy Paul Quayle)

In general, this will be a stage that will require a lot of effort given that, in addition to being quite long, it includes the climb to two high heights in the Montes de Oca and in the Sierra de Atapuerca. The landscape that will accompany us will be worth it, since we will see how the green of the river begins to give way to the great extensions of Leon. What is certain is that, after so much effort, the entrance to Burgos can be made long, since you see the city but it takes quite a while to get to its center. Come On Pilgrim!

PRACTICAL TIPS

 

  • Although the road runs close to the road gives us the option to go by asphalt and facilitate the pilgrimage, if we go on the trails sometimes there is some dangerous crossing. You should always be very careful on these points.
  • From Villafranca de Montes de Oca to San Juan de Ortega there are about 12 km by the mountain without any locality, so if we need water or food it is always advisable to stock up before. Mention that in the high part of the hills, in the wide piste between 5 km of San Juan, there is a bar called “El oasis del camino”,(The oasis of the Road), with tables and chairs made of great painted trunks. The will is paid for what is requested. It is not permanent, so in winter you may not find it.
  • If you start your way in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, we help you get there. Do you know how to get to Santo Domingo de la Calzada?
  1. 1. Local buses arrive from multiple points of the peninsula. Since depending on where you leave the company that operates is different, it is best to look at the page of the town hall where all the information is detailed and look for a connection that is worth directly on the page of who operates. 
  2. 2. There are buses that connect to Logroño, Burgos, Zaragoza, Madrid and Barcelona; All of them are cities with airports. If you come from afar this way you have the possibility of linking.
  3. 3. There is no train station in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The nearest are Haro (21 km), Miranda de Ebro (38 km) and Logroño (46 km).

You can also try on some social platform like Blablacar or hire a taxi that will pick you up at the locality close to the one you arrive to transfer to Santo Domingo.

Remember that in Tournride we will leave you the day before the beginning of your trip the bicycles in your accommodation of Santo Domingo de la Calzada and we can take care of your surplus luggage, transferring it to your end of road.

  • If you want to visit Atapuerca, you have three ways to do it.. From Tuesday to Sunday, the Atapuerca Foundation organizes visits to the sites every hour from 10:00 a.m. to 13:00 p.m.; So if the schedule coincides well you can approach from the road that passes the Road to the site itself (it is well indicated). The second possibility is if you spend the night in Agés, make use of the bus that picks up the pilgrims every day and takes them to make the visit (it is recommended to consult schedules in the hostel of the town). The last is to take the bus from the Museum of Human Evolution in Burgos to the site. For more information consult the website of the Atapuerca Foundation
  • If you want to visit the cathedral of Burgos keep in mind that it only opens until 18:00 and that you have to pay entrance (€ 3.5 with the credential).. If you do not arrive, you can always do so from 10:00 am the next morning.

 

DETAILED ITINERARY AND HISTORICAL-ARTISTIC HERITAGE

 

At this stage we will leave behind La Rioja and we will enter Castilla. The change of landscape will be gradual, the vineyards will be little by little behind and we will cross great plantations of pines until the landscape of the call “Riojilla Burgalesa” will give us the views of its great extensions dotted with holm oaks.

In addition to these impressive sites, we will discover the first human footprints in the deposits of Atapuerca and the great San Juan de Ortega’s medieval constructions. All this interspersed by the visit to multiple villages of small size in which the affability of the people and the good treatment to the pilgrim is assured.

¡Buen camino!

Herd in the Atapuerca mountain range

Herd in the Atapuerca mountain range (photo courtesy Paul Quayle)

WE LEFT SANTO DOMINGO DE LA CALZADA AND WE CROSS GRAÑÓN UNTIL TO ARRIVE TO THE BORDER WITH CASTILLA Y LEÓN

Today’s route begins with a building full of history: the bridge of Santo Domingo de la Calzada. We already know the history of the saint and of this locality; detailed in the final walk of the previous stage. This Bridge of exit of the locality was the one that first made famous to Domingo Garcia.

It is true that the bridge currently used by pilgrims (stone and 16 arches), is not the bridge built by the saint in the 11th century. First there was a bridge formed by a wooden board on stone pillars and then Santo Domingo, once it was already known in its time, built another next to it formed by about 25 large stone arches. This bridge, due to the constant wear and tear of the floods and the passage of time, had to be reformed in all the centuries from XVI to XIX, which changed its appearance until giving it the configuration that we see today.

Bridge over the Oja River at the exit of Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Bridge over the Oja River at the exit of Santo Domingo de la Calzada (photo courtesy of Jordiferrer under the following conditions)

Despite the fact that the stones that Domingo Garcia put today are not enough, it is true that the construction has a lot of historical importance and therefore is cited in many ancient sources. It is also the scene of one of Domingo’s many miracles, since it is said that a pilgrim who slept there was hit by a chariot and the saint gave him back his life.

We decide to follow the road of Burgos or parallel to it by the paths of the road, in about 7 km we will reach Grañón, the last town we will visit La Rioja. The Camino de Santiago coincides with its Calle Mayor, so we will cross the town through its main artery, which coincides with the highest point of the Cerro de Mirabel, where the town is located. Formerly, given the border position of the place, here was a castle that allowed dominating the area. Today there are no remains but we can see good views sitting in a balcony at the end of the street, where the road indicates a turning to the left.

After leaving Grañón on a paved road first and with good ground afterwards, we travel less than two kilometers until we reach the border with Castilla y León.. A large sign indicates the crossing point, with information on the different locations through which the road runs in this community.  

We have about 450 kilometers to travel through Castile and Leon to reach Galicia, first by Burgos and then by Palencia and León. We will see how the landscape of this stage, which still reminds us of La Rioja, will give way to the extensive lines between cereal fields of the Castilian plains in the coming days and then the Bierzo will return to us vineyards and large trees to climb To the Ancares and enter the greenest of all: Galicia.

Poster on the border between La Rioja and Castilla y León on the road to Burgos

Poster on the border between La Rioja and Castilla y León (photo courtesy of Total 13 under the following conditions)

WALKING TO TOWNS- STREETS: THE URBANISTIC FOOTPRINT OF THE ROAD IN REDECILLA, CASTILDELGADO AND VILLAMAYOR DEL RÍO

In just 1, 5 km we arrive at the first locality Castilian: Redecilla del Camino.. Like many other towns we will see today, it has the town-street configuration very common on the Camino de Santiago. The road coincides with its main street.

In Redecilla Del Camino you can stand out one of the most well-known sculptural pieces of the French Road. In the main street of the town is a small Romanesque jewel inside the “Nuestra Señora de la Calle” church.

This is its baptismal font, which is almost one meter in diameter and is considered by many to be the most special of all the French Way. It is shaped like a cup, it is of stone and all its external part is carved representing an imposing fortification. Details are perfectly seen in the battlements, in the small windows of different shapes and in the eight carved towers that stretch until they become columns that are attached to its base.

Romanesque baptismal font in the Redecilla del Camino church

Romanesque baptismal font in the Redecilla Del Camino church (photo courtesy Santiago López-Pastor under the following conditions)

This wonderful work of the 12th century does not leave anyone indifferent. It may be because of the striking of his size, which has an imposing force, is delicate and detailed within his roughness. Perhaps it is because the marked volumes recall the miniatures of the medieval codices (not forgetting their proximity to the San Millán monastery de la Cogolla, vital in this type of art) or Mozarabic art, those Christians who lived in Muslim territory and that they were therefore influenced by the art of Al-Andalus. Be that as it may, this work deserves a stop to be admired. Mention also that the chosen theme is of marked symbolism, since the castle that represents surely is the Celestial Jerusalem. In this way, it expresses the idea that the baptism that takes place in it is the first step in life to eliminate sin and to be able to enter the so-called “City of God” someday.

Either by road or by the paths of the Camino, in less than 2 km we will arrive at Castildelgado, also in the form of town-street typical of the Jacobean route. If from there we continue by road we will not pass through Viloria de Rioja and therefore we will miss the visit to the place where Santo Domingo was born in 1019. The town is named after its proximity to the homonymous community and in its Our Lady of the Assumption church the baptismal font is conserved where the saint received his first sacrament.

Picking up again asphalt or path, we arrive at Villamayor del Río. If the already visited Villamayor de Monjardín was the town of the four lies (neither villa, nor greater, nor nuns, nor garden) this is the one of the three deceptions: it is not a villa, nor is it bigger, nor has a river. We will leave on your left your parish church, next to which there was formerly a hospital for pilgrims

BELORADO, “RIOJILLA BURGALESA” MAIN ENTITY

Following both the N120 and the path of the road that runs parallel to it, in about 4 km we will reach Belorado. This town of about 2000 inhabitants is located in a place that was once strategic, being between the Ebro valley and the plateau. When the first onslaught of Arabs tried to conquer the whole north of the peninsula, King Alfonso I had a castle built there, of which only remains of what is believed to be the tower of the tribute.

The town splendor emerges from the 11th century, when Sancho III the Great changed the layout of the way and thousands of Jacobean pilgrims began to pass by. Aymeric Picaud mentions this place as “belforatus” which in Latin means “beautiful hole”, perhaps because it is at a lower level than the surrounding terrain. Such became its importance that this town bears the privilege of being the place in Spain in which the existence of the oldest fair (1116 AD) has been documented. Although today it may seem somewhat trivial, the fairs in the Middle Ages were of vital importance, since they were the place where the most important economic and social activities took place. The existence of this fair caused many Franks and Jews (both with an important role in the trade) to settle in the town. After the expulsion of the Jews of the peninsula in S. XV, the town began to lose importance.

View of Belorado from his castle

Belorado from his castle (photo courtesy of Franz Pisa under the following conditions)

Today the main attractions to visit Belorado are the church of Santa María (adjacent to which is the parish hostel) and, in the Plaza Mayor, the San Pedro church; of medieval origin but very reformed in S. XVII. In the town is also the International Museum of Radiocomunicación Inocencio Bocanegra, which occupies an old silo (the only building of this type totally reformed in Spain). In this open interior space is a collection of more than 450 original pieces and there is also the largest interior reproduction of Europe from a trench of World War I (619 square meters).

WE GO TO VILLAFRANCA DE MONTES DE OCA

From Belorado to Villafranca de Montes de Oca we must face 12 km of slight but permanent rise, only interspersed by a few jumps.

From Belorado we can go to Tosantos by the N120 or by the road path of land but of good firmness. The road does not get much shorter, but it can be a good option in times of saturation of pilgrims on foot.. In about 5 km we will reach Tosantos, from where we will see on our right, in the distance, the Virgen de la Peña hermitage. It is a construction of eremitic origin, with different dependencies excavated like caves in the wall of rock.

The Virgen de la Peña hermitage view, from the top of the mountain

The Virgen de la Peña hermitage view, from the top of the mountain (photo courtesy of Diego Delso under the followingconditions)

If we continue by road from Tosantos, we will not pass Villambistía, which is less than 2 km along dirt tracks. In the town center, after leaving to our right church of San Esteban (S. XVII) there is a source of four pipes. It is said that its water cancels the tiredness of the pilgrims but … Beware! It is about soaking the head, not drinking it; its water is not drinkable!

Leaving Villambistía by a path of good firm will arrive in less than 1, 5 km to Espinosa of the Way, after crossing the N120. If we have decided not to go through Villambistía we will have traveled little more than 3 km from Tosantos.

From there they remain about 3.5 km until arriving at Villafranca de Montes de Oca. If you prefer, you can also go on the N120, shortening about 500 meters.

In Villafranca de Montes de Oca (kilometer 34.6 of stage) we will be at the foot of the mountains of the same name, which we must cross for 12 km to reach the next town of stage: San Juan de Ortega. This village has all the services, so if you want to make a stop can be a good place to rest.

When you start the ascent to the mountains, we will see on our left the church of Santiago el Mayor. Carried out for the most part in the seventeenth century, it will surely draw attention to its good stonework, which gives meaning and enhances the classicism and simplicity of its lines. It is worth getting in to see its holy water pile, consisting of a huge natural shell.

Santiago el Mayor church in Villafranca de Montes de Oca

Santiago el Mayor church in Villafranca de Montes de Oca (photo courtesy of Jose Manuel under the followingconditions)

Almost in the church front, to our right, there is also an old hospital of pilgrims that was commanded to construct in 1377 by the queen of Castile. With the building being refurbished, the place is nowadays an accommodation space for the pilgrim, in the form of a hostel (5-10 euros) or a three star hotel (from 30 euros).

MONTES DE OCA, A NATURAL SHOW WITH A TASTE OF HISTORY

Montes de Oca are a semimontañoso territory that divides the basins of two of the great rivers of Spain: the Duero and the Ebro. Fernán González says in its verses that also served as political border, marking the eastern limits of the primitive Castile.

With the strengthening of the pilgrimage to Santiago, these mountains rose as a necessary step for the walkers. In fact, Aymeric Picaud already names these places in the Codex Calixtino of the XIII century, referring to them as “Nemus Oque”. “Nemus” is a Latin word referring to a forest that contains trees with sacred connotations, which gives an idea of ​​the importance of the place. It was a stretch much feared by the pilgrims,, who not only had to face the difficulties of the configuration of the land, but one of the main problems of the way during the Middle Ages: security. The high density of vegetation that surrounded the small road paths was a perfect hiding place for the bandits, who waited for the pilgrims to assault them. To all this must be added the difficulties to obtain potable water during the more than 12 km of road and extreme temperatures in winter and summer. A proof of medieval faith!

Nowadays, we will no longer have any security problems, but we will be able to enjoy the peace that is breathed in its beautiful surroundings, pedaling among oaks, ash trees, pines and juniper trees inhabited by a long series of wild animals.

When leaving Villafranca de Montes de Oca we will face one of the stretches that can be more complicated to the pilgrims by bike. It climbs a fairly narrow path with a firm set. There are many large loose stones and at certain points there may be jumps with a slope of up to 6-8{f83b22b844ac07a43a3f1ef6a8e10c29cb09ae7d9fbb052eb44ad624a4f02ada}. After walking for about 1.8 km the slope will remain steep but will soften (maximum 3{f83b22b844ac07a43a3f1ef6a8e10c29cb09ae7d9fbb052eb44ad624a4f02ada}) and the trail will gain amplitude.

We will arrive to a stop where there is a monument to the fallen in the Spanish Civil War. It was promoted by the relatives of the more than 300 people who were shot in that place after the Franco uprising in 1936 and later buried in a common grave that, along with that in Montes de Estépar, is one of the largest in Burgos. Many pilgrims leave messages in this place in countless languages ​​and forms.

Monument shot in the Civil War, Montes de Oca

Monument shot in the Civil War (photo courtesy of KRLS under the following conditions)

Just beyond the monument awaits us the other complicated section of these mountains. We will have to descend 22 meters of altitude in 600 meters and, after crossing the river Carratón, climb 37 meters of difference of height in less than 1 km, facing at the beginning a strong ramp of 100 m. Surely the best thing in this section is to get off the bike and push, since with the weight of the saddlebags it will cost us to climb, especially if it is raining, since the firm is gravel and dirt!

When overcoming these obstacles we will be in Alto de la Pedraja (1150 m), maximum level of stage. Shortly before that point is the link between that track and the N120. In case of bad weather or if we prefer to cross the route by road from Villafranca de Montes de Oca to there, we will join before the Pedraja (consult stage map in Google Maps to see the specific point).

From Alto de la Pedraja it is 7 km to reach San Juan de Ortega, which we will travel through wide and firm tracks of land, so the biggest problem we can have is mud if there has been rain. Near the Alto de la Pedraja and according to the season in which we peregrinate we can find the “Oasis del Camino”, an improvised and colorful outdoor bar where we can stop to rest if we wish.

Decorations made by pilgrims in "The oasis road", Montes de Oca

Decorations made by pilgrims in “The oasis road” (photo courtesy Jorge Gañán)

SAN JUAN DE ORTEGA, ENIGMATIC PLACE WITH MORE THAN 800 YEARS OF SERVICE TO THE PILGRIM

We enter San Juan de Ortega and the wonderful view of its monastery welcomes us opening to our right. This town has the same name as the saint who promoted his creation, who was born in 1080 in Quintanaortuño (a town of Burgos).

He was a disciple of Santo Domingo and today he is the riggers patron. Like his teacher, he did many works for the pilgrims. The most important is the one that started in this place of the Montes de Oca, known as “urtica” because of the amount of plants of this species that were concentrated here. They say that after a shipwreck that almost cost him the death returning from Jerusalem, Juan decided to build there a chapel to San Nicholas with a hospital for the pilgrims.

Juan died in Nájera in 1163, when he was 83 years old. Its remains were taken to the chapel of Nicolás and the importance that this saint took made that many people peregrinase to the place that ended up adopting the name of San Juan de Ortega.

Exterior facade of the San Juan de Ortega monastery on the way from Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Burgos

Exterior facade of the San Juan de Ortega monastery (photo courtesy J. Sierro under the following conditions)

The monastery annexed to the church was first occupied by the Dominicans and then by the Hieronymites, who greatly expanded it in 1476. Such was its importance at that time that even Queen Elizabeth the Catholic went there to ask the saint to help him have Children, since after having given birth to Isabel had been 6 years without descendants. The following year gave birth to a man whom Juan called and, a year later, to what would be known as Juana “La Loca”. Surely the choice of names hid thankfulness from the queen to the saint for her help in her fruitfulness.

The monastery is a special place because to the singular of its beautiful surroundings are united its importance as a Christian place and, also, the enigmatic of an astronomical phenomenon denominated “Miracle of the light”. Each equinox at 5 o’clock in the afternoon sun rays penetrate the saint church and illuminate his capital, which has a representation of the nativity (the birth of Jesus). In the center of the capital, the Virgin Mary receives the rays with her two raised palms. This capital is located inside the northern apse of the church and is a jewel of the Romanesque, perfectly preserved and with a multitude of carvings full of details. He is not the only one of the temple, since in him cohabitates capitals of vegetal motives with others with figures, like this one.

"Miracle of light" in the capital of the Nativity in San Juan de Ortega

“Miracle of light” in the capital of the Nativity in San Juan de Ortega (photo courtesy of Miguel Martín Camarero under the following conditions)

San Juan de Ortega died before the church of San Nicolás was finished. The churches always began to build by the apse, the most sacred part, because that way you could begin to give mass before the whole building was finished. This church was started in the second half of the 12th century, when the triple head was made. After the death of the saint the works were interrupted and resumed at the end of the S. XV, at which time the style that predominated was the late-Gothic style. Therefore, in this church we see how the apse has more clearly Romanesque forms, with arches and flared windows, while the part of the feet and the cover are Gothic.

Gothic is also the impressive mausoleum in the form of baldachin that is in the center of the temple, where are buried the pair of important nobles who sponsored it. The reliefs on the sides of the tomb represent scenes from the life of St. John, but what strikes the most is the delicacy of the upper tracery of the tomb, so fine that it is hard to believe that they start from a block of stone.

Exterior of the San Juan de Ortega monastery

Exterior of the San Juan de Ortega monastery (photo courtesy of J. Sierro under the following conditions)

The sepulcher of San Juan is in the chapel of San Nicolás de Bari and is Romanesque purely. It is full of reliefs on all sides and the lid is slightly larger than the box. Carved scenes of the saint’s life are also carved.

After this impressive visit we leave San Juan de Ortega for the asphalt which, after the curve of the road, becomes again a rather flat gravel path that for 3 km will lead us between a huge pine forests. When clearing the high density of trees will open before us some beautiful views of the fields of cultivation of Burgos. After crossing a metal fence we will descend for 500 meters by a slide that at some point can have up to 9{f83b22b844ac07a43a3f1ef6a8e10c29cb09ae7d9fbb052eb44ad624a4f02ada} of slope and that will leave us at the entrance to Agés.

Encina in the high esplanade before the descent to Agés

Encina in the high esplanade before the descent to Agés (photo ceded by Jorge Gañán)

CROSSING OF THE SAW OF ATAPUERCA AND LAST LOCALITIES BEFORE BURGOS

Agés are today a town of little more than 50 inhabitants, dedicated eminently to the cultivation of the cereal. Instead, it was born in the 12th century with an important political and military function, since it served as a border with the Arabs in the context of the Reconquest. Today it has three lodges and a nice shop-restaurant called “El Alquimista” where Amapola and her husband lovingly prepare typical dishes of the area, taking great care of the pilgrims (they also give breakfast from 6:00 a.m. in the morning).

Main road of Agés village

Main road of Agés (photo ceded by Jorge Gañán)

We leave Agés by the local road, in a comfortable way without major changes of slope.  At 1.6 km we will see on our right a detour signposted towards a track of about 600 meters that leaves you directly in the door of the center of interpretation of Atapuerca. If instead of taking the detour we continue a little more than half a kilometer by the road, we will arrive at the homonymous village, from where the trail leaves to climb the mountain.

Why visit the Atapuerca sites? The collection of caves that compose this archaeological park collects a great number of honorary mentions and cultural prizes, among which is the one of World Heritage since 1999. Since the last quarter of S. XX has been the object of countless archaeological campaigns that have Brought to light the remains of four different hominid species, which has helped enormously to understand how our ancestors were. In addition, many different ritual objects have also been found, many of them from the Bronze Age (about 1300 BC), and even some previous sociological activities have been demonstrated; including ritual cannibalism (the only example of this in Europe).

Regional road that runs from Agés to Atapuerca in a sunny day

Regional road that runs from Agés to Atapuerca (photo courtesy of Jorge Gañán)

In the village of Atapuerca we will find all the services that we need. From Plaza Antecesor, this is close to the road and almost to the exit of the village, the road that goes up to the mountains. From that point we must face a ramp of 2.5 km in which rises a difference of height of 117 m with moments in which the slope can reach 9{f83b22b844ac07a43a3f1ef6a8e10c29cb09ae7d9fbb052eb44ad624a4f02ada}. . Anyway, the main problem is the firm, since it is of large loose stones and in some moments is of enough technical difficulty.

We will know that we have reached the highest level (1072 m) when we see a large cross with stones at its base that hundreds of pilgrims have been leaving with the passage of time. We will have a beautiful view of the surroundings and we will see a sign that reinforces with its inscription the beautiful place: “Since the pilgrim ruled Burguete the mounts of Navarre and saw the dilated fields of Spain, has not enjoyed a more beautiful view like this” . The text is a quote from Luciano Huidobro and Serna, a historian who promoted one of the greatest works of the XXth Century on the Camino de Santiago (“The Jacobean Pilgrimages”) and specialized in the section of the French Way in the province Of Burgos.

The shadow of a pilgrim in the ascent to the mountain range of Atapuerca

Ascent to the mountain range of Atapuerca (photo ceded by Jorge Gañán)

There are also works of land art, a type of contemporary art that uses nature as a framework and material to build his works. Thus, a series of drawings in the form of concentric circles formed by stones, of different sizes, will surprise the pilgrim.

During the descent of the sierra the terrain will remain complicated. There are another 2.5 km with a difference in height of 138 m and negative slopes of between 8.5 and 3{f83b22b844ac07a43a3f1ef6a8e10c29cb09ae7d9fbb052eb44ad624a4f02ada}. After a final toboggan we turn left and Villabal, from where the slope will be very soft and the road will become a pleasant walk on asphalt. In this way, in the following 3.5 km the road will take us to cross Cardeñuela Riopico first and Orbaneja Riopico later.

THE ENTRY IN BURGOS BY THE GAMONAL OR THE FLUVIAL RIDE OF THE ARLANZÓN RIVER

When you leave Orbaneja Riopico and cross the motorway for an overpass, we will be at the gates of Burgos. Between us and the city, you will find the city airport that we must get round, either on one side or another.

And is that because of the heavy of the original road to Burgos, which borders the airport on the right, have been born a detour or alternative road. The original road enters via Villafría and then crosses the entire industrial area of ​​the Gamonal to link with a part at the end of the bike path, which will allow us to enter the city to reach the cathedral. The part of the industrial estate, when it is very hot or the traffic is dense (there is a lot of heavy traffic), can become eternal for cyclists.

Gamonal neighborhood in Burgos at the end of this stage

Gamonal neighborhood in Burgos

If we want to ignore this entrance, we can choose to go along the River Arlanzón promenade, bordering the airport on the left, instead of on the right. To take this road we must turn left about 250 m after crossing the top of the motorway, at the entrance to urbanization (the detour is signposted with arrows on the asphalt). The asphalt will become a gravel path that will border the airport, attached to its fence and will take us to Castañares. After crossing the town (caution because here we must cross the road) the road goes into the river park of the river Arlanzón. We will cross the motorway by a lower passage and we will go for about 4.5 km by the south side of the river, until after crossing the N120 by a lower passage we will see a pedestrian bridge to our right. Crossing it we will enter in the heart of Burgos and in less than 2 km we will arrive at the cathedral.

Ribera del Arlanzón in Burgos

Ribera Del Arlanzón (Photo provided by Jesús Serna under the following conditions)

A PASS OF AN AFTERNOON BY BURGOS

Burgos is a monumental city that has many places whose artistic, historical or cultural importance deserves high recognition. It is impossible, therefore, to know the main monuments of the city in just one afternoon. For this reason, in Tournride we have designed a map in which we have marked the city main places of interest, which we will comment here to know you. But, given the impossibility of visiting them all (especially since many of them require hours of guided visit), we have planned a 27 minute walk so you can know the main thing. We will leave much to see and do in the ink, but at least it will give you an idea of ​​the city.

Anyway, if you are interested in getting to know more about some of the places in Burgos, from Tournride we recommend you to enjoy a day of rest here. Burgos or León can be the best stops on our way, by the conjunction of monuments and services. Just in case, we leave at the end some other things to see if you want to spend more time in Burgos.

Overview of Burgos with the Cathedral in the background

Overview of Burgos (photo courtesy of Marcel Frank under the following conditions)

As always, we start with a bit of History …

In Tournride we believe that in order to understand a city as we see it today it is necessary to know where it came from and how it has become what it is. That’s why we start by presenting you a little time line that will surprise you with the changes that have taken place in a settlement that began as a small “borough” and which today is a great cultural and industrial city.

The foundation of Burgos as we understand it today happens during the S. IX, in the context of the Reconquest. King Alfonso III asks a count, named Diego Rodríguez, to found a “village” near the Arlanzón river. As we have seen more often, during the war with the Arabs it was very important for the Christian kings to secure the territory they recovered, and for that, it was vital to populate it. In this case the order was “populare no expugnare”, that is, the king told the count to focus on “populate” rather than “conquer” the territory. To do this, the Count erected a castle on the top of the hill near the river (today there are remains of the construction) and encouraged settlement by a method very common at this time and that were already done by the Romans, called “presura”.

It was basically a question of giving the property of the land to the first one who arrived and broken it, asking that in return they should be kept under the command of the count. Although today the deal seems a bargain, it must be borne in mind that at that time this territory was dangerous and unstable, the Arabs had just lost the territory and were very close!

Despite the danger, the temptation to have land owned as free men filled many people, who cultivated land around the castle. Burgos was very different from what it is today, since it had an eminently military function and a configuration of peasant houses around the castle, reason why its economy was mainly agrarian.

South door of the castle of Burgos made of stone

South door of the castle of Burgos

Thus the small “borough” was maintained until the 11th century, when for the first time a king attends directly to the place and its history takes a radical turn although, everything has to say, this attention basically consisted of a betrayal. And it is that the king Sancho II used the castle of Burgos like prison to lock up his brothers, after taking away the territories that his father had left them in inheritance. Fernando I had divided his lands in three kingdoms (Galicia, Asturias and Leon), giving one to each of his children, but Sancho II wanted everything!

Since Sancho II stepped on Burgos in the 11th century many other kings did and thanks to this impulse, Burgos will live until the S. XVI a moment of splendor that will change its configuration forever, endowing it with many of the great monuments we see nowadays. They are the centuries of the Cid, the establishment of the royal court in Burgos and the celebration of royal weddings. The city must have a suitable decoration for it, reason why the cathedral beautify and appear monasteries like Las Huelgas.

But this splendor should not be understood as the mere appearance of monumental buildings. Burgos went from being an agricultural settlement around a military castle to being an important commercial city around the cathedral, reason why the center of the city “changed” of site. The cathedral was the nerve center around which life was developed and it was also a key point of passage on the Camino de Santiago where artisans from all over Europe gathered and worked.

Cathedral of Santa María in Burgos

Cathedral of Santa María in Burgos (photo courtesy of Guillepe01 under the following conditions)

Burgos became so important a place for commerce (it was vital even in the transactions with the north of Europe) that got to obtain that in the S. XV Kings Católicos gave to him the monopoly of the commerce of the wool.

In the sixteenth century, this entire splendor that had only been in crescendo during the last five centuries, is hampered by the conjunction of four main factors: the plague epidemics, the discovery of America, the wars in Europe and the weakening of the Way from Santiago. Imports of America and the elimination of exports to Flanders by the war weakened trade, the pilgrims stopped arriving and the population was reduced by the plague. A crisis that would not begin to go back until practically the 19th century, when the provincial capital was Cortes of Cadiz gave in Burgos.

Thanks to this institutional impulse, the area near the cathedral comes to life again, with political and military offices. The old part of the castle, destroyed by the scourge of the War of Independence against Napoleon, is definitely abandoned.

To the institutional impulse adds in the S. XX the industrial one with the creation of factories of silk or cereal products and, in addition, they are made to coin there two great iron lines. The organic growth that all this promoted has been in the present century regulated by strategic plans that have organized the city through the creation of large transport infrastructures, parks for the environmental enjoyment and great cultural spaces like the Museum of Human Evolution.

Today Burgos is a city of about 170 000 inhabitants that welcomes the pilgrim with the same warmth with which it has been doing since the 12th century. Now that you know the why of its way of being, do you encourage to walk it?

We match our steps with those of History. First stop: El Castillo

Having only one afternoon and being tired after a hard stage, the goal of our walk has to be to get an idea of ​​what this city is and to see some of its key places, being the cathedral the most important and the one that is going to take most of our time.

We follow the steps of the history of the city and, leaving our accommodation (on the map we marked the municipal hostel to put a reference point), we headed towards what was the neuralgic center of the first “borough”: the castle. The entrance to the interior of the castle is of payment and can include only the visit to the outside enclosure or also to the interior galleries. The outer part of the castle is rather dilapidated but underground this building holds many secrets worth discovering: there are more than 300 meters of interior underground galleries that were vital in the military function. The visits are only in the morning, so unless we decide to dedicate a morning or a day to Burgos it will be difficult for us to agree well.

View from the viewpoint of the castle in Burgos

View from the viewpoint of the castle

We want to enter or not, on the map we indicate as a key point the viewpoint of the castle. In the foothills of the military complex opens this circular esplanade that gives us the best views of the cathedral and the Burgos city. We can see the large squares open around the cathedral and the small surrounding streets that preserve its medieval configuration, as well as the great walks that since the twentieth have modified the way to tour Burgos. You can also see the large green areas near the Arlanzón. And in the background, the vast lands of Burgos. 

To the Burgos cathedral: let’s talk about the Gothic

Going down Valentín Palencia Street we will see on our left the CAB, the Center of Contemporary Art of Burgos and to our right we will pass in front of the church of San Esteban. Of military appearance, it is worth to stop to admire its Gothic cover and, mainly, it’s interior, since it houses the Museum of the Altarpiece..

We continue to the right, by the street Fernán González, where in Tournride we recommend a stop in the church of San Nicolás. Although the entrance fee (€ 1.5) we cannot miss the visit to the interior, as it keeps an impressive treasure: its stone altarpiece. It is a work of the 16th century that a couple of important merchants commissioned Francisco de Colonia, a sculptor born in Burgos but descended from a long list of great German sculptors who participated in the decoration of many of the Spanish cathedrals.

Stone altarpiece of the church of San Nicolás during the stage from Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Burgos

Stone altarpiece of the church of San Nicolás (photo ceded by Zarateman under the following conditions)

We cross the cathedral crossing the square of Santa Maria and then the one of San Fernando, where is the point of sale of tickets of the cathedral. The visit to this building is one of the most recommendable of all the French Way. Imposing and delicate at the same time, it is one of the top works of the Gothic style, which freed the walls of the buildings of weight and allowed light to enter the cathedrals.

Gothic was a style that was born in France and that prevailed during almost four centuries by all Europe. During that time society and fashion changed a lot and Gothic art was adapted to new tastes and, therefore, changing in its forms. In fact, they differ four different Gothic styles (besides the own variations that can be found in each country).

The cathedral began to be built in 1221, at which time the classical Gothic style prevailed, as are the cathedrals of Paris, Chartres or Reims. This style precedes the primitive Gothic, which although it had already changed the arch of a half point by the pointed, maintained forms of Romanesque architecture, such as the use of the podium inside the churches. The tribune was a gallery-like aisle that was placed on the side aisles and we will see it, for example, in the cathedral of Santiago (one of the Romanesque summits). The classic Gothic evolves this concept and changes the tribune for the triforium, which narrows the corridor a lot and allows that in the outer wall can open some window to allow light.

Interior of the cathedral of Burgos, where you can see the decorated blind triforium

Interior of the cathedral of Burgos, where you can see the decorated blind triforium (photo courtesy of Solbaken under the following conditions)

Interior of the cathedral of Santiago, where you can see the tribune that occupies the entire upper space of the side aisles

Interior of the cathedral of Santiago, where you can see the tribune that occupies the entire upper space of the side aisles (photo courtesy of Jansoone under the following conditions)

The façade of the Burgos’s cathedral also followed in its beginnings the forms of the classic Gothic style:: the central body wider than the lateral ones (because it coincides with the central nave in the interior) and all framed by two symmetrical towers, with a large rosette in the middle.

The successive reforms that were made of the cathedral were adding rooms and modifying what had previously been done. Following the example of the facade, for example, we see how the two upper towers of the towers are much more ornamented in decoration than the lower part, and that they were added in the S. XV. That is why they correspond to the flamboyant Gothic style, when in the final stage of the Gothic style it had become much more profuse in decoration adding traceries, drafts, pinnacles and needles everywhere. As a matter of fact, the spiers of the towers were designed by Juan de Colonia, father of the sculptor who made the stony altarpiece of San Nicolás, of which we spoke previously. This artist also designed the dome, the dome that covers the center of the cathedral where all the naves are.The area of ​​the ground below the dome is the cruise and in it we can see here the tomb of the Cid and Doña Jimena.

Main facade of the Burgos’s cathedral

Main facade of the Burgos’s cathedral

The combination of styles of the cathedral creates a majestic building, in which respect for the initial basic lines has given logic to the whole that marvels the visitor. We cannot speak here of all the details and stays that make this cathedral special, which since 1984 is a World Heritage Site. We will simply mention some of the most famous parts of the cathedral, such as the Chapel of the Contestable (made by Simon of Cologne, another of the artist family already mentioned and with a beautiful star-shaped dome), the cloister, and the impressive sculptural decoration of the street. In this case to understand, you must see!

From the arch of Santa Maria to the statue of the Cid

We return to the square of San Fernando and cross the arch of Santa Maria, to be able to admire it from its south side. It is one of the old 12 doors that had the city wall and that was remodeled between the S. XIV and XVI, being most of what we see of this last century.Even so, there should already be an arc before these centuries because in the “Poema del Mío Cid” is mentioned.

The wonderful construction that we see today is much more than a simple arch, rather it is a great triumphal arch in the form of a stone altarpiece to the exterior with an interesting exhibition space inside, that formerly housed the town hall. You can enter for free, although there are schedules.

Santa María Arc in Burgos

Santa María Arc in Burgos

We continue the Paseo del Espolón towards the north, heading for the Plaza Mayor. It accumulates five different names since it was created and at the moment we can find in her the City council, of neoclassic style, on what was formerly the Door of Carretas.

We leave the square to return to Paseo Espolón again and in a few meters we are before the statue of one of the most famous personages of the history of Burgos: El Cid.

Called Rodrigo Diaz Vivar, he was a knight who during the Reconquest fought in multiple battles and came to conquer Valencia, creating a lordship independent of any king, who maintained until his death in 1048. Then his wife, Jimena, took the reins of the señorío But when it died in 1102 the place returned to hands of the Arabs..

Around this real historical personage has been created a figure exalted historically, to which the chronicles of his military feats helped a lot. The best known is one of the most important medieval poems: “El Cantar del Mío Cid”. Rodrigo is considered a historical hero in Castile, although there are also documents that define his figure more closely to a mercenary (it is said that he fought for both Arabs and Christians). What is clear is that he was a person who, in a turbulent moment, used his sense of strategy and his courage to position himself so clearly that the nicknames that have gone down in history to refer to him are “señor” (“cid”) y el de “campeador” (“expert in pitched battles ”).

Statue of the Cid in Burgos

Statue of the Cid in Burgos (photo courtesy of Chicadelatele under the following conditions)

The equestrian statue that shines in Burgos is made of bronze and measures almost 4 meters. It was made in 1947 by artist Juan Cristóbal González Quesada. In it we see the Cid riding his horse and lining up with the sword. It is striking the movement that transmits his coat to the air.

We finished the tour enjoying the gastronomy burgalense

After this short but intense walk, in Tournride we propose some streets where you can find multiple bars and restaurants where you can have a drink and snack.

Near the main square we will find several pedestrian streets with a very pleasant atmosphere and multiple bars and restaurants where we can take both elaborate tapas as a menu. An example of this is the San Lorenzo street (which runs directly from the square) or the Sombrería street, which is a parallel street.

Even so, practically all the streets of the old city are full of restaurants that try to offer the best of Burgos gastronomy: blood sausage with rice, Burgos fresh cheese or suckling pig; among many other things

In case you decide to stay … we tell you that Burgos has much to offer!

If you want and you can stay for a day to rest in Burgos you will realize that you will not have much time for boredom … There are an endless number of monuments and museums that will make your visit memorable.

The entrance of the French Way to Burgos is made by the Arch of San Juan, another of the 12 ancient gates of the city and near the one that is a monastery with the same name. Surely when you arrive you have not had much time to take a look, but now you can return to see them.

Still, in Tournride we recommend three key visits: the monastery of Las Huelgas, the Cartuja de Miraflores and the Museum of Human Evolution (with or without a visit to the Atapuerca sites).

Our first two recommendations are far from the center and quite distant from one another, but your visit is well worth it. The Monastery of the Huelgas is to the west, in the southern area of ​​the Arlanzón River.

Exterior of the Monastery of Las Huelgas in Burgos

Exterior of the Monastery of Las Huelgas (photo courtesy Lourdes Cardenal under the following conditions)

Like the cathedral, it is dedicated to Santa Maria and is the most important Cistercian monastery of all that has been in Spain. We have already spoken in stage 4 of how the Order of Cîteaux arose in opposition to that of Cluny in defense of the values ​​of ecclesiastical austerity, which are reflected in the sobriety of its architecture.

This monastery follows this architectural cleansing but is also special because its history is closely linked to that of the Crown. It was founded directly by the kings and, besides hosting a great royal pantheon, was the scene of many royal coronations. It was also a space where the founding queen, Leonor, wanted women to reach the same importance as men and therefore the nuns, being the majority descendants of the upper class, only responded to the Pope and were in charge of many other lands and monastery.

On the other hand, the Cartuja de Miraflores takes its name from the monks who ran it, the Carthusians. Although it was founded in S. XV in S. XVI suffered a great fire and was reconstructed, being also dedicated to Santa Maria. The church was built entirely at that time and therefore is all of late-Gothic style. In addition to the building itself, the Carthusian has stained glass and carvings in the tombs that are exceptional.

Exterior of the Cartuja de Miraflores in Burgos

Exterior of the Cartuja de Miraflores (photo courtesy of Ecelan under the following conditions)

The Museum of Human Evolution is a great museum space whose main merits are three: the value it makes of the findings of the deposits of Atapuerca, the awareness that promotes the complexity of the different scientific disciplines that intervene in them and, above all, the achievement of becoming an informative space in which all this is transmitted to the visitor in a fun and simple way. It really gets us to reflect on our capabilities and limits from the understanding of our past. If you are interested in this topic and want to learn a little more, do not hesitate to visit it!

We thus ended a hard stage that has led us enter to Castilla. From now on the plains and the large grain crops will be a sight that will end up craving family and, meanwhile, we will be able to discover many interesting villages with much to offer the pilgrim.

¡Buen camino!