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El Camino del Norte - The Northern Way by Boat

Join us for a unique journey back in time on a historical vessel following the Pilgrim sailing route along the Northern Coast of Spain from Bayonne to La Coruña. This is a unique opportunity (only 2 departures with 30 spots planned for 2019) to experience a once in a lifetime journey on a different Camino de Santiago and in Northern Spain. Rediscover the pleasures of sailing, write a book of memories speaking of unlimited horizons and stunning views of the sea and land, learn to navigate a traditional vessel and hike the most beautiful sections of the Camino del Norte from top of cliffs to the coastal path always dominated by the immensity of the ocean.

Bob Escoffier, the famous French skipper who is organising this incredible adventure, has a vision to revive the Medieval Camino del Norte by boat in a traditional but luxurious and cultural way. He purchased one of the most impressive three-mast wooden bark boat in Europe and transformed it to ressemble a modern Pilgrim Albergue with a large shared dorm and private cabins. The hikes and stops were chosen by the experienced guides who will be joining the tours. Daily activities were recommended and organised by local experts (like ourselves at Ultreya Tours) and the tourism boards of each area (in particular by the representatives of the cities of La Coruña and Santiago) to make them as memorable and relevant as possible.

To embark on The Français 3 Mats Vessel for the Camino del Norte is to meet these seafaring people and discover the smaller harbour villages, where the sea is neither an obstacle nor a limit, it is opening yourself to new horizons, new adventures and new human encounters.

on request

  • THE NORTHERN WAY BY BOAT INCLUDES

    • 7 days / 6 nights aboard "the Français 3 Mats" staying in a shared 4 bed dorms
    • 7 breakfasts and 7 three-courses dinners
    • Emergency support from our local team
    • A professional crew of 1 Capitan, 1 Second and 8 seamen to assist with the navigation
    • All port, energy, communication, provisioning and insurance charges for the boat
    • Individual Passenger and Ship Insurance (in case of emergency while offshore a radio connection with a doctor at the Sea Emergency Services in Toulouse will be arranged before a emergency recovery)
    • Excursions and scheduled tours as mentioned in the program with multilingual cultural and hiking guides
    • Outside lunches and picnics as mentioned in the program

    price & dates

    2 departures scheduled for 2019 plus private departures on a luxury Catamaran on request:

    Departure 1 - Leaving Bayonne on Tuesday 3rd of September 2019 to arrive in La Coruña on Monday 9th of September 2019
    Departure 2 - Leaving Bayonne on Monday 16th of September 2019 to arrive in La Coruña on Sunday 22nd of September 2019

    Contact us for updated pricing, availability, further details or to plan a private departure on a catamaran.

    •   fact file

      Accommodation  in the shared dorm or in private cabins in the superb sailboat "Français 3 Mats"
      Duration  7 days / 6 nights
      Starts  Bayonne
      Stops  Pasaïa, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Santoña, Santander, Ribadesella, Gijon, Avilés, Cudillero, Navia, Ribadeo
      Ends  La Coruña
    • highlights

      A unique opportunity to join the 54 pilgrims who will travel back in time in September 2019.
      Stay on a traditional three-mast wooden bark boat
      Discover the best of the Camino del Norte and Northern Spain in only 1 week
      Eat delicious Gourmet food on-board and on land

Looking for a different journey? Ask us about our great Spanish train journeys including the Transcantábrico and the Express de la Robla in Asturias.

what to expect on this tour?

On the Camino del Norte / Northern Way by Boat you will enjoy the trip itself, where the most important thing is not the destination but the journey and the enchanting way of moving. Being a guest on the Français 3 Mats is like traveling back in time and to go discover a new world, in which you will enjoy the constant attention of our crew, the elegance and comfort of a historical vessel. Leave the worrying to us and instead seize every moment and every destination. During the journey the sailboat will become a hotel in motion, where you will be rocked by the mighty Atlantic Ocean to sleep every night and discover a new adventure every day, resulting in a travel experience unlike any other.

Note: The stops and activities detailed in the tour itinerary have been put together by Renfe Luxury Tourist Trains and can be subject to change. Ask us for a final itinerary and dates!

Stay on a spectacular three-mast wooden bark boat

LE FRANÇAIS, formerly Kaskelot "sperm whale" in Danish, is a three-mast wooden bark boat, built in Denmark in 1948, for the Royal Greenland Trading Company, bought in 1983 by Robin Davies it was completely renovated in 1983 to be used to shoot period movies. It then passed under the flag of "Square Sail" and undergone several facelifts to keep it modern. It was acquired in 2018 by Bob Escoffier Maritime to join the French flag in Saint Malo and renamed "Esprit of France".

Onboard during the cruise, you will find 1 Captain, 1 Second and 8 seamen sailors. The beautiful Cale of the upper deck has been completely renovated for this trip and converted into a dormitory for 27 pilgrims as would have been standard in the Middle Ages. The boat includes 2 cabins for 2 guides + 1 Cabin for the organization + 5 private cabins for the Pilgrims (there are no ensuite bathrooms).

Vessel characteristics: Overall length: 47 m.  -  Length of hull: 37 m.  -  Length at the waterline: 32 m.  -  Width at the main beam: 8.50 m.  -  Draft: 3.80 m.  -  Tirant-d'air: 32 m.  -  Surface of 17 sails: 882 m²  -  Displacement: 450 tons  -  Armament: Escoffier Maritime   Home port: Saint Malo

Map the inside deck of the Français 3 Mats Boat

the Bob Escoffier Armement Maritime Company

Bob Escoffier is known as one of the great French navigators. The famous skipper has an impressive chart under his name: he completed a dozen transatlantic journeys and and traveled tens of thousands of miles all over the 7 seas. In 1990, he became the first owner of heritage vessels in France (Français 3 Mats being his most prized possession). Bob also enjoys a good challenge and has participated is some of the most prestigious offshore races, such as the Transat Jacques Vabre (a yachting race that follows the historic coffee trading route between France and Brazil) and The Route du Rhum (transatlantic single-handed yacht race between Saint Malo, Brittany, France and Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe) in 1994, 1998, 2002 and again in 2018.

For more than 20 years, the Bob Escoffier Armement Maritime Company ships have been present on the biggest French and foreign races (Vendée Globe, Transat Jacques Vabre, Barcelona World Race, Volvo Ocean Race, America's Cup ...) and helped organise big festivals and maritime gatherings (Armada of Rouen, Brest, Week of the Gulf of Morbihan ...). Year-round they offer day tour or weeklong tour in the bay of Saint-Malo, the bay of Cancale, the Channel Islands, South Brittany and offer their expertise in looking for a character ship for movie sets and consulting, shipbuilding projects and technical assistance. But now they have a new pet project which is to revive the Camino de Santiago by boat.

A historic way of traveling on the Camino de Santiago

Traveling on the Northern Way by boat, with stopovers from port to port, is like boarding a sea adventure which started in the year 843, with the discovery of the tumb of the Apostle Saint James in Santiago de Compostela. Dive into History by discovering a rich cultural maritime heritage: a harbour, a city, its population, a culture, its identity, its life. In the Middle Ages, it was easier and safer for pilgrims going to pay their respect to the Apostle Saint James, to travel by sea than to embark on the land paths. For many pilgrims arriving from the North (Ireland, England, Scandinavia) sailing was even the only option to reach Santiago. So like we suggest you do on this trip, many sailed to La Coruña and travelled on foot the 75 km to Santiago.

Although this tradition has mostly dissapeared, many harbours on this route keep traces of those sailing pilgrims. In Laredo, the San Marcial tunnel had been excavated in the rock to allow pilgrims who had come by sea to reach the Santa Maria de la Asuncion Church directly from the wharves. Amazing towns like Santander, Santillana del Mar, San Vicente de la Barquera or Ribadesella even thrived thanks to the sailing and walking pilgrims.

Today, embarking for the Way of Saint James by the sea, it is a maritime historical journey in sixteen ports of call, from Bayonne to La Coruña across the maritime provinces, Labor, Guipuzcoa, Vizcaya, Cantabria, Asturias , Galicia, an extraordinary slideshow of the history of Northern Spain and these regions.

a luxurious experience on-board and on land

You will start each day by enjoying a delicious à la carte breakfast, before the guided tours. Each day you will walk 8 to 14 km along selected section of the Camino del Norte always accompanied by our multilingual guide. Several other activities will be planned during the day and you will have free time to discover the cities you will be stopping in.

Most of the navigation will be done during the night with an average of 4h sailing per day. You are welcome to give a hand in the boat maneuvers, the crew will be glad to teach you these traditional techniques. All dinners are included, some will be on board and other in the towns, all will be prepared by gourmet chef and rooted in the culinary traditions of each region.

Proper walking clothing and gear is recommended for the walks. At night you can opt for more formal attire, although no particular dress code is required at any time. We recommend bringing warm items as it can get cold offshore. No toiletries or bedding items are included.

We cater for vegetarians, vegans and any special dietary requirements or allergies. Just let us know beforehand so we can advise the chefs.

Add extra days or activities for an unforgettable adventure

Why not take advantage of the fact you are in France and Spain to do some tourism and visit the wine regions of Bordeaux, Paris, more of the Basque Country or any Spanish city on your bucket list? Your closest arrival airport is Biarritz and International airport is Paris, the departure airport being Santiago de Compostela or La Coruña but you might want to opt for other airports to visit another region or add nights somewhere on your stopover.

We can help you choose and book those extra nights before or after your tour. We recommend in particular walking in 5 days to Santiago from La Coruña. Check out our selection of Day Tours in Spain and European Stop-Overs or let your imagination run wild and let us know let us know how you would like to make this tour unique.

THE NORTHERN WAY BY BOAT DAY BY DAY ITINERARY

A 7 days adventure full of intensity where you will approach the essence of the Camino in Medieval time in a very original and fascinating way aboard a three-mast wooden bark boat that will make this journey an unforgettable experience.

Map of the Camino Northern Way by Boat

DAY 1 - Sailing day from Bayonne to Bilbao

05:00 - Embarkation in Bayonne to sail overnight to Pasaïa / Pasajes (23 Miles - 4h of navigation)
08:00 - Breakfast on board
09:00 - Arrival at the harbor of Pasajes San Juan - Disembarkation of the group
09:30 - Camino de Santiago walk: Pasajes San Pedro to San Sebastian (8 km - 2h 30 min) We will cross the estuary fjord on a small motor boat to reach Pasajes / Pasaïa San Pedro, the fishing village favored by Victor Hugo, where the Marquis de Lafayette left to join the insurgents. This charming fishing harbor with brightly colored windows is structured around a stony and narrow path to the beautiful Lighthouse of La Plata. Our splendid walk crosses Mount Ulía to join the beautiful beach of Zurriola in Donostia San Sebastian, the Pearl of Cantabria.
12:00 - Arrival in San Sebastian
13:00 - Lunch at the Gastronomic Society « La Gastronomica » and free time in the city
19:00 - Return to the boat and dinner on board
23:00 - Sail overnight to Bilbao (65 Miles - 5h of navigation)

DAY 2 - 24h in Bilbao

07:00 - Arrival in Bilbao
08:00 - Breakfast on board
09:00 - Group disembarkation - Full day of visits of Bilbao including lunch in the old quarters. Bilbao is the heart of a metropolis where more than a million people live. It is the center of the economic-social development and the main factor of the modernization of the Bay of Biscay. The great architectural and infrastructure projects have been the driving force of the urban and economic regeneration of the city. The Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, the Euskalduna Conference and Music Centre, Norman Foster’s Underground, Calatrava’s airport, the towers designed by the architects Arata Isozaki and César Pelli... are all examples of the dynamism that exists in Bilbao. The city is situated in the area of Bizkaia and is surrounded by a fertile landscape with forests, mountains, beaches and steep coasts.
20:00 - Dinner on board

DAY 3 - sailing day from Bilbao to Ribadesella

05.00 - Sail overnight for Santoña (17 Miles - 3h of navigation))
08.00 - Breakfast on board
09.00 - Arrival in Santoña - Group disembarkation
10.45 - Camino de Santiago walk: Santoña to Noja (13 kms - 2h 45 walk) Today, we will walk through areas of unique natural beauty and capricious geography, in which in just a few kilometers you will pass steep limestone peaks that surround the "poljé" of Liendo to the vast expanses of sand of Laredo and the swamps of the mouth of Asón. You will embark on a small boat to cross the Ria de Treto and Santoña. These, which form the largest part of the "Santoña Marshes Natural Park, Victoria and Joyel", are one of the most important waterfowl sanctuaries in the North of Spain and are distinguished by their great ecological interest. Human geography also presents great contrasts, from the farmlands of Liendo we walk to the marine atmosphere of Laredo and Santoña.
14.00 - Lunch at a restaurant in Noja, before returning to Santoña
16.00 - Leave Santoña harbor to sail to Ribadesella (86 miles, 14 hours of sailing)
20.00 - Dinner on board

DAY 4 - sailing day from Ribadesella to Gijon


06:00: Arrival in Ribadesella
08:00 - Breakfast on board
08:45 - Camino de Santiago walk: Walk on the Ribadesella estuary, formed by the River Sella joining the Cantabrian Sea and famous for kayaking and being the center of the Asturian Jurassic Route, where footprints of giant dinosaurs were found. In the upper part of Ribadesella you will admire a splendid panoramic view stretching from the Picos de Europa to the horizon of the Cantabrian Sea. The beach of Santa Marina, known as "The Picos de Europa Beach" because of its proximity to the National Park, 35 kilometers away, is located next to the mouth of the Sella and forms a vast seashell of golden and fine sand.
13:00 - Lunch on board
14:00 - Departure to sail for Gijon (27 Miles, 5 hours of navigation)
19:00 - Arrival Gijon. Asturias is famous for its sidrerias serving fish and cider so we will disembark to enjoy a tapas dinner in a Sidreria nearby

DAY 5 - sailing day from Gijon to Navia

05:00 - Sail overnight to Avilés (21 miles - 4 hours of navigation).
08:00 - Breakfast on board
09:00 - Arrival at the harbor of Avilès
10:00 - Camino de Santiago walk: Santiago del Monte to Cudillero (15 km - 3 hours walk) Walking along a path parallel to the coast, today we will meet fabulous landscapes with magnificent sea views. Our destination is Cudillero, probably the most picturesque fishermen village of the Asturian coast. The village grew from a harbor nestled at the bottom of a creek with houses built directly on the side of a cliff.
14:00 - Lunch at a restaurant in Cudillero
16:00 - Leave Cudillero to sail to Navia (30 miles, 5 hours of navigation)
20:00 - Dinner on board
21:00 - Arrival in the harbour of Navia and overnight

DAY 6 - sailing day from Navia to La Coruña

08:00 - Breakfast
10:00 - Arrival at Navia. Transfer by public transport to La Caridad
10:30 - Camino de Santiago walk: Tapia / Ribadeo Marina (8 km - 2 hrs walk) We reached the end of the Northern Way in Asturias. The highlights on the walk today are Tapia Marina and the EO estuary. The splendid landscape of the western marina continues, dotted with small creeks, some of difficult access, beautiful meadows opened to the Atlantic and charming fishing villages, with their narrow and steep streets.
We will reach Ribadeo on-foot and discover this stunning Galician town: the Porcillán of Roman origin, the lighthouse of Pancha Island, the ruins of the castle of San Damián.
13:00 - Seafood lunch in a harbor restaurant in Ribadeo including cockerels, clams and oysters which, with salmon, trout and eel are the stars of the local gastronomy.
Free time to visit As Catedrais Beach, 12 km away, one of the most beautiful beaches in the World whose rocks, forming natural arches, seem to draw a cathedral.
15:30 - Leave to sail La Coruña (86 miles, 14 hours of navigation)
20:00 - Dinner on board

DAY 7 - start of your next adventure

08:00 - Breakfast on board
09:00 - Arrival port of La Coruña and disembarkation.
10:45 - Special Welcome Reception at the Town Hall of La Coruña organized by the tourism board of the City of Cristal
End of the tour with an option to reach Santiago either by foot or on a private day tour

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