The Camino Routes Spain & Portugal Camino de Madrid A modern route designed by the Amigos de los Caminos de Santiago de Madrid to enable pilgrims from Madrid and central Spain to journey to the Camino Francés under their own steam. The route: The route goes north-westwards from Madrid to Sahagún virtually in a straight line over the Sierra de Guadarrama, through Segovia and Coca, crosses the river Duero and finally the Tierra de Campos through Medina de Rioseco to Sahagún. Length: The route is 321 km long and takes about 2 weeks to walk (excluding rest days). Waymarking: The route is excellently waymarked throughout with yellow arrows. Terrain: The route is almost exclusively on footpaths and along Cañadas (historic drove roads) and only rarely on tarmac roads. For the first 100 km, the way climbs the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama – high granite moorland. Crossing the Sierra entails a stiff climb of 650m in 8 km to the Puerto de Fuenfria followed by a gradual descent to Segovia, almost all in endless pine forest. Beyond Segovia the terrain is virtually flat. The way follows the valleys of the rivers Eresma and Voltoya to the river Duero, an area of low sandhills and vast tracts of pine forests interspersed with equally vast open spaces, some cultivated, some grazed. Beyond the Duero to Sahagún is the Tierra de Campos – the Gothic Fields – archetypal meseta with extensive cereal cultivation dissected by steep-sided ravines surrounding villages spectacularly sited on spurs. Weather: Mountain weather from Madrid to Segovia ; elsewhere, weather similar to that between Burgos and Astorga on the Camino Francés – extremely hot in the three summer months especially July and August and nine months of bitter cold. Rain in spring and autumn. Snow on the Sierra de Guaderrama until May. When to go: The route is walkable all the year, but July to early September is extremely hot and long stretches of the route have absolutely no shade. Winter is severe with short days. Spring (long daylight hours) and autumn are best, but may be wet Avoid the Sierra de Guadarrama in snow or bad weather: there are no farms, villages or facilities. You can take a train from Cercedilla to Segovia instead. Few pressures from tourism except perhaps in Madrid. Where to stay: Adequate accommodation, indeed a quite remarkable amount considering the route passes through so few towns and villages. Hotel/hostal accommodation at intervals of 30 km except over the Sierra de Guadarrama (one alpine chalet near the summit only) and between Simancas and Sahagún – only two places with hotels/hostals on the camino itself but a couple of places with hostals are on the carretera 8 km to the east. There is a limited amount of free or donation-based or inexpensive pilgrim refugios. There are very few campsites – and wild camping in pine forests is not recommended because of the risk of fire. Roman Aqueduct at Segovia Distinctive features of the route: Very quiet and peaceful with very few pilgrims. Would appeal to those seeking solitude and the open spaces and wide horizons of the meseta. More path and less road than on any other pilgrim route; opportunity to walk stretches of Roman road (over the Puerto Fuenfria in the Sierra de Guadarrama) and Cañadas Reales. Except for the climb over the Sierra de Guadarrama, flat and easy walking – no hills or gradients of any significance and difficult to get lost. Cyclable almost all the way. No major industrial towns (other than Madrid) to negotiate – delightful market towns and picturesque villages all the way – even Segovia is a collection of small village centres. Madrid is easily and cheaply reached at the start and you can visit the Madrid Amigos in their office before departing. Madrid to Sahagún can be walked in 2 weeks – an ideal pilgrimage for the busy individual. Guide books: The CSJ guide is available in the online shop. Discussion Forum: Visit the Camino de Santiago Forum to join in the current conversation. Language: While it is not impossible to take this route without any command of Spanish, prospective pilgrims are strongly urged to learn as much as possible before they set out. Website/Guide to Madrid – click here.