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From Comillas to Colombres, Camino del Norte Stage no. 13

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Basic Details

  • Starting point: The city center of Comillas.
  • Ending point: The city center of Colombres.
  • Availability of alternative routes: Yes and no :). There is an extra circuit you can make before entering Colombres, passing through the amazing village of Pimiango, and many spectacular natural landscapes at the edge of the ocean. On the top of that you will pass by some ancient monastery, and other interesting buildings. This circuit adds 8 km and 300 meters to today’s hike, and we have a special page dedicated to it here. It is one of the nicest parts of the entire northern coast of Spain, and if you want to walk it, you can also do it from Colombres, on the next day, later walking only to Pendueles, which has some nice pilgrim hostels. That would make for a relatively short day of 18-20km with spectacular natural beauty.
  • Distance: Official camino route: 28 km (download GPS here). * For the details on the alternative circuit over Pimiango and the coastal route check the special page dedicated to it here.
  • Elevation difference: + 695m, -610m.
  • Link to online map: here.
  • Difficulty score: 3/5.
  • Beauty score: 4/5.
  • Terrain/asphalt: 10%/90% (We continue mostly (or almost only) on the paved roads, but I promise you things will get better from tomorrow :)).

 

Elevation profile for the route

– Notice the sharp gradient at the very end of this stage. That’s a 1.5 km climb from Unquera to Colombres, a hill that typically takes the last bits of energy of a tired pilgrim (and sometimes it takes their spirit away too :)). At least it is a nice climb, and the views on the top are definitely worth it…

 

Advanced info about the stage

  • Trail marking: Today you will definitely leave Cantabria and enter the province of Asturias (the border is the bridge over the river Deva in Unquera), which means the Camino marking will get only better from now on. But to be fair to Cantabria, today’s stage is already marked reasonably well. There are only two points where you should pay special attention to marking:
    • One is after the village of Serdio, exactly here, where Camino Liebaniego (another Camino, but one that doesn’t end in Santiago) turns away from Camino del Norte. It would not be the end of the world following Liebaniego, since it has some beautiful parts too, but you won’t end up in Colombres at the end of the day for sure :).
    • Second one is after the bridge in Unquera, exactly here. The Camino follows a nice small street, where cars are forbidden. But many pilgrims make a mistake here, following the sign for cyclists, and actually walking on the road instead. While this isn’t the end of the world either (you will reach Colombres), the road isn’t good for pilgrims, since it is a narrow road with no real space for cyclists or walkers at the edges. There are many turns too, and in an unlucky moment a bad thing can happen…
  • Alternative route info: There is no alternative route available, but you can make an extra circuit over the zone of Pimiango (one of the most beautiful sections of the entire northern coast of Spain), either leaving the Camino in Pesues, or doing it the next day from Colombres. We have a special page dedicated to this beautiful circuit here. For a taste of it, you can check the following video we made for you with a drone:

  • Natural places worth seeing: Definitely the highlight is the Parque Natural de Oyambre, a nature reserve that offers you a view of different ecosystems, ranging from cliffs, beaches and dunes, to the marches (where fresh and salty water mixes). You will walk over this reserve, and at the edge of it, during today’s walk (especially in the zone of San Vicente de la Barquera), hence no special detour is needed (unless you decide to explore this reserve more in depth). If you are into bird-watching than this is your spot on the Camino. In such a case, I actually recommend you staying in San Vicente, going to watch the birds before sunset and then early in the morning, since those are the times of the day when you can see the most diversity and movement. In terms of beaches, Playa de Oyambre is worth a visit (and a swim on a sunny day :)). It is a sandy beach with pretty natural surroundings, spoiled only by a golf course they built nearby.
  • Historical, architectural, and culinary places worth seeing: Rich with natural beauty, this zone is rich with history and architecture as well… About Capricho de Gaudi in Comillas we already write in the description of the previous stage (Santillana – Comillas), so now I will focus on the two towns that offer something special on today’s stage:
    • San Vicente de la Barquera: A beautiful city (very touristic in the summer), with a high zone with a castle (Castillo del Rey), and a church (Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Angeles), a zone worth visiting for sure. The town also has a nice antique port (you can always encounter some expensive yachts anchored in this port), and a good vibe overall. There are also several sandy beaches in the zone, all of them quite touristic in the summer months.
    • Colombres – Colombres is a city of palaces. A small town with less than 1,000 inhabitants, you can marvel at 8 palaces, all of them built by emigrants who returned back from the Americas (with pockets full of money) and built these palaces, roughly 100 years ago. The most famous and the biggest one is “the blue house“, which also hosts a museum of emigration, a place that’s perhaps worth visiting on a rainy day (open every day except of Monday, price 8 euros for adults, no pilgrim discounts), especially if the topic interests you. But there are many other palaces in Colombres an avid architecture lover can marvel at. One of them hosts the library, another one a town hall, some are in private hands and you can even sleep there for a night, if you walk the Camino with deep pockets :).
  • Camping/bivouac options on this stage: If you are in for a wild camping, your best chance is making a detour to the zone of Pimiango (we have a separate article dedicated to this coastal alternative), where you will find several good spots for both wild camping and bivouacking. On the official Camino (or close to it), your best chance for uninterrupted wild camping or bivouac is on the western part of San Vicente de la Barquera, close to the place called Ensenada de Linera. This place receives little visits from tourists, since it offers only a small rocky beach and is not really suitable for swimming. Also it isn’t really accessible by car. However, you have some flat terrain close to the beach (check pictures here), and ruins of a chapel of Santa Catalina, both of these places typically empty in the evening, and hence you can camp or bivouac there without worrying about some unpleasant visitors. Just make sure to pitch your tent in a place a bit hidden from a view, and do so only in the evening. When it comes to organized camping places, you have several options:
    • Camping Rosal: Wonderful location, right on the Camino, breach right at your feet, clean facilities, lot of trees (and shade), pilgrim friendly place. Supermarket and several restaurants within 100 meters distance from the camping.
    • Camping Colombres: 2 km extra walk from Colombres, but a beautiful place, great views on Picos de Europa, everything super clean and well organized. The camping is pilgrim friendly too, and probably the only downside is a relatively high price for pitching a tent.  But overall definitely recommended if you prefer to camp on your Camino.
  • Dog friendly score: 3/5. The walk is mostly on the routes, but except of the zone of Unquera, which is terribly overcrowded with cars at all times, and the bridge crossing in San Vicente, the routes are not busy and your dog should be fine. The stage has enough trees and places with shade where you can rest with your dog. There are several water fountains too, but some of them have not worked the last time I walked this route… The good news is that in Colombres you will find couple of dog-friendly accommodation options, and if there are no beds available in them, you can always go to the camping with your dog (see the paragraph above).

 

Accommodation options on today’s stage

* The infographic displays the number of pilgrim hostels (only pilgrims allowed), hostels (anyone allowed, shared rooms), and other accommodation options (hotels, pensions, etc, private rooms) in each point along the route, together with price range. For exact explanation of the pictograms we use check the explanations page. Below the infographic you will see our recommended picks (up to 3 pilgrim options and 1-2 “privacy” options, maximum five) for the stage, together with important information (but not too much info, just what you need :-)).

Recommended places to sleep along this stage

Pilgrim options:

  1. Nomada Hostel, San Vicente de la Barquera (km 11). Location and reviews on Google maps here. 38 beds, price starts from 23 euro/night. Decent reviews on different platforms, though they have some room for improvement when it comes to cleanliness of the place. However, on this section of the Camino there aren’t that many places with prices affordable for pilgrims, and this hostel is definitely affordable and decent for a night. Obligatory reservation, reserve by phone. +34 623 295 526. Check-in from 2:30pm to 10pm.
  2. Casa de Peregrinos Colombres, Colombres (km 28). Location and reviews on Google maps here. Donation based, great reviews on all pilgrim platforms, but the albergue has only 9 beds. Quiet location, communal dinner (vegan). Check-in from 2:30pm. Accepts reservations 2 days in advance, and it is highly recommended to make one, if you want to get a bed in this pilgrim hostel. Recommended way of making a reservation: phone call or WhatsApp, +34 697 650 755.

 

Privacy/luxury options:

  1. Hotel Canal, Unquera (km 26). Location and reviews on Google maps here. A nice hotel with long tradition and friendly staff. 56 rooms, price starts from 40 euro/night for a single room (can be higher in summer months). Good affordable option especially in high season, when pilgrim places are occupied. Official check-in from 3pm, but they let you in earlier if you’re not there in high season. Recommended way of making a reservation: booking.com.

Pictures from the stage

– Birds in the zone of San Vicente de la Barquera (Parque natural de Oyambre). As in many other places on the northern coast, the fresh water of a river (Rio Escudo this time) mixes here with the salty waters of Atlantic Ocean. This specific environment attracts lot an animals, and you can observe them today, especially in the zone of San Vicente de la Barquera.

– The high rocky mountains you can see in the distance are Picos de Europa, a national park worth visiting. About 1% of pilgrims make a detour there, either climbing to a small mountain village of Tresviso (the trail starts from a place called Urdon, and you can get there by bus from Unquera every day, there is an albergue in Tresviso where you can sleep), of doing one of the amazing daily hikes from the village of Poncebos (you can get there and back by bus from Colombres, the ending point of your stage). Consult the locals for more information. 

– While you won’t walk close to the coast today, you will have plenty of views on the coast, and many nice benches to sit on and enjoy the view as well. 

– One of the several small chapels you will encounter on today’s walk. As you can see, the owners of hotels in the zone do not mind using even such spaces for their advertisement… 

 

Few tips at the end

  • This part of the Camino doesn’t really have many good places for sleep for pilgrims, and the capacity isn’t sufficient most of the year. If you want to stay in one of the pilgrim albergues, be it in San Vicente, Colombres, La Franca, or Pendueles (the later two are on the next stage), I suggest you to make a reservation at least one day in advance. Especially if you walk from 15th June to 15th September.
  • If you’re not in a hurry and have a heart of a mountaineer, consider making a detour to the Picos de Europa. These are the best mountains on the northern coast of Spain, and you are close to them on this stage, and the next two stages of your Camino (with daily buses there and back from any major city–Unquera, Colombres, Llanes, Ribadesella). I will prepare a separate article about good hikes in the Picos and how pilgrims can easily get there, but until that’s done you can simply consult the locals or people in the hostel. I promise that you won’t regret making this detour…

 

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