Camino del Norte Day 17: Bóo de Piélagos to Santillana del Mar

Today was a medium length day, disappointingly still primarily on paved roads. We started the day with a 2-minute train ride from Bóo to Mogro. The alternative to this small “cheat” is to walk over 7km in a big loop in order to cross the river at pedestrian bridge (rather than the train bridge). Guidebooks used to recommend that pilgrims walk the tracks across the train bridge and just try to time it that no trains are coming! Along with being dangerous, this is also illegal, so most pilgrims take the 2-minute train.

The weather has been quite hot the past few days and we are beginning to miss those cloudy, cool days. Most of this morning was on pleasant country lanes with nice views. In the afternoon we passed a huge industrial chemical factory, which was definitely not the highlight of the day. We arrived in Santillana del Mar around 2:30pm and were happy to see our German friend, Stefan, in the main square.

Santillana del Mar is also called the city of the three lies: “No es santo” (It isn’t holy), “No es llano” (It isn’t flat), and “No es del mar” (It’s not on the sea). However, it is a beautiful Medieval city with many historic buildings. The streets are full of tourists and there are many shops selling local dairy products, ceramics, homemade jams, and other products from the area.

Santillana is also only about 3 km from the Caves of Altamira, famous for their cave paintings from prehistoric times. After we checked into the albergue, we made the walk up to visit the museum and recreation of the main cave (the real cave is closed to the public after the paintings began to deteriorate from so much contact.) It was really interesting and even worth the extra walk in the hot afternoon sunny. We were lucky and were able to get a ride back to town with one of the museum staff.

The Santillana albergue is quite small with only 16 beds, and very simple without much space, but it has a great location by the main square of the old city. We were afraid it would fill up quickly but there are still some empty beds. Crowds on the Norte route seem to arise and dissipate very quickly. As we get farther into September it seems like there will be fewer hiker as vacation time is over.

We’re excited to be back on the coast tomorrow as we make our way to Comillas. We’re feeling pretty good, though Dave has a painful crack in his foot and the pavement continues to cause foot pain. We are really hoping for some sections of dirt path soon!