About a year ago, I wrote a post all about my favorite albergues on the Camino del Norte. In the summer of 2015 I walked from Irun to Oviedo, which is about two thirds of the Norte route, and I stayed in some pretty great places. Before I set out on that walk, I’d done some research and asked around for albergue recommendations, and that’s how I found a few of my favorites.
Some pilgrims don’t plan like this, and I certainly didn’t for my first pilgrimage, on the Camino Frances (but there, too, I stayed in a few gems, as well as a few… ahem… let’s call them gems that didn’t have quite as much sparkle). But on the Norte, I wanted to do things a little differently. I didn’t have things planned out, exactly, but I took great joy in looking through my guidebook each night on the trail, studying the next day’s route and reading up on options of where I could stay. It helped to have made notes in advance about the albergues with excellent reputations, and in a few cases, I purposely planned my walk around these places.
This past summer I finished walking the Norte- returning to the place where I’d stopped the year before (well, almost returning, I did cut a section of the walk out because of time); I started walking just past Aviles. I only walked 9 days on the Norte but there were several albergues that I absolutely loved, and I thought it might be helpful to share them here.
But before I get to them, first, a general note about lodging on the Norte. I didn’t experience this problem as much on my first stint, in 2015 (then, I walked from late June- mid July), but this time around, I walked during the beginning of August: the high season. As soon as the route crossed into Galicia I didn’t have a problem finding a bed for the night, but the several days preceding that? When I walked through coastal towns in Asturias, they were filled with tourists and vacation-goers, as well as a relatively large (for the Norte) number of pilgrims. Several times, I had trouble finding a place to sleep- I had to keep walking or I had to spend more to stay in hotels or pensions. For my first several days of walking (between Aviles and Luarca), I could sense frustration and panic from nearly all the pilgrims that I encountered. Everyone was rushing, everyone was calling ahead for a bed.
Overall, I love walking the Norte in the summer months. With mountains on one side and the sea on the other, the days are warm but rarely hot, and there’s a chance of rain but in my experience, I only had one day of full-out rain. I liked being by the water in the summer months, and it was fun to walk through bustling sea-side towns. But the downside of this time of year- as well as an increasing number of pilgrims walking the Norte- is that you very well may need to think about calling ahead for a bed for some sections.
This being said, after my first few days (and once the Norte moved away from the coast and into the province of Galicia), I discovered a few outstanding albergues. Here they are:
Albergue de Peregrinos de Tapia de Casariego; (Donativo, 30 beds, no reservations)
Location, location, location.
Here’s the thing about the place: the actual albergue wasn’t that great. It felt a little old, a little run-down, very dark inside. The bunk beds were creaky and the “kitchen” was a microwave and a couple of forks (still, that’s more than some places, but the lack of a sink as well as a knife was bothersome). But the location? It sat right on the coast: if you leaned over the wooden railing you stared straight down into blue water and lapping waves. With a view like this, I didn’t need to spend any time inside the albergue; instead, I set up at a table to eat some chips and drink a cold can of coke, then later a grassy spot against a wall warmed by the sun, and I just stared at the view until the sun set and I couldn’t keep my eyes opened any longer.
Tips: There was no hospitalero staffing the albergue (which was common in a few places on the Norte); a note instructs you to go to the tourism office in town and get a key and pay a donation there. I did this, but I wonder if it’s a step you could skip- pilgrims entered their names in a register upon arrival, and I suppose all but the first person to arrive and the last person leaving in the morning had no need for a key to the place. Plus, there was a jar in the albergue where you could leave a donation.
Because this was a municipal albergue you couldn’t call ahead a reserve a bed, but the place still filled up. All but two beds were taken when I arrived (having walked a 40+ km day!! I think I might have been heart-broken to find the place completo, so a little luck was on my side that day).
Finally, this albergue is in the middle of one of the alternate routes on the Norte. About 6km past La Caridad the Camino splits and it you take an alternate path up towards the coast, you’ll be able to stay in this albergue (and then rejoin the main path of the Camino just before entering Ribadeo).
Albergue San Martin, Miraz; (Donativo, 26 places, no reservations)
Run by the Confraternity of St James (a UK based charity promoting pilgrimages to Santiago), this small albergue captures the heart and soul of the Camino. Here, it’s truly about the Camino spirit. Volunteers staff the albergue and offer hot tea or coffee when you arrive, and then provide a simple breakfast in the morning. The rooms are clean, the bunk beds are new, and there is a large kitchen and dining space. Miraz is a small Galician village and the albergue is surrounded by fields, so this is a quiet, peaceful stop for the night. The hospitaleros offer an evening talk- a mini history and art lesson- in the village church.
Tips: A vegetable truck makes deliveries to the village most days of the week- we were able to buy supplies for a large communal dinner that evening.
The albergue doesn’t open until 3pm, but if you arrive hours early, a 5 minute walk through town will take you to a restaurant offering a pilgrim’s menu.
Albergue de Peregrinos de Sobrado dos Monxes (in Monastery); (6 euros, 120 places, no reservations)
This was my favorite place of them all, maybe my favorite albergue on the entire Camino del Norte. Sobrado dos Monxes is basically the last stop before the Norte joins up with the Camino Frances, which means it’s the last chance you get to be surrounded by the community of people you’ve been crossing paths with on your pilgrimage. Because the monastery is so large, nearly everyone stops here- it’s like a great, big Norte reunion. And with 120 beds, there’s no worry about arriving late and missing out on a place to sleep!
The monastery is amazing. Great sections of it are all but abandoned- empty and hollow, with moss and vines growing along the stone walls, pigeons flying through opened windows. The bunk rooms, bathrooms, kitchen and laundry facilities are all located in small rooms off of the cloister, and I’m kicking myself for not taking more photos of our lodgings. The rooms are small and cavern-like, and despite the size of the place and the number of pilgrims staying there, there was a quiet hush over everything.
Tips: Walk around and explore the monastery, stay to hear the monks sing a vespers service in the evening, and then hit the town for a meal. There’s a fabulous restaurant just around the corner from the entrance to the monastery (unfortunately I can’t find the name of the place but the food is unbelievable- fresh and local!).
Honorable Mention: Albergue de Peregrinos de Baamonde (6 euros, 94 places)
I don’t have any photos and honestly didn’t spend all that much time in the albergue. I’d walked another 40+ km day to get there and I’d been alone the entire way, so when I arrived at the albergue I sort of felt like I was stepping into a party I wasn’t invited to. This had nothing to do with either the albergue or the other pilgrims (because in the next two days I befriended many who had been in Baamonde that night), but just about my own frame of mind that day. So I spent most of the evening in a nearby bar, writing and journaling with a glass of wine. But the albergue itself was nice: large, with places for 94 pilgrims. The building felt new and modern but also sort of rustic, and there was a large and pleasant outdoor space, as well as a fully stocked kitchen and a lounge area with couches and tables.
Do you have any favorites from the Camino del Norte?