Camino Francés Stage 2: Puente la Reina to Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Photo by Beebe Bahrami

The Second of Six Sections on the Camino Francés

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Through Navarra and Rioja

Stage 2 picks up in Puente la Reina in Navarra in the midst of intimate hill country with beautiful kitchen gardens and vineyards. Puente la Reina is a small town with a big history with two stunning Romanesque churches and a famous bridge.

The trail continues through the rest of the Camino in Navarra. You will encounter several more beautiful Romanesque churches in Cirauqui, Estella, Irache, Los Arcos and Torres del Rio. The latter is famous for its Islamic-influenced dome, very similar to the dome of Córdoba’s mosque in southern Spain.

At Irache pilgrims encounter the famous fountain that flows with good red wine as well as fresh water. Bodegas Irache invites pilgrims to enjoy both. They makes the wine. They also ask that pilgrims drink moderately and limit themselves to one glass.

It is good preparation. For while you have already been walking in quintessential wine country, soon it just gets better. The Camino arrives soon in Rioja, Spain’s most famous wine region, as you near Logroño. As Rioja’s capital, your hunger and thirst will be well rewarded here with some of the best wine and tapas in northern Spain.

From Logroño, the Camino ambles onward into yet more wine country. It arrives next in the riverside and red sandstone cliffsided town of Nájera. This is a famous site of a miraculous Mother Mary. You can find her inside the red sandstone cave of Nájera’s monastery church.

From Nájera, you also will encounter a few choices, to stay on the main route of the Camino Francés or to make one or two detours. Medieval pilgrims also contemplated these detours, adding to the adventure while accumulating blessings.

One detour is to the convent and village of Cañas to the north. The other is to the two monasteries of San Millán de la Cogolla to the south. If you have time, both are well worth visiting. They can also be accessed via a local bus from Nájera or Logroño.

The miracles keep coming, for your last Riojan destination in this stage is Santo Domingo de la Calzada. It is home to Camino’s famous hen and rooster miracle. These two birds came back to life after being roasted and served on a dinner plate in order to crow and rescue an innocent man from injustice. (The descendants of the magical rooster and hen reside in the cathedral there to this day.)

But really, the town’s miracle worker is its namesake, Santo Domingo, who built many of the Camino’s roads, bridges, and churches, a skill that could earn one sainthood. You too will come to appreciate his efforts. The Camino became far easier and safer to traverse by his hand. (Besides, he’s behind the hen and rooster miracle, too.)

Throughout this stage of the Camino you will be in rolling hills with varied landscapes rich in vineyards, wheat fields, almond groves, and kitchen gardens. You will leave the Pyrenees behind. A new companion on your trek will appear, the Cantabrian Mountains. These are far to the north and will be a constant backdrop for the next few hundred kilometers.

This Stage Two offers some of the prettiest hill walking on the Camino until you reach the foothills of León near Astorga in Stage Four.

Stage Three, next, leaves Rioja and heads deep into Castile, Spain’s breadbasket with wide horizons, softly rolling hills, and then the high plains of the meseta.

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