Camino Francés Stage 3: Redecilla del Camino to Carrión de los Condes

Photo by Beebe Bahrami

The Third of Six Sections on the Camino Francés

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Across Castile and into the Great Plains of Spain

Stage Three traverses the first half of the Camino across Castile.

It begins in Redecilla del Camino then continues through hilly country to the cliff-hugging church of Tosantos. From there, hills and forest lead the way to San Juan de Ortega. This is the other famous town named after an engineer saint. The first you recently passed in Stage Two, that of Santo Domingo de la Calzada. He was San Juan’s teacher.

From here, the hills will feel as if they begin to fold and ripple a bit toward to Atapuerca. Soon thereafter is your next large city since Logroño, Burgos. Burgos is best known not only for its Gothic cathedral but also as the burial place of El Cid.

Beyond Burgos, pilgrims walk through some of Spain’s most quintessential Castilian towns: Castrojeríz, Frómista, Villalcazár de Sirga, and Carrión de los Condes.

On this Stage Three of the Camino you will walk through rolling hills that begin to ascend toward the high plateau, the meseta. Once there, the higher altitude and open exposure means that the terrain can be brutally hot in summer and arctic in winter. This is especially pronounced if there is a wind. And there is often a wind. It is a startling beauty, as dramatic as the mountains you left behind.

Europe’s Oldest Humans

Among the absolute splendors of this section is the area of Atapuerca. Here archaeologists uncovered Europe’s oldest hominid remains, dating to over one million years ago. It is testimony that people have walked a long time across these hills and plains, long before the rise of the Abrahamic faiths.

The human fossils identified so far were given the name Homo antecessor. This identified them as a variation of early humans closely related to Homo erectus. They also found fossils of Europe’s earliest Neandertals who lived here some 430,000 years ago.

Much later during the Upper Paleolithic, Atapuerca was also home to early modern humans, among Europe’s first Homo sapiens. More recently, early farmers to the region built the abundant Neolithic dolmens you can find across the landscape. They date to around 4,000 to 7,000 years ago.

Challenges and Pleasures

Some pilgrims find the stretch of the meseta in Castile the hardest. For some, this is because of its altitude and exposure. For others, it is the seeming lack of variety given the wide open horizon.

But some pilgrims also consider this their favorite part of the Camino. Its lack of outward variety causes them to go more deeply into themselves. With fewer outward distractions, they sort out their interior landscape.

But this first half of the Camino in Castile is still pretty hilly. Wait for Stage Four, next, to fully experience the reflective influence of the meseta.

On this stage you are also entering Spain’s large-scale farming heartland. The food and wine here are hearty, abundant and robust. It’s the sort of sustenance needed to warm one in the harsh winters that whip across the high plateau. Likewise, in summer, a crisp white wine from the nearby Ribeira del Duero or Rueda wine areas of Castile is a refreshing option, as are the vibrant garden salads and vegetables that come from people’s gardens and that make their way onto the pilgrim’s plate.

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