Camino de Santiago Day 3: Zubiri to Pamplona

Camino de Santiago Day 3: Zubiri to Pamplona

20.5 kilometers

13 miles

It was still dark when I woke up from my best night of sleep so far on the Camino.

I wrapped a blanket around my shoulders and went out to sit on our balcony under the stars.

A little tiny sliver of a moon came up over the horizon. I watched it rise and as the sky grew faint with light, the stars disappeared.

What a beautiful morning.

We stayed longer than usual in our room enjoying the quiet and the bathroom to ourselves, so we didn’t really start hiking until about 8.

I have a smaller backpack, but it’s like a Mary Poppins handbag in that the amount of stuff that comes out of it can fill a whole room. Also we had rinsed out our clothes and they were drying everywhere.

We had a slightly shorter day, and much less elevation, so Anna decided to carry her backpack. It took us both a little longer to organize everything after spreading ourselves out all over the room.

But eventually we were ready and out the door, saying goodbye to Zubiri and the Rio Arga Albergue.

The trail climbs uphill out of Zubiri, so we joined the parade of pilgrims marching up the way.

It was Sunday, so there were several groups of day hikers out enjoying the weekend.

I couldn’t pick out what they were speaking to each other. It’s wasn’t Spanish or French, which are the two languages we had been mostly hearing on the Camino.

So I decided it must be Basque.

All the signs in this area are in both Spanish and the regional Basque language, Euskara.

It’s a unique language in Europe because of being ‘pre-Indo-European,’ which some linguists say makes it the oldest language in Europe.

Some towns in this region even have two different names, a Spanish name and a Basque name, and they are often quite different from one another.

Later in the morning we passed a sign along the way reminding us that we were in Basque country.

Seeing this sign reminded me of something I read earlier this summer about the fact that the idea of a country wasn’t created until the 17th century.

Before that, we didn’t even have agreed upon borders.

The Basque country spreads into southern France, defying the country border.

It’s a beautiful area with more potted begonias than I think I’ve ever seen anywhere else.

Our late start caught up to us as the day felt hot earlier on our walk.

We were ready for our mid-morning stop long before we found it. Again because it was Sunday, not as much was open.

Note to self: Buy a sandwich ahead of time next Sunday.

But by and by, we crossed over a bridge and came upon an open cafe by the river.

They were serving up sandwiches and coffee. We ordered both and enjoyed sitting and taking off our packs for a while.

I loved watching people come over the bridge and have the same happy discovery.

We pushed on after not too long, as the heat was catching up to us.

Again we climbed up just a bit after our river stop.

We passed several old farmhouses. Even though we were getting closer to Pamplona, we were in the countryside until just a few kilometers out from the city.

We bought peaches from a man with a tiny roadside stand. He was making freshly squeezed orange juice out of the back of a little minivan.

When we reached the village of Villava, we knew we were getting close.

Maybe just an hour or so left. We were hot and sweaty by then so we hoped we were right.

We started passing more and more people. There was a festival in one square we walked by and people were out everywhere enjoying their Sunday afternoon.

Tables and chairs filled the sidewalks and every seat was taken.

We finally reached the city gate of Pamplona around 2, an early finish for us.

There are loads more options for lodging in Pamplona, so Anna had booked a hotel.

We were beyond ready for our showers and they never felt so good.

We got cleaned up and then headed back out to walk around Pamplona.

I had seen a cafe behind the cathedral that I wanted to go to, so we headed there. They had a great menu full of pintxos, which are the tapas of this region.

We ordered more than we could eat but it was all delicious.

We put our tired feet up in the extra chairs at our table and watched the food and drinks fly out of the kitchen to the full tables all around us.

Later we walked around Pamplona, seeing the churches, the city walls, the parks and squares. We got so hot again we needed another shower.

But first we got ice cream.

Then we went back to our hotel, had a little rest and chatted to our families. We could have gone on right to sleep but we didn’t want to miss out on trying more of what this bigger city on the Camino had on offer.

So we went back out at about 9:45, which is when others are having dinner in Spain.

We sat down at the first table we came to in the square just outside our hotel. We ordered apricot and goat cheese toasts and a giant plate of local salad. plus bread and wine. It was all delicious. Our waiter brought us a local digestif, on the house, he said  It’s called pacharĂ¡n. Made with anise.

Cheers to the end of Day 3 on the Camino.


  1. This is all so fun to follow. I look forward to doing this with you someday!

  2. Thanks for your lovely descriptions of your journey. I have so much business stuff to read all the time, this is a relief. I have been listening to lots of Camino podcasts, and I did walk the Camino virtually on marking the way on the Virtual Camino app. I have yet to actually do this trip. So I am reeeeeally enjoying your pictures and your descriptions. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

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