The Meseta on the Camino de Santiago

‘Many people avoid the Meseta, catching the bus from Burgos to Leon’, I heard on my first day on the Camino de Santiago. I was shocked. I thought most people were keen to walk the full route, either in stages or as a single pilgrimage. Whilst setting out to walk and enjoy the whole 800km, the Meseta was the section I was looking forward to with anticipation. I became curious as to what my experience would be.

I planned my Camino with a friend with whom I’d been doing an annual walk of up to 6 days. I had not anticipated how important it is to really know and be compatible with the person you walk with if you choose to walk with someone. I found it is imperative to be compatible mentally, physically and emotionally.

Meseta Camino

The ‘we’ I talk about in this blog is my walking buddy.

The Meseta is the ‘mind’ section of the Camino Frances. It was cold and wet as we departed Burgos. We’d been recommended to pack ponchos. We had chosen to pack raincoats instead. After a wet Burgos, we realized ponchos were going to be essential to keep our packs dry especially as we were carrying our belongings each day.

With grey skies overhead there was no beauty around us as we left Burgos and walked fields interspersed with flyover highways. Nevertheless, the beauty of the vegetation and open spaces inspired us and gave us pleasure as we walked. It rained on and off throughout the day and large drops pelted us as we entered our destination for the day, Hornillos. It was a relief to arrive at our albergue and find a bar nearby serving hot food. As we were thinking perhaps those who avoided the Meseta were smart, a warm sun burst through the clouds, rapidly drying everything out. We were able to venture out to explore. We found a fantastic collection of underground, cave-like bodegas used to house the wine and food of the locals. We were in photographic bliss.

Camino Frances Meseta

We woke the next day to sunshine and openness all around. Coming from Australia where big blue skies, open plains of wheat and stark vegetation are very familiar, I felt at home. I was, however, clearly in Spain with ruins and history in abundance enroute.

I loved every moment of the Meseta; sometimes walking alone, taking time to reflect; other days walking with other pilgrims having interesting conversations.

At the convent ruins at St Anton – very imposing and beautiful – I met a Swedish guy walking his fourth Camino. For him, it was about shedding – weight, stress, concerns – and restoring peace. I had dedicated my Camino to peace. There were so many nationalities talking, sharing and caring. I thought, if all the world leaders did the Camino, there would be no wars. The Camino naturally creates camaraderie and tolerance. It may not start that way, but I found it certainly developed as I relaxed into the walk and accepted people for exactly who they were. I realized we all have concerns that we have to deal with at times.

Every day I felt joy in the land. It embraced me. I found I was falling in love with walking, myself and my environment. Quite an unexpected experience!

The open spaces and heat, even in early June, were a challenge. We experienced a heat wave whereby it was 36-38C every day. I found it important to pace myself and plan my walking day. As it got hotter, we started earlier and earlier, leaving at dawn some days. There was a real advantage in that. The sunrises were spectacular and there were few people on the road, making it a very peaceful start to the day. I really enjoyed the reflective time this gave me. One morning we saw both the sun and the moon in front of us through the clouds and behind us a magnificent sunrise reflecting off the clouds.

Water on the Meseta was vital. Not all villages have potable, drinkable, water. So ensuring I had enough was important. One day I ran out, and in the way only the Camino can provide, an albergue owner drove down the road towards us handing out bottles of water. He was celebrating the birthday of his albergue, so he said and we were thankful for his gift. En El Camino Albergue was a superbly run welcoming family accommodation. Each floor featured beautifully crafted timber furniture made from found wood. Coincidentally, we had decided, at the previous village, that we were going to stay at this albergue when we got into Boadilla, our destination for the day. The owner’s gift cemented our decision.

There are days on the Meseta when the towns, villages or landscape are not attractive. These can be challenging. They are very good training for being able to accept the mundane of life. I found there is freedom in sameness and beauty if you stop, breathe and observe.

Camino de Santiago Meseta

Wheat, wheat and more wheat and tilled soil of all colors – white, red, brown, orange and yellow – greeted us every day.

Another highlight was the day we walked from Terradillos. We took the alternative route to Calzadilla de los Hermanillos, which was quite remote. It felt like we had stepped into outback Australia – what so many people visit Australia to see – with a big open blue sky, wispy white cloud, red dirt, rough rocky road, fields interspersed with wheat and salt bush-style scrub.

It was a fantastic walk with the very comfortable Albergue Via Trajan at the end to welcome us. In the afternoon the village felt deserted. As siesta drew to a close, shutters started to roll up and the ‘old people’ of the village emerged with their chairs to sit on the corner, in the square or outside their home to pass the early evening with their neighbors. The village came to life. We realized the Camino de Santiago is a very important part of the lifeblood of these villages.

Often we didn’t see a sole in villages we passed through, except for in bars and albergues where pilgrims abounded. This quietness continued as we climbed off the Meseta and entered the suburbs of Leon before arriving into the hubbub of the old town on a Sunday. Surprisingly, after the peacefulness of the Meseta, we loved the liveliness of the Spanish enjoying a day off and the elegance of the big city.

I can highly recommend the Meseta. Take your time and walk the distances that work for you. Stop, look, listen and feel and you get the Meseta.

Jill Keyte walked the Camino in May and June 2017

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18 Comments

  1. James on February 14, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    Excellent read. I am actually looking forward to walking the Meseta when I do the Camino. I feel it is a very important part of the experience, and I can not wait for the solitude it will have. I should be walking that part in April of 2019 when I go on my Camino.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • Leeann on February 20, 2018 at 10:11 am

      I completely understand, Jill. I loved the Meseta and it was my favourite part of the Camino when I walked in September 2016. As an Aussie, I also loved the wide, open spaces, the blue sky and the silence, the solitude. Reading your article brought back many warm memories. Thank you 🙂

  2. Jill on February 19, 2018 at 6:02 am

    Have a wonderful walk James. It is a truly transforming experience.

  3. Håvard Karlsen on February 19, 2018 at 10:21 am

    Very good read,

    I did the Meseta last year and it was absolutely fantastic. The best part- and i did it alone.

  4. David Garfias on February 19, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    Thank you for your comments on the Meseta, Jill. I walked it one month after you did and experienced the same feelings. I remember discussing with my friend what a great section of the camino the meseta was. We found it hard to believe that people actually did not care for this portion of the camino and would skirt it!

  5. Julie on February 19, 2018 at 10:21 pm

    How many miles is the Meseta exactly?

  6. Annie on February 19, 2018 at 11:56 pm

    How inspirational and encouraging thank you for sharing x

  7. connie on February 20, 2018 at 3:45 am

    A friend and I will do this section of the Camino in May. Thanks for your helpful comments.

  8. Laurie Rhein on February 20, 2018 at 7:19 am

    I enjoyed this read as well. The “mind” section of this walk makes sense to me. Physically one might be in better “walking” shape, there has been time to set a pattern to one’s day and now enters the mind of the walk. Next, I assume is the “spirit”. My pilgrimage will begin in mid-June. I feel deeply grateful for this opportunity.

  9. Conn on February 20, 2018 at 9:59 am

    After completing the Camino in september 2017 after several stage visits, on reflection the Meseta was a very beautiful and moving experience. Don’t skip if at all possible.

  10. Mairead Magee on February 20, 2018 at 10:45 am

    Great article.Myself & 2 friends will be setting out on the Burgos to Leon section on April 29th 2018.Having read that most people skip this section it is good to get some insight into what to expect.Hopefully the weather will be kind.
    Thank you for sharing

  11. Dennis Brooke on February 20, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    Jill–I agree that the meseta can be a real treat. My wife and I walked St Jean to Finisterre in April-May of 2016. Like you, we walked the Calzadilla option and liked the alone time. For four hours we walked without seeing another person–the only time that happened on our Camino. I wouldn’t skip any part.

  12. Bob on February 20, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    In September of 2017, I completed the Sarria to Finesterre leg of the Camino. Your article has me yearning to return for the Meseta. Thank you.

  13. natasha fiket on February 20, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    Hi, Jill,
    My husband and I walked five times and we would never have missed the meseta. It gave us time to walk and talk and think. The only parts we eventually avoided were the 10km coming into Burgos and the highway between Mansilla and Leon. We walked them once but there was so much traffic!
    Thanks for reminding folks about ponchos and water- essential for rain and heat:)

    Natasha

  14. Howard Kaufman on February 21, 2018 at 2:14 am

    I also loved the Meseta I started El Camino in Burgos and the first day going up hill was hard. But after that it got easier. I stated on July 22 2017. The camaraderie and love and peace I received on El Camino was the best experience in my 69 tlyears of my life. I would Live the Camino if I could.

  15. monika Beyersdorff on February 21, 2018 at 10:48 am

    Hi Jill
    I walked the same route about the same time as you, we might have met!! I really enjoyed the Meseta as well and took the less traffic routes, so much nicer to not walk beside a road with constant noise. Want to tackle the Portuguese Camino this year in September, looking forward to it.
    Thanks for sharing your memories.
    Monika

  16. Lew Varney on February 23, 2018 at 10:53 am

    Hi Jill, My Son and I walked the full Camino this past May and June. It took us about 39 days. My wife and his wife joined us later at Sarria and walked to Santiago from there. It was the best experience of my life. In 2015 we walked about 200 miles of the Camino. I wpoiuld do it again but it was especially great to do it with my Son. I tolerated the Maseta as i was running out of steam and it was pretty hot. You are right, wheat, wheat, and more wheat. If any one of my other sons wanted to do it, i would do it again. I prayed for several people including myself and the experience was so wonderful. I am 77 years old so I do not have too many more years to do it. Thanks for your nice comments. You did the Camino at the east time we did and we probably saw each other. Regards, Lew Varney

  17. Marilyn Muncrief on February 28, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    The weather was bad and my husband came down with a flu bug when we hit the Maseta, as a result we did bus through the area to Leon. It gave him the rest he needed but if we get the opportunity to walk again your story confirmed that we need the experience. Very nice writing about the Camino; it brought back memories and a desire to return.

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