Day 13 San Juan de Ortega to Burgos

Day 13 San Juan de Ortega – Burgos – 24.9km

If you have an older map of the Camino Frances it will illustrate three routes to Burgos, in reality there is only one, until Burgos suburbs.  As time past only the main route is generally marked on modern maps and it is the same with the Camino’s yellow arrows – they will only show the main routes, rarely is there more than one each day.

The first half of the day is pleasant walking underfoot on country tracks with one short steep up and down over the Sierra de Atapuerca, the rest of the day wanders easily downward towards Burgos.  Today it is apparent that we are nearing a major town, you will pass an army base, old mines, and communications masts.  As usual there are small villages for food and coffee every 3 to 4km, except for the last stretch into Burgos.

San Juan Ortega to Burgos MapAbout eight kilometers before Burgos there is a choice of routes.  The right hand route is the older of the routes and it is through an industrial area, it is an unpleasant walk.  Many pilgrims get the bus at the start of the industrial area; there is a timetable at the bus stop and café nearby.  It is worthwhile getting the bus and spending the extra time in Burgos; it is a beautiful city with a lot to see and it is also worth taking a rest day here, if you have plans for one.  the left hand route is new and follows the N120 into the city.  This route is the prefered route if you decide to walk, however it is also busy and noisy.

Agés 3.5km, water, bar, cafe

Albergue El Pajar de Agés, private, 12 Calle Medio Paralela, €9, 34 beds, B€3, M€10, W€3, D€4, @, Bike, Tel: 699 273 856, 947 400 629, Web:, Open March to November 15 (November to February call in advance).

Albergue San Rafael, private, Calle Camino de San Juan de Ortega s/n, €10, 10 beds, W€5, D€5, @, Bike, Bar/Restaurant, Tel: 947 430 392, Web:, Open all year.

Albergue municipal de Agés, municipal, 21 Calle del Medio, €8 (during winter €10), 36 beds, B, M, @, Bike, W€3, D€2, Bar/Restaurant, Tel: 947 400 697, 660 044 575, Web:, Open all year.

The local parish Church of Santa Eulalia contains an interesting Rococo retablo and was once was the resting place of King Garcia el de Najera.  At the entrance to the church there is a marker noting he was was buried here.  King Garcia was killed by his brother,Fernando I of Castilla, in the battle of Atapuerca between Ages and Atapuerca at a site known as Fin de Rey, (Kings End).

Atapuerca 2.7km, water, cafe, bar

Albergue El Peregrino, private, 25 Calle Camino de Santiago, €8, 36 beds, K, W€3, D€3, V, Bike, Tel: 661 580 882, Web:, Open March to October.

Albergue La Hutte, private, 38 Calle De Enmedio, €6, 18 beds, W, @, Tel: 947 430 320, Web:, Open all year.

The 15th century parish Church of St Martin, a saint closely linked to the pilgrimage, is another illustration of the French influence and import of their saints along the route. Atapuerca was one of the earliest villages reconquered and in 750 already had a small Christian population.  In the 12th century the town was given to the Hospitallers of San Juan de Jerusalen as payment for their willingness to fight against the Moors and protect pilgrims.

Europe’s oldest human remains were discovered in caves near Atapuerca in the 1980’s.  Since 1994 there has been continual archaeology excavations in the area.  The oldest remains are thought to date from 780,000 years ago of a young male, discovered in a shaft known as ‘the Pit of Bones’.  The town of Atapuerca does little to promote these discoveries and it is possible to walk through the area and notice only one sign with a pre-historic human face.  However in recent years a small exhibition centre has been built just out of the village, if you watch carefully you will see the signs. The discoveries are kept in the Museum of Human Evolution in Burgos.

From the top of the Sierra de Atapuerca, after Atapuerca, you can see the massive Burgos suburbs ahead and the flatness of the following days on the Meseta stretch out before you.  Shortly after Atapuerca there is a choice of two routes.  The newer of the Camino routes misses the next two villages, it is slightly shorter, but misses a great place to eat called Albergue San Miguel at the start of Cardenuela.

Villalval 4.7km, water

The camino skirt the edge of this small village.

Cardenuela de Riopico 1km, water,cafe, food

Albergue San Miguel – we have little information about this albergue, a reader’s report states that the food is great.

Albergue Vía Minera, private, 1 Calle La Iglesia, €8, 22 beds, B€2,50, M€9, W€2, D€2, V, @, Bike, Tel: 652 941 647, Web:, Open April to October.

Albergue municipal de Cardeñuela Ríopico, municipal, Calle Santa Eulalia, €5, 16 beds, B and M in the bar La Parada, W€3(in La Parada), Bike, Tel: 646 249 597, Open all year except the last two weeks in December.

Albergue Santa Fe, private, 2 Calle Los Huertos, €8, 10 beds, B€2, M€8, W€2, D, @, Bike, Tel: 626 352 269, 947 560 722,, Open all year.

There is a Parish Church of Santa Eulalia with an image of Santiago and a Renaissance entrance.   As is common before any large city there is little of interest in the surrounding villages, as if all culturally important information and building have been sucked to the centre.

Orbaneja 1.5km, water, bar, cafe, food

Although there is the Church of San Millan, a fairly recent construction in the 19th century, the most important sight in the village is the local cafe.  It is approximately 11.5km into the centre of burgos from here without water fountains, depending on which route you choose, and the food is likely better in Orbaneja than suburban cafes in Burgos.

Shortly after crossing the motorway there is the choice to go left or right.  If you intend to walk into Burgos the left path is better and there will be a water fountain a couple of kilometers further on.  If you intend to use public transport go right to Villafria where there is a cafe and the bus stop.

Villafria 3km,

Villafria, located next to the airport, is essentially part of Burgos. There is a cafe here and if you prefer to use public transport into the centre of Burgos, a bus stop with the required timetable.  If you are walking this route into Burgos some care is required at the few road crossings.

Burgos 8.5km, all services

Albergue municipal de Burgos, municipal, 28 Calle Fernán González, €5, 150 beds, W€3, D€2, V, @(€3/hour), Bike, Tel: 947 460 922, Web:, Open all year.

Albergue Casa de Peregrinos Emaús, parochial, 31 bis Calle San Pedro de Cardeña, €5, 20 beds, communal B&M (donation), @, Bike, Tel: 947 252 851, Open from Holy Week to November 1

Albergue Divina Pastora, association, 10 Calle Lain Calvo, €5, 16 beds, W, D, @, Tel: 947 207 952, Open from Holy Week till October 12.

Burgos was founded in 884 by Count Diego Rodriguez Porcelos and now has a population of approx 200,00. The city was the seat of Franco’s government until 1938. It was home to the notorious El Cid, and is a city brimming with majestic architecture. The week before and after 29th June is the city’s main festival of San Pedro y Pablo, during this time non-pilgrim accommodation can be difficult and expensive to book.  At other times of the year it is the perfect place for a rest day if you love architecture and history.


There is some evidence of a Roman fort in Burgos, however the area appears to be of little importance to the Moors and was not fortified again until during the 9th century when Alfonso III built another fort over the Roman ruins.  Burgos was the capital of the new county of Castilla which seceded from Leon and appointed two judges, Nuno Rasura and Lain Calvo, to rule over the area and protect it from Leon and the Moors.  As was common at this time the small state found it difficult to protect itself and was fought over by Leon, Navarre, and Aragon, eventually being ruled by Sancho el Mayor of Navarra, known as the The Great, he was the King of Pamplona.  On his death Burgos and Castella were left to Fernando I el Magno, who is believed to be the founder of the Monarchy in Spain and the first Christian ruler to administer over the whole of Northern Spain.  Unfortunately on his death he split his kingdom between his three sons, and gave the city of Zamora to his Daughter. Sancho, the ruler of Castella, went to war with Alfonso VI of Leon and his sister Urraca.  This eventually led to Sancho’s assassination in Zamora, after he had conquered Leon and Zamora and deposed his brother and sister.  Alfonso became king as the direct heir to Sancho.

Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, El Cid, born in Castella just north of Burgos served as the military commander for Sancho. He had driven the sister and brothers of Sancho from their thrones helping Sancho enlarge his kingdom.  When Sancho was murdered El Cid forced Alfonso to swear in Burgos Cathedral that he had nothing to do with the assassination. After this El Cid continued to command his army on behalf of Alfonso but was held in suspicion, obviously not trusted, and eventually exiled.  El Cid can be seen as the people’s champion, having little regard for fighting on behalf of religion and commanding armies that included Christians and Muslims fighting together.  He can also be view as a mercenary as he was prepared to fight on behalf of Christian or Muslim Kings at various times.   However it is thought that since the death of Sanchos he held his own desired to rule and achieved this in administering Valencia, a mixed religion city, officially in the name of Alfonso; in reality El Cid was independent. There are various statues of El Cid in Burgos, perhaps the most famous five minutes walk along the river east from the cathedral at Plaza Mio Cid.

As with all places the fortunes of Burgos rose and fell at the whims of Kings and wars.  With the founding of the cathedral in 1221 the city’s fortunes soared as it became the commercial center of Spain.  Columbus was received here in 1497 after his second voyage by Queen Isabel.  The declined of Burgus began in 1560 when Madrid became the capital of Spain.  The Napoleonic Wars from 1808 to 1813 destroyed the castle; then Franco made Burgos his operations center in the civil war from 1936 to 1939.

If you only visit one place in Burgos make it the Cathedral. It is the best example along the Camino of medieval genres and art styles.  If you take your Pilgrim’s Passport you can avail of the 50% discount entrance fee for pilgrims.

It is surprising that the Gothic style of Burgos Cathedral is coherent, as it was constructed over a period of  three hundred years.  The cathedral was founded by Fernando III on 20th July 1221 and was not consecrated until 1260. However the first mass was celebrated in 1230, mainly due to the fund raising and building management of Bishop Mauricio.  The bishop died in 1238 before even the ceilings were closed, but the style of the building was his vision which lived on.

West Facade: the three portals in the facade are late 17th century, and have been described as mutilation of the building, this though did not affect the story and impression the facade communicated.  The eight kings in the middle arcade reminded people of the link between royalty and divine power.  However directly above the kings arcade is the statue of the Virgin, by Juan de Colonia, illustrating how even the monarchy were inferior to the church.  The central door was for royalty when they entered in a procession.  The four statues level with the top of the door are of Bishop Asterio, Bishop Asterio, Alfonso VI, and Fernando III.

South Facade:  this is the main tourist entrance.  The statue between the door is Bishop Mauricio, above are the 12 Apostles, with Christ in Majesty presiding over all, surrounded by scribs passing on the word of God.

The north portal again has Christ in Majesty, this time being beseeched by the Virgin and St John interceding for humanity.  This theme continues with images of divine judgement, the weighing of souls, and sinners being punished.

The interior of the cathedral is massive and the layout map paid for by your entrance fee will be helpful.  The cruciform floor plan, the shape of a crucifix, is 106 meters long. The three naves are separated by massive columns and are surrounded by fifteen chapels, the cloisters, and the Bishop’s Palace. You could easily spend a day exploring the inside of the cathedral.  The main altar retablo, dates from 1562, is Renaissance and narrates the life of the Virgin.  The tomb of El Cid and his wife are in the transept after being re-interred in 1921 for a second time.  The choir is 16th century with Renaissance lateral stalls. At the end of the stalls is the bishop’s throne, and in the centre of the choir is the 13th century tomb of Bishop Mauricio.

Church of San Nicolas de Bari was built in the 15th century on the site of a previous church.  Whereas Burgos Cathedral belonged to the Church and Monarchy, the Church of San Nicolas de Bari was the church for merchants, they contributed to the building of it and the lavish interior. This is most noticeable in the adornment of the altar, where St Nicholas is the central effigy surrounded by scenes from his own life.



The Hospital del Rey, founded in 1195 by Alfonso VIII, is now the Faculty of Law. It was the main hospice for pilgrims in Burgos and had specific legislation for the hospitality of pilgrims: all pilgrims who pass by on the French Road and other roads, whatever their origin, no one shall be refused there… at all hours of the day and night….  any man or woman who arrives sick shall be provided men and women to take care of them.  Interestingly there was an age requirement for the official staff of thirty year for men, and thirty five for women.  There is limited access to the entrance area on the left to what was once the church.

Burgos castle has seen some restoration during the 20th century, but little remain except for the walls.  It is however a great place to view and take photographs of Burgos and the cathedral and therefore worth the ten or fifteen minute walk from the cathedral.

These are some of the other sights of interest in Burgos:

Monastery of Las Huelgas – building started 1175, guided tours only.  The aim of the convent was a refuge for windowed nobility.

Cartuja de Miraflores – built for the tombs of royalty in 1454, however the royal court moved first to Granada and then Madrid.

Arco de Santa Maria – the main gate into the city during the 14th century.

Casa del Cordon – palace built in the 15th century.

Casa de Miranda and Archaeological Museum – built in 1545 as a palace, now used as a museum and medieval art museum.

Key: W = Washing, D = Drying, M = Menu, @ = Internet, K = Kitchen, B = Breakfast, V = Vending, Cred  = Credential, Bike = Bike Storage

Please let me know if there are any omissions or errors in the comments below, they will be integrated within the page, or email caminoadventures @

San Juan Ortega to Burgos Elevation Map

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