Medieval France & Spain: The Pilgrim Routes to Santiago de Compostela 2021

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16 Oct – 4 Nov 2021


Medieval France & Spain: The Pilgrim Routes to Santiago de Compostela 2021
Tour Highlights

Travel with Art Historian Dr Joan Barclay Lloyd, an authority in Early Christian and Medieval art, as she introduces you to the architecture, sculpture, painting and cultural landscape of four major pilgrim routes through France – and the Spanish camino francés – to Santiago de Compostela.

  • Make an epic journey, often along the exact route pilgrims travelled, and learn about all aspects of this extraordinary medieval practice.
  • Drive through fascinatingly-varied countryside, from the verdant meadows of Burgundy, the grand Gorges du Tarn and Pyrénées to Castile’s broad mesetas.
  • Build a picture of French and Spanish medieval history and of the full range of pilgrim architecture, from churches and shrines to pilgrim bridges and tiny hostels.
  • View a range of the greatest masterpieces of medieval French and Spanish architecture and sculpture in picturesque old towns like Toulouse, León and Santiago de Compostela.
  • Visit a number of remote French and Spanish mountain shrines at Le Puy-en-Velay and San Juan de la Peña.
  • Peruse three of Europe’s greatest medieval reliquary collections in museums in Paris, Conques and León.
  • Enjoy some of the loveliest villages in France, like beautiful Beaune and unforgettable Conques, where we stay at Hôtel Sainte Foy, a restored 15th-century inn.
  • Trace the development of Gothic colour and light in the exquisite stained glass of La Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, and León’s Cathedral, and in the paintings of masters like Roger van der Weyden.
  • Encounter intriguing examples of the influence of Islam on medieval Christian art and architecture.
  • Explore France’s greatest collection of Toulouse-Lautrec outside Paris and two extraordinary Frank Gehry buildings in Bilbao and Elciego.
  • Stay in several of Spain’s grandest and most famous heritage hotels, including the Royal Hospice of Santiago de Compostela. Parador restaurants all feature regional culinary specialties!


This was probably the best tour we have ever done, or will do. The itinerary was perfect… got us out of the big city and into all sorts of little towns we had never heard of, with fabulous church art. The scenery was much more beautiful than we expected and the leaves were changing. The commentary was also superb – about history from a point of view that we had not previously heard. Michael & Joyce, USA.

20-day Cultural Tour of France & Spain

Overnight Paris (2 nights) • Dijon (2 nights) • Le Puy-en-Velay (1 night) • Conques (1 night) • Albi (2 nights) • Toulouse (1 night) • Pau (1 night) • Sos del Rey Católico (1 night) • Santo Domingo de la Calzada (2 nights) • Burgos (2 nights) • León (2 nights) • Santiago de Compostela (2 nights)

About the Tour

Imagine yourself a medieval pilgrim travelling through France and Spain to the great shrine of Santiago de Compostela. We’ll view grand sculpted portals at Vézelay, Autun, Moissac, Conques and the Cathedral of St James, Compostela to explore how they influenced our distant forebears. Vézelay’s Christ is mystical and otherworldly, Autun’s terrifying, Moissac’s regal, Conques’ approachable, and Compostela’s welcoming. We follow the medieval sculptural imagination into byways inhabited by mermaids, fabulous beasts and demons. In Spanish painting and sculpture the Apostle James transforms from a poor pilgrim with staff, pouch, tunic, gourd and a hat pinned up by his symbol, a shell, into a medieval knight when pilgrimage became entangled with the ‘crusade’ against Islam. Our journey begins in Paris with the genesis of Gothic colour and light in the exquisite stained glass of La Saint-Chapelle and lovely Unicorn Tapestries at the Musée de Cluny. Our route then encompasses myriad shrines, hermitages and monasteries, pilgrim towns with hospices and inns, bridges, pilgrim crosses, market places, and important reliquary museums at Conques and Léon. In verdant Burgundy great pilgrim churches share our interest with the palaces of the wealthy Dukes of Burgundy and the Chancellor Rolin – and his great Renaissance hospital, the Hôtel Dieu at Beaune. Burgundy’s green meadows and small vineyards give way to the rugged landscapes of the Massif Central and Pyrenees, where we visit remote shrines like Le Puy-en-Velay’s pinnacles and the tiny monastery of San Juan de la Peña, carved into a high mountain escarpment. We then cross Castile’s broad meseta to deeply forested Galicia. We visit lovely French towns like rose-red Albi, grand Toulouse and intimate, untouched Conques, where we stay in a 15th-century inn. We also enjoy Spain’s palatial historic pilgrim hospices converted to luxury paradores: Santo Domingo de la Calzada and the Royal Hospice of Santiago de Compostela – all featuring regional culinary specialties! We also view recent art and architecture; Albi’s great Toulouse-Lautrec Museum and Frank Gehry’s ultra-modern Bilbao Guggenheim and his extraordinary hotel at Elciego.



The detailed itinerary provides an outline of the proposed daily program. Participants should note that the daily activities described in this itinerary may be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate changes in museum opening hours, flight schedules & road conditions. Meals included in the tour price and are indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=Lunch and D=dinner.

Paris - 2 nights

Day 1: Saturday 16 October, Arrive Paris
  • Welcome Meeting
  • Orientation walk

Travelers taking the ASA ‘designated’ flights are scheduled to arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport. Here you will be met by your private coach and transferred to the Citadines Apart’Hotel Paris Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Note: if you are not arriving on the ASA ‘designated’ flight you will be required to make your own way to the hotel, or you may wish to contact ASA to arrange a private transfer (check-in time is at 2.00pm). Our program begins late afternoon with a welcome meeting and short orientation walk during which your leader will point out places to eat. The rest of the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Paris)

Day 2: Sunday 17 October, Paris
  • Tour St Jacques
  • Sainte-Chapelle
  • Notre-Dame Cathedral
  • Musée National du Moyen Age (Musée Cluny)
  • Time at leisure in Paris
  • Welcome Evening Meal at Le Procope 

Paris has for centuries been a gathering point for groups of pilgrims making their way to Santiago de Compostela; they travelled in groups for guidance and protection. Known in France as the Chemin de St Jacques, the pilgrim way began at the 16th century Church of Saint James, a richly decorated shrine paid for by wealthy merchants from the nearby market of Les Halles. The church, which held a relic of the saint, has since disappeared, leaving only one of its towers, the flamboyant Gothic Tour St Jacques, which we shall visit.

The route then crossed the Seine and followed what is now the rue St Jacques, then a mere track leading south out of the small city.

We next walk to the Île de la Cité, centre of the medieval city, to visit the Louis IX’s (1214 – 1270) exquisite La Sainte-Chapelle, considered one of Europe’s finest architectural treasures. Built in 1248 to house the precious relic, the Crown of Thorns, this chapel is conceived as a great, luminous stone and glass reliquary. Its stone structure is reduced to a light frame of thin stone piers in order that its walls might be opened up into vast, richly coloured sheets of stained glass that colour the light of the interior, giving it an ethereal atmosphere. The chapel’s richly coloured windows imitate the scintillating jewels on the small reliquaries that inspired it.

From here it is but a short stroll to Notre-Dame. Pope Alexander III laid this great cathedral’s first stone in 1163. Completed 200 years later, the Cathedral is a remarkable transitional Romanesque-Gothic structure with some superb stained glass and stone sculpture; the Gothic style developed here in Paris and in the Île de France, whence it spread out across Europe. It expressed the intimate link between the Church and the French monarchy until the 1789 revolution, when it became a target of the revolutionary mob. It took its place in French – and world – literature, when Victor Hugo (1802 – 1885) made it the setting of his extremely influential novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831).

Following some time at leisure for lunch, we visit the magnificent Musée National du Moyen Age at the Hôtel de Cluny. Parisian headquarters of the Order of Cluny, it is a fine specimen of late Gothic palatial architecture. This museum holds a huge collection of medieval sculpture and tapestry and countless other objects as diverse as fine chests, stained glass windows, precious reliquaries and bejewelled ornaments. A highlight of our visit will be the Unicorn Tapestries that express the extraordinary richness of the late Gothic style, a vehicle for the expression of courtly power and grace. Here we enter the world of conspicuous consumption that underpinned French royal imagery.

The day is planned to finish around 4.00 pm. Following some time at leisure, we say ‘Bienvenue’ over dinner at one of the most literary of all Parisian restaurants, Le Procope. First opened in 1686, it is one of the oldest dining establishments in the world. (Overnight Paris) BD

Dijon - 2 nights

Day 3: Monday 18 October, Paris – Autun – Dijon
  • Pilgrim Church of Saint-Lazare, Autun
  • Musée Rolin, Autun

This morning we depart by private coach for Dijon, capital of Burgundy. On the way we shall visit Autun to view the pilgrim church of Saint-Lazare and the Musée Rolin which contains splendid sculptures by Gislebertus. This genius of the sculpted narrative sculpted a large number of capitals for Saint-Lazare’s nave and apse, including such masterpieces as the Eve and the Dream of the Magi. Some of the finest of these are now in the old chapter library. The Church’s Last Judgement tympanum is also by Gislebertus. The internal façades of the nave are based upon the Roman gates of Autun, for the city had an illustrious ancient heritage. Lunchtime will be at leisure in Autun, which has some excellent small cafés. (Overnight Dijon) B

Day 4: Tuesday 19 October, Dijon – Vézelay – Beaune – Dijon
  • Abbey Church of La Madeleine, Vézelay
  • Hôtel-Dieu, Beaune

This morning we depart for Vézelay, the first stop on the west-central pilgrim route to Santiago, where St Bernard preached the Second Crusade. The abbey church, La Madeleine (nave 1096-1104; choir 1170s), gained fame because it was alleged to contain the relics of the Magdalene, brought from Provence around 1050. In c.1280 it was found that the relics had, in fact, never left St Maximin in Provence and after this Vézelay declined as a centre of pilgrimage.

The Madeleine, restored by Viollet-le-Duc between 1840 and 1861, is noted for its magnificent nave, with polychrome ribs and an extensive sculptural program. The church has a masterly tympanum depicting Pentecost, in which Christ sends the Apostles out to convert the different peoples of the world. This work, sculpted by a Cluniac master, uses swirling folds and the elongation of bodily forms to convey a powerful sense of the presence of the divine. Surrounding the great central image are smaller panels depicting the various races, with fantastic images such as pygmies using ladders to mount horses. Christ is Lord of space and time and therefore along with this fantastic medieval geography lies a second ring of images, of signs of the zodiac and labour of the months. Within the church there are over 50 sculpted capitals with a profusion of subjects: from classical mythology, the Old and New Testaments, the lives of the saints, and the fancy of the sculptor. To read these images with their layers of meanings is to become aware of the different ways in which the world was perceived in the 12th century.

After lunchtime at leisure we drive south to Beaune, residence of the Dukes of Burgundy before 1420, to visit the Hôtel-Dieu (1443). This pristine Flemish Renaissance hospital with its distinctive polychrome roof was founded by Nicolas Rolin, the immensely wealthy chancellor of Duke Philippe le Bon. It survived without drastic change until 1971 when it became a museum. We shall see how a medieval hospital was laid out and will also view its masterpiece, Roger van der Weyden’s polyptych, The Last Judgement, which once graced the chapel at the end of the main dormitory; prayers were believed as efficacious in healing as the work of doctors. (Overnight Dijon) B

Le-Puy-en-Velay - 1 night

Day 5: Wednesday 20 October, Dijon – Tournus – Cluny – Le Puy
  • Romanesque Abbey of Saint-Philibert, Tournus
  • Abbey of Cluny

We depart Dijon, driving south to the great monastic centre of Cluny via Saint-Philibert, Tournus. Tournus lies on the Saône; rivers in the Middle Ages were conduits for conquest as well as trade. This fine Romanesque abbey consequently has a fortress-like west end. Saint-Philibert is a very early Romanesque church and its tall, narrow nave with a distinctive system of cross vaults reflects a period of experiment which characterized the genesis of the Romanesque style.

We drive on through the lovely Burgundian countryside to the great abbey of Cluny, headquarters of the religious Order that was to dominate Europe in its time. The two remaining towers of the original abbey church and fragments of one transept give a vivid impression of the enormous size of the original building which once dwarfed its counterparts in Europe. We shall spend lunchtime in Cluny, and you will have a chance to explore the town that has some rare examples of early-medieval houses. In the mid-afternoon we shall drive south and west to Le Puy-en-Velay. (Overnight Le Puy-en Velay) BD

Conques - 1 night

Day 6: Thursday 21 October, Le Puy – Conques
  • Cathedral Notre-Dame of Le Puy-en-Velay

We spend the morning visiting the cathedral precinct of Le Puy, whose bishop was the earliest known pilgrim to Santiago whom we know by name. Le Puy occupies an extraordinary landscape of pinnacles, the cores of extinct volcanoes, atop which medieval hermits found solitude. The city was the starting point of one of the four main pilgrim routes to Santiago, used especially by German travelers. The earliest parts of the present Cathedral of Notre-Dame, which perches upon the crest of a high escarpment, include its unique seven-storeyed bell-tower, constructed in the 11th century. Its nave is surmounted by a series of dome-like vaults, another distinctive feature of this unusual church. The Black Virgin of Le Puy was brought back from Palestine in 1254 by St Louis and immediately made the fortune of the city by attracting pilgrims including popes, kings and queens. We shall also visit the Romanesque cloister of the cathedral.

In the afternoon we depart Le Puy for Conques, one of the most important pilgrim centres in France. In Conques we stay in a beautiful small 15th century inn (now a 4-star hotel). In the evening we enjoy a group meal. (Overnight Conques) BD

Albi - 2 nights

Day 7: Friday 22 October, Conques – Albi
  • Abbey of Sainte-Foy, Conques
  • Abbey Museum, Conques

The Benedictine Abbey of Sainte-Foy at Conques (1031-1090) is one of five archetypal pilgrim churches. Its plan, like those of Saint-Sernin (Toulouse); Santiago de Compostela; St Martin (Tours: destroyed) and Saint-Martial (Limoges), featured aisles surrounding the chancel that aided the ingress and egress of pilgrims. It has a fine east-end with radiating chapels, a narrow high nave with galleries and a well-preserved coloured portal depicting The Last Judgement, less majestic than that of Autun or Moissac but more vivid in its descriptive detail. The abbey was founded in 866 in a lonely, thickly wooded region of the Dordogne. It became an important station on the west-central route from Le Puy to Santiago because of the extraordinary popularity of its saint, martyred in 330 AD. The adolescent girl St Foy, like St George, was of obscure origins, but later became so popular that monuments to her were founded throughout Britain, continental Europe and the Near East. Her strange reliquary, fashioned in the form of an enthroned monarch, is the only surviving example of a form popular in the 11th century. It is housed in the Abbey museum that holds one of Europe’s best-preserved collections of early reliquaries. After lunch we travel to Albi, where the evening will be at leisure. (Overnight Albi) B

Day 8: Saturday 23 October, Albi
  • Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile
  • Les Jardins du Palais de la Berbie
  • Le Musée Toulouse-Lautrec
  • Afternoon at leisure in Albi

We spend a full day in Albi, a city of red brick reminiscent of Siena. It stands on the river Tarn whose bed provided the clay for these bricks. We begin with a visit to Albi’s extraordinary brick fortress-cathedral, Sainte-Cécile (1282-1330; porch 1519-1535), built by Bishop Bernard de Castanet with riches confiscated from Cathar heretics. The building, with smooth walls and curved tower-buttresses (designed so that stones hurled by war machines would glance off them) aimed to remind the Albigensians of the authority of the church whose dogmas they had disputed.

We also visit the Bishop’s palace, the Palais de la Berbie, which houses the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. One of the finest museums devoted to a single artist in France, it incorporates early paintings by the master and some of his most important images of Parisian life. There is also a collection of his posters and a section devoted to his lithography displaying many of his lithographic stones.

The afternoon is at leisure to further explore one of the best-preserved old towns in France, Vieil-Alby (Old Albi). (Overnight Albi) B

Toulouse - 1 night

Day 9: Sunday 24 October, Albi – Moissac – Toulouse
  • Tympanum and Cloisters of Saint-Pierre, Moissac
  • Saint-Sernin, Toulouse

Today we depart Albi for Toulouse via Moissac, visiting the church of St Pierre (1100-1150) that was once a Cluniac abbey. Moissac boasts a fine trumeau graced by ethereal, elongated figures of St Paul and the Prophet Jeremiah. Above the trumeau is a Last Judgement tympanum, which provides interesting comparisons to those of Autun, Vézelay and Conques. Behind is a narthex and above this a tower room with a majestic, open, dome-like structure created by the convergence of great ribs; this is believed to be an architectural depiction of the Heavenly Jerusalem. Although much of the monastery has been destroyed, its cloister remains. It has an important corpus of sculpted panels and capitals including figures in relief whose monumentality suggests that the artist who also worked in Saint-Sernin, Toulouse, was inspired by antique sculpture. In the early afternoon we arrive in Toulouse and visit the great pilgrim church of Saint-Sernin (1075-1096). After the destroyed church at Cluny, Saint-Sernin of Toulouse was the largest Romanesque church in France, very similar in plan to that of Santiago de Compostela. The church is double aisled and from its ambulatory project a series of chapels which once displayed saints’ relics. (Overnight Toulouse) B

Pau - 1 night

Day 10: Monday 25 October, Toulouse – Pau
  • Musée des Augustins, Toulouse

The morning we visit the Musée des Augustins, an old Augustinian priory used as a residence and studio by Viollet-le-Duc when he worked on the restoration of Saint-Sernin. It is now a museum that holds a comprehensive collection of Romanesque and Gothic sculpture. In the afternoon we drive from Toulouse to Pau. (Overnight Pau) B

Sos del Rey Católico - 1 night

Day 11: Tuesday 26 October, Pau – Jaca – San Juan de la Peña – Monasterio de Leyre – Sos del Rey Católico
  • Cathedral of Jaca & Diocesan Museum
  • Benedictine Monastery at San Juan de la Peña
  • Convent of Santa Cruz de la Serós (exterior)
  • Monastery of Leyre

In the early morning we begin our journey from French Navarre into Aragón via the Somport Pass through which the pilgrim route from Provence crossed the Pyrenées (those from Paris, Vézelay and Le Puy travelled through Roncesvalles to northern Spain). Our first stop on this route will be Jaca, ancient capital of Aragón, with its important 11th-century cathedral, and the monastery of San Juan de la Peña. This Benedictine monastery, hidden high in a forested range beneath overhanging red cliffs, was where the initial Aragonese forays against the Iberian Muslims were initiated using funds paid by the kings of Aragón and Navarre. Beneath San Juan is the interesting sister convent of Santa Cruz de la Serós with a distinctive fortress-like tower, possibly constructed to afford refuge for its nuns during Islamic raids. Next we visit the Monastery of Leyre, a large complex with one of the oldest Romanesque crypts in Spain. In the evening we enjoy a group meal. (Overnight Parador Fernando de Aragón of Sos del Rey Católico) BLD

Santo Domingo de la Calzada - 2 nights

Day 12: Wednesday 27 October, Sos del Rey Católico – Eunate – Puente la Reina – Estella – Torres del Río – Sto Domingo de la Calzada
  • Santa María la Real, Sangüesa
  • Our Lady of Eunate
  • Pilgrim Bridge, Puente la Reina
  • Church of Santiago, Puente la Reina
  • Church of San Miguel, Estella (exterior)
  • Palace of the Kings of Navarre, Estella (exterior)
  • Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Torres del Río

Today we visit a large number of interesting pilgrim monuments along the Spanish route to Santiago. The first is Santa Maria la Real, Sangüesa, with an extensive Romanesque and Gothic program of portal-sculpture, the latter influenced by Chartres. A well inside the nave of the church was probably sunk for the use of pilgrims. We shall then visit Our Lady of Eunate, thought to be one of three surviving funerary churches along the way of St James. An unusual arcade surrounds this centrally planned masterpiece, suggesting that its architect was attempting to copy either the temple or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Our next stop, Puente la Reina, is the meeting-point of the two pilgrim routes across the Pyrénées, one passing through Roncesvalles and the other through the Somport pass. It preserves almost exactly the form of a pilgrim village with medieval houses flanking the pilgrims’ way, which leads to one of the finest pilgrim bridges in Spain (from which the town takes its name). At Estella, which probably derives its name (Spanish estrella) from the star which indicated Saint James’ sepulchre to the hermit Pelaio, we shall see the pilgrim church of San Miguel with portal sculptures which narrate the life of Christ in vivid style, and the facade of the 12th century Palace of the Kings of Navarre, one of the finest examples of Romanesque civic architecture in Europe.

At Torres del Río there is a second funerary church with an octagonal ground plan. The church was built by the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and was probably based on the original in Jerusalem. A vault of the type used by the Muslims in Spain in such monuments as the mosque at Córdoba seems to indicate the hand of Mudéjar builders (Muslims working for the Christians). Tonight we stay in the Parador of Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The parador is situated in a former hospital – hostel that provided shelter for sick pilgrims. In the evening we shall enjoy a group meal. (Overnight Santo Domingo de la Calzada) BLD

Day 13: Thursday 28 October, Sto Domingo de la Calzada – Bilbao – Laguardia – Elciego – Sto Domingo de la Calzada
  • Guggenheim Bilbao
  • Church of Santa María de los Reyes, Laguardia (Álava)
  • Optional walk of Laguardia’s medieval ramparts
  • Frank Gehry’s Marqués de Riscal Hotel, Elciego
  • Tour and wine tasting, Bodega de Los Herederos del Marques de Riscal
  • Cathedral of S. Domingo de la Calzada

Today we divert from the pilgrim route and drive north to Bilbao to view Frank Gehry’s magnificent Guggenheim Museum. Returning south we journey through the undulating plains of the wine-growing region of La Rioja-Alavesa to the medieval village of Laguardia. Following a picnic lunch we shall view one of Spain’s very few painted Gothic portals at Santa María de los Reyes. The door centres on a lovely, lifelike effigy of La Virgen de los Reyes (Virgin of the Kings), sculpted in the 14th century and painted in the 17th century by Ribera. The village is perched on a hillock within a circuit of fortified walls. There will be time at leisure to enjoy a walk along the ramparts.

In the nearby village of Elciego we encounter one of Spain’s most important avant garde buildings, Frank Gehry’s Marqués de Riscal Hotel, Elciego. One of the most celebrated of the Rioja’s famous wines is the Marques de Riscal, and the Bodega de Los Herederos del Marques de Riscal is part of the hotel complex. We shall enjoy a short tour of this famous winery and a wine-tasting and view Gehry’s extraordinary hotel.

In the late afternoon we return to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, where we visit the namesake cathedral. Santo Domingo was a monk who spent a large part of his life building a bridge across the Oca and a pilgrim road that connects this village with Redecilla, which also possessed an important shrine. He is the first of the road-building saints we encounter on our journey. Within the cathedral, housed in a highly decorated 15th-century cage, are a live white-feathered cock and hen, reminders of a miracle attributed to the saint. Pilgrims still collect their feathers. In the evening we shall enjoy a group meal at the parador’s restaurant. (Overnight Santo Domingo de la Calzada) BLD

Burgos - 2 nights

Day 14: Friday 29 October, Santo Domingo de la Calzada – San Millan de la Cogolla – Burgos
  • Monastery of San Millán, Suso
  • Monastery of San Millán, Yuso
  • Cartuja de Miraflores, Burgos

This morning we drive west to the lovely, lonely site of two monasteries, San Millán de Suso, a very early sanctuary built by Mozarabic monks, and its grand Baroque successor, San Millán de Yuso. The former, nestled high in a wooded escarpment, holds the shrine of San Millán. The latter, constructed in the valley below, displays his precious reliquary with unique ivory panels.

Burgos played an important role in the early military campaigns that slowly won back Spain from the Muslims (711-1492). The city is believed to have been founded by Diego Porcelos, who around 884 built a fortress there. Muslim raiders followed rivers like the Arlanzón into the heartlands of their enemies and it was as a check to invasion that Diego’s fortress was constructed. The city that developed around it remained subject to the kings of León until 926. Burgos then became the capital of Castile until 1087 when Alfonso VI moved his capital to Toledo. Its fortunes were revived in the 15th century when it was a centre for the export of wool to Flanders. Flemish and German artists in consequence travelled south to Burgos and designed many of its opulent chapels and shrines.

This afternoon we visit the first of two monasteries with royal tombs. The Cartuja de Miraflores was built on the site of Henry III’s old palace in 1441. Its fine, simple Gothic architecture is typical of a Carthusian foundation and its tombs of Isabella of Castile’s parents and brother are excellent examples of the (Flemish) Isabelline style. (Overnight Burgos) BL

Day 15: Saturday 30 October, Burgos – Covarrubias – Santo Domingo de Silos – Burgos
  • Monastery of S. Domingo de Silos
  • Burgos Cathedral
  • Monasterio de Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas

This morning we travel south to the charming medieval village of Covarrubias and the monastery of S. Domingo de Silos. A monastery existed on this site from Visigothic times but was destroyed by the Arabs and a second building was erected in 919 when the area was wrested from the Emir of Córdoba. It became a great centre of Christian revival under Navarre’s St Dominic. The cloister has two storeys with capitals with delicate, mysterious and symbolic plant motifs, suggesting oriental, Byzantine or Persian influences. There is also an early 18th century (1705) pharmacy in the building.

We return to Burgos for lunchtime at leisure and then visit its Gothic cathedral (begun 1221) to see its splendid portal sculptures, vaults, cloisters, chapels and the coffer of El Cid. We also visit a second monastery with royal tombs. The Monasterio de Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas (Cistercian, 1187) became the pantheon of the kings of Castile. Its architectural style is English and its interior has Muslim decorative motifs of exquisite detail. A treasure of this monastery is a banner captured from the Muslim army at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212). It also holds a unique collection of court garb retrieved from the Castilian royal tombs. A number of these are decorated with Muslim motifs and are probably of eastern manufacture. (Overnight Burgos) B

León - 2 nights

Day 16: Sunday 31 October, Burgos – Frómista – Carrión de los Condes – León
  • San Martín, Frómista
  • Church of Santiago, Carrión de los Condes (exterior)
  • San Miguel de Escalada

We continue along the pilgrimage route across the great meseta of Castile. First, we visit Frómista to see the fine Romanesque church of San Martín, one of the best-preserved (restored) Romanesque pilgrim churches of Spain. Its nave contains sculpted capitals some of which are linked stylistically to those of Jaca. The exterior walls are articulated and unified with horizontal bands that first appeared in Jaca and became a characteristic of the architecture along the pilgrim route in Spain. We shall visit a number of other important small pilgrim towns such as Carrión de los Condes, whose church of Santiago has portal sculptures depicting figures involved in occupations such as metalwork, as well as musicians and acrobats. If time permits, we shall also visit the Mozarabic church of San Miguel de Escalada. Christians fleeing the Iberian Muslims built this distinctive small church, which is hidden away above a small village. Despite their flight from Islamic Al Andalus, they nevertheless used such Muslim decorative elements as horseshoe arches in their church. (Overnight León) BLD

Day 17: Monday 1 November, León
  • Panteon de los Reyes
  • Colegiata de San Isidoro
  • Cathedral of Santa María de Regla

Of Roman origins, León was the capital of the Kingdom of León from 910 to 1230. It was sacked by the Muslims under Almanzor (al-Mansur) in 988 but was rebuilt and flourished under Alfonso V (999-1027) as a major trading town and a most important stop on the pilgrim route to Santiago. Its fame derived from the possession of the relics of one of Spain’s greatest saints, the historian and encyclopaedist Isidore of Seville, brought north from that Islamised city.

We shall spend the morning in the city, now capital of its province, visiting such monuments as thethe Panteon de los Reyes, Colegiata de San Isidoro and the Cathedral of Santa María de Regla. San Isidoro was founded in the 11th century to hold the remains of St Isidore. It is a Romanesque/Gothic construction. The Pantheon of the Kings, the burial place of the early kings of León, holds one of Europe’s finest cycles of Romanesque vault paintings (1180-90) depicting the Lives of Christ and the Apostles, Signs of the Zodiac and the Labours of the Months. León cathedral’s great treasures are its west front, the finest of its kind in Spain, and its stained glass windows, the earliest of which date from the 13th century. The afternoon is at leisure. (Overnight León) B

Santiago de Compostela - 2 nights

Day 18: Tuesday 2 November, León – Astorga – Cebreiro – Santiago de Compostela
  • Celtic houses of Cebreiro

Today we complete our journey along the pilgrim route. We drive to Santiago de Compostela via Astorga, a major stopping place on the route. We climb up across the high mountain passes that lead to the verdant region of Galicia. At the very summit of one pass we stop at the fascinating small town of Cebreiro, distinguished by its extraordinary cottage-barn, dry stone houses that are of Celtic origin. We then drive across Galicia to Santiago de Compostela. In the evening we shall enjoy a group meal. Our hotel is the Parador of Santiago de Compostela, Hostal dos Reis Católicos, former Royal Hospital and pilgrim lodging. We shall enjoy a group evening meal here. (Overnight Parador de Santiago) BLD

Day 19: Wednesday 3 November, Santiago de Compostela
  • Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
  • ‘Botafumeiro’ (subject to confirmation in 2021)
  • Farewell Lunch
  • Afternoon at leisure in Santiago de Compostela

The ultimate goal of all pilgrims was what is now the Plaza de España, flanked by stately palaces and the superb Baroque west facade of the great cathedral, one of the most beautiful churches of the Iberian Peninsula. One of the most magnificent buildings facing the Plaza is Santiago de Compostela’s Parador, the Hostal dos Reis Católicos.

We shall spend the morning in the cathedral and its subsidiary buildings. The present cathedral (completed 1211) is built upon an earlier shrine of 899. Construction began before 1105 and the choir and transept were completed in 1112. A clock tower was added in 1325, the bell tower and cloister around 1521. The building later gained a baroque facade. The complex with its myriad chapels is a treasure house of sculpture and painting, precious silver work and glass from the Romanesque and Gothic periods. We will also assist to the ritual of ‘Botafumeiro’ (subject to confirmation in 2021), with the giant censer swinging above the High Altar. A ‘Botafumeiro’ has been used in the Cathedral since the Middle Ages, originally to clean the air when crowds of pilgrims having completed the Camino de Santiago arrived in Santiago de Compostela.

Following a midday farewell group meal at the parador the afternoon will be at leisure to explore the many churches and palaces of the pilgrim city. (Overnight Parador de Santiago) BL

Day 20: Thursday 4 November, Tour ends in Santiago de Compostela
  • Departure transfer for travellers taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight

The tour ends in Santiago de Compostela. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport to take their flight home to Australia.  Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay in Spain. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B



20-day Cultural Tour of France & Spain

A special feature of this tour is our stay in the 4-star paradors of Sos de del Rey Católico, Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Santiago de Compostela. 

Accommodation is in twin-share rooms with private facilities in 3-5-star hotels. Each hotel is centrally located within the cities that we visit. Further information on hotels will be provided in the ‘Tour Hotel List’ given to tour members prior to their departure.

  • Paris (2 nights): 4-star Citadines Apart’Hotel Paris Saint-Germain-des-Prés – chosen for its location on the left bank just opposite the Île de la Cité and a stone’s throw from the Sainte-Chapelle and Notre-Dame. www.citadines.com
  • Dijon (2 nights): 4-star Hostellerie du Chapeau Rouge – housed in a historic 19th-century building in the heart of the old town. www.chapeau-rouge.fr
  • Le Puy-en-Velay (1 night): 3-star Hôtel Le Régina – located in the town centre. www.hotelrestregina.com
  • Conques (1 night): 4-star Hôtel Sainte Foy – housed in a charming 17th-century inn, www.hotelsaintefoy.fr
  • Albi (2 nights): 4-star Mercure Albi Bastides – housed in a former 18th century water mill, located on the banks of the Tarn, in the city centre. The hotel features a restaurant and terrace overlooking the river. www.mercure.com
  • Toulouse (1 night): 4-star Grand Hôtel de L’Opéra – housed in a beautifully restored 17th-century convent, located in the heart of Toulouse. www.grand-hotel-opera.com
  • Pau (1 night): 3-star Hôtel Villa Montpensier – located in the town centre. www.villa-montpensier.com
  • Sos del Rey Católico (1 night): 4-star parador – located next to the ramparts, in the ancient fortfied town of Sos. www.parador.es
  • Parador Santo Domingo de la Calzada (2 nights): 4-star parador – built by Santo Domingo de la Calzada on the site of an ancient palace belonging to the King of Navarra. The parador is situated in a former hospital-hostel which was intended to provide shelter for pilgrims who became ill whilst on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. www.parador.es
  • Burgos (2 nights): 4-star NH Collection Palacio de Burgos – located in the city centre and housed in a converted monastery. www.nh-hotels.com
  • León (2 nights): 4-star hotel – NH Collection Plaza Mayor – overlooking the city’s main square, the hotel is situated in the heart of the historic centre, a 5-min walk from World Heritage-listed León Cathedral www.nh-collection.com
  • Parador Santiago de Compostela (2 nights): 5-star parador – this is one of the most magnificent inns in Spain. In the 15th century the building housed a pilgrims’ hospice, which nurtured the sick and sheltered the humble who journeyed from all parts of Europe to visit the tomb of St James. www.parador.es

Note: hotels are subject to change, in which case a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation in a single occupancy throughout the tour. In all hotels on this tour, this will be a double/twin room for single occupancy, except for 1 night in Conques, where, due to the size of the hotel, standard single rooms may be provided. The number of rooms available for single use is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

How to book

How to Book

Making a Tentative Reservation before the tour price has been published


Some ASA tours fill almost immediately. Don’t miss out! You can register your ‘Intention to Travel’ by completing this application and returning this to ASA with a AUD $100.00 per person deposit. Once the tour price has been published, the itinerary and ASA Reservation Application Form will be sent to you. From the time you receive the itinerary you will have two weeks to either:

  • Send us a completed ASA Reservation Application Form together with an additional deposit of AUD $400.00 per person. On receipt of this Reservation Application and deposit, ASA will process your booking and if approved, send you a tour confirmation. At this time your deposit of AUD $500.00 is subject to the tour’s Booking Conditions.


  • CANCEL your Intention to Travel in writing. ASA will refund your AUD $100.00 per person deposit, less a $33.00 service fee (including GST).

Participation Criteria

To participate in an ASA tour, you must be reasonably fit, in good health and able to participate in all activities without assistance from Tour Leaders or other tour members. If you require assistance, a fit and able travel companion must undertake to accompany and assist you with all tasks for the duration of the whole tour. ASA’s ability to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate your specific needs, your health and safety and the health and safety of other tour members, is of paramount importance to us. For this reason the ASA Reservation Application includes a Medical Information section. As a general guideline, you must be able to accomplish each of these activities without assistance or support:-

  • walk and stand unassisted for at least 2-3 hours a day in hot, humid conditions
  • walk confidently on and over uneven surfaces
  • climb at least 3 flights of stairs
  • embark and disembark from ferries, buses and trains
  • walk up and down steep slopes
  • walk at a steady pace and no less than 1km every 15-20 minutes
  • organise, manage and carry your own luggage
  • follow and remember tour instructions
  • meet punctually at designated times and places
  • administer your own medication

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation in a double room for single occupancy throughout the tour. In all hotels on this tour, this will be a double/twin room for single occupancy, except for 1 night in Conques, where, due to the size of the hotel, standard single rooms may be provided. The number of rooms available for single use is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

Practical Information

Practical Information

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, six to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 20-day Cultural Tour of France & Spain involves:

  • A moderate amount of walking during site visits, however there are some inclines to be negotiated walking into the historic centres like Vézelay and Le Puy-en-Velay.
  • A daily schedule often with early-morning departures (between 8.00-8.30am), and concluding in the late afternoon (6.00-6.30pm).
  • The use of audio headsets which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.
  • 3 to 5-star hotels with 11 hotel changes.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers see: www.smartraveller.gov.au

Tour Price & Inclusions

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $TBA Land Content Only – Early-Bird Special: book before 31 October 2020

AUD $TBA Land Content Only

AUD $TBA Single Supplement

For competitive Economy, Business or First Class airfares and/or group airfares please contact ASA for further information.

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities in 3 to 5-star hotels
  • Breakfast daily, lunches and evening meals indicated in the tour itinerary, where: B=breakfast, L=lunch & D=dinner
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included.
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach
  • Airport-hotel transfers if travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person at hotels (not at airports)
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Light refreshments or wine-tasting as outlined in the itinerary
  • Entrance fees
  • Use of audio headsets during site visits
  • Tour handbook
  • Tips for the coach driver, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Airfare: Australia-Paris, Santiago de Compostela-Australia
  • Personal spending money
  • Airport-hotel transfers if not travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights
  • Luggage in excess of 20 kg (44 lbs)
  • Travel insurance
Tour Map

Tour Map

Terms & Conditions

A deposit of $500.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply: More than 75 days before departure: $500.00**

  • 75-46 days prior 25% of total amount due
  • 45-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-15 days prior 75% of total amount due
  • 14-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**This amount may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply. We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA. ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies. ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider. ASA reserves the sole discretion to cancel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

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