Stairways on the Camino

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Having written several posts in this blog and a book about stairways, I planned to keep an eye out for stairways while walking the Camino de Santiago. As it turns out, I saw and walked on stairways from the very beginning to the very end of the Camino. I had no idea that there would be so many of them.

I spotted my first stairway when I stepped out of the van that shuttled me from the Biarritz Airport to St. Jean Pied-de-Port. The stairs were across the street from the Pilgrim Office where many peregrinos (pilgrims) stop to get a pilgrim passport and have their passport stamped before they start walking. (More information about peregrinos and pilgrim passports can be found in the previous blog post.)

These are the stairs across the street from the Pilgrim Office.

These are the stairs across the street from the Pilgrim Office.

And here's the view from the top of the stairs!

And here’s the view from the top of the stairs!

Since I had until the next morning before I started walking to Santiago, I wandered around St. Jean Pied-de-Port to see if there were more stairways. With St. Jean being a fortified medieval town built on a hillside, finding more stairways was not difficult.

I climbed stairways leading to the top of the restored walls, stairways from lower parts of town up to the wall, and even a 229-step dirt and wooden beam stairway that followed one of the walls up the hill.

There were several stairways leading to the top of the wall. Many of the stairways were inside the wall!

There were several stairways leading to the top of the wall.

This stairway connects the newer town center with the older part of town. This stairway crossed one street and a total of 130 steps!

This stairway connects the newer town center with the older part of town. This stairway crossed one street and had a total of 130 steps!

This is the 229-step stairway following the wall to the top.

This is the 229-step stairway following the wall to the top.

Here's a view from the top.

Here’s the view from the top.

When I started walking the Camino on the following day, I saw stairways in many if not most of the towns along the way. I found that towns (big and small) along the Camino were built for walking. Except for boulevards, most of the streets were narrow, some streets were too narrow for cars, and housing was very compact with many people living in apartments. As a result the streets were full of people walking, and stairways were a natural part of the fabric to connect streets and walkways built on hills.

Here are some examples:

I saw this stairway on my first day of walking in the town of Valcarlos. The stairs connects the Camino route with a street down below.

I saw this stairway on my first day of walking in the town of Valcarlos. The stairs connects the Camino route with a street down below.

In many steep places, the Camino became a stairway. This 93-step stairway is between Zubiri and Pamplona.

In many steep places, the Camino became a stairway. This 93-step stairway is between Zubiri and Pamplona.

Here's a 40-step on the  approach to Pamplona.

Here’s a 40-step stairway on the approach to Pamplona.

Pamplona was loaded with small stairways connecting various streets and plazas.

Pamplona itself was loaded with small stairways connecting various streets and plazas.

And more stairways in Pamplona. I passed more stairways before leaving Pamplona.

Here’s a different view of the building in the previous picture with a different set of stairways. The network of small stairways in Pamplona made it a dream for those on foot!

The suburbs of Pamplona even got into the act with stairways. This one is in the town of Zariquiegui west of Pamplona.

Even the suburbs of Pamplona got into the act with stairways. This one is in the town of Zariquiegui west of Pamplona.

When you approach a town built on hill like Cirauqui, you know you are going to find stairs.

When you approach a town built on hill like Cirauqui, you know you are going to find stairs.

There were sidewalk steps.

There were sidewalk steps.

And regular steps all along the Camino route. Every town was made for walking!

And regular steps all along the Camino route. This and every other town was made for walking!

I saw these stairs just before reaching the town of Estella. It led from a winery above the Camino to the river down below. It was about 60 steps down to the river.

I saw these stairs just before reaching the town of Estella. It led from a winery above the Camino to the river down below. It was about 60 steps from the Camino down to the river.

In the center of Estella, it was 69 steps from the Camino route to the church door.

It was 69 steps from the Camino to the church door in Estella.

For those who did not wanting to climb stairs, there was an elevator to take people to the church.

For those not wanting to climb stairs, there is an elevator to take them up to the church.

Estella had many many other stairways connecting the Camino route to other roads.

Estella had many many other stairways connecting the Camino route to other roads.

It was much easier to find a town with stairs than a town without. This stairway is in Torres del Rio.

It was much easier to find a town with stairs than a town without. This stairway is in Torres del Rio.

Stairway in Navarette.

This stairway in Navarette has 71 steps.

This stairway was in Carrion de los Condes. I have many more pictures of stairways than I can possibly share in this blog.

And this stairway is in Carrion de los Condes. I wish I had room in this blog post for all of the stairways along the Camino.

In

In Ponferrada there’s a choice or climbing an 80-step stairway or taking the elevator.

Both Villafranca del Bierzo and Sarria had several stairways. This one is in Villafranca.

Both Villafranca del Bierzo and Sarria had several stairways. This one is in Villafranca.

And this one was in Sarria.

And this one is in Sarria.

My biggest stairway disappointment came when I crossed this bridge into Portomarin after a long day's walk. I was too tired to check them out! Based upon this view, this stairway probably has over 100 steps.

My biggest stairway disappointment came when I crossed this bridge into Portomarin. After a long day’s walk, I was too tired to climb these stairs to see how many steps it had. Based upon this view, my guess is that this stairway has over 100 steps.

I did climb this stairway and a smaller one behind it to reach the albergue in Portomarin.

I did climb this stairway right after the bridge and a smaller one behind it to reach the albergue in Portomarin.

The Camino went down this stairway and several others in Palas de Rei.

The Camino went down this stairway and several others in Palas de Rei.

I found some stairways by pure happenstance. On my fourth day of walking I was at a place west of Pamplona where many peregrinos make a detour from the Camino to check out a church in the small town of Eunate. Even though the guidebooks recommend making the detour, I stayed on the Camino as I had already passed many churches and knew I would pass many more.

And it was a good thing that I did stay on the Camino; otherwise, I would not have gone through the town of Obanos.  There, after watching a game of pelota in the local fronton, I bumped into a man around my age named Dean. He mentioned to me that he was from Arizona which is next door to where I live in New Mexico. I asked him where in Arizona he lived and he told me that it was a small city that I had probably never heard of named Sierra Vista.

I answered, “Are you kidding me, I know Sierra Vista like the back of my hand!” I then told Dean about the six trips my dog Petey and I made to Bisbee last year, which is very close to Sierra Vista, to put together a book on the public stairways of Bisbee. I then told him that the book is sold at the Hastings bookstore in Sierra Vista. Right as the word “Hastings” came out of my mouth we passed a very long and recently built public stairway joining the Camino from the left.

As a stairway aficionado, I told Dean that I had to check out the stairs and would catch up with him later. By my count, the stairs had 152 steps and connected the Camino to the road down below.

Here is the 152-step at Obanos. This view is from the Camino.

Here’s a view of the 152-step stairway in Obanos from the Camino.

In another case, right after saying good bye to a very good Camino friend, who had to leave the Camino for business reasons, I noticed a stairway at the edge of the plaza in front of the huge cathedral in Burgos. I followed that stairway as it wound around the cathedral and soon spotted another stairway going uphill away from the cathedral. I followed that stairway until it ended at a road after 85 steps. Just on the other side of that road was another stairway going up through a park. That stairway went up 162 steps to an old medieval fort.

Here's the stairway at the corner of the plaza in front of the huge Burgos Cathedral.

Here’s the stairway at the corner of the plaza in front of the huge Burgos Cathedral.

This is what the couple in the previous picture are looking at. The cathedral is so big that you cannot get it all in one picture.

This is what the people in the previous picture are looking at. The cathedral is so big that you cannot get it all in one picture.

I spotted this stairway behind the cathedral. The stairway made a couple of turns to reach ...

I spotted this stairway behind the cathedral. The stairway made a couple of turns to reach …

this stairway on the other side of the road.

this stairway on the other side of the road.

On my way back to the Camino route and on the walk out of Burgos I passed several more stairways. So who knows how many more stairways there are to discover in Burgos.

It turns out that Santiago, at the very end of the Camino, is also a stairway city. The Camino route goes down a stairway to enter the outskirts of the city. The route then passes several more stairways on its way to the cathedral. And at the very end of the Camino you go down a set of steps to reach the plaza in front of the cathedral. I found even more stairways the next day while wandering around Santiago.

You enter the outskirts of Santiago by going down this stairway.

The Camino comes down these steps as it enters the outskirts of Santiago.

This is one of the many stairways you pass as follow the Camino through the streets of Santiago.

This is one of the many stairways along the Camino route in Santiago.

These steps take you down to the plaza in front of the south entrance of the Santiago Cathedral.

The Camino ends at the bottom of these steps in the plaza in front of the south entrance of the Santiago Cathedral.

After 500 miles and an uncountable number of stairways, the Camino is done!

After 500 miles and an uncountable number of stairways, the Camino is done!

As you can see, if you are a stairway aficionado, you will like walking the Camino.

3 Comments

  1. Great photos of many interesting looking stairways. Now I will have to go and see them for myself.

  2. Indeed an aficionado! It is so interesting to see the progress of the trip illustrating just stairways. These have much more meaning than just getting from one place to another. The landscape, materials, design is simply fascinating. I look forward to more.

  3. Now I know why the Spanish did not do well in North America – (until 1980), they were too busy building stairways!

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