GR Footpaths in Spain: Walking Tours of the Iberian Peninsula

September 3, 2014

Here’s some info about the GR footpaths in Spain.

I’m a big walker, so any time I’m out and about and I see the characteristic yellow arrow for the Camino de Santiago, I’m suddenly as excited as a schoolgirl on a pony ride.

There are a lot of different ways to do the pilgrimage to Santiago: the typical one is from Roncesvalles on the French border, but there’s another one that closely follows the north coast, one that goes up from Lisbon, and even one that starts here in Madrid, at the Iglesia de Santiago, just next to the Royal palace.

From there it goes through El Pardo, Tres Cantos, Colmenar Viejo, Manzanares el Real, Cercedilla and finally on to Segovia. Eventually it joins the Camino Francés in Sahagún and from there follows the more widely-travelled route.

I think that even if you wanted to start the Way of Saint James (not a big fan of that translation, incidentally) in Rome or Jerusalem you could. Set aside a couple of months for something like that. In the Middle Ages, you could start anywhere in Europe. I’m not sure what the state of all those routes is today, but check the map here.

markings on the gr footpath outside cuenca spain
The marking that indicates you’re on the right path.

More GR footpaths in Spain

However, here’s something a lot of people don’t know. In addition to the Camino, there’s a whole network of Gran Recorrido footpaths that allow you to walk all across France, Spain, and other European countries. Marked with a series of red and white symbols to indicate which path to take and which not to take, you can follow them basically anywhere.

The GR footpaths are generally more than a couple days’ walk. Some of them would probably take a month or more. And there are a lot of Pequeño Recorrido (PR) footpaths also, which are only a day or two. The markings on those are white and yellow.

This summer I had the opportunity to do a few parts of the GR-10 (which connects Valencia with Lisbon, passing through Madrid) and the GR-66 which crosses the province of Cuenca.

The routes aren’t always very obvious. Sometimes the markings are old, faded or non-existent, or sometimes I probably miss them. That’s where a good map comes in.

For maps, you can try the Tienda Verde, or (my personal favorite) the official map store of the Instituto de Geografía Nacional. It’s only open in the mornings, but they have the official Spanish 1:25,000 map of anything on the Iberian Peninsula – including all the GR footpaths in Spain, and they only cost about 4 euros each.

Their website absolutely sucks – in true Spanish fashion – so in order to save you the hassle, the address is General Ibañez de Íbero, 3. It’s close to the Ríos Rosas or Cuatro Caminos metro stops.

If you’re going to do one of the GR Footpaths, of course, the usual precautions apply. Bring lots of water. However much water you think you’ll need, bring twice that much. Take a map, know where you’re going, and don’t be stupid.

There are a lot of places out there where you’re not going to be very close to civilization, and nature is totally indifferent to whether you live or die.

Just sayin’.

Most of all, have fun.

I’m out.

Yours,

Mr Chorizo.

P.S. If donkeys aren’t your thing, then check out Venus O’Hara – she surely is. Plus, I bet she smells a lot nicer. Also, has anybody done one of these routes? How was it? Hit me up in the comments, right here.

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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  1. I have walked a few of the Camino routes and various parts of some GR routes. There is a bit of a difference, for me anyway. In generall I find hillwalkers good company and easy to chat with, however on the Camino you often talk with the same people day after day for a month – one of the results of this is making friends.

  2. I have walked a few of the Camino routes and various parts of some GR routes. There is a bit of a difference, for me anyway. In generall I find hillwalkers good company and easy to chat with, however on the Camino you often talk with the same people day after day for a month – one of the results of this is making friends.

  3. Hi Mr. Chorizo, I am moving to Madrid in mid-September for the Auxiliares program. I am debating bringing my road bike and also some basic camping gear. I would love to be able to do 2-3 backpacking trips, camping along the way. I lived in Valencia for the 2014 year and I dated a Spaniard and he told me that this was not exactly “normal” for people to do this in Spain. What is your take on that? Do you know many Spaniards or anyone else that backpack and do these hikes with camping gear? Also, regarding my road-bike, I cycle daily and would love to do so in Madrid but I am worried I won’t use it.

    I love your blog, keep writing!! Salud!!

    1. Hey Kate. I wouldn’t really worry about fitting into Spanish people’s idea of “normal”. Anyway, thousands of people do the Camino de Santiago by bike. I’m sure it’s possible. (That being said, I have no idea about the specifics, I’ve never done it… although I’ve fantasized about it. There’s probably someone else you could ask.)

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