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Ruta del Túnel

General Description: This diagonal route from Irun to Santo Domingo de la Calzada probably had its beginnings prior to the arrival of the Romans on the Iberian Peninsula. It was the Romans however who constructed the St. Adrian's tunnel high up in the Montes de Urquilla, giving the route its name. In the 13th century the route became more popular for French pilgrims as the coastal route became dangerous due to Norman attacks on the coast. 211 km from Irun on the French-Spanish border to Santo Domingo de la Calzada where the route joins the Camino francés.

Waymarking: From Irun to St. Adrian's Tunnel the path is waymarked with yellow arrows, although sparsely in places. Beyond the tunnel there are angle irons painted yellow and black and yellow arrows.

Terrain: Like all of the routes that leave the northern coast headed south to join the Camino francés, the Ruta del Túnel has to climb some serious ridges. In the case of this route, there is one stretch of 8.5 km over which there is a climb of some 1150 m—a 13% grade!

When to go: Weather on the Ruta del Túnel is a product of the mountains and the sea and as such can be harsh, even in the summer. There is always the threat of wet weather between irún and St. Adrian's Tunnel. The higher reaches will be snowed up in the winter. To avoid snow and heat, late spring and the autumn are the recommended seasons. Climate tables for San Sebastían and Vitoria.

Accommodation: There is one pilgrim-oriented facility on the Ruta del Túnel, the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Estibaliz in Estibaliz (km 121 from Irun, offers free accommodation, dinner and breakfast). Other than that the walker will have to rely on hotels, hostales agroturismos (rural bed and breakfasts) and the occassional fonda.

Guidebooks: Confraternity of Saint James: Los Caminos del Norte, B: Tunnel Route (2010) or in the form of a downloadable PDF file. Please make a donation if you take advantage of the download. Download a PDF with extensive user notes (2010).

Internet links: The Confraternity of Saint James has an overview page for the Ruta del Túnel. There is a site maintained by Eric Walker that has good material on all the northern routes including the Ruta del Túnel. And the site santiago-compostela.net has a good overview and a huge collection of photographs.

Other remarks: Although this is little travelled route today there are reminders of former popularity in the form of ermitas and hospitales de peregrinos.

Rev 12/29/14

American Pilgrims on the Camino
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