2023 Camino Classic, the French Way Gently

Dates: October 2-13, 2023
Start/End: Madrid-Santiago
$7499, double-occupancy (+$1200 supplement for single-occupancy)

Duration:  12 Days/11 Nights
Distance:  66 miles/107 kms
Difficulty:  Low

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Beginning with river cruise and overnight in the stunning landscape of Ribeira Sacra, walking the final 100 kms of the French Way in shorter stages, and a full rest day.

El Camino:  An Epic Journey Awaits You!

Is walking El Camino on your ‘bucket list’?

Are you in transition and wanting space and time to reflect on ‘what’s next’?

Are you celebrating a milestone life event?

Are you seeking a travel experience that aligns with your deepest values?

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of St. James, is the epic pilgrimage route of Europe. For 2023, we offer two new extraordinary pilgrimage options: Camino Classic, The French Way Gently, October 2-13 and Coastal Costa Brava Camino, October 16-26, 2023, both are our kindest and gentlest Caminos ever. Both combine the stunning beauty of northern Spain with spacious time for you to reflect individually and with a caring, supportive community on your inner capacity to lead a more authentic, meaningful, and resilient life. In these exclusive, small group, amenities-packed pilgrimages, you are pampered by the breathtaking natural beauty of the sun-drenched north coast of Spain, superior accommodations, and regional delicious cuisine.

About Camino Classic, The French Way Gently, October 2-13, 2023

Photo Credit: Valerie Brown

We begin with an overnight, full-day guided visit of Riberia Saca, one of the hidden gems of northern Spain, located in southwest corner of Galicia, and known for its impressive canyons and gorges that rise out of the meandering Sil and Miño rivers.   Surrounded by terraced vineyards and ancient monasteries, this dramatic and magical landscape boasts soaring cliffs, ancient Roman ruins, chestnut and oak forests, picturesque villages, and the welcoming hospitality of the Galician people.

From this immersion into the natural landscape, you begin your life-changing pilgrimage, following the classic French Way through quaint villages and at a slower pace. Afternoon activities include a workshop on making local artisanal organic cheese and a visit to a local honey museum to learn about sustainable production. You’ll arrive in Santiago de Compostela deeply inspired and connected to fellow pilgrims.

Travel that Touches Your Soul

Walk in Beauty Ethos

Our mission is to provide not just a travel experience but rather a pilgrimage journey so transformative that it becomes a defining moment in your life. We provide amazing support on meticulously planned itineraries, with a carefully cultivated community to support you,  superior accommodations, and regional-delicious cuisine so you can be fully present, enjoying ‘your Camino, your Way’.

We welcome and support people from diverse racial, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds, gender identities, languages, ages, abilities, immigration and socio-economic status, and spiritual practices.

Preparation in Body, Mind, & Spirit

You’ll be supported from the moment you register with ample resources to prepare you in body, mind, and spirit. You’ll receive newsletters,  a training schedule, maps, our Comprehensive Pilgrimage Resource Guide and Packing List, as well as Camino Community Conference Calls via videoconference to get to know fellow pilgrims and build a supportive community.  You’ll arrive in Spain with new friends, feeling prepared.

An Inward Journey through Reflection

Photo Credit: Valerie Brown

Based on the work of Quaker educator and writer, Parker J. Palmer and the Center for Courage & Renewal, Walk in Beauty Pilgrimage is a ‘moveable retreat’, which distinguishes this pilgrimage apart from all others. You’ll explore what is most meaningful to you, have space and time to listen to your own inner wisdom, reconnect who you are with what you do, and cultivate the courage to lean into action. Guided by core principles and practices, which include the belief that everyone has an ‘inner teacher’, an inner source of truth, the pilgrimage engages contemplative practices to support personal and societal transformation.

As a capstone experience, a version of the Quaker Clearness Committee, a process of individual discernment in community, will be offered during the pilgrimage to support your questions of ‘what’s next’.

Do you want to know more about the clearness committee and how this process might support you in gaining clarity about life’s most important questions? Please read, Coming to the Light, Cultivating Spiritual Discernment through the Quaker Clearness Committee, Valerie Brown, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #446, August 2017.

Private Van Support & Guides

Our fully supported private van, loaded with healthy snacks, water, medicine, and first aid kits, sets this pilgrimage apart and makes it accessible to all. A private vehicle and guide for logistical support is available during the entire pilgrimage route to assist you, to transport luggage, and to address any other needs. This means you can enjoy the scenery and not worry about the unexpected!

Photo Credit: Valerie Brown

With checkpoints along the way, our support vehicle is waiting with healthy snacks and cold drinks, or other assistance. If you do not want to keep walking for any reason, you can hop on the support vehicle at the next checkpoint.

In this customized pilgrimage, our ground support has signals in places where some people take the wrong turn to ensure you’re on the right path. After the daily walk, and after you’ve had lunch you’ll return to the hotel to shower, freshen up, enjoy well-deserved rest, reflect on the day, and savor a delicious-regionally sourced dinner.

Walk at Your Own Pace

Photo Credit: Valerie Brown

Everyone walks at their own pace and you will be met by our guides and support vehicle at various checkpoints along each stage. At the checkpoints you can enjoy a snack, fruit and cold beverages and our guides will assist you in case you need anything else. We also offer assistance for any emergencies or simply to relieve muscular pain or cure blisters.  If for any reason you do not want to continue walking, our support vehicle is at your disposal.

Luggage Support

Luggage is transferred from one hotel to the next using the support vehicle. You need only carry a small/medium backpack for your essentials and leave the rest to us! (Please review luggage requirements under Frequently Asked Questions.)

Regional-Delicious & Healthy Cuisine

Photo Credit: Valerie Brown

Traditionally prepared hearty breakfasts and locally-sourced and delicious dinners with local wines served with exceptional hospitality and ambiance are included in your Camino. Lunches are not included to provide more flexibility during your walk to sample local foods in the quaint towns at the end of the daily stage. Vegetarians, vegans, or those with a special diet (e.g. gluten-free) can always find suitable options.

Superior Accommodations

Photo Credit: Valerie Brown

Carefully selected accommodations vary from chic city hotels, to sea-front three-and four- star hotels, to rural charming manor houses on the heart of El Camino.  All hotels are well known for outstanding hospitality and service with private en-suite bathrooms.

*All hotels are subject to change and depend on availability.

Map Route

Click here for the complete profile of this route for the Camino Classic, the French Way Gently.

Travel Insurance

For peace of mind, this Camino includes travel insurance.

Catch the spirit of El Camino and watch this brief poignant video: 

What People Are Saying

Watch this 2-minute video of Don and Karen Kovacs speak about their experience with Walk in Beauty Pilgrimage.

Camino Classic, the French Way Gently Daily Itinerary

Day 0: Sunday, October 1

Arrival in Madrid and check in hotel.

Day 1:  Monday, October 2

Meet in our designated hotel in Madrid for transport by private vehicle to Ribeira Sacra.  On the way we stop in Astorga for a delicious welcome lunch and on to Ribeira Sacra for a fabulous welcome dinner.  Night in Ribeira Sacra.

Day 2:  Tuesday, October 3

We walk parts of the Winter Route of St. James, discovering many of the Ribeira Sacra’s best-kept secrets and then board our private boat for a cruise on the Miño River, stopping at a local vineyard for lunch on the banks of the river.  We cap off our day with a guided  visit at a local vineyard boasting breathtaking views.  Night in Ribeira Sacra.

Day 3:  Wednesday, October 4

We start our Camino today! Along this stage, we will come across the towns of Ferreiros, A Parrocha, and Portomarín, where we will be delighted by fabulous monuments such as the Romanesque Portico at the church of Ferreiros, the fortified church of St. Nicholas in Portomarín and the legendary 100 km marker. We will also have the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful view of the Miño river valley right outside Vilacha.  Night in Portomarin.

Day 4:  Thursday, October 5

Today’s journey will take us through the towns of Portomarín, Gonzar, Ventas de Narón and Ligonde until we reach Airexe. We will have the opportunity to visit the church of “Vilar de Donas”, considered to be one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture on the Camino.  Night in Palas de Rei.

Day 5:  Friday, October 6

Most of today’s stage will be through beautiful forest paths passing by the towns of Palas de Rei, where we can admire the Romanesque portico of the church of San Tirso, San Xulián and Casanova before finally reaching the hamlet of O Coto. We will enjoy a wonderful traditional workshop where we will learn to make local artisanal organic cheese. Afterwards we will be able to sample our delicious creations.  Night in Palas de Rei.

Day 6:  Saturday, October 7

Today we will cross the border that divides the provinces of Lugo and La Coruña via an ancient roman road. We will enjoy true jewels of the Camino such as the church of “La Virgen de las Nieves” in the town of Furelos and the churches of Sancti Spiritus and Santa Maria de Melide in Melide, a town famous for its octopus, which we can sample in one of its “Pulperías” (restaurants specializing in octopus). Today we might also visit a 14th century castle in the town of Pambre.  Night in Arzua.

Day 7:  Sunday, October 8 

Sleep in, journal, linger over a steamy cup of café con leche.  This is a full, well-deserved day at leisure and rest. Night in Arzua.

Day 8:  Monday, October 9

Today’s walk will take us through the lovely towns of Castañeda, Ribadiso, Arzúa, and Preguntoño, all very closely linked to the history of the Camino. In Arzúa, we can see the beautiful gothic style 14th century chapel of “La Magdalena.” We’ll enjoy some of Arzúa’s delicious cheese. After our walk, we will visit Arzua’s honey museum, where we will learn about the life and work of the bee, one of our ecosystem’s most important insects.  Night in Arzua.

Day 9:  Tuesday, October 10

Our stage for this day will take us to the villages of Salceda, O Empalme, Santa Irene and A Rua to finally arrive in the town of Pedrouzo. Along the journey we will have the opportunity to see the hermitage of St. Irene and its baroque fountain whose water is said to have curative properties.  Night in Lavacolla.

Day 10:  Wednesday, October 11

Today’s stage will take us mainly through wooded areas and forests until we finally reach Lavacolla, the place where the purification ritual needed to arrive in Santiago was performed in ancient times. We will end our walk in Monte do Gozo (Mount of Joy) where we can enjoy a marvelous panoramic view of Santiago in which we will be able to make out our final destination: Santiago de Compostela’s Cathedral.  Night in Lavacolla.

Day 11:  Thursday, October 12

Today is our journey’s most exciting day!

We will make our way to our final destination: Santiago’s Cathedral. We are scheduled to arrive in Santiago before 12:00 pm, so that those who wish to attend the pilgrim’s mass and perform any pilgrim rituals like hugging the Apostle Santiago can do so. In the evening, we will have a wonderful farewell surprise accompanied by a delicious dinner to celebrate our arrival.  Night in Santiago de Compostela.

Day 12:  Friday, October 13

To culminate our Camino, a guided visit in Santiago awaits us in the morning, through the old city, its main monuments and squares, ending approximately 1:00 pm.

Your Camino through life begins!

Price Includes:

  • Guided preparation and facilitation before, during, and after pilgrimage
  • Comprehensive pre-pilgrimage preparation, including customized training schedule, newsletters, and resource guide
  • Private Vehicle Support fully stocked with supplies
  • English-speaking guide assistance
  • All transfers
  • All breakfasts, drinks, and snacks
  • All dinners, except Day 7
  • Carefully selected en-suite superior accommodations
  • All transfers
  • Pilgrims’ Kit, a small backpack loaded with resources
  • Pilgrim’s Passport & Credentials
  • Travel Insurance
  • Informational program and route map
  • Photos of your Camino
  • Farewell dinner and surprise
  • Value Added Tax (VAT)
  • Guided visit of Arzua’s Honey Museum
  • Spanish omelette workshop
  • Artisanal cheese making workshop
  • Pilgrim’s Mass with Botafumeiro ceremony
  • Rest day in Arzua
  • Full day guided visit of Ribeira Sacra
  • Guided visit to the extraordinary Portico of Glory (Santiago only)

Price Does Not Include:

  • Airfare
  • Lunches
  • Cancellation Insurance (recommended)
  • Tips for Guides

Cost, Registration & Payment Schedule: 

Cost: $7499.00/person, double-occupancy
(Single occupancy supplement: +$1,200.00)

To secure your spot:

1) Click above to register and
2) Pay your initial deposit.

Payment Instructions

To pay your initial $1500 deposit and hold your spot–and for future installation payments:

  • Pay by check: please make checks out to: Lead Smart Coaching, LLC and mail to 95 Old York Road | New Hope, PA 18938. DO NOT MAKE CHECKS PAYABLE TO VALERIE BROWN.
  • Pay by Venmo: @Valerie-Brown-140 (security code -9978)

Payment Schedule:

Payments for double occupancy are scheduled as follows:

  • Initial deposit due with signed registration form: $1500.00
  • Payment #2: $2999.50 due by April 2, 2023
  • Payment #3: $2999.50 due by July 2, 2023

Payments for single occupancy are scheduled as follows:

  • Initial deposit due with signed registration: $1500.00
  • Payment #2: $3,599.50 due by April 2, 2023
  • Payment #3: $3,599.50 due by July 2, 2023

Cancellation Policy:

Please see our Terms and Policies page for full information on cancellations, liability and other policies.

Individual Cancellation Fees and Refunds. Notice of cancellation must be signed, dated, and received in writing via e-mail to Valerie Brown/Lead Smart Coaching, LLC. Valerie Brown will refund your payment for services not received by you, minus applicable cancellation fees, according to the following schedule:

  • Before April 2, 2023: the cancellation fee is $2999.50 (this fee covers the amount of the non-refundable, non-transferable deposit, plus administrative expenses);
  • After July 2, 2023 (when the final payment is due): there are no refunds.
  • Please see Cancellation Policy »
  • Questions? Contact Valerie Brown

COVID-19 Policy & Protocol for Walk in Beauty Pilgrimages »

Additional Resources:

Walk in Beauty Frequently Asked Questions

Brief History of El Camino

Camino Classic 2023 Flyer


Oct 02 - 13 2023


All Day