From Indianapolis to Santiago de Compostela
- Walking 165 miles.
- 22 Days.
- 25 Transformed Lives
- 1 Destination.
Christians have been taking pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela for 1200 years. El Camino de Santiago means “the Way of St. James” and is a walking pilgrimage across northern Spain to the Tomb and Cathedral of St. James. For Spring Term (May) 2022, Chaplain Jeremiah Gibbs and Dr. Jim Williams will lead about 25 students and 4 faculty on a 21 day journey from Indianapolis to Santiago de Compostela. In Spain, we will visit Leon, Astorga, Ponferada, Compostela, and Madrid as well as walking through about 100 towns and villages. Lots of interaction with Spanish villagers and some of the 250,000 annual pilgrims from around the world are highlights of the journey.
If you want to get a sense for what Camino de Santiago is like, this movie is one of the best for an honest look at the heart of the pilgrimage. The trailer is a good glimpse into Camino life.
What is Spiritual Pilgrimage? (Click here for more information on Spiritual Pilgrimage)
• Spiritual pilgrimage is a journey to a holy place.
• Spiritual pilgrimage calls for a life transformation.
• Spiritual pilgrimage is a difficult journey.
• Spiritual pilgrimage requires disconnecting from routine.
About 25 UIndy students and 4 faculty/staff will make pilgrimage. Chaplain Jeremiah Gibbs will be spiritual director on the journey, which will be his 8th time on Camino de Santiago as a group leader. Dr. Jim Williams is the Director of our Strain Honors College and previously co-led the pilgrimage in 2017. Some students will be members of the Strain Honors College, and they will have additional coursework that will allow them to earn credit for an honors course while on Camino. Some students are likely to be those involved with campus ministries, making the journey for religious and spiritual reasons. The trip will also count as a Spanish culture elective for Spanish majors and minors. Non-religious persons are welcome on the trip and will be given reading and writing options that invite them into a transformational experience without requiring religious commitment.
When and Where?
The trip will be 22 days (approximately May 10-June 2, 2022) through northern Spain. This will include about one full day each in Leon, Astorga, Santiago de Compostela, and Madrid. We will walk 10-14 miles per day for 15 days. Accommodations will include some hotels and mostly albergues, special Spanish hostels that are only for pilgrims. These are normally clean and safe, but are tight coed living quarters.
The journey is designed to cause pilgrims to explore their religious and personal commitments as they walk long miles with other pilgrims, engage a culture and people very different from their own, and experience ancient and holy places. Students that take seriously the religious practice of pilgrimage will enter a focused and disciplined spirit of prayer and communion with God.
The program cost of the trip will be between $2100-2600. This will include meals, travel, and accommodations for the entire journey as well as the required course texts. Required equipment will cost another $350-$500. Competitive grant funding is available from the university and successful grants could cover $500-$800 of the costs. Because of the generous support of the Strain family, students in the Strain Honors College will also receive financial support towards the cost of the trip. Inquire with Dr. Williams for details in this regard. Passport will cost $135 for those that do not have one. A nonrefundable deposit of $200 will be due when decisions are made about the students selected (likely before the end of Semester I). Another payment of $800 will be due on February 11. The full balance of the costs of the trip will be due by April 15.
COVID precautions and travel
COVID will present additional challenges to travel in the upcoming year. Chaplain Gibbs walked Camino in July 2021 and there were no COVID related incidents on trail in spite of it being a time of high COVID incidence in Spain. The Spanish are very careful about masking, have a very high rate of vaccination, and hostels are operating at reduced capacity. Nothing is without risk, of course.
The university will be making decisions regarding the availability of university travel courses later this year. We will plan for this trip so that we are able to make the pilgrimage if conditions allow it. The cost of the trip will be fully refundable up until airline tickets are purchased in about February. We will purchase travel insurance that includes coverage for COVID related interruptions, and at that point the terms of the insurance will determine how refunds may be possible. All other costs (besides airfare) of the pilgrimage will be fully refundable even up to the day of departure. Dr. Gibbs and Dr. Williams both have experience with minimizing the risks associated with group travel during the pandemic. They will use their experience to keep risks prior to the trip and during the trip as low as possible so that we can make the pilgrimage and do so as safely as possible.
More Info and Applying
Contact Jeremiah at gibbsj (at) uindy.edu with questions. Regularly updated information is found here on this page.
When you are ready to apply for the pilgrimage, you can do so online here. YOU MUST BE LOGGED INTO YOUR UINDY GOOGLE ACCOUNT TO APPLY. Priority consideration for applicants received by December 1, 2021. After December 1, any available space on the trip will be filled first come, first served.
Day 1 (May 10) – Leave Indianapolis International airport with a connecting flight at a US airport.
Day 2 (May 11)- Arrive in Madrid in the early morning. Travel via train to Leon by early afternoon. Spend the afternoon settling in and seeing the city.
Day 3 (May 12)- Spend much of the day seeing the city of Leon, especially Leon’s beautiful mid-13th century Gothic cathedral. Near the end of the day, we will travel via train to Astorga.
Day 4 (May 13)- See the remains of the original Roman city of Astorga and attend Mass in Astorga’s 15th century Cathedral of Santa Maria.
Day 5 (May 14)- Begin walking the Camino de Santiago. The first day is a beautiful and difficult one, walking about 20 km and increasing by 350 m in elevation to Rabanal del Camino, a mountainside village where pilgrims often triple the population of this small village of 65 on any given night (walking 20 km).
Day 6 (May 15)- Just 5 km into this very steep walk, pilgrims arrive at Cruz de Ferro (“Iron Cross”). For hundreds of years, pilgrims have unloaded their “burdens” by symbolically leaving a rock at the foot of this old metal cross. Many believe miracles happen at this mountain peak. After leaving their burdens on the mountain, pilgrims begin a spectacular descent down the mountain (17 km).
Day 7 (May 16)- This entire day’s walk is down a steep and beautiful decline. When we arrive in Ponferrada late morning, we will visit the 13th century castle of the Knights of Templar (pictured above). The castle is in spectacular shape. The towns 15th century basilica is right next to the castle (16 km).
Day 8 (May 17)- Though we walk nearly 23 km this day, it is one of the flattest days on the Camino. One part of the trail walks directly through a Spanish vineyard and ending the day in Villafranca. Those that pass through the town’s “Door of Pardon” were considered to have received the forgiveness that was promised to those that finished the pilgrimage. Some pilgrims simply couldn’t finish the steep climb to O’Cebreiro after the weariness of their journey!
Day 9 (May 18)- Walking 19 km will bring us right to the foot of the steepest climb, resting in Ruitelán before climbing in the morning.
Day 10 (May 19)- This day begins with the steepest climb to the highest mountain that the group will experience, nearly 500 m elevation in the first 8 km. On top of the mountain is O’Cebreiro, an ancient town where tradition says that the “Holy Grail” was once hidden (15 km, very difficult incline).
Day 11 (May 20)- Yesterday’s steep climb is met with today’s equally steep descent. We are now into the heart of Galicia, and the major language is Galician, though many speak Spanish as well. You will notice major shifts in culture and architecture. After our longest walk of our Camino (25 km), we will end the day in Samos, home of a 6th century monastery that is still in operation.
Day 12 (May 21)- Today’s walk is just 15 km, much of it downhill. We end the day in the full service town of Sarria. Sarria is the beginning point for pilgrims to receive their compostella, so the number of pilgrims increases significantly these last 100km.
Day 13 (May 22)- The quiet walk out of Sarria is about 17 km among large shade trees. The small hamlets have gotten both more frequent and smaller now, some being home to only 10 residents.
Day 14 (May 23)- After spending the evening in the tiny hamlet of Mercadoiro, we walked down into the valley of Portomarín and then another climb up to village of Ventas de Narón (19 km). The village’s population is just 20!
Day 15 (May 24)- This day will be mostly downhill, with some up and down through several river valleys. We will walk about 17 km before arriving at another tiny hamlet, Casanova.
Day 16 (May 25)- Mid-morning we will reach the town of Melide, a full service town of about 5000 people. After having a “second breakfast” here, we will continue down the mountain to Ribadiso da Baixo (21 km).
Day 17 (May 26)- Today is a long walk of about 19 km, but not a difficult one as we make our way through 15 small hamlets before stopping in Santa Irene.
Day 18 (May 27)- The last 18 km to Monte de Gozo will be busy with lots of pilgrims as they near Santiago. This is a great time to hear about the stories of each pilgrims Camino as they prepare for it to end. Most will wish that it wasn’t over. Everyone will want to share stories.
Day 19 (May 28)- Just 5 km separates the pilgrim from Santiago de Compostela. After walking into town, we will check into our beautiful hotel that is just 30 m or so from the Cathedral. This day will include Mass at the Cathedral, visiting the tomb of St. James, receiving our “compostela,” and exploring this beautiful and lively university town.
Day 20 (May 29)- After spending the morning in Santiago, we will take a train from Santiago to Madrid. This train takes a quite different route, allowing sites of a different region of Spain. After checking into our hotel, there should be time to see some of the active night life of Madrid with street performers and musicians playing the plazas until very late.
Day 21 (May 30-31)- You will have many options on this day in Madrid that may include a visit to the Royal Palace, Madrid’s Romanesque Cathedral (and Mass), bull fights at Plaza de Toro, or flamenco dancing. Shopping, dining, and street performers will abound.
Day 22 (June 1-2)- Fly from Madrid to Indianapolis.