2023 Westgate Camino de Santiago Program

Dear Families, Friends, and Travelers – Welcome to the 2023 Westgate Camino de Santiago Program! We have created two webpages dedicated to this exciting program so that travelers are as informed as possible throughout the process. This first page, the Pre-Enrollment page, is meant to share exciting details, highlights and pertinent info that participants will want to know before enrolling. Once enrolled, the Post-Enrollment page, is meant to prepare travelers for participation on the adventure ahead. Please be sure to review the information on the appropriate page thoroughly and we hope you are excited for a once in a lifetime experience along el Camino de Santiago!!
Travel Dates: May 9, 2023 - May 21, 2023
Dates are tentative until flights are secured
Group Organizer(s):
WTT Contact:
Program Tuition: $3,290 USD
Airfare not included in program tuition
Estimated Airfare: $1,150
Deadline(s): Enrollment is open!

What to Expect

Please read through all of the information below. More details will be added as your departure draws closer.

Itinerary

We do everything possible to run safe, engaging, and immersive programs for our travelers and given the unpredictable nature of international travel we must remain flexible in our planning. Changes to a schedule are uncommon but, we reserve the right to adjust programming in the best interest of the group. 

DayLocationDescriptionLodging
May 9USA - MadridToday the group will travel from the USA to Madrid, Spain, arriving the following day.Airplane
May 10MadridWe'll arrive in Madrid and settle into the hotel after the long day of travel. Later, we'll hold an orientation meeting to discuss the upcoming trip in detail before heading out to explore our neighborhood and have dinner near Plaza Santa Ana.TOC Hostel
May 11Madrid - Segovia - PonferradaThis morning we'll make time to visit one of the most impressive art museums in the world. The choice is ours whether we want to admire the collections in the Prado or Reina Sofia Museum (we can't go wrong either way!) before strolling over to Retiro Park, once the king's personal refuge. Then we'll head by bus to Segovia, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its Roman aqueduct, walled city, and castle that inspired Disney himself. After taking in the sites and tasting some Segovian delicacies, we'll continue onward to Ponferrada, the starting point for our upcoming adventure on El Camino the following day.El Castillo
May 12VillafrancaToday we follow in the footsteps of pilgrims past as we begin our journey to Santiago de Compostela. The following 10 days will represent the heart and soul of this program as we spend the majority of our time each day hiking along the infamous trail, collecting stamps and taking in the beautiful Spanish countryside at our own pace. Today we'll cross the heart of the lush region of El Bierzo, nestled in the mountains, en route to our destination in Villafranca (24km), known as ‘little Compostela.'Casa La Llave Rural
May 13O CebreiroAfter our night in Villafranca, we will visit the garden of the Iglesia de Santiago, St James Church. The church has a ‘Forgiveness Gate’, Puerta del Perdón, that only opens during Holy Years.  Our route today will be our most challenging stretch throughout our time on El Camino (30km). There will be a steep climb in only a few kilometers as we pass by the ranges of ‘Os Ancares’ and ‘Serra do Courel,' but the views are truly spectacular. Upon arrival to O Cebreiro, we will rest and relax after a fulfilling day and enjoy the tranquility of this mountain village.Casa Carolo
May 14TriacastelaToday we will walk the ‘Serra de Ranadoiro’ (Ranadoiro Mountains) and reach Alto do Poio where we will encounter the pilgrim statue and enjoy fantastic panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. From the Alto we will start descending into the village of Triacastela (21km), where we will spend the evening. Tonight we will hold a group reflection and discuss our experiences on program thus far.Complexo Xacobeo
May 15SarriaThe adventures continue with the choice of two Camino options today. The ‘San Xil’ Camino offers scenery that will certainly lift our spirits, complete with many ‘corredoiras’ (narrow forest tracks) with paved pathways through native Galician oak woods. If we wish to visit the impressive Samos Monastery, we would walk across the valley of the river Ouribio to reach Samos and continue on to reach the larger town of Sarria (19km).Oca Villa de Sarria
May 16PortomarinToday we can expect a calm walk through pretty villages and peaceful hamlets under the shade of oak trees and along quiet country roads. Along the way, we will spot many Galician traditional ‘hórreos’ (granaries). We'll pay a visit to the beautiful Romanesque church in the village of Barbadelo before making it to our final destination in Portomarin (22km).Pousada de Portomarin
May 17Palas de ReiAfter our night in Portomarin, El Camino will cross the river Miño (Galicia’s longest river) and rise uphill steadily towards the Serra de Ligonde. We will pass nice hamlets such as Gonzar and Ventas de Narón and stop to visit the Romanesque Churches of Santa María and Eirexe as well as Pilgrim Santiago (22km).Complejo la Cabana
May 18ArzuaAfter breakfast we're back on trail! Today El Camino continues downhill, passing the town of Casanova and the delightful village of Leboreiro. We'll be sure to take a break in the lively market town of Melide and try Galicia’s most classic dish (octopus!), in one of the many ‘pulperías’. El Camino crosses several streams and follows a forest track bringing you to the village of Boente and the church of Santiago. Next is the pretty medieval hamlet of Ribadiso and finally the town of Arzúa (28km), famous for its local cheese. In Arzúa, we'll visit the churches of Santa María and A Magdalena and collect our stamps here.Casa Teodora
May 19AmenalOur journey on El Camino continues. Today's stretch will take us through pretty woods, sleepy villages and across streams for most of the day. The chapel of Santa Irene, with its unique statue of Santiago, is worth a visit. En-route, don’t miss the lovely hamlet of Rúa! The rest of the route to Amenal is along a mix of good and calm country roads and forest tracks (23km). We will hold a group reflection this evening in the comfort of quaint hotel.Hotel Amenal
May 20SantiagoToday's the day! With only 16 kilometers left to go, the final destination of our journey is within sight. Our next point of interest is Lavacolla in the outskirts of Santiago, where pilgrims used to wash themselves in the river in preparation for their arrival in Santiago de Compostela. Rows of tall eucalyptus trees line this section to Monte do Gozo (‘Mount of Joy’) and it is from here that we will catch our first glimpse of the spires of the cathedral in Santiago. When we arrive in the city we will explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site’s architecture and delight in the wonderful atmosphere of this spiritual and cultural city. We will collect our well deserved Certificate of Compostela and, if time permits, will be able to view the pilgrim mass. After visiting Santiago Cathedral and recovering from our hike, we'll take time to explore this gem of a city, small and vibrant, with its enchanting old town. Tonight a final dinner together is in order to celebrate our completion of El Camino and adventures together.Hospederia San Marin Pinario
May 21Santiago - USAToday we bid farewell to Spain and head to the airport to catch our flight back to the USA. ¡Hasta luego!Your own bed, eventually!

Fundraising

Need to Raise Money? We Have You Covered.

Walking Tree Travel is proud to team up with Equal Exchange, a worker-owned cooperative that distributes organic coffee, tea, sugar, bananas, avocados, cocoa, chocolate bars, and more.  There is no limit to the amount you can earn, so the sooner you can start, the better!

Learn more here.

WTT coffee

Accommodations

In order to provide a safe and memorable experience, we follow strict guidelines when choosing program accommodations. Walking Tree partners with hotels and guest houses which are centrally located, clean and safe.  We vet and inspect the accommodations to ensure they uphold the ethos of our programs, are great values for our travelers and nice places to rest after enriching days of travel.  

Below are the accommodations we anticipate using on your trip, subject to availability. 
TOC Hotel Madrid

TOC is a spacious and hip hotel located in the heart of Madrid, just minutes away from the metro and major tourist attractions. This is a modern and hi-tech hotel with a friendly staff and a great breakfast! Travelers will have their own beds, distributed between double, triple and quadruple rooms. 

 

 

Group Flight

Once your flight has been confirmed, the itinerary will appear here.

Walking Tree will secure a seat on the group flight for each participant unless otherwise instructed.

Travelers are responsible for checked baggage fees. Please visit the airline’s baggage webpage to learn if you should expect to pay anything.

We will provide a group manifest – complete with reservation codes and ticket numbers – to the Group Organizer/s before departure, and travelers will need to check in at the airport in order to receive their boarding pass and have documents verified. We recommend arriving no later than three hours prior to the scheduled departure, but contact your Group Organizer for specific details on exactly where and when to meet on the day of departure.

FLIGHT INTERRUPTION, DELAY OR CANCELLATION 
Air travel can be unpredictable.  Regardless of proper planning, there may still be instances when a flight is delayed or cancelled due to staffing shortages, weather, mechanical problems, etc.  Please note that in such an event, Walking Tree Travel (WTT) is not financially responsible for unanticipated costs incurred by travelers en route.  Our programs officially begin and end in the destination country, and because our staff doesn’t fly with the group, Group Organizers (the traveling faculty member/s) become the front-line advocate for the group in the event of a delay. In most cases of cancellations or delays, the airline will be the one who re-books travel or possibly arranges a hotel and food the night.  Our primary role will be to  keep families updated and provide support to the Group Organizer to reach a  quick and effective resolution.

Host Community and Project Details

Packing List

What follows is a sample packing list but you know yourself better than we do so please adjust accordingly. We recommend you bring a larger piece of luggage like a roller, duffel bag, or backpack, as well as a smaller backpack that you can bring on daily outings, weekend excursions and shorter activities.

“Less is more” is a packing tip we encourage for all our travelers. The list below should cover everything you would need, but know yourself and what you are comfortable traveling with.  We suggest bringing only as much as you would be able to carry on your own.

Finally, we recommend consulting a weather forecast for your destination. 

Most importantly, be sure to remember your PASSPORT!

CLOTHES (quantities depend on your trip length) :

  • Underwear
  • Socks (a mixture of good active socks and casual socks)
  • T-shirts (some quick dry)
  • Long sleeve shirts
  • Sweaters or sweatshirts
  • Warmer jacket
  • Warm hat
  • Scarf and Warm gloves (optional)
  • Rain jacket
  • Travel/athletic shorts that are breathable and light
  • Comfortable, everyday pants
  • Nice shirt/top to be worn to more formal dinners (girls might want a skirt or something a little nicer for such occasions)
  • Durable athletic/walking shoes
  • Sandals (optional)
  • Hat

TOILETRIES: BRING THE BASIC TOILETRIES YOU NEED PLUS:

  • Sunscreen (you will use a lot)
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Band Aids and Neosporin
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Medication in properly marked original container

MISCELLANEOUS:

  • Sunglasses
  • Journal and pen
  • Book
  • Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
  • Power Converter
  • Alarm Clock and watch
  • Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $50-$150, depending on amount of desired souvenirs, extra items etc.)
  • Durable water bottle
  • 1 quick-dry towel
  • Flashlight/headlamp
  • Batteries
  • Deck of cards or other portable games
  • STUDENT ID
  • Spanish/English Dictionary

Support Team

At a minimum, one experienced Program Leader will travel on every trip. In addition to this full time leadership presence, Walking Tree has additional support staff in all destinations and 24/7 support from our headquarters in Denver, Colorado. Below you’ll find a list of the team members involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program.

Kelsey Shawgo
Kelsey Shawgo
Spain Country Director


Loyola University of Chicago – B.A. Spanish, Minor in Psychology 

Born and raised outside of Chicago to two avid travelers and teachers, Kelsey has always had a passion for exploration and education, which also led to an interest in language. In fact, her first jobs and volunteer opportunities were as an assistant teacher, translator and interpreter. The opportunity to attend a youth leadership conference in Cuba and a study abroad semester in Spain during university cemented her desire to start a life abroad. She has been living in Madrid for ten years and is currently teaching English to Nursing and Physical Therapy students at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas. In her spare time, you can find her exploring new places with friends and family, doing yoga everywhere she can, listening to too many podcasts and desperately trying to add more languages to her repertoire.

Luke Mueller
Luke Mueller
Co-Founder of Walking Tree Travel and Business Lead - Denver, CO


Emory University – B.A. Sociology and minor in Latin American History

During college, Luke spent a semester living and traveling in rural Mexico. His experience sparked a fascination with Latin America and a commitment to community service that continues to this day. Upon graduating from college, he joined WorldTeach and lived with a local family in a small village in Costa Rica while teaching elementary English. After this experience, he moved to San José, the capital and largest city of Costa Rica, and wrote for The Tico Times newspaper. Luke has since traveled to over 60 countries on five different continents.  Now settled in Denver with his family, he continues to crave massive helpings of rice and beans.

Group Roster

Below is a list of the travelers enrolled on the program.

Blog and Communication

During travel we will work hard to keep families updated as frequently as possible with blogs and photos, giving you peace of mind that your traveler is safe and thriving on their program.  Students regularly contribute to these posts, giving parents a great way to vicariously track the progress of the trip. You will receive an email notification when the first blog is posted, after which we recommend you check in regularly via the black “Program Blog” button at the top of this page.

Beyond this proactive approach to communication during the trip, most destinations are wired enough to allow participants semi-regular access to WiFi so you can also expect to communicate with your traveler directly. Ask your Walking Tree representative about the degree of connectivity on your program.

 

GLC Curriculum

Walking Tree has developed a curriculum of activities meant to help travelers get the most out of their trip before departure, during travel and after they return home. These simple and engaging activities are meant to spark discussion, frame experiences, and prepare participants to travel ethically and effectively both on this trip and on future adventures.

For more information about student learning objectives and the format of the curriculum, click on the ‘learn more’ button below.

Learn More About the GLC

To view and complete the Pre-Program Activities, visit our online portal at the button below.

Pre-Program Activity Portal

Standards of Behavior

In order to run a safe and successful program, it is important that we create an environment of trust, security and respect. All individuals participating in our programs are required to take responsibility for their actions and adhere to a high standard of behavioral conduct.

ABSOLUTE DISMISSAL

  1.  Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
  2. Associating with participants while they are in possession of, or are consuming, or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs.
  3. Behaving in a way that consistently damages the group dynamic or jeopardizes personal or group safety.
  4. This includes consistently displaying a negative attitude, intimidating or excluding other participants, sneaking out, disobeying group leaders, and any other behavior that is not conducive to an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.

GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL OR IN-COUNTRY CONSEQUENCE

  1. Getting a piercing or tattoo.
  2. Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials.
  3. Threatening physical or emotional harm, or brandishing a weapon.
  4. Possessing, consuming, or distributing tobacco or nicotine, including vape pens.
  5. Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle.
  6. Being out of designated area or accommodations after curfew.
  7. Breaking group rules.

These standards of behavior are essential for the successful completion of your program. Please take the time to review these as a family and make sure everyone understands and agrees to them.

Health and Safety

Insurance

While we work hard to ensure the safest experience possible for our travelers on program, experience teaches that travel is never without risk. For this reason, we recommend that all travelers consider a travel insurance policy with  two additional provisions: Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) and Bed Rest. Detailed explanations of both provisions can be found on the link below.

To provide families with a quality option, Walking Tree has partnered with Travel Insured International, one of the most respected providers in the industry.  Begin by getting a quote here.

IMPORTANT NOTE: in order to secure coverage with CFAR included, you must purchase the plan within 21 days of your deposit/first payment. You must also insure 100% of your trip cost, so program tuition + flight.

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