The GR1 - 2018 Review

It's now 5 years since I first walked the GR1 - the Sendero Histórico, the subject of my first guide for Cicerone, but my memories are kept fresh by a steady stream of people who come back to me with appreciative comments.  Although fewer people attempt it than the Karnischer Höhenweg or Munich to Venice, the subjects of my last two guides, I think it's more of a once in a lifetime adventure.  Not only does it take 55 days it also crosses a challenging empty part of Spain.  It's a beautiful walk, not technically difficult, but you are "on your own" and making things work is very rewarding.

Making things work often involves the kindness and hospitality of locals.  My style of travel, whether walking or cycling, involves making use of whatever local accommodation is available.  I've never wild camped so I'm dependent on finding a bed at the end of each day's walk.  Three things have become apparent since I put the guide together: firstly new places have opened or people have discovered places I missed; secondly, places have shut particularly as an elderly restaurant or hotel owner has retired or worse; thirdly walkers have discovered how hospitable the locals are and that there are locals who will provide a bed or a meal where formally it doesn't necessarily exist.

A number of people have been kind enough to contact me with comments about accommodation and other services and there is an update section on this blog which lists the accommodation changes.  It's fair to say that since writing the guide there has been a net gain in the amount of accommodation available and that the GR1 remains a viable long-distance walk for someone who likes to sleep in a bed every night.  I'm particularly grateful for the most recent set of comments from Peter Bastide, a Canadian who enjoyed the middle sections of the GR1 in October 2018 and provided me with some updates.

There have been some minor updates to the route but essentially hikers are still finding their way using local signs, my guide and the GPS.  Like everything in Spain, things change as you cross regional boundaries not least the quality of the signs for the footpath.

One issue that has emerged is the quality of my GPS file.  Users seem to divide into two groups - experts and novices.  If you're a novice using Viewranger loaded with my GPS file is a revelation - you can see where you are relative to the route and retrace your steps if you've gone wrong.  If you're an expert and have become used to a well-edited GPS file with waypoints strategically positioned than my GPS file doesn't quite cut it.  I think I've been lucky in the sense that most walkers are still (bizarrely I think) in former rather than the latter category when it comes to expertise but the criticism is understood and I intend to step things up on subsequent guides.

Photographs in this blog have been provided by Peter Bastide, my new Canadian friend - many thanks.


  1. We have reviewed your account of the GR1 and think it may be something we wish to thru-hike. You started at Puerto de Tarna; other maps we have seen have the GR1 starting at Cape Finisterre. Why did you chose to start where you did and do you have any comments about the other section of the trail?

    Thanks, James and Amy:

    1. Hi James and Amy

      The GR routes in Spain are looked after by the regional walking associations. The original intention was to have a trek that went from the Atlantic to the Med but unfortunately Galicia and the Asturias didn't agree and so the official route, which is waymarked, stops at Puerto de Tarna. My guidebook includes a suggestion how to make the whole trip using established trails.

      It's a great trip. If you need any help planning for your hike feel free to ask.


  2. umm, the problem is to manage to get Galicia, or cities like Oviedo or León. From there you have several "historical", really historical ways: the Camino Primitivo to Santiago, from Oviedo, or the Camino Francés from León. Even, when arriving to Galicia, or near, at Ponferrada, you can follow the Camino de Invierno, a route to Santiago with very few people at the moment. I think there are buses from Caso (not far away from Tarna) to Oviedo, or from Riaño to León. It´s a pity because the southern slope of the Cantabrian range has a spectacular limestone scenery. From Villablino you could connect some routes along the Degaña and Ibias valleys, and try to connect with the Camino Primitivo, but this is truly an adventure. Try to get to León and follow the Camino Francés seems to be a more reasonable option. The Camino Primitivo is phisically demanding. Thank you for the blog. Miguel

  3. I understand the problems with that GR in Galicia. The region is crossed by several ways to Santiago, with there own symbols and route. And this king of GR only could bring problems to that, because the places could be the same. Recently an alternative new route to Santiago is being marked in the Lugo province, the Künig way (named by a german priest who did it in mediaeval times)

  4. Good digital maps from the IGN are available for free as an android app.
    First load the gpx tracks and then zoom in to the level required.
    Next follow the gpx track on your screen.
    Now it saves the map-area around the route at the desired zoom level and you can use it offline.

    Best you do this where there is a good (free) wifi connection.

    Zooming out or zooming in will not work unless you viewed the map at that zoomlevel when an internet connection was available.

    1. Thanks for that, I'd just spotted it as well. I haven't tried to use the app yet but it sounds like they are saving the map image in the phone's cache rather than as a file. Might stick with Viewranger and buy the maps which are very inexpensive.