El Camino de Santiago starts now to become drier and drier. Rioja and the vineyards are staying behind and pilgrims are heading to Castile, the meseta, and the infinite cereal plains. That doesn’t have to be bad. In spring, the landscape is green all around you and in early summer the sunflower fields are one of the most beautiful sights of El Camino de Santiago. However, trees and shade are scarce and in summer days can be roasting so getting up early is very recommended at that time of the year.
Nájera is in the second half of the stage, actually the first time I walked this part of el Camino de Santiago I continued until Azofra, but the second time I stayed in Nájera. I’ve always found very difficult and long the stretch from Ventosa to Najera and a pain to reach Najera’s albergue and historical center which is at the west end of the city having firstly to cross all the new city to get there.
But there is a prize for that effort because Najera is a great monumental city. I definitely recommend a visit to its monastery Santa Maria la Real which was started to build in the 11th century. Najera and its shire was always disputed between the crowns of Castile and Navarre, changing from one to the other side of the border several times. Najera was the seat of the crown of the kingdom of Najera-Navarra between 923 a.D. and 1076 a.D in the most influential period of its history.
The albergue or pilgrims hostel in Najera is really big but well organized under the management of the Volunteers Hospitaleros Association. It is in a very convenient place by the cold water river called Najerilla and near the public swimming pool. Either refreshing your feet in the river or having a bath at the swimming pool make a perfect siesta break in the summer.
Eight or ten kilometers after Najera there is a small town Azofra, without much to see or do but it has the only public pilgrims hostel with private double rooms that I know in el Camino de Santiago. This albergue also has a lovely garden with a fountain in the middle and, at the time I stayed in, they were providing really delicious homemade dinners, wine included, at very cheap prices.