After an 11-year gap, Spain will celebrate a Jacobean Year in 2021. Known as Ano Xacobeo, the year is defined when July 25, St. James’s Day, falls on a Sunday. It is of great significance in Catholicism and has been marked since the ninth century. Pilgrims once traveled great distances to visit the shrine dedicated to St. James at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
Due to leap years, Ano Xacobeo occurs in a pattern of 6-5-6-11 years, making 2021 the first such occasion since 2010. While its religious significance has dwindled in recent generations, scores of people see it as the perfect opportunity to visit the particularly beautiful region of Galicia and trek the world-famous Camino de Santiago. Here, Elite Traveler offers a guide to celebrating Ano Xacobeo in 2021.
Walking the Camino de Santiago
The Camino de Santiago predates Christianity and was once used as a Roman trade route. But it became a sacred pilgrimage to those wishing to pay homage to St. James at his alleged resting site in Santiago de Compostela. Today, more people than ever hike the various Camino de Santiago routes each year albeit few for religious reasons.
Ano Xacobeo is expected to be a very busy year on the trail, particularly the final stretch, and booking a tour through a licensed operator is the best way to ensure you make the most of it. Travel specialists Macs Adventure offers a luxury journey through the last 70 miles over seven days. The self-guided tour gives hikers the chance ot stay in some of the most beautiful boutique hotels along the route and dine in some of Galicia’s best restaurants.
The full route requires over a month of commitment with most tours quoting 36 days of walking for the Northern Route, one of the oldest and most sacred. Not only is it one of the longest at over 500 miles, but it is also considered the most challenging with significant climbs to undertake. The reward, however, are some of the most beautiful trail views in Europe. Camino specialists Gali Wonders offers a 38-day itinerary that aims to make the arduous journey as easy as possible with private accommodation every night, dinners in some of the best restaurants along the route, and luggage transfer from town to town.
The Camino de Santiago is one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Europe / ©Flickr, Fresco Tours
There are a wide number of routes on the Camino de Santiago network, but they all end at the foot of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, the alleged burial site of St. James. Ano Xacobeo once marked the only time that the Catholic Church granted plenary indulgence – the forgiveness of all sins – to those who visited the tomb.
Today, few come for that reason but many do travel to see the ceremonial opening of the Puerta Santa (the Holy Door) on the eve of Ano Xacobeo. The door is only opened during the Ano Xacobeo and grants access to the cathedral for walkers via the Plaza de la Quintana. It remains open for 12 months before being closed again on the last day of the year.
There are, of course, myriad reasons to visit Santiago de Compostela. Like much of Galicia, it is a foodie haven and boasts two Michelin-starred restaurants in the form of Casa Marcelo and A Tafona. While these two restaurants offer extraordinary Galician cuisine, there is also plenty on offer in the no-frills tavernas that are in such abundance here.
The cathedral in Santiago de Compostela/ ©Flckr, Jose Luis Cernadas Iglesias