16 days

Camino de Santiago - Leon to Santiago (self-guided)

Camino de Santiago - Leon to Santiago (self-guided)

Trip rating
  • Whether it’s spiritual enlightenment you seek or an exhilarating walk in Spain’s beautiful northwest, you’ll walk among picturesque hamlets, historic sites, rolling hills, and warm Galician hospitality at every turn. An unforgettable experience!


    Day 1 - León

    • Your trip starts with your arrival in the city of Leon in the northwest of Spain.
    • There are a number of ways to reach Leon. There are various direct trains from Madrid to Leon. Journey time is about 2 hours, 50 minutes. Alternatively you can take a bus from Madrid city or Madrid Airport to Leon (3.5 hours). There are also flights to Leon from Madrid and Barcelona.
    • There is no walking scheduled for today, so you can arrive at anytime; however, we recommend you arrive with ample time to collect your Pilgrim Passport. (See the ‘Important Information’ section of your pre-departure document for more information on the Pilgrim Passport).
    • There is a lot to see in Leon, a historic city founded by the Romans. Highlights include the gothic cathedral, the Church of San Marcelo and the city walls.
    Posada Regia or similar

    Day 2 - Hospital de Órbigo - Astorga (16 km/3-4 hours)

    • You will travel to the Hospital de Órbigo, where you will begin your walk on the Camino. Through the course of your walk you will become very familiar with the yellow arrows and scallop shell symbols that guide you. For centuries the shell has been the symbol of the Camino and there are a few interpretations of its meaning - from mythical and metaphorical to practical. Perhaps it’s simply a souvenir that pilgrims like to take back to their place of origin?
    • You will cross an impressive medieval bridge over the Órbigo River and come to a crossing with two dirt tracks offering alternative paths to Astorga. The route that leads to Astorga runs parallel to the road for 15 km, but the more undulating path to the right takes you through more beautiful landscapes.
    • This dirt track through farmland leads to Villares de Órbigo. After crossing the town you come to a monument to the pilgrim in the centre before taking the path that leads downhill to Santibánez de Valdeiglesias.
    • You will walk past a mixture of farms, fields, vineyards and bushland that takes you to the Santo Toribio Cross, where from the top of a hill you can see Astorga. This cross marks the meeting point of the two paths that separated when you left Hospital de Órbigo.
    • Next is a steep downhill section to San Justo de la Vega that leads to the road to Astorga. Crossing the Tuerto River you also twice cross the railway line before reaching a roundabout, turning left and walking uphill to reach the top of the city.
    • You will walk through Puerta del Sol and along Calle Padres Redentoristas, where you can see the convent of the same name, before arriving at Plaza Mayor – the site of the beautiful city hall. This square is surrounded by shops, terraces and restaurants. During your visit to Astorga you should visit the impressive cathedral, the Bishop's Palace (designed by the famous architect, Gaudi) and the various remnants of the city’s Roman heritage.
    • Astorga is located in the Maragatería district, which is renowned gastronomically for its ‘mantecadas’ (small cakes) and the 'cocido maragato' - a succulent and filling dish of mountain cuisine based on boiled meat and vegetables.
    Hotel Astur Plaza or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 3 - Astorga ‐ Rabanal del Camino (20 km/4-5 hours)

    • Setting off from Plaza Mayor, you will follow the yellow arrows on streets known as Sancto Espiritu, Puerta Obispo and San Pedro until you reach the N-VI road. You will then follow the road parallel to the LE-142 up to Murias de Rechivaldo, before following a long dirt track that runs slightly uphill.
    • Los Montes de León can be seen on the horizon and to the right you have the interesting muleteer town of Castrillo de los Polvazares, with an important collection of rural architecture (those interested can take the turn-off to the right to visit these buildings).
    • From the crossing with the LE-142 road, you will continue uphill parallel to another road (CV-192-4) and on through sparse countryside, with the occasional meadow and limited vegetation, until you reach the beautiful town of Santa Catalina de Somoza.
    • You will cross the town along its main street, the route then continues along dirt tracks that run parallel to the road. In this mountainous area, you can see the occasional flock of sheep with a local Shepherd, but take care when walking near the sheep, since they are usually watched over by large dogs (mastiffs).
    • After the town of El Ganso, the undulating route continues to the town of Rabanal del Camino, which you will enter on a beautiful street known as Calle Real. On the left-hand side of the road before reaching Rabanal, there is a large oak tree known as the Pilgrim's Oak.
    • Rabanal del Camino is a good place for finding shelter in the mountains and getting your strength back for the up hill climb to Cruz de Ferro. This small town is quite charming with interesting buildings and pretty shop fronts.
    • Special mention must be made of the Parish Church of La Asunción, which was connected to the Knights Templar, the town’s Romanesque influences, the 18th century Chapel of San José and the statue of St James.
    Posada de Gaspar or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 4 - Rabanal del Camino ‐ Molinaseca (24 km/5-6 hours)

    • You will rejoin the LE-142 road, which you had left after passing by Murias de Rechivaldo, and wind your way up a steep hill. You should take regular breaks and drink plenty of fluids on this sector.
    • In winter, it can be very cold and snow is common, whilst in summer temperatures can be very high. You will reach Foncebadón, where you'll leave the main road and walk between the houses in town. This town is located on one side of El Monte Irago and is today virtually abandoned apart from a couple of restaurants. It is mentioned frequently in writings on the Camino, as it was once the location of the Hospital of San Juan de Irago.
    • After Foncebadón, you will continue uphill until meeting the main road again. Two kilometres on, you will reach the famous Cruz de Ferro, located on a pile of stones that were placed there by thousands of pilgrims. It is one of the most magical places on the Camino and history has it that this is the site where a Roman cross sat on an altar devoted to the worship of Mercury - the God of the Road. This cross was supposedly placed there by a hermit called Gaucelmo, who devoted his life to protecting the pilgrims on their journey to Santiago de Compostela.
    • Just beyond the cross, you can continue along the road or take a small but very beautiful track that veers off to the right to the virtually uninhabited town of Manjarín. Only Tomás, considered to be the ‘last Knight Templar’, lives there year round in a kind of hostel.
    • From Manjarín, you will head uphill to a height of 1515 metres, before a steep downhill to Ponferrada. Similarly, the path for walking enthusiasts runs on the left and right of the road; however, we recommend you follow the road, but always be extremely careful because of the steep gradient.
    • This section runs for almost four kilometres up to the pretty town of El Acebo (the difference in height over the 4 km section is 360 m). This town is full of buildings with wooden balconies and there are several restaurants and bars.
    • The road to Riego de Ambrós has a steep downhill section and you will continue downhill on the LE-142 to Molinaseca, one of the most picturesque towns on the Camino.
    • After crossing the bridge over the Meruelo River, you will enter the town along Calle Real.
    Hostal El Palacio or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 5 - Molinaseca‐Cacabelos (24 km/5-6 hours)

    • It’s about an hour’s walk to Ponferrada, first downhill, then uphill and along a dirt track that runs between small, narrow streets and across a beautiful stone bridge to the city.
    • After the bridge you will turn left and go through a tunnel to Calle Hospital, which will then take you out on to the busy Avenida del Castillo. Cross that and walk along Calle Comendador to the beautiful Plaza Virgen de la Encina, which marks the start of a street from under the Renaissance Clock Tower, which leads to the beautiful Plaza del Ayuntamiento.
    • Ponferrada is the main city in the region of El Bierzo, an important industrial centre and also a historical site. The Plaza Virgen de la Encina has a basilica of the same name and the baroque city hall building must be included in any visit to the city. However, there is no doubt that the city's most interesting monument is the Castle of the Templars, located at the top of the city and designated a National Historical and Artistic Monument in 1924.
    • It dates from the 11th-15th centuries and was transferred, together with the city, to the Order of the Temple in 1178. As a particularly fertile regional capital, many restaurants in Ponferrada serve a wide variety of vegetables and red wine from the local Designation of Origin.
    • From the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, go down the narrow Calle Santa Beatriz de la Silva that leads to the bridge over the Sil River. Cross the river and turn right along Calle Río Urdiales to Avenida Huertas del Sacramento until Avenida de la Libertad, then turn right and head through the village of Endesa.
    • After passing vineyards, you will arrive at Columbrianos. Here you will cross the busy CL-631 road at the traffic lights, then continue on the opposite side past some houses until you reach the Shrine of San Blas y San Roque. Crossing the road you will come to mainly rural landscape until the towns of Fuentes Nuevas and then Camponaraya.
    • Passing a wine-growing co-operative, you will follow sections of dirt track and cross the bridge over the dual carriageway to enter an undulating stretch of land full of vineyards, before heading down a steep hill to Cacabelos.
    Hotel Villa de Cacabelos or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 6 - Cacabelos ‐ Las Herrerías (26 km/5-6 hours)

    • From Cacabelos you will return to the road by crossing a bridge over the Cúa River and continue along Calle del Foyo that joins up with the LE-712 road. You will follow the gradual uphill section through Pieros.
    • Just after this town there is a crossing with yellow arrows, but you should follow the main road a little further and then head downhill, ignoring the turnoff to Valtuille de Arriba. On the downhill section take the road indicated on the right and you will see an interesting set of sculptures. This dirt track leads gradually uphill Villafranca del Bierzo.
    • Passing the Church of Santiago, you will walk on Calle del Agua across town. Villafranca is one of the historical towns on the Pilgrim's Road to Santiago. Special mention must be made of the 12th century Romanesque church of Santiago where, in a Holy Year (whenever 25th July falls on a Sunday), pilgrims can earn their ‘jubilee’ (plenary indulgence).
    • Equally notable are the Convent of San Francisco, the castle, the Church of San Nicolás, the collegiate church, the convent of La Concepción and the Plaza Mayor in the heart of town. After crossing the bridge, carry straight on and before turning right at Calle Espirito Santo.
    • (It is important to note that when you cross the bridge, there is an alternative route which we do not recommend as it very difficult and takes you across the mountains to Trabadelo.)
    • Enjoying beautiful views on your left, you will follow the Valcarce River Valley to the outskirts of Pereje, where you will be greeted by chestnut trees after passing this village and the village of Trabadelo.
    • After passing this town, turn right and cross under the dual carriageway to follow the path on the left of the main road. Look out for traffic as many trucks use this road. Just after passing some hostels, the road goes through Portela and meet ups with a quiet road to Ambasmestas.
    • After a further kilometre, you will come to Vega de Valcárcel. Carry straight on along this quiet road and arrive at Las Herrerías, where you will take a steep downhill track on the left, which passes by an inn (it is important to take this turn-off correctly and ensure that you past by the inn just after the turning).
    CTR Paraiso del Bierzo or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 7 - Las Herrerías - O Cebreiro (9 km/2-3 hours)

    • You will leave the village and after crossing a small bridge, there is a steep uphill section that continues to O Cebreiro. So far, the stage from Ponferrada has been mainly flat, with slight ups and downs, but now you will be facing one of the mythical climbs of the Camino.
    • One kilometre ahead, the road for walking enthusiasts turns to the left to enter the forest; however, given the difficulty of this route, you should carry straight on. One kilometre further on, you will reach a fountain, which we recommend you do not drink from.
    • Shortly afterwards, the road forks and you will take the right path which indicates ‘La Laguna 3 km’.
    • Here, the gradient is very steep and after ‘climbing’ to the top, you can see this village. When you take a rest, and you will take many during this climb, turn around and enjoy the impressive countryside behind you. You will now be leaving the Region of Castilla y León and, once you have reached the top, you will enter the region of Galicia.
    • La Laguna, which is a shortened form of La Laguna de Castilla, has a bar where you can get your strength back. From there, you will have to make one final effort and cover the three kilometres to O Cebreiro, the first village in Galicia.
    • Just before you arrive, there is the crossroads, but you should carry straight on, entering O Cebreiro along the symbolic, gentle downhill section that leads to its main square. You will be at a height of 1300 metres above sea level, which means that you have descended almost 400 metres over a distance of just nine kilometres.
    • This is a magical place on the road, somewhat mysterious and located in a privileged environment. The village has many attractions, though we will only mention three here: its fresh cheese, which is made in the shape of a hat and, when accompanied with honey, is a delicacy; the pallozas, round-shaped houses with straw roofs reminiscent of very remote times; and its beautiful church of Santa María a Real - which houses the legend that relates to the miracle of the Holy Grail.
    • Without the Pilgrim's Road to Santiago, O Cebreiro is void of meaning and, similarly, the Camino would not be the same without the town.
    Hotel O Cebreiro or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 8 - O Cebreiro ‐ Triacastela (22 km/4-5 hours)

    • Today's walk will take you from the mountains on the border with Castile to the fertile valleys of Galicia. Leaving the main square of O Cebreiro, you will take an uphill path that passes in front of the pilgrim Hostel (do not take the path to the main road). After the hostel, the steep dirt track goes downhill to a crossroads, where you will turn right and walk until you reach the road at Liñares, three kilometres from O Cebreiro.
    • From Liñares, you can continue along the track that runs to the right of the road or along the paved road (we recommend the paved road owing to the difficulty of the terrain). After an uphill climb you will reach the hill of San Roque, which offers spectacular views and marks the location of a statue of a pilgrim on his way to Santiago.
    • Special mention must be made of the fact that the main road to Triacastela more or less follows this path and you always have the option to take that main road if you are worried about getting lost, but we highly recommend this minor route (dirt track and local roads) to Triacastela as it is a much more scenic.
    • From San Roque, continue along a dirt track that runs to the right of the road and goes downhill shortly afterwards until you reach Hospital da Condesa, which is closely associated with the history of the Camino. Continue past the houses to the main road and follow that for a short distance before turning right towards Sabugo. After going down a small tarmac road you will come to a turn-off to the right and follow the dirt track to the village of Padornelo.
    • The dirt track then ascends steeply to Alto do Poio (1313 m), where there are a couple of bars and cafes. The track then continues parallel to the main road, and leads you through a number of small villages including Fonfría, Biduedo, Lamas and Filloval. The route is now characterised by a constant downhill journey on a narrow and stony dirt track, so great care should be taken.
    • Marking the start of the district of Triacastela, is a spot where the track coincides with the road for a short while before quickly moving away from it. On the continuous downhill section, you will come to a point where the dirt track joins the road near a recreational area. Here, you will cross the road for the second time since leaving O Cebreiro before heading downhill on dirt tracks (in Galician – ‘corgas’ or ‘corredoiras’) through the villages of As Pasantes and Ramil.
    • Shortly afterwards you will enter Triacastela and walk along the straight road between the houses, passing a beautiful church that has an 18th century square tower. This village is a good place for a break and a chance to enjoy the local cuisine and absorb the tranquillity of the countryside.
    Casa David or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 9 - Triacastela - Sarria (18 km/4-5 hours)

    • From Triacastela, there are two ways to walk to Sarria. One passes the village of Samos whilst the other, which we consider the most interesting and is therefore described here, takes you past small mountain villages along the Camino Real.
    • Leaving Triacastela along Avenida Camilo José Cela, you will come to the fork in the road where you turn right towards Sanxil. Shortly after, you will take an undulating dirt track on the right into the countryside leading to Balsa. After crossing a small bridge, you will climb steeply on the ‘corgas’ and ‘corredoiras’ until you reach Sanxil where you will head up the hill to the milestone marker that reads ‘kilometre 129.50’, keep to the road on the right to the village of Zoo and follow the cross-country path to avoid the large bend in the road.
    • Both roads meet again at the village of A Furela, where you will see a sign reading ‘Sarria, Camino de Santiago’. After heading downhill to Pintín, you will take another track to the right that leads downhill to the front of the hostel of Calvor. When you arrive at Aguiada, cross the main road carefully and continue along the path that runs alongside the road until you come to Sarria. As the terrain flattens out, you can feel that you’ve finally arrived in a valley.
    • Once you have reached Sarria, you will come to a crossroads that is very busy with traffic. Carry straight on through Plaza de Galicia and then cross the bridge over the Sarria River, with the Hotel Alfonso IX on your right. Shortly afterwards, you will come to another crossing where you will turn carefully to the right (look-out for traffic) and take the second street on a steep uphill climb to the left. You will then take the first on the right, which takes you directly to Rúa Maior and then on to Plaza del Ayuntamiento. These final metres can be quite difficult.
    • Sarria is one of the most important towns on the pilgrim’s route in Galicia owing to the fact that it is an important services centre and also to its history, which is completely associated with the route. It’s beautiful historical centre is located in the upper part of the town on Rúa Maior. Special mention must be made of the Tower of El Batallón and the Convent da Magdalena, both in the upper part of the town.
    • Antique lovers will be interested to know that this town has many restoration workshops and antique shops. Sarria is in the province of Lugo and is just over 100 kilometres from Santiago de Compostela.
    • For dinner we recommend dining at the charming restaurant at the Hotel Roma in Sarria, which serves a range of delicious regional fare.
    Hotel Carris Alfonso IX or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 10 - Sarria – Portomarin (23 km/5-6 hours)

    • The walk today will take you past many small hamlets. As you walk along the Rua Maior (Maior Street) to the Magdalena Monastery and cross the beautiful Bridge of Aspera, you will actually be bidding farewell to Sarria.
    • Continuing through beautiful countryside and crossing a small idyllic stream, an uphill climb takes you to the villages of Vilei and Bardadelo. Barbadelo’s church is a perfect example of rural Galician Romanesque architecture. The Camino then winds along a dirt track through farming fields flanked by trees. As you walk through typical Galician countryside, you will pass through the hamlets of Leimán and Peruscallo.
    • The section from Peruscallo to the village of Brea (the official 100km mark) is one of the most beautiful sections of the route. As you continue through Mirallos, you will arrive at Penas and then take a downhill stone track to Moimentos, followed by Mercadoiro, Moutros, Parrocha and Vilachá, before a steep descent sees you arriving at Portomarin – a town full of history and your base for the night.
    • After the construction of a dam on the Miño River, the town was abandoned with its remains resting under the water of the river. When water levels are low you can see a few of the old buildings and the old bridge.
    • Today the village of Portomarin sits in the upper part of town and its imposing church of San Nicolás and the smaller church of San Pedro were moved to their new locations stone by stone… a very impressive feat indeed!
    Pousada de Portomarin or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 11 - Portomarin – Lestedo (21 km/4-5 hours)

    • With the Church of San Nicolás in your shadow, you will leave Portomarin today and make your way to Lestedo. Following a beautiful uphill track and then along a road for a short section, an ascent will take you to a local farm and then to the town of Toxibo, where you will come to a very well-preserved ‘hórreo’, which is a typical grannery on stilts that is found in northern Spain.
    • At the village of Gonzar you will have to opportunity to stop for a rest at a peaceful pilgrim rest area. After you pass through Gonzar, a steep uphill trail will carry you to the small village of Castromaior. Soon you will reach a milestone that marks the 80-kilometre mark. From Ventas de Narón, a short ascent takes you to Monte de Ligonde.
    • Once at the top, you will take a downhill trail to Ligonde and then ascend to Eirexe.
    • From here you make your way to Lestedo - a very peaceful spot where you will stay in a special 'feature stay' property.
    Casa Rectoral de Lestedo or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 12 - Lestedo – Melide (19 km/4-5 hours)

    • Today the Camino follows the path from Lestedo to Melida. An uphill climb will firstly take you to Os Valos, before you slowly descend to the pretty town of Palas de Rei, one of the most important towns on the pilgrim’s route in Galicia. It’s large and partially canopied town square is the focal point of the town and is home to a town hall, which is made from a mix of granite and whitewash render - a typical example of architecture of the region.
    • Leaving Palas behind you will then enter beautiful rural countryside and farm land on your approach to the charming village of San Xulián. The trail will then lead you through oak grove to the charming town of Casanova and you will soon be at the border of the provinces of Lugo and A Coruña.
    • When you reach Leboreiro you will notice its modest Romanesque church. Inside is a carved image of the Virgin Mary. In Furelos, you will come across a four-arch medieval stone bridge.
    • Your final destination today is Melide, one of the largest towns on the pilgrim’s route in Galicia.
    Pousada Chiquitin or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 13 - Melide – Arzúa (15 km/3-4 hours)

    • Farewelling Melide you will wind your way along quiet country roads and through beautiful countryside bound for the city of Arzúa - the spot where the Camino Frances (French Way) meets the Camino del North (North Way). En route you will pass the ancient pilgrimage villages of Boente, Barona and Vilantime. Crossing a bridge, a downward path will lead you to the interesting restored village of Ribadiso on the banks of the Iso River before arriving at Arzúa - your base for the night.
    • A small park in the town is a popular meeting point for the locals and provides an interesting insight into local village life. Some of Arzúa’s main monuments include the 14th century Capilla de la Magdalena and the 20th century Iglesia de Santiago. It’s recommended that you try some of the area’s famous cheese (‘queixo’ in Galician or ‘queso’ in Spanish) whilst in Arzúa – it’s available for sale in many of the town’s shops and restaurants.
    Pazo Santa Maria or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 14 - Arzúa – Rúa (19 km/4-5 hours)

    • Today you will complete one of the final stages of the Camino de Santiago. This stretch of the walk sees you passing through agricultural meadows, landscapes of oak and eucalyptus and a collection of sleepy villages such as Ferreiros, Boavista, O Castro and Salceda. Soon after Salceda, you will pass a monument dedicated to the pilgrim, Guillermo Watt, who died at this point when making his pilgrimage to Santiago.
    • Next, you will pass through Xen and Ras into Brea. From Brea, you will continue along the road to Santa Irene.
    • A highlight of the day will be a visit to the beautiful chapel of Santa Irene with its unique statues of St James (Santiago). A continuous, quiet country road will then take you to your next stop, Rúa, one of the quieter places before Santiago de Compostela.
    Casa do Acivro or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 15 - Rúa – Santiago de Compostela (19 km/4-5 hours)

    • Today you will embark on the final and key stage of the Camino de Santiago with your ultimate goal, the city of Santiago de Compostela, in your sights. After leaving Rúa, you will pass through San Paio and then the village of Lavacolla.
    • In ancient times, pilgrims would wash in the stream at Lavacolla before continuing their journey to Santiago. An uphill climb will take you to the village of Vilarmaior, then a gradual ascent sees you reach Monte do Gozo.
    • It’s at this point that ancient pilgrims experienced their first views of the towers of the Cathedral of Santiago. This is a great spot to sit back, reflect and enjoy a well-earned rest before leaving the rural landscapes behind and heading into the urban sprawl of the city.
    • As you come to the end of the final leg you will walk through the town to the magnificent Plaza del Obradoiro and then to the gates of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The cathedral during medieval times was considered the third most important place of pilgrimage after Jerusalem and Rome. Today it is the jewel of the city and an exquisite example of Romanesque architecture.
    • After you’ve rested and rejuvenated yourself, you can take the time to enjoy a wander around the old historic quarter of this culturally rich city. Other fine buildings of note in the Plaza de Obradoiro include the 15th century Hostal de los Reyes Católicos, which was once a pilgrim hostal and then a hospital, but today used as a ‘parador’ hotel. The 18th century Pazo de Raxoi is another impressive building in the plaza.
    • You may wish to collect your Compostela certificate when in Santiago today, which is obtainable if you have stamps in your Pilgrim’s Passport as proof that you completed the last 100 kilometres of the Camino de Santiago. (Further details on obtaining this certificate and directions on finding the Pilgrim’s Office can be found in your detailed route notes).
    Hotel Bonaval or similar

    Day 16 - Santiago de Compostela

    • Your rewarding journey will come to an after breakfast in Santiago de Compostela.
    • You may wish to book additional accommodation to further explore this city. You can also book an optional departure transfer to take you to the airport.
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • Accommodation
    • Luggage transfers
    • Detailed route notes and maps

    Not Included

    • International flights
    • Arrival and departure transfers
    • Departure taxes
    • Visas
    • Insurance
    • Other meals
    • Drinks
    • Optional additional tours or activities during free time
    • Tips
  • Map Itinerary

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PECD
Group size 2 - 16
Start City: León
End City: Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain
Style: Independent

What to know

You'll need to be in good health and able to walk for a few hours, with some up-and-down, and on varied terrain, from well-defined paths to rocky trails.

This is a self-guided tour and does not include the services of a tour guide.

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