A self-guided hike along the oldest and most remote of all the Caminos, from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela via the Roman town of Lugo, taking in Salas, Tineo, Arzua and O Pedrouzo
Grade: medium-hard or medium ('medium' applies to 5-night route only)
In the steps of King Alfonso the Chaste (760-842 AD)
It is with some humility, and as a departure from our normal walking vision, that we at On Foot Holidays have decided to offer a version of the Camino de Santiago, the most famous group of walking routes in the world. Of huge historical significance and real and legitimate antiquity, these routes started after the certification in 813 AD that remains discovered in what is now Santiago by a hermit (later San Pelayo) were indeed the bones of the apostle St James the Greater, son of Zebedee.
Whatever the reality, the discovery quickly assumed huge importance in the spiritual and political regeneration of not only Spain but the whole of Europe in the period after the Moorish conquests in Spain, and acted as a catalyst to the Reconquista. Ever since, pilgrims have been making their way on foot (and cycle) to the great cathedral at Santiago by various "Ways", the most famous being the Camino Frances from France. The Camino Primitivo, as the same suggests, can lay reasonable claim to be the original and oldest, as King Alfonso the Chaste of Asturias made a pilgrimage along it in 814, a year after the discovery. Whether he followed the exact route is not known; but the wealth of churches and other evidence along the route suggests that it was something very close to it.
Our choice is further vindicated by the relative beauty of the Camino Primitivo, compared with some endless stretches of the other routes, which can take mortification of the flesh to excess. Our route starts at Oviedo cathedral, and quickly climbs into the rolling Asturian Hills before, nine days after leaving Oviedo, reaching the Roman-walled town of Lugo. The countryside after Lugo is more gentle, and a further four days sees you at the centre of Santiago in the cathedral square, to rejoice with pilgrims from all over the world on the attainment of your goal, and to obtain your pilgrim's certification or "Compostela". If you are in Santiago on a Friday evening, don't miss the pilgrims' service in the cathedral, when the Botafumeiro is in full swing.
The grading of this walk (medium-hard) is more an attestation to the length of the days rather than ups-and-downs; the underfoot conditions are good in the main (prepared path for the final two days) and navigation via the famous scallop shells is easy. Can be done as two separate sections (see below). If you wish to obtain a "Compostela" on completion you need to comply with various conditions, notably that the final 100km must be completed on foot, and that you are walking with a religious or spiritual purpose. Walked by On Foot staff: Simon, Mary and Debbie.
Standard option: (see "Itinerary") - 14 nights. But you can add rest days anywhere (we suggest Longarela, Lugo or As Seixas) and you would be rewarded by an extra night in Oviedo at the start and of course Santiago. Reduces to 12 nights if you miss first two days' walking out of Oviedo.
Asturian Hills section (Oviedo to Lugo) - the first section for those wanting to split the route into two - the prettiest and most demanding part - 10 nights (reduces to 8 as above).
Both the above options can be lessened by one further day by transferring across the short "Day 5" (Tineo to Campiello) and missing the Campiello night.
Castroverde to Santiago de Compostela - final 5 days walking/6 nights (minimum qualification for Compostela)
Lugo to Santiago - second section of full route: 5 nights (nb does not qualify for Compostela).