Camino Primitivo de Santiago
In the steps of King Alfonso the ChasteBack to Routes
The old road
Grazing in the meadow
Approaching Melide the landscape softens
On the way to Campiello
The bridge at Arzua
A cross marking 'The Way'
A local grain store - an 'horreo'
Camino waymark at San Jorge
At a glance
14 nights (13 walking days) - the full route. Shortenable to 13 nights if you miss Campiello (see itinerary). For extra nights Oviedo, Lugo and of course Santiago are a must.
How much walking?
Full days: 14-33 km per day, 4-8 hrs walking
Using shortening options: 14-27km per day, or less with local taxi use.
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.
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. You can always shorten days by calling local taxis.
If however 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.
New for 2017
- The cathedral at Oviedo
- Salas and its castle
- The “Hospitales” ridge walk
- Longarela – the prettiest accommodation on the route
- Roman Lugo, its walls, little streets and cathedral
- The Galician countryside
- Santiago – not only the cathedral and the pilgrim atmosphere but the beautiful old town too
Attaining the Compostela, extra nights in Oviedo, Lugo and Santiago. Particularly good accommodation in Castroverde and As Seixas may also make an extra night worth considering.
Connoisseurs of On Foot Holidays should know that this walk is atypical in several ways. Firstly, by following an established route we have little control of scenery and accommodation, though in the former case you will enjoy the grandeur of the Asturian Hills and prettiness of the Galician countryside. However the choice of accommodation in some villages is very restricted, but where we can offer an upgrade (often involving a short transfer) we do.
Secondly, the route finding offers no challenges so our route notes are short (mercifully, some might say) and concentrate on the things to see about you. There are unfortunately some sections on asphalt, a few busier than one would wish; console yourself with the knowledge that the Camino Primitivo has the smallest percentage of asphalt of all the Ways.
Thirdly you will not be alone. While the Asturian section is not overly-used, after Melide (two-and-a-half days out from Santiago) the route merges with the Camino Frances and you will be with many others. Here is your opportunity to find out about what makes the other pilgrims do the Way (there are many different reasons); solitude is not an option.
How much Walking?
Using shortening options: 14-27km per day, or less with local taxi use.
Long days, but on well-marked paths and excellent signage. Highest point on route: 1200m. No vertigo issues.
Medium-hard: Average cumulative uphill stretches (CUSs) 600m (300m-900m) per day.
Shortening options always available with local taxis (travelling with luggage not an option as these transfers are by carrier)
GPX file available for handheld GPS or smartphone App for complete route
Important note: Times given for each day are walking times for an “average” walker and exclude stops. “CUSs” stands for “Cumulative Uphill Stretches” and measures the aggregated ascents in each day, expressed in metres of climb. See “How we grade our walks” for more information.
When to go?
Best months to walk: May, June, September, October
Other possible months: April, July, August
The shorter option from Lugo to Santiago can be done at any time of year; the weather in the Asturian Hills limits the walking season for the rest of the walk as shown below. We recommend May-June for flowers and October for autumn colour and pleasant walking conditions. July and August should be avoided as it can be very hot and the crowd of boisterous pilgrims may overwhelm. Try to be in Santiago on a Friday evening to enjoy the pilgrims’ service in the cathedral, when the Botafumeiro is in full swing.
Use the calendar below to see in more detail the best times to walk.
Temperature and rainfall chart for Lugo
Day 1 - Arrive in Oviedo
Arrive in Oviedo, settle into your hotel and wander around the old town and cathedral before supper and a good night's sleep before you start your journey.
Day 2 - Oviedo to Grado
An easy, if long, day’s walk – almost perfectly signed and some pleasant landscape for your introduction to Asturias. The first part of the day is often quiet asphalt, but the second boasts more variety, including cider orchards, some lovely country tracks-with-views and walking alongside the River Nalon. Short transfer to accommodation from Grado centre. (Medium-hard: 6½ hrs, 26km, CUSs 400m). Shorten with local taxi (various possible drop off points)
Day 3 - Grado to Salas
The first hour and a half of today’s walk is uphill to the pass at El Fresno, and then it’s a gradual descent for the most part. For much of the day you are on paths, sometimes shady in woodland, either within earshot of the road, or on it and frequently alongside rivers and streams. The major motorway bridge construction project interrupts the Camino before and after Cornellana. There is plenty of cultural interest – villages, the abbey outside Cornellana – but this is not a peaceful bucolic day, although it is pretty in part, and there are bars a-plenty to pause at. Your reward is historic Salas, and the knowledge that tomorrow you eventually leave behind the main roads. (Medium-hard: 5½ hrs, 23kms, CUSs 700m) Shorten with local taxi or bus to Cornellana (Easy: 3 hrs, 12km, CUSs 300m)
Day 4 - Salas to Tineo
Up a wooded valley out of the town, with a detour opportunity for waterfall viewing, to meet a main road. About 1km of road then off to meet an under-construction road before finally arriving at La Espina. After La Espina (shops and bars) the Camino follows quiet country roads and tracks. Pleasant for the first hour and from La Espina, with wide views across the valley. (Medium-hard: 5 hrs, 19km, CUSs 750m) Shorten with local taxi to La Espina (Easy: 3 hrs, 11km, CUSs 300m)
Day 5 - Tineo to Campiello
A very short day starts with a fabulous walk out of Tineo and up to the ridge via a balcony route with great views south. Then down on tracks and paths towards the abandoned but atmospheric Obona monastery. The final stretch into Campiello is an unavoidable asphalt haul, but you will be warmly welcomed on arrival by the legendary Herminia. (Easy-medium: 3½ hrs, 14km, CUSs 300m).
Pre-arranged alternative: the short "Day 5", and the Campiello night, can be missed altogether with a lift from Tineo to either La Mortera for the high level Day 6 Hospitales route or to Pola for the lower level (perhaps bad weather) but equally enjoyable route, both joining at Puerto del Palo.
This shortens the route by one night.
Day 6 - Campiello to Berducedo - the Hospitales route
Campiello to Berducedo. Rightly feted as one of the Camino Primitivo’s best sections with a remote 3 hour walk up to 1200m, fabulous 360 degree views once on the ridge and 3 ruined ‘hospitales’ to ponder on. The descent from Puerto del Palo to Montefurado is also famous, for all the wrong reasons (steep underfoot) but it is short, and thereafter the day is pleasant and undemandingly rural. (Hard: 8 hrs, 27km, CUSs 800m, or 6½ hrs, 21km, CUSs 750m with local taxi at start)
Bad weather alternative: Local taxi at start to Pola for equally beautiful, route up to Puerto del Palo where the two routes join; (Medium-hard: 5 hrs, 18km, CUss 800m)
Day 7 - Berducedo to Las Grandas
We suggest making an early start from Berducedo to enjoy the sun coming up over the ridge behind you, a late breakfast in a delightful cafe in the next village, lunch at Las Grandas hotel by the reservoir, and time to visit the very wonderful Ethnographic Museum in Las Grandas (not Mondays). (Medium-hard: 5½ hrs, 20km, CUSs 700m – no realistic shortening options)
Day 8 - Grandas to Fonsagrada
A day of two halves: the first often on an original Camino way through ancient woodland with small chapels to peer through their grilles at (always locked!). However, you are heading for the ridge which divides Asturias from Galicia. Down the other side is a potential lunch stop at Acevo’s old (and only) bar before the climb to ridge top Fonsagrada. Includes 2km main road walking. (Hard: 6 hrs, 26km, CUSs 750m OR local taxi to Acevo then walk – easy: 3 hrs, 12km, CUSs 300m)
Day 9 - Fonsagrada to Castroverde
One of the most pleasant days on the Camino Primitivo, with plenty of track and path walking and little asphalt, plus congenial bars to break up the day. Some of the scenery is very beautiful – wide ranging vistas from the ridge-top windmills, peaceful valleys where rural Galician life can be viewed. The day ends easily with a largely gentle, easy descent to Cadavo and another ascent to the little town of Castroverde from where you will be picked up by your hosts. (Hard: 8½ hrs, 33km, CUSs 900m or save 8 km at the end with a taxi from Cadavo (arrange/pay locally) – medium-hard: 6½ hrs, 25km, CUSs 650m)
Day 10 - Castroverde to Lugo
An undemanding day’s walk on good tracks and quiet (in the main) roads through gentle countryside and pretty stone villages, finally arriving in Lugo itself, one of the highlights of the camino. Massive and ancient stone walls surround the historic centre so be sure to leave enough time to explore. (Medium-hard: 5 hrs, 22km, CUSs 400m)
An extra night in Lugo provides a good break, and a chance to explore the old core of this Roman-walled town.
Day 11 - Lugo to As Seixas
This long day will be attempted in full only by those anxious to gain the Compostela, as the first half is almost entirely along unremitting asphalt, and occasionally busy too. For ordinary mortals a taxi to San Roman (pay locally) is best, from where the walking becomes more varied and there is still a good 16km to go. (San Roman to As Seixas Medium 4 hrs, 16km, CUSs 450m. Complete walk Hard: 8 hrs, 34km, CUSs 800m.)
Day 12 - As Seixas to Arzua
Gentle walking, for the first half to Melide on quiet asphalt, thereafter on well-prepared track. Although the day is long, the walking is very easy and the kilometres take care of themselves. At Melide (approximately half way) the popular Camino Frances joins, so be prepared for your peace to be broken, but also enjoy the opportunity to swap valiant pilgrims’ tales at the many bars along the way from now on. (Medium-hard: 6hrs, 27km, CUSs 500m OR with local taxi to Melide start easy-medium: 3½ hrs, 13km, CUSs 400m)
Day 13 - Arzua to A Rua or Pedrouzo
The penultimate day and an easy one at that so take your time to savour the walk and to stop at the many bars you will pass by today. The route manages to avoid a great deal of the main road but inevitably meets it from time to time, though never for very long. (Medium: 5¼ hrs, 26½km, CUSs 450m, less if staring from Arzua and/or ending in A Rua)
Day 14 - Journey's end - A Rua or Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela
So… take time to consider what brought you here today as you follow in the footsteps of countless pilgrims. The modern outskirts of Santiago de Compostela (and its noisy airport) arrive fairly swiftly, and the road then leads you into its medieval heart and, of course, your goal, the cathedral of St James. (Medium: 4½ hrs, 20km, CUss 400m)
An extra night in this extraordinary pilgrim destination seems a must. Despite its fame the town is extraordinarily pretty and there is a wealth of fine buildings, many visitable. Take time also to wander the old streets and do some shopping!
The end must come, and it is time to say goodbye to your fellow pilgrims.
ARRIVING AND DEPARTING BY AIR
If starting in Oviedo or Salas the best local airport is Oviedo (short shuttle to Oviedo only, or taxi transfer). Lugo/Castroverde starts can use either Santiago or A Coruña airports (2 hr+ bus transfers or taxi).
The most convenient departure airports for Lugo finishers are Santiago and A Coruña – Santiago finishers can additionally check Vigo flights.
Intercontinental flights would use Madrid – internal flights from there connect with all airports (or transfer by train – see below).
OVIEDO (for Oviedo starts)
Land by: 16:30 if using public transport (later arrivals possible, missing supper).
SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA (for Lugo/Castroverde starts, all finishes)
Land by: 13:00 if using public transport to Lugo
Return flight earliest: No limit
A CORUNA (for Lugo/Castroverde starts, all finishes)
Land by: 13:00 if using public transport to Lugo
Return flight earliest: 13:00
VIGO (all finishes only)
Return flight earliest: 13:00
Land by/return flight earliest times not applicable if using a pre-booked taxi
Flight information can change rapidly and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner (see below) before finalising any booking with us. Do not book your flights until we have confirmed that we have provisionally reserved accommodation for you.
For up-to-date schedules and flights from all airports check Skyscanner.
See “Getting to the start of the walk” below for transfer information
ARRIVING BY TRAIN
Nearest railway stations:
Start: Oviedo (for Oviedo or Salas), Lugo (for Lugo/Castroverde)
Finish: Lugo (for Lugo end), Santiago de Compostela
Madrid – Oviedo 4 hrs
Santander – Oviedo 5 hrs
Lugo – Madrid 6½ hrs
Santiago – Madrid 5½ hrs
Santiago – A Coruña 1 hr
Santiago – Vigo 1 hr
Getting to the start of the walk
Start points are Oviedo (full route) or Lugo (5-night route – Castroverde for 6-night Compostela version). 12- and 8-night routes can start optionally at Salas (missing Oviedo).
OVIEDO Starts: infrequent but timetabled shuttle bus from Oviedo airport to Oviedo bus station (45 mins, ~€8) plus local taxi to hotel OR pre-booked taxi transfer from airport to first hotel. OR transfer from Oviedo train station: Local taxi
SALAS starts: Prebooked taxi transfer from Oviedo airport or train station.
LUGO or Castroverde starts: Direct bus from Santiago airport approximately every 4 hours (takes ~2 hrs), or from A Coruña airport (every 2 hrs, one change – ~ 3 hrs), then local taxi to hotel OR pre-booked taxi transfer from either airport to first hotel. OR transfer from Lugo train station: Local taxi
End points are either Lugo (8 or 10-night routes) or Santiago de Compostela (5/6, 12, or 14-night routes).
LUGO finishes: Local taxi to bus station, then see above for buses to Santiago or A Coruña airports OR pre-booked taxi transfers to either airport.
OR transfer to Lugo train station: local taxi.
SANTIAGO finishes: regular shuttle to Santiago airport. A Coruña airport can be reached by either train or bus, both involving change in A Coruña to local bus or taxi. Vigo airport – hourly bus (best – 1 hr) or train to Vigo then half-hourly shuttle to airport (or local taxi).
OR local taxi/walk to Santiago train station.
For all pre-bookable taxi prices, see “Prices”.
Full transfer advice, including timetables, is provided in your Walkers’ Pack. Contact us if you would like additional pre-booking information.
Where You'll Stay
A wealth of different styles of accommodation from basic to more sophisticated, but all with en-suite facilities. Staying close to the Camino inevitably restricts choice and the only upgrade possibilities are in Oviedo (if starting there), Lugo, Arzua, Pedrouzo, and Santiago.
Beautifully positioned hotel with excellent food.
Total 14 nights in double/twin room, all breakfasts, luggage transfers, 4 evening meals.
All prices are per person unless otherwise indicated (e.g. for taxis), and may vary with exchange rate fluctuations – check with On Foot for your guaranteed price.
Savings and supplements
Single Room Supplement from £310
Lone Traveller Additional Supplement from £125
Larger party saving (on identical itinerary) – from £75 off per person (except first two)
Miss “Day 5” walk and Campiello night – £20 off pp
Extra nights in Oviedo, Lugo, Longarela, As Seixas or Santiago: Enquire – seasonal pricing
Taxi from Oviedo airport to Oviedo hotel or to Salas (shorter routes): £50-60 up to 8 people (depends on time and day)
Taxi from Santiago to A Coruña airport: Enquire
Route designed by:
Aznar Fernandez de Pinedo
Aznar was born and grew up in Bilbao, where he soon developed his love for nature (he is a keen naturalist), hiking and the rural environment in general. He studied Business and has worked for many years in multinational corporations in the IT sector, living in both Barcelona and Madrid. But in 2014 he decided to change his career to work on what he loves most: