Via de la Plata

From Seville to Santiago

A General Description and some History of the Camino

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Via de la Plata

Here is a rough outline of the Via de la Plata between Seville and Salamanca. I will expand this section when I have been able to walk this route but the links page of this site should lead you to more detailed information. The section from Salamanca to Santiago is covered in my account of the Camino Fonseca.

The Camino follows the ancient Roman road which was built to connect Merida and Astorga and was then utilised by the Moorish invaders of Spain as their main north-south route for the western part of the peninsular. The name Via de la Plata was once thought to be in reference to the trade in silver from the mines in the Northern provinces but now it is generally accepted as a corruption of the Arabic Bal’latta or paved way because of the flagstone construction of the old Roman road.

The route of the original Roman road has now been taken by the modern national road N630 which in its turn is now being superseded by a motorway the A66. The modern Camino has been routed to avoid the N630 as far as possible but the new motorway should make things a little easier and safer for pilgrims by taking heavy traffic away from unavoidable stretches of the N630.

From Seville the Camino winds through the western suburbs close to the ruins of the Roman city of Italica then it manages to avoid the major roads as it rises towards a low pass in the Sierra Morena. The province of Badajoz in Extremadura is entered near to the town of Monasterio then the Camino stays close to the N630 until it diverts into the walled city of Zafra.

From Zafra the Camino heads north, avoiding the main roads where possible, until the river Guadiana is crossed by the long Roman bridge into Merida. This city is the capital of the Autonomous Region of Extremadura and is full of Roman and Moorish remains. It is well worth taking a rest day here because there is so much history to see.

North of Merida the Camino continues across the Extremaduran plains, never far from the N630, into the province of Cáceres where the capital city also contains many historical sites. This time the history is to do with the Conquistadores who brought their wealth home from the New World and built many palaces here.

After Cáceres there is the double river crossing of the rivers Almonte and Tagus which unfortunately involves a long stretch along the hard shoulder of the N630. The Camino is then able to swing away from the major roads to bypass the city of Placencia.

This section includes some interesting places such as the walled town of Galisteo and the isolated Roman arch at Cáparra. It is not too far to divert into Placencia if you wish to take a rest day here.

The Camino must now, unfortunately, come back close to the main roads in order to cross the pass of Béjar and enter the high meseta of the province of Salamanca. Normally a mountain pass would indicate the highest point of a section of the Camino but the meseta soon rises to the isolated hill of Pico Dueñas at 1150m from which there are extensive views of the countryside.

There is now a gentle walk down to the city of Salamanca, passing on the way the site of the Duke of Wellington’s famous victory in 1812 near the village of Miranda de Azán. As you cross the Roman bridge into the city you can see the twin cathedrals built alongside each other.