El Camino Primitivo

From Oviedo to Santiago

A General Description and some History of the Camino

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Camino Primitivo

This is just a rough précis of the route. I will expand the section when I have had a chance to walk the Camino and take some pictures. The links section of my site will enable you to discover more details from pilgrims who have preceded me.

The route commences at Oviedo, the provincial capital of Asturias, and takes a walker about 15 days to get to Santiago. If you are treating this way as a diversion from the Camino del Norte it is convenient to leave the coastal route at Villaviciosa and take advantage of a refugio at La Vega de Sariego.

Traditionally many pilgrims diverted from the Camino Francés at León to visit the cathedral of San Salvador in Oviedo which has a Cámara Santa or holy room containing relics brought to Spain from the Holy Land. One of these relics is the Sudarium of Oviedo which is reputedly the bloodstained head shroud of Christ; of similar legend as the Shroud of Turin but with a much better documented provenance.

The Camino heads in a westerly direction through undulating countryside via Grado and Tineo to Pola de Allande. All the while you will gradually gain height as you approach the more mountainous regions of the Cordillera Cantabrica.

After Pola de Allande the Camino takes a more south westerly route and the countryside becomes wilder and more difficult, especially in bad weather. The Puerto del Palo is the high point of the route at 1130m then the track descends to Lago where there is a bar. There is a refugio and a Casa Rural (country hotel) in the hamlet of La Mesa and soon after there is a steep 8km descent to cross the dam of the Embalse de Salime. A short climb by road leads to Grandas de Salime where you can rest overnight before crossing the pass into Galicia.

From Grandas it is a steady climb through several hamlets to the pass at Puerto el Acebo (1030m). This is the entry to Galicia and there is a walk of another 12 km to the refugio at Fonsagrada.

From here the countryside is typical high Galician farmland with hamlets and farms between villages. There are extensive views to be enjoyed if the weather is kind on the way to the next refugio at Cadavo Baleira.

The difficult bits of the route are now over and the Camino runs through several villages on the way down to the provincial capital of Lugo on the river Miño. This is an ancient city, founded by the Romans in 13BC, and it is still surrounded by the intact Roman walls. The cathedral of St. Froilán was built about 1129 with major additions in the 18th century.

The Camino leaves Lugo via the ancient bridge which is essentially Roman then passes through the countryside to join the Camino Francés at either Palas de Rei or Melide.

There can be a lack of accommodation and sustenance on either of the two alternatives above so, in recent years, a third route has been waymarked from Lugo. This involves an overnight stop in a Casa Rural at Friol then keeping north of the other routes to join the Camino del Norte at Sobrado dos Monxes. There is a refugio in the ancient monastery here and then it is a short day to join the galloping hoardes on the Camino Francés at Arzua.