Camino Primitivo guide. The Original Way to Santiago

Camino Primitivo, the original way to Santiago de Compostela
Camino Primitivo, the original way to Santiago de Compostela

Camino Primitivo or the Original Way is a part of the Northern Caminos network that includes Camino Primitivo, Camino del Norte (Northern Way) and Camino Ingles (English Way). You can do the Camino Primitivo as a separate walk or combine it with the French or Northern Way both have connection routes.

Total distance of the Camino Primitivo 321km it can be completed in two weeks. The trail starts at the  cathedral of Oviedo and finishes at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. It’s considered to be the toughest route out of all Caminos de Santiago due to many steep up and down-hills. The route passes through two Spanish provinces – Asturias and Galicia and offers a great in-nature experience combined with good infrastructure. According to the statistics for 2017 only 5% (about 12 000 people a year) of all the pilgrims who walk Caminos de Santiago choose the Primitive Way.

Camino Primitivo Route map
Camino Primitivo Route Map. + Camino Frances and Camino del Norte.

History of the Camino Primitivo

The name “primitivo” reffers to its origin as the first Camino Jacobeo (Camino de Santiago). Spanish king Alfonso II was the first pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela, he walked the Camino in IX century to commemorate the discovery of the remains of apostle St. James in Compostela a couple of years earlier. That time most of Spanish territory was under Moorish control, only Northern part of Spain remained independent.

Best months for walking

Definitely summer when it’s warm and less rainfalls though in the mountains the weather is unpredictable and changes quick. July and August are the busiest months for this Camino with the best weather conditions. We walked it at the end of May beginning of June and got quite a bit of rain though everybody told us it wasn’t normal usually it’s warm and sunny this time of the year. Shoulder season MayJune and September can be a good time for walking weather is good and not many people. We wouldn’t recommend to walk the Camino Primitivo off season from November to March as many albergues are closed for this period plus it’s cold and rainy.

Need to know about Camino de Santiago

  • There are not many guide books for Camino Primitivo, the best one is The Northern Caminos guide book by Cicerone, paper and Kindle version.
  • Roads can get quite muddy on the Camino Primitivo, plus frequent rainfalls, bring waterproof shoes, jacket, rain poncho, backpack cover.
  • Buy local SIM card it’s very handy for finding places and checking on distances. We bought a Vodafone package 2Gb data + 200min. local phone calls for 15 Euro, valid for 30 days. It was more than enough for two weeks of walking, we uploaded videos and photos on Instagram and Facebook every day.
  • Route is marked quite well though in Asturian part signs sometimes confusing.
  • Hostels for pilgrims on the Camino are called “albergues“.
  • Every pilgrim must have a Credential – a certificate containing his/her name that gets stamped in every albergue a pilgrim stays as well as in some restaurants. Every albergue on the Camino asks to show a Credential to prove a person is a pilgrim. Credential is given only to pilgrims going on food, horse or bicycle. You’ll need your Credential with stamps to get a Compostela in Santiago. Credentials can be bought in some cathedrals in Spain or obtained from a national Association of Friends of St.James in your country. In Oviedo you can get a Credential at Tourist Office, Plaza de Constitucion, 4.
  • You can’t book municipal (government) albergues, it works on first come first serve system. Private albergues can be booked in advance over the phone or online booking services.
  • All municipal albergues on this route cost between 5 and 6 Euro pp. Private albergues have usually better facilities, more comfortable and modern, price between 10 and 12 Euro.
  • Municipal albergue don’t have lockers we’d advice to have a small bag to carry your valuable stuff with.
  • In season most municipal albergues allow you to stay only one night, they can make an exception if you get sick, have some problem with your legs etc.
  • Most albergues have washing and drying machines, price between 2,5 to 3 Euro per load.
  • If you want to make your walk a bit easier you can use backpack shuttle service, they drive your backpack from albergue to albergue every day. Average price 4-5 euro per backpack per day.
  • Tap water is potable in this part of Spain we never bought bottled water or used any purification and never had any problem.
  • In Spain like in the most countries of Europe they use Europlug – two round pongs, 220-240V. You might need an adapter.
Europlug - commonly used in Spain
Europlug – commonly used in Spain
  • If you need to buy some sort of medicine that requires prescription ask your doctor back home to e-mail it to you. In Spanish pharmacies they usually ask you to send it to their e-mail address if you can’t print it.
  • In Spanish towns shops ans supermarkets are usually closed on Sundays and public holidays.

More information on other routes of Camino de Santiago you can find in our posts The Portuguese Camino Central Route, Coastal Route of Camino Portugues and Camino Portugues from Lisbon through Fatima

Yellow shells and arrows marking the Camino de Santiago
Yellow shells and arrows will be your guide for the next two weeks on the Camino.

Camino Primitivo cost

If you stay in albergues and buy food in supermarkets you can get away for as little as 15 to 20 Euro a day per person. If you stay in albergues, have lunch in a restaurant, stop for coffee or have a beer prepare to spend between 25 to 30 Euro pp. per day.

  • Accommodation – municipal albergues – 5-6 Euro pp., private albergues/hostels 10-12 Euro.
  • Meal in a restaurant (Menu del Dia) – 10 Euro pp.
  • Food shopping – 6-8 Euro pp. per day.
  • A cup of coffee – 1-1,8 euro. Coffee price was quite an unpleasant surprise compare to the other regions of Spain or Portugal.
  • A beer in a bar – 1,20 Euro.
  • Backpack delivery service – 4-5 Euro per backpack per day.
  • Laundry – washing – 3 Euro per load; drying – 1,5-3 Euro per load.

Social life on the Camino

For many of us it’s always an issue to find a right person to do a hike with as we don’t want to be lonely or bored walking on our own for days. No need to worry about it on the Camino you can come here alone, you’ll be able to find walking buddies here. In fact there were more single pilgrims on our Camino than couples or groups. There were people from US, Canada, Australia, France, Spain, England, Germany etc. If you speak one of the European languages you’ll find someone to talk to. Second half of the day when everybody arrived to an albergue was the best and the most social, people cooking, eating and drinking together. So if you hike in season between May and September you definitely won’t be lonely.

Packing list for Camino Primitivo

Our main advice don’t pack too much remember you’ll have to carry that stuff for weeks. Our backpacks were about 6-7kg each but we had a laptop and a big DSLR camera without them you probably can low it down to 5kg.

Want to get something special for the Camino? Buy a Camino de Santiago T-shirt there are so many different options!

Detailed Camino de Santiago packing list for different seasons for men and women  you’ll find in this post ↓↓↓↓↓


Download complete  Camino Primitivo packing list.

Main cities on the Original Way

Oviedo – a big city with beautiful historical center and the cathedral, many restaurants and bars, a good place to stay for a day or two.

Lugo – a big place with the old Roman wall and the Old Town located within it. Another beautiful cathedral, cobblestone streets with many bars and shops. Great place to stay on weekend as all the bars are opened, it gets very busy and you get free pinchos (snacks) with your beer or wine at any bar. Every year in mid June for a couple of days the streets of Lugo become a battle field between the Romans and castro (tribes that used to live in the Northern Spain) during famous Arde Lucus festival in the Old town. People from different parts of Spain and other European countries come here dressed like Romans or castro, they reconstruct the battles on the streets using old weapons and armor. It’s like a real travel in time so if you’re a lucky to be here these days don’t miss it. Note! Book accommodation long beforehand.

Santiago de Compostela – a big city with a lot to see and to do, definitely stay here for two nights after you finish. The first day you’ll be probably overpowered by emotions and quite tired so on the second day you can explore more of the city, walk around a bit though walking probably doesn’t sound as a great option after all.

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where all Caminos de Santiago end

Our top picks

Favorite albergues on Camino Primitivo 

  • Albergue de San Juan de Villapañada (municipal) – a great place with stunning locations, very good facilities, friendly people, great vibe, 5 Euro pp.
  • Albergue Miguelin, A Mesa (private) – very comfortable new albergue with everything you can expect to find in a nice hostel, 12 Euro pp.
  • Albergue de A Fonsagrada (municipal) – an awesome albergue in a big old house with traditional thick stone walls, very modern and cozy, comfortable beds, big common area, 6 Euro pp.

Most challenging day

Day 5 or 6 depending on your itinerary from Pola de Allande to A Mesa, 22km, the longest and toughest up-hill walk on the route with subsequent long down-hill. There are a couple of long distance days, 30km+ they are quite tough but usually it’s a flat walk.

Favorite walking day

Walk from A Mesa to Grandes de Salime, 17km; lush green forest, stunning turquoise color Embalse de Salime, beautiful mountains, great lookouts. We were happy it was a short day and we could stop a lot for photos and enjoy the scenery.

Camino Primitivo stages

We tried to adjust this itinerary the way you stop every day in a town or city, first, because there are more accommodation options and second, because you have supermarkets, ATMs, restaurants etc. nearby, which makes your stay easier and cheaper. There are several albergues located in the middle of nowhere which might sound awesome just remember in high season there might be no space by the time you arrive there and another thing you’ll have to eat in a restaurant or bar as it’s usually the only option which is fine for omnivores but for vegetarians or vegans it can be tricky.

We created for you easy to use and free to download Camino Primitivo stages that you can print and take with. 

Oviedo

The Original Way (Primitivo) starts from Oviedo cathedral most pilgrims arrive here the day before to have some time to explore the city. Oviedo is a beautiful city with typical cobblestone streets, cathedral, many restaurants and bars. Easy to get by bus or by train from different cities in Spain.

Albergue El Salvador, Oviedo, municipal

Quite a big albergue with many small rooms, couples get private rooms. Can accommodate 50 people, opens at 1pm. Price 6 Euro pp, plus 1,5 euro for disposable bedding (optional). There are a couple of local cafes and a supermarket just around the corner.

Facilities

  • Hot water shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – yes
  • Kitchen with fridge, microwave, plates, cups and utensils – yes (no stove)
  • Washing machine – yes, 3,50 euro per load
  • Drying rack – yes
  • Blankets – yes
  • Extras – drying machine, 3 euro per load, coffee and snack vending machine.
  • Location – 4 out of 5, about 1km from the cathedral, the starting point of the Camino Primitivo.
  • Comfort level – 4 out of 5.

Accommodation in Oviedo

If you’re not ready to jump straight forward into ascetic pilgrim’s life and prefer to stay you first night in Oviedo in a nice and comfortable place we’d suggest to check out some of these hotels.

for those who prefers to stay in apartment like hotels Aparthotel Campus is a good option. Located in a modern building close to the historical center and the cathedral this place features apartments with private bathroom with shower and bathtub, AC, heating, flat screen TV, wi-fi, kitchen with fridge, microwave and all you need for cooking. The apartments are big, modern and comfortable. There are studios with kitchenette and big family apartments. Price – studio from 80 Euro, family apartment from 100 Euro. The apartments are often fully booked make sure to book in advance.

Hotel & Spa Princesa Munia – a great place to relax before starting the Camino especially if you had a long flight or bus ride to here. The place offers spacious rooms with every single detail to make your stay here comfortable and pleasant. All rooms have AC, flat-screen TV, wi-fi, bath tube, mini bar, free toiletries etc. The hotels SPA center includes Turkish bath, hot tub, massage and beauty center. The hotel is located only 200m from the cathedral, the starting point of the Camino Primitivo. Spoil yourself before starting the walk! Price from 115 Euro for a double room.

Hotel Princesa Munia, Oviedo
Hotel Princesa Munia, Oviedo. A great place for a relaxing stay. Image from booking.com

How to get to Oviedo?

There are buses to Oviedo from different Spanish cities. We took a bus from Santiago de Compostela two days after we finished the Camino Portuguese. Bus price 30 euro pp, ALSA bus company, leaves every day at 9am. It’s better to buy tickets at least one day beforehand especially in season. ALSA is the main bus company that has services to Oviedo from different cities in Spain. To get better deals check for tickets online as they often have specials that you don’t get when buy in ticket offices. Trains run from several cities, it’s faster and cost about the same. The bus and train stations in Oviedo are in the same place, about 20 min. walk from the Cathedral, the starting point of the Camino and 30 min. walk from the albergue El Salvador.

Day 1. Oviedo – El Escamplero, 13km

For the beginning we’d suggest to start with short distances to get into a walking routine especially keeping in mind that there are some up and down hills on the way. Plus you’ll have more time to enjoy the scenery. It’s an option as well if you prefer to start walking the same day you arrive to Oviedo rather than staying there for a night. We were forced to walk a short day due to heavy rain in the morning we could start walking only after midday.  The trail starts at the cathedral of Oviedo and then goes through the city into the hills. The walk wasn’t tough there were some up-hills and down-hills but not very steep neither long.

As an option you can combine Day 1 and Day 2, start early from Oviedo, walk all the way to Grado, 27km and stay there, it’s a town with two or three albergues, shops, restaurants etc.

Highlights of the day

  • Oviedo cathedral and the historical centre.
  • Pastoral scenery; green hills, small villages, cows and sheep walking around.

El Escamplero

A small village in picturesque mountains, a nice stop for the first night.

  • ATM – no
  • Shop – yes, a tiny grocery shop (fruit, vegetable, snacks, cheese etc.), closes at 2pm, closed on Sundays.
  • Restaurant – yes, the one where you sign in for the albergue, not a very budget option, meal from 11 euro pp. Though they have good ham and cheese sandwiches for 1,20 euro. Accept cards.

Albergue del Escamplero, municipal

A big house with four rooms, can accommodate 30 people, not very new but looks clean and has all the necessary. To register, pay and get bedding stop first at the restaurant. Price 5 euro pp. including bedding, only cash. Opens at 1pm.

Facilities

  • Hot water shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – no
  • Kitchen with stove, fridge, pots, plates etc – yes
  • Washing machine – no
  • Drying rack – yes
  • Blankets – yes
  • Location – 5 out of 5, right on the trail
  • Comfort level – 4 out of 5.

Day 2. El Escamplero to San Juan de Villapañada, 17km

El Escamplero – Grado – Villapañada.

A beautiful walk through the mountains and small villages, we left early in the morning and all food places were still closed, we walked all the way to before we could have some food and coffee. There is a long up hill after Grado all the way to the albergue.

Highlights

  • Beautiful mountain scenery.
  • The historical center of Grado and the Sunday market.

Challenges

  • In the beginning at some splits the trail is not very well marked.
  • The last bit from Grado to San Juan de Villapanada is quite a steep uphill.
Day 1 and 2 of Camino Primitivo, elevation profile Oviedo - El Escamplero - Villapañada
Day 1 and 2 of Camino Primitivo, elevation profile Oviedo – El Escamplero – Villapañada

Grado

A big town with many churches, nice historical centre, many shops, etc. If you’re in the city on Sunday you’ll walk through a big local market where you can buy delicious local cheeses, ham, salami, bread etc.

  • ATM – yes, many on the way
  • Shops – yes, many supermarkets on the way, most open on Sundays.
  • Restaurants, cafes – many on the way.

Albergue de San Juan de Villapañada, municipal

There is nothing here except for the albergue, no shops, no restaurants make sure to bring food with you. You can buy beer, wine, yoghurt, eggs here though if there are many pilgrims it might be not enough. A gentleman who runs it is very nice and friendly but a little bit obsessed with order, everything must be in a right place. Fits only 20 people but there is another place where they take pilgrims if the albergue is full. Price 5 euro pp. including beddings. Opens at 1pm.

Facilities

  • Hot water shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – no
  • Kitchen with stove, fridge, pots, plates etc – yes
  • Washing machine – yes
  • Drying rack – yes
  • Blankets – yes
  • Extras – cool drinks and snacks vending machines.
  • Location – 4 out of 5, 800m away from the trail but in a beautiful spot with stunning views, especially on a nice sunny day.
  • Comfort level – 5 out of 5.
Monastery, Asturias, Camino Primitivo
Moody weather in Asturias especially in the mornings.

Day 3. San Juan de Villapañada to Salas, 20km

Villapañada – La Doriga – Cornellana – Casazorrina – Salas.

Up and down hills all the day though nothing too hectic, steep or long. It was quite a muddy day, mostly walking through the forest on the path but due to heavy rains it was very dirty and wet so good waterproof shoes are essential.

Highlights

  • Beautiful scenery.
  • A couple of old small villages/towns.

Challenges

  • Muddy path
  • Many up and down-hills
Villapañada to Salas elevation profile. Camino Primitivo
Villapañada to Salas elevation profile.

Salas

A nice town with beautiful church and picturesque scenery.

  • ATM – yes, several.
  • Shops – yes, one quite big supermarket and a couple of smaller shops.
  • Restaurants – yes, several, some closed on Mondays.

Albergue de Salas, municipal

There are no indications to the municipal albergue, to find it ask locals for ‘albergue municipal‘. It can fit 16 people. Price 5 euro pp. It opens early you can just come in, take a bed and a person in charge will arrive later to register and collect money.

Facilities

  • Hot water shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – no
  • Kitchen with only microwave and some utensils, cups and plates – yes
  • Washing machine – yes, 3 euro per load
  • Drying rack – yes
  • Blankets – yes
  • Extras – drying machine (2,5 euro per load), heaters
  • Location – 4 out of 5, 100m away from the trail
  • Comfort level – 4 out of 5

There are two or three private albergues/hostels you’ll easy find them following the indications, they have better facilities like wi-fi, fully equipped kitchen, some even include breakfast, price from 10 euro pp.

The town of Salas, Asturias
Small and cozy town of Salas, Asturias

Day 4. Salas to Tineo, 20km

Salas – Bodenaya – La Espina – Tineo.

Nice walking day with quite a bit uphill walking, a couple of pilgrim’s rest stop, a house with coffee and snack vending machines, toilets, tables and chairs. First place to stop for coffee is La Espina, 9km away.

Highlights

  • Waterfall, about 2km from Salas, 250m down-hill detour
  • Forest walk

Challenges

  • Muddy path
  • Long up hill in the beginning
Salas to Tineo, elevation profile
Salas to Tineo, elevation profile

Tineo

Quite a big town with a beautiful view over the valley and the mountains.

  • ATM – yes
  • Supermarkets – yes
  • Restaurants, bars, cafes – yes

Albergue Mater Christi de Tineo, municipal

You want miss this albergue, there are plenty of arrows pointing the way, it’s right at the town entrance. It can fit 31 people. It usually opened, you can come in, choose a bed, a man in charge comes late afternoon to register pilgrims and collect money. Price 5 euro pp.

Facilities

  • Hot water shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – no
  • Kitchen with very limited amenities; a microwave and a couple of plates and cups – yes
  • Washing machine – yes, 3 euro per load
  • Drying rack – yes
  • Blankets – yes
  • Extras – drying machine, 3 euro per load
  • Location – 4 out of 5
  • Comfort level – 3 out of 5, very basic.

There are two private albergues/hostels closer to the center with better facilities, price from 10 euro pp.

Waterfall on the way to Tineo. Walking the Original Way
A small detour on the way to Tineo will lead you to this beautiful waterfall in the forest

Day 5. Tineo to Pola de Allande, 28km

Tieno – Campiello – Borres – Porciles – Pola de Allande.

A long and tiring day we’d recommend to start early. On the way from the albergue there is a bakery that opens at 6am you can buy fresh bread there. The next place to stop for coffee or lunch is Campiello, 14km away. As an option you can break this day into two; stay in Campiello (there are two private albergues there, both have restaurants, one has a grocery shop) and next day continue to Pola de Allande, 15km. It’s a good option if you feel tired, don’t push yourself rather walk a short day and rest more. There is a municipal albergue in Borres 17km but it’s more than basic and there are no shops, only one bar.

Highlights

  • Beautiful morning view of Tineo from the top of the hill.

Challenges

  • Many smallish up-hills
  • Muddy trail along cow pasture fields
  • Long and steep down-hill, 300m, to Pola de Allande
Tineo to Pola de Allande, elevation profile
Tineo to Pola de Allande, elevation profile

Pola de Allande

A small and cozy town surrounded by the mountains.

  • ATM – yes
  • Supermarket – yes, closed from 2pm to 4.30pm
  • Restaurants, bars, cafés – yes

Albergue de peregrinos de Pola de Allande, municipal

The albergue is right at the entrance to the town, easy to find just follow the yellow arrows. Price 5 euro pp. Opens at 1pm.

Facilities

  • Hot water shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – no
  • Kitchen with stove, pots, pans, cups, plates, utensils – yes
  • Washing machine – no
  • Drying line – yes
  • Blankets – yes, only a couple
  • Location – 5 out of 5
  • Comfort level – 4 out of 5.

There is a private albergue in Pola de Allande for 12 euro pp.

Beautiful view of Tineo in clouds in the morning
Early morning on Camino Primitivo. View on Tineo from the top of the hill.

Day 6 Pola de Allande to A Mesa, 23km/optional to Berducedo, 19km

Pola de Allande – Puerto del Palo – Montefurado – Lago – Barducedo – A Mesa.

From the beginning of the day you start walking up-hill, the most difficult walking day on the Camino Primitivo. The trail goes through the mountains for a while there will be no place to stop for a cup of coffee or lunch, nearest place is Berducedo, 19km away. We’d suggest to have breakfast in Pola there are several cafés on the way that serve breakfast from 6am.

If you feel very tired after a long steep up-hill as an option you can stay in Barduceda, 18km from Pola, there are two albergues; one municipal and one private, a couple of bars and a small shop. By the way the municipal albergue in A Mesa is one of the worst on the Camino the one in Berducedo is better.

Highlights

  • Stunning view over the mountains
  • Montefurado – a tiny village on the top of the hill with old rock houses and walls, only one resident and many cows.

Challenges

  • Very long and steep up-hill, 600m in the first half
  • Strong wind and mist on the top, prepare rain-jacket
Pola de Allande to A Mesa, elevation profile. The toughest day on Camino Primitivo.
Pola de Allande to A Mesa, elevation profile. The toughest day on Camino Primitivo.

A Mesa

There is nothing here except for two albergues and a restaurant, it’s not a town or village if you want to buy some food do it in Barducedo.

  • ATM – no
  • Supermarket – no
  • Restaurant – yes

Albergue de peregrinos de A Mesa, municipal

There are two albergues; one municipal and one private, municipal one is very dilapidated with old mattresses, small, smelly and very humid. Nobody stayed here, both albergues located next to each other. Price 5 euro pp. There are 12 beds.

Facilities

  • Hot water shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – no
  • Kitchen with stove, pots, pans, cups, plates, utensils – yes
  • Washing machine – no
  • Drying lines – yes
  • Blankets – yes, only a couple
  • Location – 5 out of 5
  • Comfort level – 2 out of 5.

Albergue Miguelin, A Mesa, private

It’s more like a nice hostel than albergue, everything is new (opened in 2018), very clean and comfortable; big beds, lockers, bed light, awesome showers, nice common area, spacious and modern. Can be booked in advance. Price 12 euro pp. including disposable bedding. There are 16 beds and a couple of private rooms.

Facilities

  • Hot water shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – yes
  • Kitchen – no but you can use the kitchen of municipal albergue, both are run by the same person.
  • Washing machine – yes
  • Drying rack – yes
  • Blankets – yes
  • Location – 5 out of 5
  • Comfort level – 5 out of 5.
Montefurado, a tiny village on Camino Primitivo
Montefurado, a tiny village on the top of the mountains with only on resident living here

Optional route from Tineo to A Mesa through Hospitales, 46km, 2 days

As an option you can walk a different route through Hospitales, total distance to A Mesa will be a bit shorter, the trail goes up through the mountains. It’s worth to take this route only if the weather is good otherwise it will be cloudy, windy and you won’t see anything. The trail splits on the second day at La Mortera, on the first day you still walk on the main route and joins again on the second day at Puerto del Palo.

Day 5. Tineo to Borres, 18km

Borres is a tiny villages with an albergue and a bar, no shop. Keep in mind the albergue in Borres is very basic and doesn’t have a kitchen but you can get food and coffee in the bar.

Day 6 Borres to A Mesa, 28km/optional Barducedo, 26km

From Borres you walk for 15km through the wild without anything or anybody after that the trail joins the main route at Puerto del Palo from where it’s 13km to A Mesa. On a clear day you’ll be able to enjoy stunning mountainous scenery.

Day 7. A Mesa to Grandas de Salime, 17km

A Mesa – Embalse de Salime – Grandas de Salime.

It was the day with the most beautiful scenery, one long down-hill, most of the day slight up-hill. We’d suggest to have breakfast in A Mesa there is no place to stop on the way except one restaurant 4km before Salime.

Highlights

  • Tiny rocky chapel, after the first up-hill from A Mesa, the smallest and cutest chapel we’ve ever seen
  • Stunning view over Embalse de Salime (water reservoir) on the way down to the dam.
  • A balcony/view point at the dam on the right-hand side of the road (walk through the door).
  • Anthropology museum in Grandas de Salime, 1,5 euro entrance fee.

Challenges

  • Steep and long down-hill to the dam
  • Some road walk along the dam but the road is not busy
A Mesa to Grandes de Salime, elevation profile
A Mesa to Grandes de Salime, elevation profile

Grandas de Salime

A nice town, we were quite happy we decided to stay and not to walk on. There are two albergues here, one municipal and one private and a couple of pensions.

  • ATM – yes. Don’t use Telebanco, the one at Santander bank, it charges 5 euro commission.
  • Supermarket – yes
  • Restaurants – yes

Albergue de Grandas de Salime, municipal

A very nice and neat albergue with good facilities, located very close to the supermarket and bakery. There are 25 beds, opens at 12.30pm. Price 6 euro pp. including disposable bedding.

Facilities

  • Hot water shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – yes
  • Kitchen with electric stove, pots, plates, utensils – yes
  • Washing machine – yes, 3 euro per load
  • Extras – drying machine (3 euro per load), coffee, cool drinks and snacks vending machine
  • Drying lines – yes
  • Blankets – yes
  • Location – 4 out of 5
  • Comfort level – 5 out of 5
Embalse de Salime, Camino de Santiago
View on Embalse de Salime on the way down to the dam. Our favorite day on Camino Primitivo

Day 8. Grandas de Salime to A Fonsagrada, 26km

Grandas de Salime – Cereixeira – Castro – Venta del Acebo – Barbeitos – A Fonsagrada.

A nice day of walking with some up-hills, forest walk and a little bit of muddy roads. The day went quite fast for us it didn’t feel we walked 26km. Today you leave Asturias and enter different province – Galicia, there will be a sign indicating it.

Highlights

  • It was so cloudy and misty that we didn’t see much.
  • Saw a dear and a genet in the forest.

Challenges

  • Some road walk but the roads were not busy we saw a car every once in a while
  • Very steep up-hill right at the end all the way to A Fonsagrada.
Grandes de Salime to A Fonsagrada, elevation profile. Camino Primitivo
Grandes de Salime to A Fonsagrada, elevation profile. Camino Primitivo

A Fonsagrada

A nice and quite big town with several albergues, hostels and pensions. A good place to aim for in high season as there are many accommodation options. Attention! Municipal albergue used to be in Padron, 2km away from the town but it was moved now it is in A Fonsagrada next to the church.

  • ATM – yes.
  • Supermarkets – yes
  • Restaurants, bars – yes

Albergue de A Fonsagrada, municipal

Located next to the church, close to the supermarkets and restaurants. An old house turned into an albergue, new, spacious and modern, more like a cool hostel than a municipal albergue. One of our favourite albergues on the Camino Primitivo. Opens at 1pm. Price 6 euro including beddings. Can accommodate 40 people.

Facilities

  • Hot water shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – no
  • Kitchen with electric stove, fridge, very few pots, plates and utensils – yes
  • Washing machine – no
  • Extras – big lounge area, heaters
  • Drying lines – yes
  • Blankets – no
  • Location – 5 out of 5
  • Comfort level – 4 out of 5, a great place but the kitchen is not equipped very well.
Crossing the border between Asturias and Galicia
Crossing from Asturias to Galicia, from now on less mountains more forest.

Day 9. A Fonsagrada to O Cadavo Baleira, 25,4km

A Fonsagrada – Padron – Paradavella – A Lastra – Fontaneira – O Cadavo Baleira.

Weather wise it was one of the worst day on our Camino, it rained from early morning, we were wet, cold and miserable.

Challenges

  • One long down-hill
  • Many up-hills sometimes quite steep
A Fonsagrada to O Cadavo Baleira, elevation profile
A Fonsagrada to O Cadavo Baleira, elevation profile

O Cadavo Baleira

A small town with three albergues, one municipal and two private. There are shops but they all are closed on Sundays you have to bring food with you from A Fonsagrada or eat in one of the restaurants. There are a couple of bars a bit further away from the albergue that give you pinchos for free if you order drinks.

  • ATM – yes.
  • Shop – yes
  • Restaurants, bars – yes

Albergue de O Cadavo Baleira, municipal

The albergue is fine not a brand new and modern like the one in A Fonsagrada but everything works good and it’s clean. Price 6 Euro, including disposable bedding. Opens at 1pm.

Facilities

  • Hot water shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – no
  • Kitchen with electric stove, fridge, pots, plates, utensils – yes
  • Washing machine – no
  • Drying lines – yes
  • Blankets – no
  • Location – 5 out of 5
  • Comfort level – 4 out of 5.

There is a new private albergue down the street for 10 Euro with better facilities.

Day 10. O Cadavo Baleira to Lugo, 30,5km

Vilabade – Castroverde – Vilar de Cas – Gondar – Castelo – Lugo.

We’d suggest to start the day early in order to have more time in Lugo, it’s a nice city with a lot to see. The municipal albergue in Lugo has only 40 beds so if you arrive late you might not get a spot but there are many private albergues and hostels there. You can get breakfast and coffee at Vilabade there is a food kiosk there people who run it will open a local church for you, tell a bit of a history of the Camino (if you understand Spanish).

Highlights

  • Umbrella fountain in front of the church in Castroverde, looks amazing if it rains.
  • Historical town of Lugo; impressive huge Roman walls, Gothic cathedral, cobblestone streets.
  • Calle de los Vinos in Lugo (street near the cathedral), don’t miss it especially over weekends, there are several bars where if you order drinks you get free tapas, small beer 1,20 Euro, big – 2 Euro.
  • Bakery Meson de Crecente in Lugo across the road from Puerta de San Pedro they are opened till late, have delicious pastry, good coffee, you get something sweet with your coffee for free.

Challenges

  • Long distance, 30km, relatively flat with one up-hill in the beginning.
  • A little bit of walking on the road but most of the time there were no cars.
O Cadavo Baleira to Lugo, elevation profile.
O Cadavo Baleira to Lugo, elevation profile.

Lugo

A big city with beautiful historical centre behind the old Roman walls; cobblestone streets, cathedral, churches, museums etc. Some of our Camino friends, who arrived too tired for walking around the city, stayed here for two days to have a chance to see it. Remember, you’re not allowed to stay for two nights in the municipal albergue but private albergues won’t mind.

  • ATMs – yes.
  • Supermarkets – yes. Next walking day there will be no shops on the way if you want to buy something buy it in Lugo.
  • Restaurants, bars – yes

Albergue de peregrinos de Lugo, municipal

A nice and big place inside the Wall, close to the restaurants and cathedral. Can fit 40 people, opens at 1pm. Price 6 euro including disposable bedding.

Facilities

  • Hot water shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – yes
  • Kitchen – yes, with very limited amenities
  • Washing machine – yes, 3 euro per load
  • Drying lines – yes
  • Extras – drying machine, 1,5 euro per load
  • Blankets – no
  • Location – 5 out of 5
  • Comfort level – 4 out of 5.
The Roman Walls of Lugo, Camino Primitivo
The Roman Walls of Lugo. Difficult to believe they were built in the 3rd century.

Day 11. Lugo to San Romao da Retorta (Castrelo), 20km

Lugo – San Lazaro – San Vicenzo do Burgo – San Romao da Retorta/Castrelo.

It would have been an easy walking day and we were planning to walk further to the next place but it rained very hard non stop we were completely wet and decided to stop at Castrelo. As an option to make your next day shorter you can walk on 5km more and stop at A Covela (there is only one private albergue there).

Highlights

  • Nice view on Lugo and the Old Roman bridge from the outskirts of the city.
  • Beautiful walk through the forest.

Challenges

  • Half of the day walking on the road though not very busy.
Lugo to San Romao da Retorta, elevation profile
Lugo to San Romao da Retorta, elevation profile

San Romao da Retorta/Castrelo

Both places are basically the same village, there is nothing here except for one municipal and one private albergue with a restaurant.

Albergue O Candido (private)

We arrived quite early, didn’t want to continue walking in heavy rain, the municipal albergue was closed till 1pm so we didn’t want to wait and checked in to the private one. Price 10 euro pp. in dormitory including bedding and breakfast (tea, coffee, cacao, toasts, muffins, fruit).  The restaurant here is not great, they serve ready made food, salads, sandwiches, not very good coffee.

Facilities

  • Hot water shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – yes
  • Kitchen – no but we could get hot water, use microwave and plates.
  • Washing machine – no, they send laundry to Lugo (get back the same day) where it gets washed and dried. It’s easier and cheaper to do it yourself in the albergue in Lugo.
  • Drying lines – no
  • Extras – heaters in the dorms and a fire place downstairs, great for drying clothes and shoes.
  • Blankets – no
  • Location – 5 out of 5
  • Comfort level – 4 out of 5

The municipal albergue costs 6 euro, it has a kitchen and 12 beds.

Small town in the mountains of Asturias
Typical scenery on the Camino Primitivo. Looks very different from what I used to imagine thinking of Spain

Day 12. San Romao da Retorta/Castrelo to Melide, 28km

Castrelo – A Covela – O Carballal – As Seixas – Casacamino – Irago de Arriba – Melide.

Last day of walking without crowds of pilgrims on the trails. There are several restaurants on the way where yo can stop for lunch or coffee.

Highlights

  • Some part of the trail through the forest. To be honest last three days of the Camino Primitivo are less impressive than the first part.

Challenges

  • Some up-hill walking though not steep or long.
San Romao da Retorta to Melide, elevation profile. Joining of the Camino Primitivo with Camino Frances
San Romao da Retorta to Melide, elevation profile. Joining of the Camino Primitivo with Camino Frances

Melide

Both the Camino Frances and the Camino Primitivo join in Melide, for the last two days you walk on the French Camino, when you reach the city don’t be surprised there will be hundreds of pilgrims here. No need to worry about accommodation, there are many albergues, including one municipal for 120 people. The town is famous for pulperias – restaurants where you can eat pulpo, octopus cooked with spices.

  • ATMs – yes.
  • Supermarkets – yes
  • Restaurants, bars – yes

Albergue O Cruceiro, private

We arrived before 12pm and didn’t feel like waiting for municipal albergue to open so we went to the first albergue we saw. It is close to the supermarkets and bars. Price 10 Euro pp. including disposable bedding. Can be booked in advance.

Facilities

  • Hot water shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – yes
  • Kitchen (cooking plates, pots, plates, cup, cutlery) – yes.
  • Washing machine – yes, 4 Euro per load.
  • Drying lines – no
  • Extras – AC, drying machines, lounge area, TV, lockers, each bed has a personal light and an outlet.
  • Blankets – yes
  • Location – 5 out of 5
  • Comfort level – 5 out of 5.

Our friends stayed in the municipal one, it was fine, price 6 Euro.

Day 13. Melide to O Pedrouzo, 33km

Melide – Boente – A Fraga Alta – Ribadiso da Baixo – Arzua – Calle – Salceda – Mojon – O Empalme – Santa Irene – A Rua – O Pedrouzo.

After the quiet Camino Primitivo you start walking on the French Camino with hundreds if not thousands other pilgrims. There are many coffee shops, restaurants, albergues on the way, every 5km at least. To get from the Camino Primitivo to the French Way was like to come out of a quite forest right in the middle of a big and busy city.

Challenges

  • Quite a bit of walking along the road
  • Hundreds of pilgrims on the route, especially after Arzua
  • Distance, 33km – the longest day on the Camino
Melide to O Pedrouzo, elevation profile. The last two days on the Camino are relatively flat.
Melide to O Pedrouzo, elevation profile. The last two days on the Camino were relatively flat

O Pedrouzo

Don’t know if this place would exist without the Camino, the town is basically only one streets with many albergues, restaurants, cafes etc. There are several private albergues/hostels and hotels as well as one municipal albergue. We didn’t stay here we decided to challenge ourselves and walked all the way to Santiago in one day, 53km. It was tough but we made it by 6pm and were quite happy to be finished one day earlier and have more time to explore Santiago.

  • ATMs – yes.
  • Supermarkets – yes
  • Restaurants, bars – yes
Forest near O Pedrouzo, French Camino
Magic Glaician forest near O Pedrouzo, French Camino

Day 14. O Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela, 20km

O Pedrouzo – San Paio – Lavacolla – Monte do Gozo – Santiago de Compostela.

The last day we’d suggest to start early if you want to make it to the Pilgrim Mass at 12pm (there is a Pilgrim Mass at 7.30pm as well). Remember you’re not allowed to enter the cathedral with a backpack you can either leave it in your albergue or at the Pilgrim’s Reception Office, 100m from the cathedral. The easiest option is to stay in one of the albergues on the way to the cathedral you can just drop you backpack there and continue walking as we did. We stayed at Albergue Turistico La Credencial, a nice place, comfortable dormitories, clean, good facilities, a bit far from the historical center but right on the French Camino and 500m from the bus station. Price 16 Euro for a dorm bed. Often fully booked especially in season.

Highlights

  • Stunning forest right after O Pedrouzo.

Challenges

  • Last 10km of the walk are not well marked, no distances, you basically follow the crowd.
O Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela, elevation profile. The last day of Camino Primitivo
O Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela, elevation profile. The last day of Camino Primitivo

Accommodation in Santiago de Compostela

If by the end of your Camino you feel like you’ve stayed enough in albergues and slept enough in dormitories there are plenty of nice hotels in Santiago where you can finally have some privacy and enjoy comfort.

Stay in the heart of Santiago just 200m from the cathedral in at Hotel Airas Nunes, enjoy its beautiful decor – a combination of old wooden beams and stone walls with modern AC and flat-screen TV and wi-fi. The rooms are spacious and have all you need for a pleasant relaxing stay. Price 76 Euro for single; 86 Euro for double.

If you want to stay in the historical center in a cozy and comfortable place with wooden minimalist interior and rooms overlooking old churches and squares and not to pay too much then Hotel Gastronomico San Miguel is a perfect option for you. All rooms are spacious and very clean, feature private bathroom with bath and shower, flat-screen TV, AC, wi-fi, heating, minibar, refrigerator, balcony or patio access. Bar/restaurant on the ground floor. After two weeks of hard walking you definitely deserve to stay in a place like this! Price – single room from 95 Euro, double room from 105 Euro.

Room in Hotel Aires Nunes, Santiago de Compostela
Beautiful decor of Hotel Aires Nunes in the heart of Santiago de Compostela. Photo credit booking.com

How to get The Compostela in Santiago?

To get the Compostela (the accreditation of pilgrimage to the Tomb of St.James) go to the Pilgrim’s Reception Office in Santiago. The best way is to arrive there before 8am (opening time) and stand in a queue, some people do it the next day after they arrive in Santiago. If you arrive there later in the day you might spend waiting between 1 and 3 hours depending on the season. To get Compostela you must show your Credential with stamps that confirms that you’ve walked more than 100km and pay 5 Euro. As an option you can form a group and apply for your Compostelas as a group then you don’t wait in the queue you fill the forms and come back later at established time to collect your Compostelas.

We were told that the first 10 people in the queue get a free meal in one of the city restaurants, not 100% sure about it as we didn’t try. To be first in the queue you have to be at the office before 7am, it opens at 8am.

Botafumeiro ceremony in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Officially it’s done only on special religious celebrations like Easter, Christmas etc. check for the complete list here. It used to be part of the Friday Mass but apparently it’s very expensive ceremony and now to see it outside of the mentioned above days people have to pay. It costs 400 Euro to arrange Botafumeiro ceremony during the Pilgrim Mass at 12pm. You can share the cost between as many people as you want or you may be lucky and somebody arranges it for the day you’re there. It’s necessary to book it beforehand. I’ve seen the ceremony only once and it was truly impressive, something to experience if you’re a group of people we’d suggest you to book Botafumeiro to celebrate the end of the Camino and to make that day even more special. Remember no photo or video is allowed during the Mass even if you personally pay for Botafumeiro.

Final thoughts about Camino Primitivo

It was our second Camino de Santiago, we finished Camino Portuguese two days before we started the Primitivo and must say these are two completely different experiences. We both love hiking in the mountains and Camino Primitivo is as close as you can get to it on any Camino de Santiago, no big cities and busy roads, more countryside, mountains and forest. Though it felt quite wild and untouched there is enough infrastructure to make your walk pleasant; different accommodation and food options, easy to find a place to stop for coffee and lunch in the middle of the day, the route is well marked etc. This Camino is a great combination of “wild” hiking experience with good infrastructure. Another reason we really liked the Primitivo is not many people, compare to the other Caminos de Santiago, only 5% of all pilgrims walk this Camino plus the distance321km is not as long as the French or Northern Camino you can complete it during your standard holiday.

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Camino primitivo, Camino de Santiago; walking stages, route, packing tips, cost, albergues. #caminodesantiago #caminoprimitivo #spain

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17 Comments

  • Where can I find the printable version. I have looked using your directions but cannot find. We are walking this at the end of May/June and also just want to take some printed refernces rather than a book. THanks for your help! A really great blog to read. Very helpful!

    • Hello, Lana! Sorry for the late reply we’re busy walking the Camino del Norte and don’t have Internet every day. Concerning the PDF file, you can find it in the post; go to heading Camino Primitivo stages after the first paragraph there is a sentence in bold, click on words “Camino Primitivo stages” (underlined) and it’ll open a PDF file that you can download.
      Buen Camino!

  • Hi, great blog and information sharing.
    I take it you make your own meals walking the Waynif St. James? Comparing this to an alpine trek like the Tour du Mont Blanc, where the Refuggio you stay in provide dinner and breakfast.

    • Hello, Kevin! Thank you for the comment! Municipal albergues offer only accommodation, most private albergues have restaurants where you can order breakfast, lunch or dinner, food is not included in accommodation price. Most albergues have a kitchen, you can buy food at the supermarket and make your own meal. Many restaurants on the way offer special pilgrim’s lunch (Menu del Dia), most people eat lunch on the way and make something for dinner in albergue. Usually there are several restaurants in the towns where you stop for the night if you don’t want to cook at all you can eat out.
      Cheers!

  • Hi Guys, we are going to start to walk the primitivo in late September with my husband. Your post is extremely helpful, with plenty of relevant info. I would like to ask your experience, how was it as a couple? Also I wanted to print your itinerary but I can not, copy paste. If I give you my email address would you be so kind to send it to me in printable format? (borbala.kezsmarki at gmail.com)

    • Hello, Borbala! Thank you for your comment! Our experience on the Camino Primitivo was great; we met nice people, enjoyed the beautiful scenery, the walk wasn’t too tough and daily distances were not too long, we finished every day early before lunchtime. We do a lot of hiking and used to walk together. Just remember that albergues have only dormitories no private rooms, except the one in Oviedo. If you want to stay in private you’ll have to book hotels on the way. As for printable format there is a downloadable PDF file Camino Primitivo Stages that you can print. It’s in Camino Primitivo section, above the Google map (in bold).
      Buen Camino!

    • Wondering if you found the printable version. I cannot seem to find it. Walking in May. I am interested in having this for reference.

  • Hi Stingy Nomads 🙂 Thanks for this post and detailed information. It’s been really helpful.
    I will be doing my first Camino alone late September and I plan to guide myself with the Camino App and pdfs with detailed guide just in case. Since I’m walking alone I’m sort of scared of getting lost. Any advice? Useful tips are also welcomed.
    Thanks again and have a great day.

    • Hello, Manuela! Thank you for the comment!
      We didn’t use any apps or guides for this Camino only a print with stages, albergues and distances. The trail is marked quite well with yellow arrows all the way. We missed arrows a couple of times in towns when turned to a shop or cafe but locals always pointed us back to the trail. The area felt safe, local people are friendly and helpful – I’m sure you’ll be fine walking alone. We had quite a few people, including a couple of girls, walking alone (most ended up walking together) nobody had any problem or got lost. I’m planning to walk Camino del Norte in a couple of weeks alone as well. Enjoy the walk!
      Buen Camino!

  • Hi! Thanks so much for this help. How was phone reception/wifi in the towns along the route? I work remotely and will need to be online in the evenings. Am looking into bringing a portable hotspot, wondering if there’s decent enough signal in the towns along the route?

    • Hi, Lynn! Thank you! We had cell phone reception at every town/village we stayed we were able to publish updates on our social media every night along the way. Most private albergues and some municipal have wi-fi and there is always at least one cafe or restaurant with wi-fi in a town.
      Buen Camino!

  • Thank you for so much detail! My mom and I are planning to hike next spring/summer and we are really looking forward to a more rustic El Camino!

    • Hello, Shannon! Thank you for your comment! I’m sure you and your mom will enjoy the Camino!
      Good luck!

    • Hello, Lucia! Thank you very much for the comment! If you like hiking you’ll enjoy the Camino Primitivo, it’s a fantastic experience!
      Good luck!

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