Camino de Santiago Spain

The Camino Primitivo – a detailed guide & walking stages

Camino Primitivo or the Original Way is a part of the Northern Caminos network that includes Camino Primitivo, Camino del Norte (the Northern Way), and Camino Ingles (the English Way).

The 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 out of all Camino de Santiago routes 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 2019 only 4% (about 16 000 people a year) of all the pilgrims who walk the Camino de Santiago choose the Primitive Way.

Download our free PDF files to make your Camino Primitivo planning easier. A complete list of places to stay on the Camino Primitivo PDF and Camino Primitivo walking stages PDF.

Our short video summarizing one day of a pilgrim’s life on the Camino

Camino Primitivo route overview

  • Distance – 321 km/200 mi
  • Number of days required – 12-14
  • Starting point – Oviedo, Asturias
  • Average cost – 25 Euro per person per day
  • Accommodation – public and private albergues, hotels, pensions

The name “primitivo” refers 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 the IX century to commemorate the discovery of the remains of apostle St. James in Compostela a couple of years earlier. At that time most of the Spanish territory was under Moorish control, only the Northern part of Spain remained independent.

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

Camino Primitivo can be combined with the Camino del Norte and the French Camino. Both Caminos have connection routes to Oviedo where the Original Way starts. The Camino de Salvador is a connection route from León (the French Way) to Oviedo. On the Camino del Norte there is a route split just before Gijón that goes to Oviedo.

The best months for walking

Definitely, summer when it’s warm and fewer rainfalls though in the mountains the weather is unpredictable and changes quickly. July and August are the busiest months for this Camino with the best weather conditions. We walked this route 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 May – June and September can be a good time for walking the weather is good and not many people. We wouldn’t recommend walking the Camino Primitivo off-season from November to March as many albergues are closed for this period plus it’s cold and rainy.

Average monthly temperatures on the Camino Primitivo, Asturias
Average low and high temperatures throughout the year in Asturias, Spain
Average rainfalls on the Original Way, Spain
Average rainfalls throughout the year in Asturias, Spain

Practical information for the pilgrimage

There are not many guide books for Camino Primitivo, the best one is The Northern Caminos guide book by Cicerone, paper, and Kindle version.

In order to get the Compostela at the end of the Camino, you need to get two stamps per day for the last 100 km to Santiago de Compostela.

Roads can get quite muddy on the Camino Primitivo, plus frequent rainfalls, bring waterproof shoes, jacket, rain poncho, backpack cover.

Buy a local SIM card, it’s very useful 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.

The 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 pilgrim’s passport that contains your name. It gets stamped at every albergue you along the way. To stay at public albergues you need a Credential. As well as for getting the Compostela in Santiago.

You can get a Credential at the Tourist Office, Plaza de Constitucion, 4 in Oviedo.

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 albergues don’t have lockers we’d advise to have a small bag to carry your valuable stuff with.

In the high season most municipal albergues allow you to stay only one night, they can make an exception if you get sick, have some problems with your legs, etc.

Most albergues have washing and drying machines, price between 2,5 to 3 Euro per load.

You can find more information on accommodation on the Camino in our post Albergues on the Camino de Santiago.

If you want to make your walk a bit easier you can use a backpack shuttle service, they drive your backpack from albergue to albergue every day. Average price 4-5 Euro per backpack per day. There are several companies doing luggage transfer on the Camino Primitivo. Correos, Pilbeo, and Caminofacil are the most popular.

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 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, and supermarkets are usually closed on Sundays and public holidays.

More posts on the Camino de Santiago you can find HERE.

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.
  • A 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.

We have a comprehensive post on the cost of walking the Camino de Santiago where you can find everything you need for planning your Camino budget.

Travel insurance for the Camino

Walking like any other outdoor activity involves a risk of getting an injury or losing some of the gear. It’s always recommended to have travel insurance when you go away. The Original Way of the Camino de Santiago is not an exclusion though it’s not a high altitude trek out of all Camino routes this route is the closest to a typical wild hike in the mountains. The Camino goes through some remote areas and it’s a physically challenging trail with many steep ascends and descends on the way, injuries especially knee issues are quite frequent.

Make sure you will be able to get medical assistance any time you need. Insurance is quite useful as well in case of a gear break or loss, you can always claim it back. Let your insurance company worry about you and your belongings while you enjoy walking the Camino. 

Social life on the Camino

For many of us, it’s always an issue to find the 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 the US, Canada, Australia, France, Spain, England, Germany, etc. If you speak one of the European languages you’ll find someone to talk to. The second half of the day when everybody arrived at 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 the 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 our detailed Camino packing post.

Main cities on the Original Way

Oviedo – a big city with a 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 the 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 battlefield between the Romans and Castro (tribes that used to live in Northern Spain) during the 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 journey in time so if you’re 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 like a great option after all.

The Cathedral of Santiago at the sunset
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the end of the Camino Primitivo

Oviedo the beginning of the walk

The Original Way (Primitivo) starts from the 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.

Places to stay in Oviedo

Municipal Albergue El Salvador

Quite a big albergue with many small rooms, couples get private rooms. It can accommodate 50 people, opens at 1 pm. 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.

Private albergues and hotels in Oviedo

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

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 9 am. 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 buying 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.

It’s possible to switch from the French Way or the Camino del Norte and continue walking to Santiago on the Primitivo we met quite a few people who did that.

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 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.

Camino Primitivo walking stages

Day 1. Oviedo – El Escamplero, 13 km

For the beginning, we’d suggest starting 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 in 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 center.
  • 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 2 pm, 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 1 pm.

Facilities

  • Hot water shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – no
  • Kitchen with stove, fridge, pots, plates – yes
  • Washing machine – no
  • Drying rack – yes
  • Blankets – yes
  • Location – 5 out of 5, right on the trail
  • Comfort level – 4 out of 5.
A typical scenery on the Original Way of St.James
The scenery on the first day of the Camino Primitivo.

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

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 uphill after Grado all the way to the albergue.

Highlights

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

Challenges

  • At 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, a nice historical center, 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.

  • 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, yogurt, 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 the 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 bedding. Opens at 1 pm.

Facilities

  • Hot water shower – yes
  • Wi-fi – no
  • Kitchen with stove, fridge, pots, plates – 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.

More places to stay in Grado*

*A complete list of accommodations on the Camino you can find in our downloadable PDF file.

An old monastery on the Camino Primitivo
A monastery on the way to Grado. In the mornings it was often very cloudy and rainy

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

Villapañada – La Doriga – Cornellana – Casazorrina – Salas.

Up and down hills all 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 a 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

More places to stay in Salas

A narrow cobbled street and an old stone wall of Salas, Camino Primitivo, Spain
The historical center of Salas, a small town on the Camino Primitivo

Day 4. Salas to Tineo, 20 km

Salas – Bodenaya – La Espina – Tineo.

A 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. The 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 uphill in the beginning
Salas to Tineo, elevation profile
Salas to Tineo, elevation profile

Tineo

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

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

Albergue Mater Christi de Tineo, municipal

You won’t 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 – 2 out of 5, very basic.

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

More places to stay in Tineo

Day 5. Tineo to Pola de Allande, 28 km

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 6 am 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 continue the next day 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
  • A 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 2 pm 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 1 pm.

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.

More places to stay in Pola de Allande

A countryside scenery on the Camino Primitivo
Fantastic scenery on the way to Tineo

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

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, the nearest place is Berducedo, 19km away. We’d suggest having breakfast in Pola there are several cafés on the way that serve breakfast from 6 am.

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.

La 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 La 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, La 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. It can be booked in advance. 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.

More places to stay in La Mesa

Two old houses in the middle of nowhere on the Camino
Montefurado, a tiny village at the top of the pass with only on resident living here

Alternative route from Tineo to La Mesa through Hospitales, 46 km, 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 village 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 La 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. La Mesa to Grandas de Salime, 17 km

La 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 having breakfast in La 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 La 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/viewpoint 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, 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, a dam surrounded by the forest on the Camino in Asturias
Embalse de Salime, a beautiful dam in the forest just before Grandes de Salime

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

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

A nice day of walking with some up-hills, forest walk and a few 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 favorite albergues on the Camino Primitivo. Opens at 1 pm. Price 6 euro including bedding. It 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.

More places to stay in A Fonsagrada

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

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

Weather-wise it was one of the worst days 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 as the one in A Fonsagrada but everything works good and it’s clean. Price 6 Euro, including disposable bedding. Opens at 1 pm.

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.

More places to stay in O Cadavo Baleira

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

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

We’d suggest starting 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.
  • The 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 a beautiful historical center 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. The next 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. It can fit 40 people, opens at 1 pm. 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.

More places to stay in Lugo

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), 20 km

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, we were completely wet and decided to stop at San Roman da Retorta. 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.
  • A 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 Roman 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 1 pm so we didn’t want to wait and checked in to the private one.  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 fireplace downstairs, great for drying clothes and shoes.
  • Blankets – no
  • Location – 5 out of 5
  • Comfort level – 4 out of 5

More accommodation option options in San Romao

| Municipal albergue, 6 euro | Casa Castrelo |

A small waterfall hidden in the forest on the Camino route
A small waterfall in the forest on the Camino Primitivo

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

Ferreira (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 you can stop for lunch or coffee.

Highlights

  • Some parts of the trail through the forest. To be honest, the 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

The Camino Primitivo merges with the Camino Frances 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 there. The last part of the French Way from Sarria is the most popular Camino route. 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 12 pm and didn’t feel like waiting for municipal albergue to open so we went to the first albergue we saw. It is close to supermarkets and bars. Price 10 Euro pp. including disposable bedding. It 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, the price 6 Euro.

More places to stay in Melide

Day 13. Melide to O Pedrouzo, 33 km

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 of 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 quiet 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 street 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 6 pm and were quite happy to be finished one day earlier and have more time to explore Santiago.

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

Places to stay in O Pedrouzo

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

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

The last day we’d suggest starting early if you want to make it to the Pilgrim Mass at 12 pm (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.

Note! As for March 2020, the Masses take place in different locations due to the renovation in the Cathedral.

The easiest option is to stay in one of the albergues on the way to the cathedral you can just drop your 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

  • The 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

The Camino Primitivo offers a beautiful forest and mountain scenery. If you’d like to add some sea views to complete the picture we can recommend a 3-4-day walk from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre – “the end of the world”. If you don’t feel like walking anymore but still would like to visit Finisterre and Muxia capes you can do a day bus tour from Santiago.

Santiago de Compostela the end of the Original Way

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.

Places to stay in Santiago

Tours and activities in Santiago de Compostela

If you have a couple of days in Santiago you can spend some time exploring the city and its surroundings.

Getting 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 8 am (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 Compostela as a group then you don’t wait in the queue you fill the forms and come back later at an established time to collect your Compostela.

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 7 am, it opens at 8 am.

Botafumeiro ceremony in the Cathedral of Santiago

Officially it’s done only on special religious celebrations like Easter, Christmas and so on, check for the complete list. It used to be part of the Friday Mass but apparently, it’s a very expensive ceremony and now to see it outside of the mentioned above days people have to pay. It costs 400 Euros to arrange the Botafumeiro ceremony during the Pilgrim Mass at 12 pm. 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 booking 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 the Camino Primitivo

It was our second Camino de Santiago, we finished the Camino Portuguese two days before we started the Primitivo, and I must say these are two completely different experiences. We both love hiking in the mountains and the 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.

Our favorite albergues on the Camino

  • 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.

The 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.

The most beautiful 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.

Items we love taking on the Camino

  • Merino Wool Darn Tough Hiker Socks – Merino Wool socks are not a gimmick, my days of walking with cheap socks are over, less blisters and smell, buy proper merino wool socks.
  • Good Rain Poncho – Take a proper rain poncho and keep yourself and your bag sort of dry when walking in the rain for hours.
  • PETZL – TACTIKKA Headlamp – scratching around in your backpack without waking up the whole dorm, good LED headlamp is essential.
  • Kindle E-book – Carry whatever books you want, very light, built-in light, the battery lasts a week.
  • Neck Pouch/Passport holder – keep cash and passports together.
  • Go Pro HERO8 – Like our videos? buy the best little action camera on the market today, basically indestructible.

Recommended books and guidebooks

Useful apps for the Original Way

  • Camino Assist Pilgrim Santiago. Free download, available for Android and Apple.
  • TrekRight Camino Primitivo. Cost US$10, available for Android and Apple.
  • Buen Camino de Santiago. Free download, available for Android and Apple.
  • Wisely + Camino Primitivo; a Wise Pilgrim guide. Cost US$6, available for Android and Apple. We haven’t used it but I saw many unhappy users complaining about the app, I’d recommend reading the reviews before buying it.

Camino Primitivo route planning resources

LIKED THIS POST? PIN IT!

Camino Primitivo pin

69 Comments

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.