The Via de la Plata or the Silver Route is considered to be the toughest Camino de Santiago route in Spain due to its distance, over 1000 km, long walking stages with little facilities in between and extremely hot weather in summer months. The Via crosses four Spanish regions; Andalusia, Extremadura, Casilla y Leon, and Galicia. The route offers a great combination of beautiful countryside scenery, impressive Roman ruins, and spectacular medieval cities and towns.
Need to know about the Via de la Plata
The Silver Route is the longest out of well-established Camino routes in Spain.
It’s the least walked route only about 3% of all the pilgrims arriving in Santiago de Compostela come from the Via de la Plata.
Like on any other Camino route you’ll need a Credential (a pilgrim’s passport) to be able to stay in public albergues and to get the Compostela at the end of the Camino in Santiago.
According to the new rules, pilgrims coming from any Camino have to collect two stamps per day for the last 100 km, I’m quite confident if you complete the Via de la Plata and don’t have two stamps for the last couple of days you’ll still get you Compostela, it’s just something to keep in mind.
Supermarkets and shops are closed on Sundays and public holidays, restaurants and bars are your only food options for these days.
Having a local SIM card is quite handy in case you want to book accommodation or use online maps.
Though the route is quite flat the first part of it from Guillena to Villafranca de los Barros has many ascents and descents something we didn’t really expect to find here.
Best time for walking the Silver Route
Let’s start with the worst time because unlike with the other Camino routes, summer is the worst time to walk the Via de la Plata and not because it gets too busy like the French or the Portuguese route but because it gets incredibly hot here. July and August are the worst months, 40°
June and September are a close call as well it does get hot and it’s sunny most of the time but by far not as hot as in July and August.
Our favorite time for traveling the south of Spain is spring, I’d say April and May are the best months for this part of the country; it’s warm but not hot, not much rain, fields are covered in flowers, the area is very green, the air is fresh. Weatherwise October is close to these two months just not flowers.
As for walking the Via de la Plata offseason, November – March, it might be a good idea if you want to make sure it’s not going to be hot but it might rain quite a bit in January, February, March (the rainest one) and you might feel a bit lonely as there will be very few pilgrims on the route.
From what we’ve heard from the hospitaleros (hosts) on the Via de la Plata April is usually the busiest month with the most pilgrims on the route but even in this busiest time, you probably will get fewer people here than on the French route off-season.
Via de la Plata cost
Accommodation. Public albergues on this route are more expensive than on the other Camino routes we´ve walked. Usually, we paid 5€-6€, sometimes 7€ per bed, here the standard price was 10€. From Seville to Mérida we got only one albergue for a donation and one for 8€, the rest were 10€. Private albergues/hostels cost about the same, between 10€ and 12€.
Food. A good thing about this route that every town we stopped had a least a small shop but usually there was a supermarket we could make our own food. Just remember that here like in the rest of Spain supermarkets are closed on Sundays and public holidays, plus they are closed for a siesta in the middle of the day, usually somewhere between 2 pm and 5 pm. Prices in supermarkets here are similar to the rest of Spain if you buy food for two meals it’ll cost you between 6€ and 8€ per person depending on what you buy, of course.
Eating out. Traditional Menu del Día (a set menu with first, main, drink, break and coffee/dessert) for about 10€ is quite popular here. A cup of coffee and a sandwich with Jamón or cheese and tomato (Tostada) cost about 2,5€ we stopped quite often for those. The coffee here is good and cheap, Americano costs less than 1€, Cafe con Leche (Cappuccino) about 1,2€. A beer or a glass of wine (cheap wine) in a bar is about 1€, it usually comes with chips, olives or peanuts.
Transport. To get to Seville, the starting point of the route you can take a bus or a train from Madrid or other cities/towns in Spain or Portugal. A bus from Madrid to Seville costs from 25€ the journey takes 6h30min., check the Socibus website. A train (speed train) – from 38€, it takes 2h50min, you can buy tickets online on the RENFE site.
Our budget break down (9 days, 2 people)
We stayed in dormitories in public and private albergues, only one night in a private room in a hotel, bought food in supermarkets (most of the time), usually stopped for breakfast and for coffee (one to two times a day), a couple of times went out for a beer or wine.
- Accommodation – 192€
- Eating out (food, beer, wine) – 111€
- Shopping (food) – 90€
- Transport (bus Madrid – Seville) – 50€
- Coffee – 20€
- Laundry – 5€
Total: 468€ or 26€ per person per day.
Packing list for the Camino
You can find a detailed Camino de Santiago packing list for men and women for different seasons in this post.
How difficult is Via de la Plata compared to the other Camino routes
We’ve walked 6 Camino de Santiago routes and I’d say judging on the first part of the Via de la Plata it’s definitely more difficult and the main reason is long distances between towns and villages which means you have to carry a lot of water and some snacks or food with. There are no steep ascents or descents on this route like on the Camino Primitivo or the Northern Way, but long distances, both daily and total distance, combined with little infrastructure in between and high temperatures even off-season make the Via de la Plata a very challenging Camino.
Any long trekking/walking route is challenging because it takes many days or even weeks to complete, but when it’s more than 1000 km it gets really long. Psychologically it was quite difficult for us when after walking for 9 days we arrived in Mérida and saw on the wall in the albergue “distance to Santiago 800 km”! and it wasn’t our first long Camino route we’d already walked the Portuguese Camino from Lisbon and the Camino del Norte from Irún.
About long stages and walking through nothing we heard a lot but it was sort of difficult to imagine as we had days on the other Camino routes but here from the very beginning you walk for 20-25 km, sometimes even more, with literally nothing on the way, not even a place to refill your water bottles! We always stop a lot for coffee on the other Camin routes, it gives you a break, it diversifies the walk but on the Via de la Plata some days you just walk with no other option to stop than to sit down on the grass or under a tree in the fields.
As for people, we met on the route most of them walked more than one other Camino route but there were some pilgrims for whom it was their first Camin or a long walk ever but most of them didn’t plan to walk the whole route and finished in Mérida. If you really want to walk this route and have never walked the Camino before you can do the same start walking and see how far you get and once you don’t feel like walking anymore, stop there and continue it the next time. We’re going do exactly this we ran out of visa time (as we spent a lot of time walking the Caminos and some other routes in Spain and Portugal in the last year) so we stopped in Mérida and will continue the walk sometime next year.
Travel insurance for the Camino
Walking like any other outdoor activity involves a risk of getting an injury or losing some of your gear. It’s always recommended to have travel insurance. The Via de la Plata is not an exclusion, it’s not an extremely difficult trek but it’s a very long and challenging route small injuries and traumas are quite frequent. It’s good to know that your insurance will cover you in case of any unpredictable emergency be it an injury, gear loss or device break down.
Note! If you have a European Health Insurance card you don’t need any additional medical insurance for Spain.
Via de la Plata walking stages
We’ve walked only 9 first stages on the Via de la Plata, from Seville to Mérida, here you can find a detailed itinerary for these days. We’re planning to finish the route next year and will update the post after that.
Via de la Plata (Seville to Mérida part) facts
- Total distance – 214 km
- Time required – 8-10 days
- Starting point – Seville
- Finishing point – Mérida
- Total ascent (in 9 days) – 2976 m
- Total descent – 2766 m
- Walking surface – mostly gravel road – 160 km, asphalt – 54 km
- Route marking – yellow shells and arrows
- Average cost – 26€ per person
- Accommodation – public and private albergues, hotels
Day 0. Seville
Seville is a beautiful city with a lot to see and to do, spending here a couple of days before starting the Camino is a great idea. My favorite time spending in Seville is sitting in one of the street restaurants near the Cathedral with a glass of wine and a couple of different tapas while enjoying the sun and beautiful city architecture.
Things not to miss in the city; Plaza de España, Royal Alcázar, Cathedral, La Giralda, Torre de Oro, Parque de María Luisa, Santa Cruz barrio (neighborhood), Triana neighborhood, Plaza de Toros, Casa de Pilatos.
Recommended tours and activities in Seville
- Seville: Games of Thrones and Roman Empire Italica Tour
- Pueblos Blancos and Ronda: Full-Day Trip from Seville
Note! Make sure you arrive here not during the Semana Santa (Holy Week, a week before Easter), it gets crazy busy here, difficult to find accommodation, bus, and train tickets are sold out, thousands of tourists, etc. Seville is famous for the celebration it’s a top destination to come for Easter holiday in Europe.
Accommodation in Seville
There is no public albergue in Seville there are several hostels some of them are called albergues but they are not exclusively for pilgrims anybody can stay there.
Day 1. Seville – Guillena, 23 km*
- Time – 4h45min.
- Walking on the road – 3 km
- Walking on asphalt – 10 km
- Ascent – 158 m
- Descent – 124 m
- Difficulty level – 2 out of 5
*All daily distances are from albergue to albergue.
The walk starts from the cathedral in Seville, there are a couple of yellow arrows and a shell at the corner of Avenida de la Conctitución and Calle García de Vinuesa. To our surprise it was quite easy and quick to walk out of the city, it took us about 30 min. and we didn’t go through any industrial or residential areas of the city. Most of the day the route went through the fields but there was an unpleasant walking on the road for about 3 km after Santiponce.
Santiponce is the only town on the way, it’s about 9 km from Seville and it’s worth stopping here and visiting the famous Roman ruins; the Roman Therms and the Roman Amphitheatre. The Amphitheater, by the way, was featured in season 7 of Game of Thrones as the Dragonpit. Unfortunately, we couldn’t visit them because it was closed on Monday. For more information on the ruins of Italica and opening hours visit the official website.
If you want to visit both ruins I’d suggest to go first to the Roman Theatre and from there to the Therms as you can walk through the Archaeological park and exit on the other side of it right on the Camino.
If you want to stop for lunch Santiponce is the only place on the way, don’t forget to refill your water there will be nowhere to do it till Guillena.
- Stunning Gothic cathedral of Seville
- Triana district in Seville
- The Roman ruins of Italica, Santiponce
- 3 km of walking on the road after Santiponce
- No places to stop or to refill water between Santiponce and Guillena, for 13 km
A small town with good infrastructure though we were here on Sunday and everything was closed.
Albergue Luz del Camino
The Public albergue costs the same we came across the private one first, the lady in charge was very nice and friendly so we decided to stay here. The albergue is nice, clean and comfortable. They try to give pilgrims more privacy we got a dormitory only for us though there were beds available in the other dorms. Price 10€ per person, 12€ with breakfast.
Day 2. Guillena – Castilblanco de los Arroyos, 18 km
- Time – 4h12min.
- Walking on the road – 0 km but the last 3 km are on the footpath next to the road
- Walking on asphalt – 2 km
- Ascent – 386 m
- Descent – 91 m
- Difficulty level – 2 out of 5
We didn’t pay for breakfast in the albergue we stopped on the way at one of the locals bars S.C.A. Kibarpe, next to the supermarket Dia, they have good coffee and sandwiches, we paid 5 Euro for both.
It was a relatively short and easy walking day with a slight ascend about 386 m throughout the day. In the beginning, you walk through Guillena town till the bridge, then cross the bridge after that turn right, away from the road, there will be a Camino sign. The route through the town is not marked very well, here and there you see an arrow but it’s not difficult you basically just follow the main street from the albergue all the way out.
At about 3 km after crossing the road you get to a very muddy path through the olive tree plantations. At about 8 km a beautiful forest substitutes the plantations. There are no villages on the way no places to stop for coffee or food. At 10 km there is a place to refill water you won’t miss it there is a big sign on the righthand side. The last 3 km before Castilblanco are on the footpath along the road.
- Walking through the forest and the fields
- Castilblanco – a cozy white town with a nice church and many starks around it.
- Communal dinner at the albergue
- A very muddy and slippery path between 3 km and 5 km
- Nothing between Guillena and Castilblanco
Castilblanco de los Arroyos
A nice small town several bars and restaurants on the main street and a beautiful church with many storks’ nests on the roof.
Albergue de peregrinos de Castilblanco
Located at the entrance to the town, next to the petrol station. The albergue is nice but quite small, there are only 18 beds and two bathrooms. People who arrived later had to stay in a private albergue. Price – donation. The Italian couple that was volunteering there made a communal dinner (3,5€ per person), it was great to sit at the same table with other pilgrims and get to know each other right at the beginning of the Camino.
Day 3. Castilblanco de los Arroyos – Almadén de la Plata, 28,7 km
- Time – 6h.
- Walking on the road – 16,5 km
- Walking on asphalt – 16,5 km
- Ascent – 649 m
- Descent – 521 m
- Difficulty level – 3 out of 5
I’d suggest making sure you have enough water before you leave Castilblanco as well as to take some snacks with and to have breakfast in the town before you leave. There is literally nothing on the way; no place to refill water, no place to buy food till you reach Almadén de la Plata.
It was quite a long day of walking. The first part was on the road after an hour or so it got quite monotonous but it wasn’t as bad as we thought, the road was not very busy. The second part, after 16,5 km, is through Natural Park Sierra Norte. The scenery in the park is beautiful; green hills, trees, many flowers (in spring) and a couple of smallish rivers. Unfortunately, we couldn’t really enjoy the scenery as it was raining non stop all the time we were in the park.
- Natural Park Sierra Norte
- Walking on the road for the first 16,5 km
- No place to stop for food or water for 28 km
- Steep but not long ascent just before Almadén de la Plata
Almadén de la Plata
This town is smaller than Castilblanco, it has a couple of restaurants and shops, a square with a church and a Jamon factory.
Albergue Casa Clara
We were planning to stay in the municipal one and even went there but didn’t like the location too much it’s far from the shops and restaurants so we went back to the private albergue that has a restaurant and located on the main square, near the supermarket, and right on the Camino. Price 12€ pp. per bed or 20 Euro with Menu del Dia (complete lunch). The public albergue costs 10 Euro so not a big difference. Casa Clara is a small albergue with only two rooms with 4 beds each more like a shared apartment than the albergue.
Day 4. Almaden de la Plata – Monesterio, 35 km
- Time – 7h45min.
- Walking on the road – 2 km short bit here and there on the last 8 km
- Walking on the asphalt – 4 km through the towns and a little bit along the road
- Ascent – 850 m
- Descent – 575 m
- Difficulty level – 4 out of 5 it was a long walking day
Option! If you think walking 35 km in one day is too much you can always split this day into two; walk 13,5 km to Real de la Jara and the next day 21 km to Monasterio.
A second long day in a raw, most pilgrims we started with walked 13 km and stayed in Real de la Jara, many people split this day into two. At the beginning of the day, we continued walking through Natural Park Sierra Norte with beautiful scenery and many smallish ups and downs.
Luckily, today there are two stops on the route so you can put down your backpack and sit down, drink coffee, eat something and refill your water. At Real de la Jara you leave the region of Andalusia and enter Extremadura.
The last 8 km are next to the road mostly on the footpath crossing the road here and there.
- A beautiful walk through the countryside and forest
- The castle in El Real de la Jara
- A long walking day, 35 km and it did feel long and tiring.
Don’t be confused by the name, the actual monastery is 5 km outside the town you won’t see it unless you walk there or take a taxi. The town itself is quite big compared to most towns on the Via de la Plata.
Albergue Las Moreras
We stayed in the municipal albergue Las Moreras, it’s located a bit away from the town center but close to the supermarket and a couple of bars/restaurants. The rooms are small, only two beds which is great we had our own room. There is a bathroom for every two rooms which is another great thing as you don’t have to share one shower/toilet with 10 other people. Fellow pilgrims stayed in albergue Parroquial de Monesterio and really liked it as well, it looks like both albergues in Monesterio are great, both charge 10€ pp.
Day 5. Monesterio – Fuente de Cantos, 20,6 km
- Time – 4h20min.
- Walking on the road – 0 km
- Walking on the asphalt – 2 km through the towns
- Ascent – 291 m
- Descent – 432 m
- Difficulty level – 2 out of 5
We started the day quite late, it took us about 10 min. to walk out of the town, at the exit there is a restaurant that opens at 7 am, they have coffee or hot chocolate with churros for 1,5 Euro. Make sure to have enough water with there will be nothing on the way. The walk was easy and nice with light ups and downs, through a very quiet countryside with olive tree plantations, wheat fields, cows, sheep, etc. far from the road and any other disturbing noises.
- Very peaceful area with no people, cars, houses only fields and nature.
- Nothing on the way for 20 km you have to carry enough water with for the whole day.
Fuente de Cantos
A cozy little white town with a small square and a church on it and narrow cobblestone streets.
Hotel El Zaguán de la Plata
An amazing old house with several rooms, a lovely garden, a swimming pool, and an awesome shower – one of our favorite places on the Camino. Price 15€ per person for private, 12€ per bed in a dormitory.
Day 6. Fuente de Cantos – Zafra, 24,7 km
- Time – 5h15min.
- Walking on the road – 0 km
- Walking on the asphalt – last 4 km to Zafra
- Ascent – 212 m
- Descent – 288 m
- Difficulty level – 2 out of 5
It was an easy walking day through the countryside most of the time make sure to have enough water with from 6 km to 20 km there is nothing on the way except a shelter at 15 km where you can stop and rest, drink water or eat something.
Peaceful scenery; olive tree plantations, vineyards, pasture fields, etc.
The historical center of Zafra; Plaza Grande, Plaza Chica, Convento de Santa Clara. If you’ve happened to be here on weekend definitely go to one of the squares and drink a glass of wine or beer, there are many restaurants and bars here, on weekends they are full of locals, it has a great holiday vibe.
- 14 km in the middle of the day with nothing on the way
It’s more of a city place, much bigger than other stops on the way. The historical part of Zafra is really nice; cobblestone streets, two beautiful squares, a cathedral, a fortress, and several smallish parks.
Albergue Vicente Van Gogh
It’s the only albergue in the city (there was another one Albergue Convento de San Francisco but it was closed in 2018), the place is nice and spacious, it´s located close to the historical center, shops, restaurants and right on the Camino. Price 12€ pp. including breakfast. The owner was a bit obsessed with everything being the way he wants or used to but it´s manageable. Breakfast wasn´t amazing we stopped on the way for a proper coffee with a Tostada.
Day 7. Zafra – Villafranca de los Barros, 20,5 km
- Time – 4h20min.
- Walking on the road – 400 m
- Walking on asphalt – 8 km; first 7 km from Zafra and last 1 km to
- Ascent – 246 m
- Descent – 339 m
- Difficulty level – 1 out of 5 a short and easy walking day
It was an easy walking day except the very beginning, the route through Zafra is not marked very well, everybody got a bit lost (we left first and stopped at a bar for breakfast and could see other fellow pilgrims wandering around in search of yellow arrows), in the end, we had to ask locals. We followed the arrows till the Plaza Grande and then lost them, the same happened to everybody. I’d suggest once you’re on the Square ask around will point you the right way. You walk out of the town following Calle San Francisco you can find it on the map.
The rest of the day was very similar to the previous two walking days. After 4,5 km there is a small town where you can stop for coffee, it’s the only stop on the route.
- Cathedral and cobblestone streets of Los Santos de Maimona
- Olive tree plantations and vineyards
Nothing on the way for 15 km between Los Santos de Maimona and Villafranca de los Barros, make sure to carry enough water with the route goes through the fields with no shadow.
Villafranca de los Barros
A typical town with the main square a couple of churches and many restaurants and bars. We were here on Sunday everything was closed even restaurants didn´t serve food between 4 pm and 8.30 pm because kitchens are closed at this time of the day.
Albergue Las Caballeras
It’s right at the entrance to the town, most of the other pilgrims walked on to Albergue Carmen (10€ pp.), we paid 12€ per person per bed. Tip! If you’re a couple ask for a double bed there is one on the upper floor you get more privacy.
Day 8. Villafranca de los Barros – Torremejía, 27,5 km
- Time – 5h24min.
- Walking on the road – 0 m
- Walking on the asphalt – 3 km in the towns
- Ascent – 105 m
- Descent – 221 m
- Difficulty level – 3 out of 5, a long walking day with no places to stop for food or water
Note! There is a town Almendralejo about half way with a couple of hotels but it’s 4 km off the route in order to get there and then back on the Camino you’ll have to walk 8 km extra.
The walk wasn’t difficult but it’s quite long we’d strongly recommend starting walking early in order to skip the midday heat. We walked the Via de la Plata at the end of April and it was already quite hot after 10 am. Make sure you have enough water to last you the whole day there will be no place to refill it. The scenery was very similar to the previous days; vineyards, olive trees, fields and not much else.
- Beautiful sunrise on the way out of the town (if start early enough).
- Vineyards and olive tree plantations, to be honest after a couple of days this scenery started to get quite monotonous.
- Quite long distance with no places to stop or to refill water on the way.
Another small white town with a couple of hotels, one albergue, restaurants, and supermarkets.
Albergue Rojo Plata
The only budget place to stay in the town, nice place with several rooms with bunk beds but only one shower/toilet for men and one for women so if it’s full you’ll have to wait in the queue. Price 12€ per bed or 22€ including lunch or dinner and breakfast. The location is quite good, on the route, close to the supermarket and restaurants.
Day 9. Torremejía – Merida, 15,6 km
- Time – 3h10min.
- Walking on the road – 2 km
- Walking on the asphalt – 5 km
- Ascend – 79 m
- Descend – 175 m
- Difficulty level – 1 out of 5, short and easy walking day
To walk out of the town you can go left from the albergue and follow the gravel road for a little bit or go right towards the restaurant and follow the road, both routes join after about 500 m. It wasn’t the most beautiful walking day, the first half was along the road, sometimes on the road, the second half past some sort of industrial area or factories. And again nowhere to stop on the way we’d recommend to have breakfast in Torremejía and carry enough water.
- The Roman bridge at the entrance to Merida
- Several Roman ruins in Merida; aqueduct Los Milagros, Roman Theatre and Amphitheatre, Circo Romano, Alcazaba.
- at the beginning of the day 2 km of walking on the road out of 7 km of walking next to the road.
It’s a World Heritage city with several impressive Roman sights. If you have time I’d suggest to stop here for 2 days if not try to start walking early in the morning in order to have more time to explore the city. We stayed for 2 nights here; first night at the municipal albergue Molino de Pancaliente and second in a guest house. Merida seems to be quite a popular place to start the Camino there are more pilgrims here than in the previous towns on the way. It’s another reason to start earlier to get a spot in the albergue, there are only 16 beds and it’s the only budget accommodation in the city. Like in any other public albergue you can stay here only for one night.
Albergue de peregrinos Molino de Pancaliente
It’s the cheapest albergue we got on the whole way (except the donation one) and it was quite basic, the only albergue we stayed on this route that didn’t have wi-fi, blankets, and anything in the kitchen. Price 8€.
We finished the Via de la Plata in Mérida where we stayed for 2 days in order to have time to explore the Roman ruins. From here we went to Portugal where we spent two weeks walking the Rota Vicentina. We’re planning to finish this Camino route next year and walk from Mérida all the way to Santiago de Compostela.
Recommended books and guidebooks
- Camino de Santiago Maps by John Brierley. Paperback & Kindle.
- Walking guide to the Via de la Plata and the Camino Sanabres by Gerald Kelly. Paperback
- A CAMINO FOR ALL: A Pilgrim’s Diary on the Camino de Santiago: The Via de la Plata and the Camino Sanabrés by Luisa Sousa. Paperback & Kindle.
- Spain and Portugal map by Michelin. Paperback.
- Tortoises on the Via de la Plata: Walking the Camino to Santiago by Jaqueline Buchanan. Kindle.
- The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho. Paperback and Kindle.
- Ordinary Magic; Promises I Kept to My Mother Through Life, Illness, and a Very Long Walk on the Camino de Santiago by Cameron Powell. Paperback.
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