In August 2021, we embark on a family adventure. We have been eager to walk the Camino Primitivo (or St. James Primitive Way) since we started living in Asturias in February 2018. Even though we have two little girls of two and four years old, we decide now is the time! Either we wait for a minimum of 10 years for our kids to be able to walk alone, or we do it now (ok, with some small adjustments ;))!
In our case, this means that we walk alternately; one day papa Marcos, en the next day, mama Debora. The one who’s not walking takes the kids in the car and stops at regular places along the Camino to walk a bit together, eat a pincho, or play in the playground. This way, we hope to experience the whole 300 km together as a family and as such, are able to walk the full Camino Primitivo with kids!
Are you eager to walk the Camino Primitivo yourself, with or without kids, but would like to have help with planning your quest? We are happy to provide you with advice on where to sleep, eat, and various routes. Based on our own experience and local contacts, we customize your own Camino Primitivo experience! You can contact us via intoasturias.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stage 01: Oviedo – Grado
We start the first stage of the Camino Primitivo with drizzling rain, but good hiking temperatures and even some sun. Today, Marcos walks from Oviedo to Grado, which is a bit over 25 km. We are surprised by the number of fellow pilgrims on the road!
The first stage of the Camino Primitivo starts at the Cathedral of Oviedo, then leads through the outskirts of the city into the countryside. The restaurant (also a hotel) in Escamplero is a good place to have a break, as it´s almost halfway the route. There´s another nice restaurant and place to spend the night just before Penaflor. We´re staying in Grado, where we can visit the weekly market (on Wednesdays and Sundays) with fresh and local products from farmers all around the area.
And we are happy to help a fellow pilgrim! All beds and rooms in Grado appear to be full, due to local events and the limited capacity because of Covid. We meet Karl, a very nice gentleman from the US, and bring him to Salas, our destination for tomorrow. Luckily there is a place for him here, but we are happy that we reserved our accommodations in advance! And he’s happy that we brought our car ;)!
Stage 02: Grado – Salas
Day 2 of the Primitivo! I (Debora) start around 7.30 am with walking and soon find some other pilgrims that are also already on their way. It’s really nice to walk and hear the sounds of an awakening countryside surrounding me.
The first part is an ascend of around 300 m, after which the route is going slightly up and down. Cornellana, with its impressive monastery ‘Monasterio de San Salvador de Cornellana‘, is a nice place for a break and a pincho. A large part of the route is shaded and leads along small paths in the forest and car-free roads.
Our little girl joins me at the ‘Merendero Fuente de Santiago‘. Merendero’s are picnic places with a few wooden benches and in this case, a fountain with potable water.
The destination of today, Salas, is a nice village with a medieval center. The oldest parts are the remainders of a pilgrim hospital from the beginning of the 15th century. There’s a couple of bars around the arch, perfect for a Menu del Dia!
Stage 03: Salas – Tineo
After a night with a lack of sleep due to traveling with two toddlers (one fell out of the bunk bed in the middle of the night- luckily the lowest bed- and one with stomach problems, which also affected us), we start the 3rd stage. This leads us deeper into Asturias to parts of the province that we barely know yet. A bit over 20 km: perfect for a third day!
The first part starts with a tough ascent of 400 meters, to the village of Bodenaya. Here’s a really nice hostel where you can sleep as an alternative to Salas. From there, it’s a bit over a km more to La Espina, with several bars to take a break. There’s also a tienda where you can get different products from hatches; take ham, butter, and a piece of bread and you can make your own bocadillo! After Espina starts a trail that goes slightly up and down, through forests and with an amazing view to the surrounding hills and mountains.
The endpoint of today is Tineo, a small village; personally, we like Salas more. It’s very nice though to have a room again for ourselves. That’s something we like from the Camino so far. There’s (literally and figuratively) room for all types of pilgrims, even for us :).
Are you eager to walk part of the Camino de Santiago yourself? But you do not have the possibility to take a few weeks off? Or are you doubting whether you are able to hike 20-30 km for multiple days in a row? We organize day-tours where you walk part of the Camino Primitivo together with an experienced, English-speaking guide. Interested? Check this link for more information!
Stage 04: Tineo – Pola de Allande
Today is the toughest stage of our Camino Primitivo with kids so far. Toughest because of tiredness, pain in the body, largest distance covered (over 28 km), and steep ascents and descents. However, the fantastic view over the Asturian countryside, hills, and mountains compensates for the challenges. At least in the first few hours…
In the morning, the fog surrounds me from time to time, while I ascend to Obona. Luckily, the path is shaded. I really enjoy the views and quiet atmosphere. We take a break in Campiello, with a few nice bars versus hostels versus supermarkets. This is mainly meant for the pilgrims who are planning on taking the ‘hospitales‘ detour a few kilometers further down the road, starting in Borres. This is a remote route that should only be accessed under good weather conditions. Therefore, it is advised to bring plenty of food and drinks.
I decide to walk to Pola de Allande. A great route, with some parts along the (quiet) motorway, but mostly over shaded forests paths next to pastures with grazing cattle. The last few kilometers are really tough for me because of the pain in my knee. Hopefully, tomorrow’s day of rest will help me recover. This also means that the people that we have met every day since the beginning, we will most likely not see anymore. They continue tomorrow. This is a pity because even after just a few days, you start recognizing and encouraging each other. But of course, we’ll meet new pilgrims when we start our 5th day again. For now, we take a rest day tomorrow exploring Pola de Allande and its surroundings. And doing the laundry ;)).
Stage 05: Pola de Allande – La Mesa
Today’s stage starts in Pola de Allande, a charming village in the mountains. This is one of the Asturian villages from where in the late 19th and early 20th century part of the inhabitants emigrated to ‘the Americas’, mainly Cuba and the Dominican Republic, in search of a better life. The ones that came back, built large mansions, and some of them still remain in the village. Pola celebrates the day of the emigrant every year.
Not the longest so far, but today’s stage is challenging because of the height difference: it starts with a tough ascend from Pola (500 meters) to Puerto de Palo (1100 meters). It’s a beautiful hike through the hills and mountains. Although the track leads more or less parallel to the motorway, you almost don’t see it. Besides, there’s hardly any traffic, as I realize when is drive up to search for Marcos. In Puerto de Palo, on top of the mountain, there’s a strong wind. It takes our breath away, as do the views. Luckily, there’s a small shelter to hide from the wind and eat some energy bars. Thus far, and also in the following 10 km, there’s no bar or place to buy food.
The ascend leads over small paths, surrounded by flowering heather and summer flowers: beautiful! Also at this height, we find some cattle on the way. We meet in Lago, a tiny village without much to see. Except for the Tejo (a mythical Asturian tree that you find in a lot of villages in Asturias, often declared Natural Monument because of their ancient ages).
From there, it’s a few kilometers more to Berducedo with a few bars, a hostel, and a nice playground for our kids. We stay in La Mesa, a few more kilometers down the road, where there is not much more than a hostel, so it’s important to buy what you need in Berducedo.
From a distance, we can already see our accommodation for tonight: a beautiful, new hostel with both shared and private rooms. Because there are many people and not too many places (also due to reduced capacity because of Covid), some people need to sleep in a tent in the garden. Tomorrow, we continue our way towards Galicia.
Stage 06: La Mesa – Grandas de Salime
Today’s stage is ‘only’ 16 km, but with a very pronounced descent of almost 900 meters. But first, we need to climb another 100 meters to the top of the nearby mountain, which has, like many other mountain peaks in this area, several windmills on top.
Then, it’s 600 meters down over 8 km to the Grandas de Salime water reservoir. Even though today is a bit cloudy, the views are very nice. The way down mostly leads over small, stony roads and through the forest. Then, we cross the 128 m high dam of the water reservoir, created in 1954 for hydroelectric power.
There used to be another way to reach today’s endpoint (the village of Grandas de Salime), namely over a road that is now submerged by the water. After the creation of the reservoir, people could no longer use this road. In the summer months, there is a small ferry that takes people to the other side. However, it is not really clear whether the ferry is currently working (last year it was not due to Covid). Therefore, we decide to take the ‘normal’ road. Not super attractive, because it leads quite a few kilometers along the car road. Luckily, there is little traffic. We see quite some pilgrims doing the route by bike on this road.
About one km after the dam, there’s a nice hotel/restaurant overviewing the reservoir where you can get some refreshments. Then, it’s about 5 km more before entering Grandas de Salime, the first few along the car road and the last ones via a nice and shaded route through the forest.
Stage 07: Grandas de Salime – Fonsagrada
A longer stage today, of almost 28 km. The first part is a climb of almost 550 meters, up to El Acebo. This mountain top forms the border between Asturias and Galicia. Thus, we leave Asturias today and enter its neighbor province, the province of Santiago de Compostela!
It rains a bit today, making it harder to walk. Also, you cannot see very far from the mountaintops, which is a pity because under clear circumstances you have beautiful views from here.
There are not many bars along the way to have a drink and bite. At El Acebo there’s one, for a real local experience with Galicians that are used to drinking (much) every day. A few kilometers before the endpoint, there’s a nice restaurant which serves traditional Galician food. However, this is more for bigger meals, so it depends whether you want to continue walking the last kilometers with a full belly or not.
We sleep the coming nights in a small cottage on a campsite. We’re happy that we reserved our stays beforehand because it’s really difficult for pilgrims who did not reserve anything to find a place to stay each night. Sports centers are opened to accommodate people. However, sometimes, they still need to sleep in a tent somewhere hidden (camping outside of campsites is forbidden in this region). We even heard of a woman that needed to sleep in the woods because of a lack of space! Luckily, the weather is getting better (read: dryer and warmer), but we are extra thankful for a nice bed and roof above our heads every night!
Eager to walk (part of) the Camino Primitivo yourself? We used the useful app Wikiloc. You can download routes that people previously recorded which makes it practically impossible to get lost. You can also record your own routes. All the routes we describe in this blog, and many more in Asturias and surroundings, can be found on our intoAsturias Wikiloc Profile.
Stage 08: A Fonsagrada- O Cadavo
A route of about 25 km today, mostly taking place around 1000 m in height. I start early, around 07.45 am, because from the camping that we stayed I first need to walk to the outskirts of A Fonsagrada to pick up the route. It’s a beautiful morning, with the sun coming up above the many clouds that cover the valleys. For about 2 hours the views on the surrounding mountains and valleys are beautiful.
The first 8 km are going up and down, and end on a mountaintop with an ancient chapel, the remainders of a pilgrim hospital, and a dolmen (megalithic tomb). Along, the way, you’ll find many signs of former pilgrim hospitals, sometimes just a sign, but sometimes quite a big ruin, as is the case here. Many travelers from the Middle Ages onwards did the pilgrimage to be healed of their diseases. Hence, hospitals were indispensable along the way. Moreover, people at those times obviously had poor footwear and the roads were far worse maintained, also increasing the need for medical care along the route.
After a steep descent, the road goes up and down again, before starting a steep ascent for a few hundred meters. This ends in the village of A Lastra, where there’s a nice bar for some refreshment and food. Then, it’s about 8 km more to the endpoint of today, the village of O Cadavo. Again, we booked a room in a hostel with very nice owners, we encountered this in almost all cases. Of course, it helps that we are traveling with two little children, which stands out between the students and older pilgrims that we meet all day long!
Stage 09 A: O Cádavo – Vilar de Cas
Since the stage for today is rather long, we decided to split it into two and walk each 15 km today and tomorrow. Today, we walk from O Cadavo to a tiny village Vilar de Cas. The first part is beautiful again, since, like the last few days, the sun comes up while the clouds and mist are still hanging over the fields. This lasts a few hours until we reach Castroverde, a small village with a couple of bars.
From there, it’s about 7 km more to our endpoint of today, which is easily doable. We arrive at a fantastic Albergue, run by a family (father, mother, 2 sons, and grandma) from the same village. Brand new, super clean, great interior and garden. The family has cows and a couple of other animals, so it’s a great place to stop with kids. They serve amazing empanada and we also have a great diner with excellent meat (the mother also runs a butchery). They are lovely people, very open and with a natural kindness. This was the best accommodation and hosts of our whole Primitivo with Kids so far!
Stage 09 B: Vilar de Cas- Lugo
After breakfast and a nice chat at the lovely Albergue A Pocina de Muniz in Vilar de Cas, we continue our way to Lugo. Just after the village, there is a small detour that I take to Soutomerille, to visit an abandoned church. It’s a lovely path through the woods with ancient trees. The rest of the way is rather flat, through farmland and small villages where the time has seemed to stand still. The people are all very nice here, greet me and ask where I am from.
With about 3 km to go, I can see Lugo in a distance, and the last km’s lead through the (nice) outskirts of the city towards the city center. Lugo is the oldest city of Galicia, and it has a stone wall of more than 2 km in perimeter, which is the only intact Roman wall surrounding a whole city still existing. Hence, it is declared a World Heritage Site. Tomorrow, we take an extra day here to explore the city and dive into its history!
Stage 10: Lugo – Ferreira
The last long stage (25+ km) today. And with the current heatwave in Northern Spain (albeit nothing compared to the record-breaking temperatures of more than 45 degrees Celsius in other parts of Spain), it’s good to start early in the morning. The first few hours are cloudy, like the previous days, and when the sun breaks through around 11 am, the first 10-15 km are already done.
We leave the medieval city of Lugo behind and continue our way through the Galician countryside, sometimes through forests, sometimes through small hamlets and fields. In San Roman, we see a replica of a literal ‘milestone’; stones that the Romans used to indicate each mile along their roads. It’s impressive to think that we’re walking along exactly the same roads!
The last few kilometers are hard, since it’s around 2 pm and we are walking fully in the sun. The arrival in Albergue Ponte Ferreira, run by a sweet Dutch couple, is more than welcome. We reached another milestone in our own Camino Primitivo with Kids!
Getting enthusiastic about the Camino Primitivo, but are you more a cyclist than a hiker? Together with local providers, we can arrange e-bikes for you, enabling you to cycle the full St. James Primitive Way (a bit over 300 km) in 5 days! We can also arrange transportation and accommodation, entirely adapted to your wishes. Contact us at intoasturias.com or via email@example.com for more information!
Stage 11 A: Ferreira-Melide
The next two days we walk a stage that usually can be done at once as well. On the first day, we walk 20 km from Ferreira to Melide and the second day from Melide to Arzua (14 km).
We leave Albergue Ponte Ferreira and walk through the Galician countryside. It’s really nice to observe the rural life and have a chat with the farmers that bring their cattle to the fields. Both milk and meat are produced here on a small scale.
After passing some small villages, there is a short ascent up to 700 meters where, again, there used to be a pilgrim hospital. On the way down, the sun breaks through, and we have a nice view over the plains. In the distance, we can see Melide already, which still takes about 9 km through fields and forests. There’s a party in Melide the whole week, but we’re only 1 day too early; they officially start tomorrow. When visiting northern Spain in summer, you’ll find plenty of local fiestas full of music, eating, and activities for the kids. It’s a nice way to experience the local culture. We have our route for the next few days already planned, so cannot enjoy the fiesta, but we’ll have our own celebration once we enter Santiago!
Stage 11 B: Melide – Arzúa
Melide is the city where the Camino Primitivo is joined by the ‘French Way’, the most commonly known and busiest Caminos of all. We notice that right away by the number of fellow pilgrims and the number of bars and hostels that we see along the way.
Today, a short stage of only 14 km. It’s a nice road, leading through fields and forests. There are plenty of opportunities to meet other people and let them take a picture of us :). Just before the final point for today, we stop in Ribadiso da Baixo, a former pilgrim hospital that is converted into an Albergue. Then, we enter our accommodation for tonight, a caravan on a small campsite. Only a few days left! We already bring a toast with a few Estrella Galicia (notice the mark ‘Xacobeo 2021 on the glass!). Salud!
Stage 12: Arzúa – Pedrouzo
What a difference with the previous stages of our Camino Primitivo with Kids! We find dozens of accommodations and bars specifically targeted to pilgrims in Arzua, the starting point for today. That’s because here the Primitivo is joined by the French way, the most famous and popular Camino.
It gives the walk a different feeling. Instead of walking kilometers alone and being happy to find a small bar to drink something, we now walk several times in small groups of people, and every kilometer or so, there’s a place to stop. It’s clear that this part of Galicia profits highly from the income that the pilgrims bring.
Apart from the Catholic churches and chapels that we encountered along the way before, we now also pass some places for more eastern-oriented spiritualism, mindfulness, and an evangelic Albergue explaining the bible and gospel. Of course, these all form part of the Camino!
Stage 13a: O Pedrouzo – Monte do Gozo
The last real hike of our Camino Primitivo! With 16 km to go, it seems to be an easy walk. We leave from the camping where we’re staying in O Pedrouzo. In the beginning, it’s actually a bit difficult to motivate ourselves, since we are ‘almost there, ‘it’s just 16 km’, etc. However, when we are about halfway, we start to feel more energetic. Walking along dozens of other pilgrims certainly helps!
The path for today is pleasant, with a large part through (eucalyptus) forest and thus in the shadow. We see more and more signs from fellow and former pilgrims, leaving pictures and notes around signposts and chapels.
Our endpoint for today is Monte do Gozo, a mountain/hilltop from where the pilgrims can see the towers of Santiago’s cathedral for the first time! And indeed, after passing a small chapel where we stamp our credentials, we see Santiago de Compostela in the distance, with the famous church a bit to the right. One more night to go, and a short walk, and then we are there!
Stage 13b: Monte do Gozo – Santiago de Compostela
Hurrah! Today, we walk the last 4 km of the Camino Primitivo with the whole family! After parking our car in Monte do Gozo, where there’s plenty of parking (and also places to sleep, eat and enjoy the green surroundings), we embark on the last hike.
We’re surrounded by dozens of other pilgrims, mainly doing the last 100 km of the Camino Frances, but also people doing the Camino del Norte, Primitivo or ‘full’ Frances. There’s plenty of places to stop for a breakfast and before we know it, we enter the old town of Santiago. And there, after going through a tunnel, we are on the Plaza del Obradoiro, welcomed by the happy cheering and buzz of hundreds of other pilgrims. We made it!!!
Even though we did not really expect it, it is emotional to stand here together as a family, hugging each other and being surrounded by other people doing the same, cheering, or just quietly sitting and indulging the atmosphere. It’s a coming and going of pilgrims, some alone, some with a few friends, family, or with big groups.
We spend the rest of the day visiting the interior and exterior of the Catedral, the old town and waiting for our ‘Compostela’, a document that certifies that we completed the journey. Since we only used one credential during our trip, which we interchanged each day, we receive the diploma only in one name, and Debora is the lucky one :).
And there’s that. We finished. With great memories about the beautiful landscape here in northern Spain, meeting new people, sleeping in nice (and just sometimes, in less nice accommodations), and getting ready to offer you new tours and trips centered around the Camino. Now, it’s time to rest and let the memories sink down!
Did this story make you enthusiastic about doing the Camino Primitivo yourself, or perhaps visit Northern Spain? Then contact us via intoasturias.com or via firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re happy to give you help and suggestions to experience this less-known part of Spain!