Camino de Invierno Ponferrada to Puente de Domingo Florez | Wise Pilgrim Guide to the Camino de Santiago

Ponferrada and the Start of the Camino de Invierno

Distance to Santiago: 
205.10
5.80km
Altitude: 
539

Ponferrada has more to offer than initially meets the eye. The Templar castle is one of the best-preserved examples of its kind and offers a good glimpse into what castle life must have been like. The Iglesia de Santa María de la Encina is named after a Templar legend according to which her image was found in the trunk of an Oak tree. It is located in the oldest part of town, near the castle.

History: Ponferrada was at one point one of the most important of the Roman settlements due to its location at the junction of two rivers (The Sil and Boeza) in a valley both fertile and rich in minerals. Its name derives, much like Puente la Reina, from its bridge. Built in 1082 it was one of the first to be decorated with iron and so Pons Ferrata became Ponferrada. The original bridge no longer exists, but much else does. Most notable and enigmatic is the Medieval Castle.

The Road: We begin in Ponferrada at the Albergue de Peregrinos where you can pick up a credential and a very basic map of the camino as it passes through El Bierzo. Turn left out of the albergue gate and continue to the first cruceiro. On the sidewalk across the street is the first mojon marking the Camino de Santiago de Invierno. It will take you to your left, down a hill, and across a bridge.

Just over the bridge arrows will take you to your right, and geographically speaking you will have Ponferrada and the river on your right-hand side. It is not the prettiest walking to begin with, and already the arrows grow scarce. You have begun walking on an asphalted road at this point, and although the yellow arrows have ended, there is a bounty of other markings which soon crop up. Among them is a red/ blue arrow on a field of white. NONE of the other arrows are of use, even though some of them share the camino. Stay on this road until you get just past “Embutidos Pajariel,” a factory on your left. Shortly after that, the road runs into a dirt section, and another trail marked with white arrows will want to lure you towards the right-hand side. NO NOT GO RIGHT (there is a trail there which will walk you right back to where you started, and take up an hour of your time). Instead, keep on to your left where you can see a building in the distance. Soon the mojons will reappear and continue to guide you up a slope.

Fiesta: 

Saturday is market day.
The Fiesta de La Encina is held September 8th and celebrates the patron Saint of El Bierzo, La Virgen de La Encina (oak). It lasts a week.

Photo in Ponferrada on the Camino de SantiagoPhoto in Ponferrada on the Camino de SantiagoPhoto in Ponferrada on the Camino de Santiago

Toral de Merayo

2.36km
Altitude: 
494

Has a pharmacy, a nice stone bridge, and a very friendly bar (Cafe Bar Mariluz) located in the square which is not square. They have WIFI there and were friendly to this pilgrim. A post office and a pasteleria round out the services available here.

When leaving Toral de Merayo, keep on the road and to the at the first fork (gentle right). You will leave town on the asphalt road, turn left on another, and begin a climb off to your right shortly after that.

Ignore all markings for the PR-LE-41.

Photo in Toral de Merayo on the Camino de SantiagoPhoto in Toral de Merayo on the Camino de SantiagoPhoto in Toral de Merayo on the Camino de Santiago

Mirador de Santallo

534

A scenic overlook at the entrance to Santalla which offers excellent views of the Bierzo valley and the mountains beyond.

Santalla del Bierzo

3.84km
Altitude: 
538

There are two sets of arrows when leaving town, and a mojon which keeps you on the camino towards Villavieja. Do not follow the arrows to "Las Barrancas"

Villavieja

4.81km
Altitude: 
764

Fountain and possible albergue with unknown opening date. Construction was underway in late 2011 but was still awaiting future grants for completion. From here you begin a climb with great views of the nearing castle.

Photo in Villavieja on the Camino de SantiagoPhoto in Villavieja on the Camino de Santiago

Castillo de Cornatel

795

With a history that dates back to the 9th. c. , this castle has seen its fair share of battles and owners. So much so that it's actual origins are somewhat muddled. What history can be nailed down begins in the middle of the 11th. c. when the castle was taken over by a local count. A generation later it was given to the Templars, and by the 14th. c. it was to change hands several times more. It was also in the 14th. c when it became known as the Castle of Cornatel.

Borrenes

6.94km
Altitude: 
557

A nice, quiet town along the camino. It has a small shop of the typical “lights off, but we carry everything” Spanish variety, a bar which does full meals and has a wifi signal just outside their door where some locals sit with their laptops, and a pharmacy as well.

One Casa Rural in town.

Continue out of town in the same direction you walked in and resist the temptation to take a small and well-manicured path of fitness machines on your left-hand side. Just stay on the road and walk around the bend. It is just after that bend that you take a dirt track up and to your left. A short climb later the trail will descend again. The first road you come upon will take you to Carucedo, which is not technically on the camino.

Instead, continue on straight and turn left on the next road (which takes drivers to Las Medulas). A short distance along the road the camino once again diverts into a more scenic landscape of chestnut groves.

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1 Casa Rural Cornatel Médulas
Plaza Ayuntamiento, 3

Casa Rural
Photo in Casa Rural Cornatel Médulas on the Camino de Santiago

Las Médulas

8.35km
Altitude: 
736

This town has a tourist information center, accommodation, bars, and restaurants targeting weekenders hiking the many trails around the area. You will have to go through the town, and leave on the opposite end. If the arrows are not visible at a fork in the road just out of town, take the path more traveled to your left. The village is late to wake so be prepared to do your shopping the night before.

Alternative accommodation is available in the form of a few hotels and possible rooms for rent.

Las Médulas - Camino de Santiago - 24Las Médulas - Camino de Santiago - 24

Puente de Domingo Flórez

1.25km
Altitude: 
370

This town has most services, including many atms and friendly locals.

You enter Puente along a trail that descends into town. Once you get to the first road, you have two options. The first is to continue along the camino into town. Go that way if you wish to resupply or see the town. Eventually, though the trail will turn you back around and take you back uphill along the main road. If you are only looking for a bed, however, turn right at the road and you will arrive at a hostal just past the gas station on your left-hand side. This is the only accommodation in town, and they do meals as well.

The way out of town, if you spent the night in the hostal, is "behind" the hostal. Walk around the building to your Left. Follow that road and keep to the right when it splits. Follow the arrows and the signs pointing to Quereño.

An alternate route of equal distance can be made by following the OU-536 to O Barco on the South side of the river Sil. The northern trail (described on the next waypoint) is the preferred trail.

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1 Hostal Restaurante La Torre
Chao do Marco

Hostal
Photo in Hostal Restaurante La Torre on the Camino de Santiago
2 Polideportivo de Puente Domingo Flórez

Polideportivo
3 Hostal La Torre II
Chao do Marco

Hostal
Photo in Hostal La Torre II on the Camino de Santiago