→ 3.3km.
To end of camino
186.80
Altitude
35

Built on the hillside that rises up from the estuary, it is easy to feel like everywhere in Ribadeo is uphill.

In the city center, the Convento de Santa Clara (15th century with 18th century cloister) is the cornerstone of the church, while the 1910 Casa de Indianos known as the Torre dos Moreno is a mighty monument to capitalism; a plan to rescue it is underway.

If you are staying in the municipal albergue, consider a walk (3.5km round trip) out to the Ribadeo lighthouse (Illa Pancha) along the coastal road adjacent to the albergue. Along the way is the Castillo de San Damián which sometimes holds local art exhibitions.

The number one visited place in Ribadeo (and in the top five for all of Galicia) isn’t in Ribadeo at all; the natural rock formations along the coast known as As Catedrais (the cathedrals) are 14km to the west along the coast. If you have the opportunity to share a taxi with other pilgrims it would be a pity to miss the opportunity but google ‘tide calendar’ before you go because if it is high there is little sense in going.

Notice

The scallop shells in Galicia are not installed with an orientation towards Santiago and having come from Asturias where they are it might be a bit confusing. Just remember to follow the arrow and ignore the shell.

History

Ribadeo has had an on-again/off-again relationships with the camino for centuries. Prior to the bridge being built the broad river hear mean a difficult river crossing. Many pilgrims made the crossing but many more turned south to follow the path of least resistance, a much shorter bridge crossing at Santiago de Abres. The bridge we see today eliminated the risk of crossing and since 1987 the southern option has fallen out of favor. However, there is a local movement to rejuvenate it and by the time you get to the Galician border you may well see alternatives to do so.

The Road

The camino through Ribadeo has been re-routed in recent years and now follows a route down to the waterfront and then back up. Of course, it is still possible to go the old way and avoid the elevation change. If that suits you, turn right at the first big intersection after you pass under the bridge into town. It is the Avenida de Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo and the official camino is across the road to the left. If you turn right you can follow old arrows through town.

At the end of town both options rejoin on the Rúa de San Lazaro and before long you are back in the countryside. Such is the case for most of the walking through Galicia; on a few occasions you will walk along the asphalt road but they are quiet country roads. The first of them is the LU-5207 which you will dance around as you enter Vilela.

→ 6.7km.
To end of camino
180.10
Altitude
125

Has bar, but the hours are unpredictable.

Notice

If the bar in Vilela is closed, the only option for buying supplies between here and Villamartín Grande is in San Vicente, a short detour from the camino described below.

The Road

Take the turn off to the right to follow a smaller road through the forest. This road follows a broad bend and eventually turns back towards the LU-133 (which was the main road in Vilela). Before the camino gets all the way to the road, it turns to the right along a path.

NOTE: At this point you do have the option of continuing straight to the LU-133 where you can find a coffee in the town of San Vicente without adding any extra distance to your walk. When you get to the LU-133 turn right. At the far end of the sparsely populated village the camino turns from the north to cross over the LU-133 so you can simply follow it (about 2km) all the way to this junction.

When the official camino returns to the LU-133 it does not follow it; instead it crosses to the other side and descends along a path to the next road. It then zig zags a bit as it descends via paved roads to the bridge in Arante.

Accommodation in Vilela
Private
Closed
→ 4.8km.
To end of camino
175.30
Altitude
195
The Road

The bridge here is the low point of todays walk and from here the camino begins a series of ascents and descents which are to become the de facto terrain in Galicia where level ground is seldom to be found. After the bridge the camino turns sharply right up a path and begins a climb to the top of the mountainside. It spends little time at the top before descending the other side into Villamartín Pequeno.

→ 5.8km.
To end of camino
169.50
The Road

In Villamartín the camino rejoins the road at the lowest point in the valley, following it southwest for only a short distance. It is common to miss the turn off and continue some distance before noticing the mistake, so keep an eye open for the path on your right which marks the beginning of a steep climb into Villamartín Grande.

→ 1.4km.
To end of camino
168.10
Altitude
335

There is one bar in town, on your right when you get to the top. Friendly owners eager to help pilgrims.

The Road

After passing the small shop and lodging (friendly and helpful owners) the camino crosses the LU-P-6103, following the sign in the direction of Gondán; a downhill walk along a paved road.

→ 2.4km.
To end of camino
165.70
The Road

Turn right at the first 4 way junction past the albergue, and follow the back roads to San Xusto.

Accommodation in Gondán
→ 2.0km.
To end of camino
163.70
Altitude
100
The Road

From San Xusto it is another climb, this time to the top of Monte Calvario before descending into the bustling town of Lourenzá.

Accommodation in San Xusto
→ 4.4km.
To end of camino
159.30
Altitude
55

The Benedictine Monastery of San Salvador is the most important building in town, and has been for over a thousand years. The entrance is about 3€ and is a worthwhile way to spend the afternoon. Around back is an ornate palomar (dovecote).

History

The founding of Lourenzá is tied to the founding of the Monastery of San Salvador in the end of the 10th century.

Fiesta

Last Sunday of August.

The Road

There are no services between here and Mondoñedo. From the municipal albergue, the camino leaves town along a well marked but narrow and cobbled path uphill. The path climbs to the top of this monte and joins the N-634 as it passes through the hamlet of Arroxo (just a few houses). Here it reaches the highest point along this stretch and ahead you can see the elevated A-8. Keep on the N-634 to pass underneath it and downhill to the roundabout junction where you keep to your left and abandon the N-634. A short distance ahead the camino leaves the road for a path on your right. Along it you will pass the Mondoñedo cemetery and the hamlets of San Pedro, O Reguengo, and San Paio before returning to the main road into Mondoñedo.

→ 2.7km.
To end of camino
156.60
→ 6.1km.
To end of camino
150.50
Altitude
140

All roads seem to converge in the square in front of the Mondoñedo Cathedral; which is convenient because the Cathedral is on the list of must-see churches along the camino. It is also the reference point for getting out of town the following morning.

Coming into town you will pass the Igrexa Nova (the new church) and leaving town you might pass the Igrexa dos Remedios with its beautiful baroque interior.

History

One of the more fantastic stories to emerge from the annals of Mondoñedo’s books is the legend of the Puente de Pasatiempo (the bridge of passing time). It centers around the fate of Pedro Pardo de Cela, who was ultimately beheaded in the Cathedral square. At the moment of his death, his wife was at the bridge with letters of pardon from the King. Her passage was blocked by detractors of her husband. Pedro was ultimately buried in the Cathedral.

Fiesta

Os Remedios, a medieval market, is held on the first Sunday after the 8th of September.
The fiesta de San Lucas is held on the 18th of October.

The Road

The camino beyond Mondoñedo is a confusing enterprise. The albergue in Lourenzá does their best to inform pilgrims but their opinions are biased and you are encouraged to consider all options, and to not give up if you can’t find the right starting point for your desired route to Gontán and then Abadin.

Part of the confusion arises from the newly installed stone markers in Galicia. When they were installed the routes were re-examined by planners and several changes and additions were made. In this case, the old camino route was re-named the complementaria route, and a second route was added as the official route. This business of creating complementaria routes has led to much confusion because in some localities (Arzúa is the nearest example) the name was applied to a route (for historical reasons) which for decades has been the only option; causing many pilgrims to waste time looking for an official route which does not exist.

In the case of Mondoñedo to Gontán, there are two options and both begin at the Cathedral.

Option 1: ‌The Old Camino now known as the COMPLEMENTARIA ROUTE - 15.7

This route remains the preferred one by several of the hospitaleros in these parts. It is also the longer of the two options, and follows a paved road up and over the mountain. There are minimal services along the way so pack accordingly.

With your back to the front of the Cathedral, turn left and exit the square. Just outside the square you will see the Fonte Vella (old fountain), turn right and at the next junction take the left most option up the Calle de la Rigueira. At the top of the hill the camino turns sharply left and follows the road through several hamlets, the first of which is Maariz.

Option 2: ‌The Official Route / La ruta principal - 11.9

Though shorter, this route is both more challenging and more scenic. It can also be difficult to locate.

With your back to the front of the Cathedral, look for the pharmacy that is at the top of the stairs opposite you towards the right. The camino leave town on that road so climb up the stairs and turn left up the Rúa Lence Santar. Turn right on the first side street, and follow it as it curves to the left. When it reaches a small plaza with a fountain, keep to the right. At the next intersection, turn left onto the LU-130 (the first wide road since the Cathedral). Follow the road uphill to the park, turning right at the end of the park to pass the Iglesia dos Remedios. Turn left, again uphill, after the church. This is the N-634 and you don’t follow it for long. Turn right downhill onto the LU-P-3106 in the direction of Zoñan. This road will take you through the hamlets of Rego de Cas and Cesuras. At the end of Cesuras it turns left uphill towards Infesta. A short distance ahead, after crossing the N-634, the road turns to trail and you begin the steepest part of the climb.

Photo of Mondoñedo on the Camino de Santiago
Photo of Mondoñedo on the Camino de Santiago

Option 1: ‌The Old Camino now known as the COMPLEMENTARIA ROUTE - 15.7

This route remains the preferred one by several of the hospitaleros in these parts. It is also the longer of the two options, and follows a paved road up and over the mountain. There are minimal services along the way so pack accordingly.

With your back to the front of the Cathedral, turn left and exit the square. Just outside the square you will see the Fonte Vella (old fountain), turn right and at the next junction take the left most option up the Calle de la Rigueira. At the top of the hill the camino turns sharply left and follows the road through several hamlets, the first of which is Maariz.

→ 15.7km.

Option 2: ‌The Official Route / La ruta principal - 11.9

Though shorter, this route is both more challenging and more scenic. It can also be difficult to locate.

With your back to the front of the Cathedral, look for the pharmacy that is at the top of the stairs opposite you towards the right. The camino leave town on that road so climb up the stairs and turn left up the Rúa Lence Santar. Turn right on the first side street, and follow it as it curves to the left. When it reaches a small plaza with a fountain, keep to the right. At the next intersection, turn left onto the LU-130 (the first wide road since the Cathedral). Follow the road uphill to the park, turning right at the end of the park to pass the Iglesia dos Remedios. Turn left, again uphill, after the church. This is the N-634 and you don’t follow it for long. Turn right downhill onto the LU-P-3106 in the direction of Zoñan. This road will take you through the hamlets of Rego de Cas and Cesuras. At the end of Cesuras it turns left uphill towards Infesta. A short distance ahead, after crossing the N-634, the road turns to trail and you begin the steepest part of the climb.

→ 6.2km.
To end of camino
141.10
The Road

At the end of the small village the camino leaves the road. It turns left and begins a steep descent along a path. At the bottom is the A-8 and a large roundabout. The camino keeps to the north of the A-8 and follows along a series of roads into Gontán.

→ 6.3km.
To end of camino
134.80

The two roads from Mondoñedo converge here. Gontán has seen little growth over the centuries despite having been a major trading post and crossroads. It is overshadowed by nearby Abadín.

The Road

At the end of Gontán there is a small covered fountain opposite a sort of plaza/parking lot. Turn right to cross the parking lot and continue along the road on the opposite side, passing the Loran factory. This road ends at a junction, where you turn right and uphill to follow a pedestrian path up to the N-634 as it enters Abadín. Simply follow the curve of the road to the right.

Accommodation in Gontán
→ 1.1km.
To end of camino
133.70
Altitude
510

Abadín is sustained by pilgrim traffic from the camino and truck traffic from the nearby interchange. From here to Santiago your proximity to road traffic increases as the camino tries to avoid the N-634 between here and Santiago.

Fiesta

Santa Maria is celebrated on the 8th of September.

The Road

At the end of the very short Abadín, the camino turns right (following the sign to the Correos) and when it reaches the Correos (post office) it turns left. The road here is paved and quiet. Keep an eye open for the grassy trail that leaves the road to your right. It descends to cross the river and eventually returns to pavement, turning left when it does. It enters the area of As Paredes after passing over the A-8.

→ 5.9km.
To end of camino
127.80
The Road

The camino passes through As Paredes along the same road/trail that you entered on and will bring you back to the A-8, this time to pass underneath it into the hamlet of Castromaior. In Castromaior (not much more than a few houses) signs for the camino direct you back onto a path to Martiñan. Along the way you will again cross beneath the A-8.

Accommodation in As Paredes - Castromaior
Private
→ 3.0km.
To end of camino
124.80
Altitude
435

Turn left on road to get to the bar.

The Road

The camino reaches, and crosses, the N-634 in Martiñan. It winds its way along a series of back roads, all the while avoiding the N-634 traffic as best that it can. Eventually it returns to the busy road in Goiriz.

→ 6.3km.
To end of camino
118.50
Altitude
495
The Road

Through Goiriz you will have to walk along the N-634 for a short bit. Try to keep to the right as the turn isn’t far. Again the camino keeps away from the N-634. It will eventually return to a different road and follows the heavy traffic into Vilalba, passing around one large roundabout along all the way.

→ 5.8km.
To end of camino
112.70
Altitude
485

Vilalba is a major traffic hub and can be a bit of a shock to walk through compared to the calm of the Galician countryside. Despite its size and the volume of traffic that passes through it, there is little to see and even less to do. The only exception being the Iglesia de Santa Maria.

History

The most iconic building in Vilalba is the last remaining tower of the Castillo once owned by the Andrade family. The tower is now part of the Parador chain of hotels, the rest of the castle was destroyed during the first irmandiña uprisings.

Also known as “The Great Brotherhood War,” The Irmandiño revolts took place in 15th century Galicia against attempts by the regional nobility to maintain their rights over the peasantry and the bourgeoisie (and by a string of bad crops).

The revolts were also part of the larger phenomenon of popular revolts in late medieval Europe caused by the general economic and demographic crises in Europe during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In Galicia it meant the destruction of any type of fortified structure owned by nobility; over 130 castles were destroyed. The success of the Irmandiña revolts was mixed; the nobility fled to Castile where they rounded up reinforcements and returned to exact revenge on the leaders of the Brotherhood, but few of their former estates and strongholds were ever rebuilt.

Fiesta

The Festa dos Pepes is held on the 19th of March on the feast of San José. Market days are on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The Road

Mind the arrows through Vilalba. The streets here are usually jam packed with cars and trucks and they can be hard to see at times. The center of town is a jumble of roads heading in every direction.

Eventually you will pick up on the natural flow of the streets and before long near the end of town. The camino winds its way around a few buildings and in the distance a Repsol gas station comes into view. Shortly before the Repsol station it leaves the road to the right. This is the end of Vilalba and it is gently rolling hills from here to San Xoan. Just before getting there you cross over the A-8 and return to the N-634.

→ 5.6km.
To end of camino
107.10
Altitude
505

The church and adjacent cemetery, with neo-gothic spires.

The Road

The camino through San Xoan is a bit sloppy, there are no dedicated pedestrian crossings and a large junction means you have to keep alert. Although the camino reaches town from the west side of the road, and later leaves it from the west side, the arrows have you cross over the N-634 to ease the way around a junction; this route also takes you past the church and cemetery. This dancing around the N-634 is almost to an end but there are a few more crossings before Baamonde. The camino follows a few more back roads to Pedrouzos.

→ 1.8km.
To end of camino
105.30
Altitude
465
The Road

After Pedrouzos the camino returns to, and crosses, the N-634. A short distance later it returns to repeat the crossing in the opposite direction and proceeds to pass underneath the A-8. Past two small hamlets, it reverses course and passes back under the big highway and across the small one to reach Pígara.

→ 5.7km.
To end of camino
99.60
The Road

Upon reaching a recreation area in Pígara the camino turns right (west) onto a road to back to the now familiar road and highway crossings. However when it reaches the N-634 for the second time if follows it a full kilometer before turning off to the left. Ahead is a large junction and the camino winds around it, avoiding the roundabouts.

→ 6.4km.
To end of camino
93.20
Altitude
430

The most overlooked curiosity on this or any other camino must be the Castaño de Baamonde. Just a few meters from the camino, next to the Iglesia de Santiago, stands the 500-year-old chestnut tree. 

Get close to it and you’ll discover that the inside has been carved by a local artist; he took up the project in protest over the plans to chop down the damaged tree. 

The sculptor was one Victor Corral, and his house and museum are just up the road from the church.

Notice

There are two routes to chose from when leaving Baamonde, but neither are related to a new alternative route that appears in San Breixo. Both routes from Baamonde are suitable and rejoin just out of town.

Beyond the two options out of town mentioned above, there will soon be another very important deviation when you get to San Breixo. There is a bit of controversy surrounding this option, based mostly on the opposition voiced by business and albergues along the old route. For now there appears to be a bit of an agreement that the old way will remain.

However the new way does exist and it is a full 10km shorter, a distance that tells you just how indirect the old way was. The best and most up to date description of the new way can be gotten from the owners of the KM111 bar in Baamonde.

Essentially this new option begins in A Fonte and bypasses both Miraz AND Sobrado, though there is an option along it to get back to Sobrado if you wish. The two options rejoin in Boimil. This new route is marked, but there are no services along the way.

Fiesta

La Virgen del Rosario de Baamonde is celebrated on the 11th of September.

The Road

There is one roundabout in the center of Baamonde, and from it you have two options. To the right is the official camino, and to the left is an alternative complementaria route. The complementaria route has the benefit of avoiding the road in favor of a trail.

→ 5.1km.
To end of camino
88.10
Altitude
490
The Road

Pay close attention to the option in this small hamlet, the arrows may have been manipulated. When you reach the road you have two choices: Left along the old camino or right to follow the newer shorter option directly to Boimil.

Along the official camino you will pass through the small hamlet of Digañe (no services) before arriving in Carballedo. Note that the albergue in Santa Leocadia is located just before town, along a marked road.

→ 2.6km.
To end of camino
85.50
→ 1.8km.
To end of camino
83.70
Altitude
450

Also known as Aldar, no services for pilgrims apart from the albergue.

The Road

At the end of town the camino keeps on straight into the forest along a foot path, a shortcut to the road. When you get to the road, turn right and follow it to the two Seixóns, first the lower and then the higher.

Accommodation in Santa Leocadia / Carballedo
Private
→ 2.7km.
To end of camino
81.00
Altitude
465
The Road

In Seixón turn right at the junction (bar) and follow the road. The second junction is the place known as A Lagoa and the albergue is on your left.

→ 0.7km.
To end of camino
80.30
Altitude
450
The Road

Turn left at the albergue onto the LU-P-2107, and a few meters later veer to the right along the LU-P-2113 in the direction of Miraz.

Accommodation in A Lagoa
Private
→ 1.9km.
To end of camino
78.40

On your left as you arrive at Miraz is the last remaining tower and gate of the Pazo de Miraz, they are all that remain of the 15th century fortress. The church is dedicated to Santiago. There is a bar in the Albergue Ó Abrigo.

Notice

There are no services between Miraz and A Roxica, several hours away. Plan accordingly.

The Road

At the west end of Miraz the camino becomes a gravel road which runs 3.5km to the next paved surface and turns left and into Braña the town with no buildings. Soon it merges with another larger road (still a country lane, the LU-P-2102). If follows this road about 600m and turns right onto another. When this road bends left the camino continues straight onto a trail. When it reaches the next paved road, the LU-P-2119, it turns right and follows it 3.2km to A Roxica.

Accommodation in Miraz
Private
Association
→ 10.1km.
To end of camino
68.30

No services for pilgrims apart from the albergue.

The Road

Keep on the road through A Roxica and at the next junction, a fork with 3 forward options, keep on the road to the left. The village of A Cabana is ahead (no services). You will follow this road, still the LU-P-2119, past the hamlets of Travesa, and Marcela before turning right onto another road which winds up through the hamlet of Corteporcos. When it reaches the next main road, the somewhat busier AC-934, it turns right and follows the road straight. Along the way you pass into the province of A Coruña and through the hamlet of Marco das Pias to arrive at a junction. Follow the signs along the same road in the direction of Sobrado. The first town and bar along this road is in Meson.

Accommodation in A Roxica
→ 0.7km.
To end of camino
67.60
The Road

In Mesón the camino turns right off of the AC-934, near the start of town. It follows this quieter road in the direction of the Igrexa de Roade, following along several different roads and paths before getting back to the AC-934. Look for arrows at every junction. A short distance past the Lagoa the camino leaves the road for a smaller road on the left which brings you into Sobrado.

→ 1.2km.
To end of camino
66.40
→ 2.2km.
To end of camino
64.20
→ 5.8km.
To end of camino
58.40
→ 5.6km.
To end of camino
52.80
Altitude
505
History

The Monastery of Santa María de Sobrado draws visitors from all over Galicia and has had a tumultuous life. When it was built in the year 952 it was dedicated to San Salvador. By the 12th century, it was abandoned and would be taken up by a few pious groups before the Cistercians began monastic life there. The church was added at the end of the 17th century, marking the highest point. By 1834 the monastery, along with most monasteries in Spain, was stripped of its wealth by royal decree; a process which saw a great many treasures transferred to the public domain in an effort to pay down public debt.

The Road

The camino leaves Sobrado along the AC-934. At the first small hamlet, Ponte Pedra, it leaves the road by turning left, but then turns right almost immediately to follow a smaller road. You will wind your way through the hamlets of Castro, and Madelos, before entering Corredoiras.

Photo of Sobrado dos Monxes on the Camino de Santiago
→ 3.8km.
To end of camino
49.00
→ 2.2km.
To end of camino
46.80
Accommodation in Madelos
→ 2.5km.
To end of camino
44.30
Altitude
465
Notice

Heavy traffic here. Cross with caution.

The Road

Cross straight through Corredoiras to keep on the AC-234. A short distance on the camino merges with the new route which left from San Breixo, and shortly beyond that the municipal albergue of Gandara is on your right along a side road.

→ 1.4km.
To end of camino
42.90
Altitude
475
→ 2.2km.
To end of camino
40.70
Altitude
485

Note that the Boimorto albergue is located 600m before town.

The Road

The camino beyond Boimorto splits into three distinct routes before each joins the Camino Francés. All three re-join near the Lavacolla airport. From A Gándara you have to choose between two options, the third option is a derivation of one of the two.

When choosing between the options consider that the Camino Francés may be quite busy depending on the season; relative to the Camino del Norte there are a great deal more pilgrims on the way.

All distances shown are from A Gándara to San Paio, which is the first village after the Lavacolla airport. The number in [brackets] is the distance remaining to Santiago.

‌Option 1: ‌The NEW OFFICIAL ROUTE - 28.3 [40.7]

The new official route goes from A Gándara directly to Lavacolla where it joins the Camino Francés; this is the shortest route to Santiago.

There are very little services along the way (a few bars, and one Pension) and no albergues as of yet. Be prepared for a long day, and follow the AC-0603 straight out of town.

‌Option 2: ‌VIA BREA / O Pedrouzo - 30.5 [42.9]

Along the way there is an option to rejoin the Camino Francés near Brea, and the next large town along the Camino Francés from this point is O Pedrouzo. The turn towards Brea occurs 9.9km from A Gándara. If you miss the turn, it is not necessary to retrace your steps. Instead keep on this trail until you reach the N-624 (another 7.3km). Shortly after joining it a paved road marked O Pedrouzo turns left, follow it to the start of O Pedrouzo.

To Brea is 17.9km and to O Pedrouzo 23.5km.

‌Option 3: ‌The OLD OFFICIAL ROUTE - 35.8 [48.2]

The old route to rejoin the Camino Francés in Arzúa  is still marked and still walkable. It is the longer of the two options but has a lot more services to offer because it reaches the Camino Francés sooner.

To follow this route, turn left at the end of A Gándara to follow the AC-0602 in the direction of Arzua.

You will pass the hamlet of Sendelle along the way.

To Arzua is 9.7km.

‌Option 1: ‌The NEW OFFICIAL ROUTE - 28.3 [40.7]

The new official route goes from A Gándara directly to Lavacolla where it joins the Camino Francés; this is the shortest route to Santiago.
There are very little services along the way (a few bars, and one Pension) and no albergues as of yet. Be prepared for a long day, and follow the AC-0603 straight out of town.

‌Option 2: ‌The OLD OFFICIAL ROUTE - 35.8 [48.2]

The old route to rejoin the Camino Francés in Arzúa  is still marked and still walkable. It is the longer of the two options but has a lot more services to offer because it reaches the Camino Francés sooner.
To follow this route, turn left at the end of A Gándara to follow the AC-0602 in the direction of Arzua.
You will pass the hamlet of Sendelle along the way.

To Arzua is 9.7km.

→ 2.3km.
To end of camino
38.50
Altitude
385

Arzúa is a pleasant town with almost enough beds for pilgrims. If you find everything to be full and don’t feel like splurging on one of the many hotels in the area, the Polideportivo (sports hall) is often used to house pilgrims. Between here and O Pedrouzo lie a string of very small Galician hamlets of little note. The locals in these parts enjoy telling you, without the slightest tone of irony or sarcasm, that ‘no hay vacas in Galicia’ (there are no cows in Galicia). Hold that thought in your head while you slosh through a soggy trail on an otherwise sunny day.

History

Tetilla Cheese: You might have seen this curiously shaped cheese in the shop windows. If you made a connection between the name and the shape you are not mistaken. It was shaped this way by cheese makers in protest to the bishop of Santiago. At the time the Portico de la Gloria (Master Mateo’s famous sculptures at the Cathedrals main entrance) was being finished and the bishop took issue with the odd smile on the prophet Daniels’ face. The clever bishop followed his gaze across the doorway and found that Queen Esther’s bosom was augmented by a cheeky sculptor. Daniel kept his smile, Esther had a reduction, and we got boob-shaped-protest-cheese.

Fiesta

Famous for its cheese, Arzúa hosts an annual (and three day long) Festival of Cheese in March. They have been doing so for 40 years. Apart from this and several other secular celbrations, Arzúa celebrates Corpus Christi, as well as Nuestra Señora del Carmen, who is celebrated on the 16th of July.

The Road

The camino leaves Arzúa along a footpath, NOT the road. If you arrived at the main square, walk past the church (with your back to the road) and turn right onto the side street. The terrain is pleasant, a blend of trails and paved roads through small towns and lots of forests. There are a few steep sections but none of any considerable length.

Photo of Arzúa on the Camino de Santiago
→ 2.3km.
To end of camino
36.20
Altitude
340
Accommodation in Pregontoño
Private
→ 2.8km.
To end of camino
33.40
Altitude
337
Accommodation in El Lugar de Tabernavella
Private
→ 0.9km.
To end of camino
32.50
Altitude
385
→ 1.7km.
To end of camino
30.80
Altitude
345
→ 1.4km.
To end of camino
29.40
Altitude
380
Altitude
370
→ 1.8km.
To end of camino
27.60
Altitude
365

There is a pair of bars in Salceda, and a restaurant (La Esquipa) that is thick with pilgrims every day but Monday when it is closed.

Notice

The camino rejoins the road in Salceda, and while it does not walk on the road it does remain quite close. In fact, the camino crosses the road several times between here and Santiago. The speed of traffic, the curves in the road, and the abundance of pilgrims makes this the most dangerous stretch along the camino. Cross carefully and quickly and always under the road when possible.

The Road

The camino leaves town to the right of a wedge shaped park next to La Esquipa, not along the road.

→ 2.6km.
To end of camino
25.00
Altitude
370
Accommodation in Brea
→ 1.6km.
To end of camino
23.40
Altitude
405
Several roadside bars that cater to trucker and pilgrim alike.
Notice

CAUTION crossing the road, dangerous intersection. 

The Road

The camino crosses the main road at the highest point in the road, there is no marked crosswalk and the arrows on the other side of the road are often obscured by parked cars. You may see pilgrims continuing along the road but are advised against following them as the camino returns to the trail when you turn off the road.

Half way down the hill it splits and arrows indicate that you should either turn left to go under the road or continue straight. Unless you have reason to visit Santa Irene you can keep on straight and avoid the hassle of crossing back over the road. If you continue straight you will arrive at the important part of Santa Irene (the part with the bar).

Accommodation in Empalme
Private
→ 1.0km.
To end of camino
22.40
Altitude
355
Photo of Santa Irene on the Camino de Santiago
→ 1.4km.
To end of camino
21.00
Altitude
280
The Road

Where the camino returns to the road at the start of O Pedrouzo you will find an abundance of arrows and a large map which is nearly worthless. Arrows and dozens of signs advertising various hostels and hotels point in every direction. If you have a reservation, review the map to find the best path, otherwise turn left up the road. If you are not staying the night in O Pedrouzo, cross the road here and continue along the camino.

Accommodation in A Rúa [O Pino]
→ 1.6km.
To end of camino
19.40
Altitude
280

Unfortunately, there is little to say about this modernized town. When it comes to charm, or monuments, or outrageous legends, it comes up short. During the busier periods along the camino the town feels overrun with pilgrims; most of whom are excited to have finished their penultimate day of walking.

Notice

Avoid the temptation of following the main road out of Pedrouzo. There are very few arrows to get you back to the camino and following along the road puts you in very real danger and takes you away from a lovely forest walk. See note below to get back to the camino. 

The Road

If you spent the night in O Pedrouzo, it is important to find your way back to the camino proper which runs through the forest to the north. To get to it, find the intersection of the main road and Calle de Condello (where the Casa do Concello is located). Continue uphill (north from here) and in a few hundred meters the camino presents itself. Turn left and continue through the forest to Amenal.

The camino between here and Santiago is a mixture of rural and urban settings, some forests and some sprawl. The up and downs that you have been experiencing continue: the elevation gain/loss is +308/-339m, a not insignificant amount.

→ 0.7km.
To end of camino
18.70
Altitude
270
→ 2.3km.
To end of camino
16.40
Altitude
250

Two bars, one on either side of a dangerous crossing.

Notice

The camino crosses the very busy N-547 by passing underneath it. Do not cross over the road. 

The Road

Leaving the bar behind you climb steeply uphill a short distance. The path soon levels out on a comfortable trail surrounded by eucalyptus trees. The Santiago Airport is very near, and the camino follows a path around the runway.

→ 0.4km.
To end of camino
16.00
Altitude
285
→ 2.5km.
To end of camino
13.80
Altitude
293
→ 4.0km.
To end of camino
12.40
Altitude
335
History

The written history of San Paio has been lost to the ages, but the church here is dedicated to San Paio (or Payo), the 14 year old saint who was kidnapped by the invading Muslim troops, taken to Sevilla, and ultimately martyred to pieces and tossed into the río Guadalquivir.

→ 2.1km.
To end of camino
10.30
Altitude
295
History

The name Lavacolla has one of the most debated origins of all the camino towns. They range from the bland “field at the bottom of the hill” to the more profane “scrub your scrotum.” What is more widely accepted is that pilgrims bathed in this river before entering the Cathedral.

The Road

If you walked down the stairs to visit either of the bars at the bottom, turn and walk up the steps towards the Iglesia de Benaval. The camino continues around to the right-hand side and down to cross the road. At the road, cross at the crosswalk and continue along the road and over the famous river (see inset below).

The last hill is ahead, and if you are a stickler for doing things according to tradition you should start running now. It is said that the first of your group to arrive in Monte de Gozo is entitled to be called King. Be advised that there is no prize.

→ 1.3km.
To end of camino
9.00
Altitude
350
→ 3.7km.
To end of camino
5.30
Altitude
365
Accommodation in San Marcos
→ 0.3km.
To end of camino
5.00
Altitude
340

Monte de Gozo, or ‘Mount Joy’, was once the first place that pilgrims could get a glimpse of the Cathedral spires. A new stand of trees blocks the view now. It is a large gathering place for pilgrims, who flock to the over-sized monument commemorating the pilgrimage that Pope John Paul II made here in 1993. The modest Capilla de San Marcos has the last stamp and a small kiosk selling cold drinks.

The Road

You do not need to enter the complex but for the sake of curiosity, carrying on down the road will take you where you are heading.

Pass the outdoor gallery of a local (and gifted) sculptor of stone and cross the bridge over the highway. It is midway over this bridge that you enter the city of Santiago de Compostela but to keep pilgrims from crossing the road half way across the bridge, the sign indicating such has been moved further into the city.

Photo of Monte del Gozo on the Camino de Santiago
→ 1.7km.
To end of camino
3.30
History

This outermost barrio of Santiago was once the closest point that pilgrims affected with leprosy were permitted to go.

The Road

The walk into Santiago is through the urbanized zone that has grown up around the old town. After passing over the highway bridge the first part of Santiago you walk through is the Barrio San Lazaro; the church here is said to be the limit for pilgrims with leprosy. There is a fairly large intersection to cross where the arrows disappear and are replaced by blue and yellow signs on posts.

At last, you will enter the old town, through the Porta do Camiño, winding gently through the stone paved lanes, through the Plaza Cervantes, under the Bishops residence, and into the Plaza de Obradoiro. Congratulations, and welcome to Santiago de Compostela!

→ 3.3km.
To end of camino
0.00
Altitude
250

Welcome to Santiago! There are a tremendous amount of things to see and things to do in Santiago de Compostela; you are encouraged to stay for at least one full day extra for exploring the web of streets, all of which seem to bring you back to the Cathedral.

Your pilgrim related business is likely to start in front of the cathedral, kilometer zero. A shell and plaque mark the spot in the center of Plaza Obradoiro (see below).

If you are interested in receiving your Compostela, the certificate of completion, you will need to visit the Pilgrim’s Office, which was relocated in 2016 to a bright new building. To get there from the Plaza Obradoiro, face the Parador (the hotel on your left if you are facing the Cathedral) and look for the road that goes downhill to the left. Halfway down you pass the public restroom, and at the next street turn right. The office is at the end of that road and is easy enough to find. Note that there are few arrows indicating the way.

The Cathedral is the single largest attraction to Santiago and for good reason. Both inside and out it presents countless treasures to investigate, too many to list in fact but below are the best.

The Cathedral - Plaza by plaza

1. Plaza de Inmaculada, a.k.a. Azabache: As you enter the city, the first part of the Cathedral that you pass is the Puerta de la Azabachería. This is the entrance that faces the Monastery of San Martín Piñario.

2: Obradoiro: From Azabache you pass under the Palace of the Bishop which is adjoined to the Cathedral and cannot possibly be the sort of palace that affords much peaceful sleeping; the sound of bagpipes welcoming you can be heard from dawn to dusk. The stairway leads directly to the Plaza de Obradoiro and kilometer zero for pilgrims. In the center of the plaza is the last scallop shell and you are likely to find pilgrims taking their shoes off for a photo with it, and the Obradoiro Facade behind them.

This facade is the most majestic and most photographed of the Cathedral and was part of the 18th century building projects that took place in Santiago. The baroque design will keep your eyes moving and the massive amounts of glass allow for the illumination of the Pórtico de la Gloria that lies behind it. That Pórtico was the original front to the church designed by Maestro Mateo 600 years before the new facade.

3. Plaza Platerias: If you continue around the Cathedral you arrive at the Puerta de las Platerías (named for the silver craft that still exists in the shops below it). You will notice that some of the stonework stands out as a different material. These are replacement carvings, the originals were damaged and subsequently moved to the Cathedral Museum; and unfortunately the original composition was forgotten, leaving a somewhat nonsensical layout. In front of the doors are a set of stairs and the Platerías fountain, the usual meeting point for pilgrims commonly referred to as “the horse fountain”.

4: Plaza de Quintana: Continuing up the stairs and around the Cathedral we arrive in the large Plaza de Quintana and the Puerta de Perdón. The actual Holy Door is behind this facade (which is not actually a structural part of the Cathedral, it is more like a highly decorated wall around the Holy Door itself). The carvings here are impressive and depict 24 Saints and prophets.

In medieval times it was common for pilgrims to spend the night in the Cathedral, sleeping on the stone floors and fighting (to the death on a few occasions) for the privilege of sleeping close to their chapel of choice.

The best time to visit is early in the morning before the crowds arrive, when paying a visit to the crypt and hugging the bust of Santiago can be done quietly and with a bit of contemplation.

The botafumeiro, quite possibly the largest thurible in the Catholic Church, is swung across the transept (from north to south) by a group of men called the tiraboleiros. It has only come loose from the ropes twice, and never in modern times. At the time that this book was printed, the tradition of swinging it during the Friday evening mass had been canceled. Inquire at the pilgrim’s office for more information.

The Monastery and Museum of San Martín Piñario

The enormity of this Monastery is difficult to comprehend, but if you pay close attention to this building as you walk around Santiago you will find that you are almost always standing next to it if you are on the north side of the Cathedral. There are three cloisters! The facade of the church often feels like it is somewhere else entirely and is quite curious for the fact that you must descend the staircase to get to the doors, rather than the other way around. The reason for this was a decree by the Archbishop that no building should exceed in elevation that of the Cathedral; the architects did not compromise by redesigning San Martín to be less tall, they simply dug down and started at a lower point.

San Fiz de Solovio

Compared to the two churches above, San Fiz feels like an almost minuscule affair. To find it, make your way to the Mercado de Abastos (Supply Market). San Pelayo (the hermit that rediscovered the bones of Santiago) was praying here when the lights called him. Grand and majestic it is not, but the oldest building site in Santiago it certainly is. The church that exists today is not the original, but excavations have revealed the foundations and necropolis dating to the 6th century.

The Supply Market (Mercado de Abastos)

The produce market is a great place to wander for lunch. Compared to other markets in Spain (like those in Madrid and Barcelona) the Santiago market is a fairly solemn affair. In fact, the architecture appears almost strictly utilitarian and is as Galician as it gets. The vendors make the experience, and even if your Spanish is not up to par, it is worth the visit for a glimpse into the way the locals go about their most ordinary business.

The buildings you see today date from the early 1940’s but replace ones that stood for 300 years. In fact, many of the vendors are second, third, or fifth generation market operators.

Alameda Park

Alameda Park was once the sort of place where the people of Santiago would turn out for elaborate displays of personal wealth and stature; the various paths that cut through and around the park were only to be used by members of a certain class. Nowadays it is far more democratic. The park is the site of a Ferris wheel and feria during the Summer months, an ice skating rink during the Winter holidays, and a massive eucalyptus tree overlooking the Cathedral year round.

The Hidden Pilgrim

Hiding in the shadows cast by the Cathedral, in the Plaza Quintana, is the hidden pilgrim. He is only visible at night and might take a while to discover.

And lastly, there are the many other Monasteries, and while it would be a challenge to visit all of them it is important to realize their construction shaped the city that we see today. Taking the time to walk between them will reveal countless little treasures.

Notice

One word of caution regarding accommodation is in order. If you are arriving in the high season, you are advised to make a reservation in advance. There have been several additions to the albergue roster in recent year but the numbers of pilgrims still exceed capacity in the high season.

Fiesta

The Feast day of Saint James is celebrated with a full week of music and dance, with a fireworks display in the Plaza Obradoiro on the evening of the 24th of July. The best views can be had from Obradoiro, or from Alameda park.

Accommodation in Santiago de Compostela
Photo of Santiago de Compostela on the Camino de Santiago