In the steps of King Alfonso the Chaste (760-842 AD)
It is with some humility, and as a departure from our normal walking vision, that we at On Foot Holidays have decided to offer a version of the Camino de Santiago, the most famous group of walking routes in the world. Of huge historical significance and real and legitimate antiquity, these routes started after the certification in 813 AD that remains discovered in what is now Santiago by a hermit (later San Pelayo) were indeed the bones of the apostle St James the Greater, son of Zebedee.
Whatever the reality, the discovery quickly assumed huge importance in the spiritual and political regeneration of not only Spain but the whole of Europe in the period after the Moorish conquests in Spain, and acted as a catalyst to the Reconquista. Ever since, pilgrims have been making their way on foot (and cycle) to the great cathedral at Santiago by various “Ways”, the most famous being the Camino Frances from France. The Camino Primitivo, as the name suggests, can lay reasonable claim to be the original and oldest, as King Alfonso the Chaste of Asturias made a pilgrimage along it in 814, a year after the discovery. Whether he followed the exact route is not known; but the wealth of churches and other evidence along the route suggests that it was something very close to it.
Our choice is further vindicated by the relative beauty of the Camino Primitivo, compared with some endless stretches of the other routes, which can take mortification of the flesh to excess. Our route starts at Oviedo cathedral, and quickly climbs into the rolling Asturian Hills before, nine days after leaving Oviedo, reaching the Roman-walled town of Lugo. The countryside after Lugo is more gentle, and a further four days sees you at the centre of Santiago in the cathedral square, to rejoice with pilgrims from all over the world on the attainment of your goal.
The grading of this walk (medium-hard) is more an attestation to the length of the days rather than ups-and-downs; the underfoot conditions are good in the main (prepared path for the final two days) and navigation via the famous scallop shells is easy. You can always shorten days by calling local taxis.
If however you wish to obtain a “Compostela” on completion you need to comply with various conditions, notably that the final 100km must be completed on foot, and that you are walking with a “religious or spiritual purpose”.
Walked by On Foot staff: Simon, Mary and Debbie.
REVIEWS: For independent walker reviews submitted to the Association of Independent Tour Operators visit Aito.com.
TRAVEL ADVICE: To find the latest travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for UK citizens travelling to Spain, click here. Citizens of other nations will also find it useful, but should always check their appropriate local agency.
Connoisseurs of On Foot Holidays should know that this walk is atypical in several ways. Firstly, by following an established route we have little control of scenery and accommodation, though in the former case you will enjoy the grandeur of the Asturian Hills and prettiness of the Galician countryside. However the choice of accommodation in some villages is very restricted, but where we can offer an upgrade (often involving a short transfer) we do.
Secondly, the route finding offers no challenges so our route notes are short (mercifully, some might say) and concentrate on the things to see about you. There are unfortunately some sections on asphalt, a few busier than one would wish; console yourself with the knowledge that the Camino Primitivo has the smallest percentage of asphalt of all the Ways.
Thirdly you will not be alone. While the Asturian section is not overly-used, after Melide (two-and-a-half days out from Santiago) the route merges with the Camino Frances and you will be with many others. Here is your opportunity to find out about what makes the other pilgrims do the Way (there are many different reasons); solitude is not an option.
In the steps of King Alfonso the Chaste
All tour descriptions and conditions are given in accordance with the information of On Foot Holidays