About the Camino Primitivo
The Camino Primitivo is the route of the Camino de Santiago that takes us to the real roots of the pilgrimage. Also called Camino de Oviedo or the interior route of the Camino de Santiago del Norte, is considered to be the first route to Santiago de Compostela, hence the name “Primitivo”.
The Camino Primitivo departs from the steps of Oviedo Cathedral and runs through the interior of the Principality of Asturias. It enters Galicia by Lugo and meets the Camino Frances in Melide, about 55 kilometres from the tomb of Santiago the Apostle.
The route has a distance of 313 km, of which 255 kilometres belong to the Camino Primitivo. The route to Santiago is generally divided into 13 or 14 stages, of approximately 20 or 25 kilometres each one, the last three belonging to the Camino Frances.
Given the historical importance of Oviedo Cathedral on this path, most of the pilgrims who opt for this unfrequented route stop there. Respecting the medieval tradition of visiting the Cathedral in the pilgrimage to the capital of Compostela.
The Camino Primitivo to Santiago is one of the most charming routes of all the available in this adventure. As we will explain later, it has a number of qualities that make it one of the most special adventures that one can live.
Everything is complete: wonderful surroundings, good infrastructure and above all an unparalleled cultural and historical charm.
Why choose the Camino Primitivo de Santiago?
1.- It is the best way to discover the genuine character of the Camino de Santiago. The Camino Primitivo to Santiago contains within itself the very origins of the Camino de Santiago and, therefore, is the best way to discover its historical, cultural and religious nature.
2.-Heritage: The Camino Primitivo to Santiago has a wide historical heritage. For example, it has artistic architectural heritage of such prolific epochs as Romanesque and Gothic. All this is possible to discover it throughout its route.
3.-Infrastructure: The Camino Primitivo is one of the best endowed is in terms of infrastructure. This is complemented from the existing accommodation, correct signalling and, in general, excellent safety.
4.-Landscapes: The Camino Primitivo is surrounded by imposing landscapes laden with beauty that include mountains, cliffs, rivers, forests and, in general, everything that can be expected to enjoy an unforgettable experience.
5.-It is not crowded: The Camino Primitivo is not as crowded as other sections and routes. That allows us to make the most of the whole tour and for those who go on their own have fewer problems to find accommodation. However, for those who go with Santiago Ways, this is not an inconvenience.
The Camino Primitivo is one of the most charming options that can show us the true essence of the Camino de Santiago in general.
Information about the route of the Camino Primitivo
The Camino Primitivo constitutes the very centre of the experience of the Camino de Santiago in general. In fact, the Camino Primitivo from Oviedo is one of the most interesting routes from Oviedo and across the Principality of Asturias to reach Galicia.
In this way, two of the regions with the greatest historical tradition of Spain come together to receive the pilgrims. It hardly has any stretches composed of asphalt, so the landscape has generally been left untouched. That also helps to make it one of the best possible experiences.
Throughout the tour and especially in cities like Oviedo itself, Santiago and other municipalities, we will find a genuine and spectacular heritage.
The Camino Primitivo to Santiago has a length of 371km and is divided into 13 or 14 stages between 20 and 30km each. That some of its stages are shorter is due to their difficulty. And it is that difficulty of the Camino Primitivo which is greater to that of the majority of routes on the way.
In fact, when crossing the terrain in many mountainous sections and, at the same time, they are hardly altered, so our state of fitness may be compromised.
The quietest routes on the Camino Primitivo
We want to talk now about which are the quietest routes on the Camino Primitivo to Santiago. With this, we want you to get an idea of what are the alternatives you can have with Santiago Ways.
Camino de Santiago from Oviedo
The Camino Primitivo from Oviedo has a distance of 210km that is divided into a total of 10 nights and 11 days. It is one of the hardest stretches of the Camino de Santiago but of incomparable beauty; the experience is really worth it.
With Santiago Ways you will enjoy the best accommodation possible and the option of being able to book breakfast and dinner all year round. It is the first section of the Camino Primitivo and was used by personalities as illustrious as Alfonso II. It starts at the Cathedral of El Salvador, in Oviedo.
Camino de Santiago from Lugo
The alternative of the Camino Primitivo from Lugo runs a total distance of 111km distributed in 7 days and 6 nights. It is possible to book the breakfast-only option or include breakfast and dinner.
In any case, it is also possible to book all year round and be able to stay in the best accommodation with Santiago Ways. It starts in the city of Lugo, of Roman origin, and crosses it 2km of its old town without forgetting its wall, nor the excellent gastronomy to be found in this city.
Route of the Camino Primitivo
The path of the Camino Primitivo from its origin in Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela crosses 3 Spanish provinces: Asturias, Lugo and A Coruña. It is a demanding itinerary, perhaps the hardest of the pilgrim routes that travel through the mainland.
The considerable and frequent climbs, like the dreaded pass of Palo, together with the frequent rains that fall on the regions that it crosses, complicate this path, converted, at times, into a real mud bath. In winter, when snowfalls are common on much of the route, the Camino Primitivo becomes an inhospitable route.
In return, the route gives us many stages where asphalt is totally absent. Enjoyable for the pilgrim who travels by foot and an added inconvenience for those who do it by bicycle. The slopes, weather and the prevailing terrain make it a route not recommended for cyclists.
Unlike other routes of the Camino de Santiago, El Camino Primitivo does not present a multitude of alternatives. Basically, it has two alternatives: the hospital route and Santa Maria de Burón.
The hospital route is the most natural and oldest, as it saves a few kilometres on the route. This variant runs through an inhospitable, but interesting terrain, located above 1,100 metres of altitude, being totally desolate in winter.
The danger of the alternative hospital route, named for the presence of two hospitals that during the Middle Ages gave shelter to the pilgrims who dared to take this path, gave rise to the other variant, the route of Santa Maria de Burón, which runs through the bottom of the valley and has many more towns and services.
The pilgrims who venture to undertake their journey following the Camino Primitivo will enjoy an unpopular but fascinating route. It crosses sparsely populated and little-known mountain areas, where the few residents show great hospitality.
You will be accompanied on your steps through great scenic beauty and the greatest historical legacy of the Camino de Santiago.
Map of the Camino Primitivo of the Camino de Santiago
With the intention of supplying you with all the information possible for the successive stages of the Camino de Santiago and so that you can get an idea of what you are going to encounter, we enclose the map corresponding to the route of the Camino Primitivo from Lugo and the Camino Primitivo from Oviedo.
Profile of the Camino Primitivo
We will now talk about the profile of the route, as well as the difficulty of the Camino Primitivo to Santiago. Its criteria are based on the average height of the sections, the distance, length of the stages and the different stages for bicycles of the Camino Primitivo to Santiago. It must be said that the Camino Primitivo has its difficulty to be born in mind.
In particular, on climbs such as the Palo pass or some others where the ground, if not asphalted, can suffer great accumulations of mud. It is well signposted in spite of everything, so in this sense we should not worry. It can be especially tough for cyclists because of the type of terrain and the lack of specific infrastructure such as bicycle lanes.
Since it is an unfrequented route, there is little to offer related with services (accommodation, catering, specialized bicycle services, doctors, etc.).
Regarding the lodging, there is little accommodation, however, the level of private accommodation is sufficient to cover the demand for this route. For years, some stages have had housing problems, but today the route has a sufficiently large network.
Throughout the entire route, the signalling is enough to keep you from getting lost. However, it should be noted that the part of the road that runs through Asturian soil is better signposted than Galician.
The style of the emblems changes from one community to another. Therefore, on Asturian soil, the round part of the scallop is used to indicate the way, whereas in Galicia rays are used, typical of the routes of the GR.
If you dare to travel on this route, you can contact Santiago Ways and we will take care of all the details of your adventure.
Stages on foot
How long does the Camino de Santiago Primitivo take?
As we have said, the Camino Primitivo is divided into two possible sections: The Camino Primitivo from Oviedo and the Camino Primitivo from Lugo. As each one has a different length it must be said that also its duration will be different. In particular, in the case of the Camino Primitivo from Oviedo, the duration will be about 10 nights and 11 days.
In the case of the Camino Primitivo from Lugo, the distance is shortened and also the days necessary to complete it. 6 nights and 7 days will be enough to cover the entire route.
However, although it is best to follow the planning from Santiago Ways in order to benefit from the wonderful accommodations that await us, for it is always possible that we take longer than expected for several reasons.
Among them is the rhythm that we want to take, the climatic conditions that could be encountered or, simply, the fact that we want to enjoy more than one particular spot.
The best time to do the Camino Primitivo
In Santiago Ways, we always say that there is actually an ideal time to make the Camino de Santiago in any of its variants if we realize that each person has different tastes.
In fact, each period has its advantages and drawbacks to others. However, some of them provide a beauty that makes the decision a little easier.
Then, and to have all the information possible also in this regard, we will talk about the different times of the year and its greater or lesser possibility to complete the Camino Primitivo.
Spring is a very good time to complete this route. The temperatures will be mild although there may be two drawbacks: unstable weather and a proliferation of allergies. Therefore, for both cases, we advise you to go well prepared.
In any case, spring will help us enjoy the natural environment of the Camino Primitivo in all its splendour and colour.
Summer is, by far, the most popular time to do the Camino Primitivo to Santiago for obvious reasons that, above all, have to do with the weather. Besides, it’s when there are more daylight hours.
In many cases, it is the only season that people have time to do it. At the same time, summer is a part of the year when the weather is benign because we are in more northerly latitudes and of course, to do the Camino Primitivo at this time is a great way to escape from the heat in the rest of Spain.
The downside is that accommodation will be busier in all areas; this is no problem if you go with Santiago Ways.
One of the most important handicaps in doing the Camino Primitivo in autumn is the weather instability. Rains may appear more often which can make the terrain on the Camino Primitivo (much more natural, and in many unpaved sections) become a more difficult experience.
However, with the correct equipment, we can benefit from the wonderful sights that we will enjoy through a deciduous environment for the most part and some magic colors: green, yellow, brown, etc.
Winter is another interesting time due to the low occupation of accommodation and because, as it is a road that passes through mountains, we can enjoy the snowfalls that occur in those places. So we can enjoy the very beautiful views and the problem of the cold could be avoided by always going well equipped and prepared.
Guide to the places you cannot miss on the Camino Primitivo
Places of interest on the Camino Primitivo from Lugo
The Roman wall of Lugo
This historic complex is a spectacular architectural beauty. You cannot miss witnessing one of the great feats of the great Roman civilization.
The town of Melide
It is another of the places that you cannot miss and is also the point where the Camino Primitivo from Lugo joins the Camino Frances.
Places of interest on the Camino de Santiago Primitivo from Oviedo
The old town of Oviedo
You can’t miss the old town of Oviedo. We also recommend the city’s Episcopal Palace as well as the university.
The parish church of San Esteban
On the other hand, throughout the Camino, in addition to the many Roman and medieval bridges, we also recommend visiting the parish church of San Esteban in Loriana or the bridge over the River Nalón in Peñaflor.
Where to sleep – The best lodgings
From Santiago Ways, we propose that you stay in the best hotels and cottages possible. They will take care of you as you deserve, and at the same time, you can enjoy the rest you need.
Where to eat – The best restaurants
Casa Chelo: They have popular food at popular prices. It is a great way to enjoy the best of Arzúa’s cuisine.
Pulpería Ezequiel: We recommend that you taste the wine in a cup and the speciality – Octopus. This restaurant is in Melide and is one of the most popular on the Camino de Santiago. You can’t miss it.
History of the Camino Primitivo
The Camino Primitivo witnessed the first pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in the 10th century. Like the rest of the pilgrim routes, the origin of the Camino Primitivo goes back to the discovery, in Santiago de Compostela, of the remains of the Apostle James the Elder, in the year 813.
The Apostle James had been assassinated in the year 42, in the lands of Jerusalem by the command of King Herod Agrippa I. However, the discovery took place in a forgotten Roman pavilion, located in a forest of West Galicia.
It tells the story that the Apostle was buried in that place by his disciples, in order to hide the corpse from Doña Lupe, the Queen of those lands, at the time.
The finding is attributed to Bishop Teodomiro, a member of the Diocese of Iria Flavia, who informed Alfonso II of Asturias, nicknamed the Chaste, of the discovery. Between the years 820 and 830 this confirmed that the bone remains found belonged to James the Elder.
On the evidence or reasons that led him to make such a finding, nothing is known. Nevertheless, it was an essential step for the construction of the history of Santiago de Compostela. Only the Asturian king Alfonso II, given his superior authority, derived from God, could make the discovery effective.
Thus the legend was born that the Apostle had been buried in that place and the location of the tomb became called Campus Stelae (Compostela). The monarch didn’t wait too long to see with his own eyes the newly discovered remains of the Apostle’s tomb.
The origin of the Camino Primitivo
As we have said before, the custom of making the pilgrimage that today is the Camino Primitivo began in the Middle Ages, more specifically, with King Alfonso II.
This King is also called “The First Pilgrim” for having been the one who inaugurated the custom of pilgrimage to Santiago. The hermit Paio saw a series of signs in the sky that told him where the Apostle’s tomb was. It was then that Alfonso II ordered to build a church.
It was he who rescued the bones of the Apostle James and who later began the habit of going to visit them as a symbol of respect or simply to ask for some help. Many of the faithful came after this and decided to do the Camino Primitivo so to fulfil some promise or, like the Kings themselves, to ask for something.
The truth is that the original road was slowly moving southward as the Reconquista progressed. It was normal, taking into account that all the routes of the Camino de Santiago not only had a religious purpose but also commercial one: it was necessary to open new routes easier to travel once it was gaining territory.
Subsequently, the road was branched and the current Camino Frances was made, much more passable, but not so well endowed with landscaped environments.
The first pilgrim of the Camino Primitivo
In the year 834, Alfonso II began, starting the route from Oviedo. He crossed the mountains that separate Asturias from Galicia, to the north of Os Ancares, passing the walls of Lugo.
Then he continued advancing westward, passing through the place where, according to the legend, some celestial signs indicated the place where the tomb of the Apostle was. Some scholars of the time pointed out that, since the Apostle’s body was discovered in a graveyard, these celestial lights were nothing more than wisps of fire, typical of this type of site.
Once in Santiago de Compostela, King Alfonso II, as a major indication of his interest in the sanctuary, embarked on a series of actions that gave rise to the current Cathedral of Santiago.
In the first place, he made a donation of three miles of land located around the tomb of the Apostle, which would be known as the Manor of Santiago and where the first clergymen would live.
This donation was completed with the order to build a Church in the place of discovery, the precursor of the present Cathedral, which was known as the Locus Sancti Lacobi (Holy place of Santiago), and of which hardly any remains are preserved.
At the same time, he requested the creation of a monastic community to guard the remains of the saint, which gave rise to San Salvador de Antealtares, the first Compostela Monastery and present Convent of San Paio.
The monarch is also credited with the creation of the legend of Santiago Matamoros. As they say, in a historical moment in which the Muslims had occupied a large part of current Spain, the Christian part of the ancient Roman Hispania had been confined in the North peninsular.
The monarch took advantage of the discovery of the remains to make the Apostle an emblem against the struggle of Islam, creating the figure of Santiago Matamoros. It is said that with it, the monarch intended to reassemble ideologically and morally his kingdom which was tottering against the overwhelming Muslim advance.
The apparition of alternatives to the Camino Primitivo
With this journey, the Asturian monarch created the layout of what is the first Camino de Santiago, the Camino Primitivo. Many of his subjects then followed the footsteps of their King. Some of them, in a search for an easier path less, farther away from the strife with the Muslims, opened the known route, today, known as the Camino del Norte.
At the end of the 10th century, with the advance of the reconquest of Muslim lands, the centre of power moved to the south, to León. At the beginning of the 11th century, the Monarchs Sancho III El Mayor and Sancho Ramírez of Navarre, together with Alfonso VI in the lands of Castilla y León, began to promote the Camino Frances.
A route much less harsh than the Camino Primitivo, travelled by Alfonso II of Asturias, the Camino Frances was regarded as well as a safe and friendly route for pilgrims arriving from all over Europe, becoming the main route throughout the Middle Ages.
In this way, the Camino Primitivo was relegated to the second position. However, the weight of the monarch was such in the construction of the Jacobean tradition, that during the Middle Ages, the passage through the Cathedral of Oviedo became a compulsory visit.
Oviedo Cathedral was dedicated to the Saviour. Therefore, according to a popular song of Pilgrim Origin: “Who visits James and not the saviour, serves the servant and ignores the Lord.”
For this reason, even today many of the routes of the Camino de Santiago, such as the Camino del Norte or the Camino Frances that uses the so-called Camino Real, have a variant that passes through the Asturian capital.
Decline and rebirth of the Camino Primitivo
From the 15th century onwards, the Camino Primitivo fell into oblivion. As in the entire Jacobean route, the 1378 schism, wars and diseases affected the number of pilgrim parishioners. On the Camino Primitivo, this impact was even greater given the route’s difficulty and the consolidation of routes much more accessible.
The Jacobean year of 1993, together with the declaration of the Camino Frances as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and of the first European itinerary of Cultural interest by the Council of Europe, Began an important resurgence of all the pilgrim routes. However, the Camino Primitivo was added quite late to this rebirth.
In 2010, which was also a Jacobean year, less than 3% of the pilgrims chose this route. And it is not until the year 2012 that the Camino Primitivo established a delimitation of the route to protect the road, varying in some sections from the historical one.
The Camino Primitivo with Santiago Ways
Reserve with Santiago Ways your next route. We take care of organizing all the details of the route. Accommodation in hotels, rural houses, Galician stately homes and charming hostels. In addition, we move your baggage between the different stages of the Camino Primitivo. We also have a 24-hour hotline and emergency vehicle in case of any urgency.
Ideal footwear for the Camino Primitivo
Sections of the Camino Primitivo
Opinions of other users about the Camino Primitivo
We also want to offer you the opinion of other users who have completed the Camino Primitivo with us. With this, you can check their opinions and get an idea of how much you can enjoy the route that you choose.
Photos and videos of the Camino Primitivo
The Camino de Santiago with Santiago Ways
Other Caminos de Santiago
- Camino de Santiago Frances
- Camino de Santiago Portugues
- Camino de Santiago Portugues coastal route
- Camino de Santiago del Norte
- Camino de Santiago de Finisterre
- Camino de Santiago Ingles
- Camino de Santiago Primitivo
- Camino Lebaniego
- The Way of Lighthouses
- The Via de la Plata
Here you can see all the stages of the Camino de Santiago.
In Santiago Ways, we will advise you on which route of the Camino de Santiago is the best fit for you.
Other ways to complete The Camino de Santiago
- The Camino de Santiago in an organized group
- The Camino de Santiago with a dog
- The Camino de Santiago on bike
- The Camino de Santiago as a couple
- The Camino de Santiago at Easter