Doing the Camino de San Salvador

The Camino del Salvador is the route that joins León and Oviedo, crossing the Cantabrian mountain range. The route has a distance of 128.5 kilometres that, classically, are usually divided into 5 stages.

Doing the Camino de San Salvador

Most of the pilgrims who follow this route complete some previous stages of the Camino Frances, to Leon. From there, they deviate, following the Camino de San Salvador, to Oviedo. Once the Cathedral of Oviedo has been reached, they continue their pilgrimage to the tomb of Santiago the Apostle, on the Camino Primitivo.

However, the route can be completed both ways. It is also possible to go from Oviedo to León, to continue from there along the Camino Frances.

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In this article on our blog of the Camino de Santiago we want to talk to you about each of the stages of the Camino del San Salvador and all the wonders that you can discover on them. We will also explain to you what is the historical origin of this route, which unlike other pilgrimage routes, does not go to Santiago de Compostela, but to the Cathedral of Oviedo.

Stages on the Camino del Salvador

The Camino del Salvador is not considered an easy route. Its 5 stages run mostly through mountain environments, facing multiple slopes in a pronounced character. Below we provide details about each of its stages.

Stage 1: from León to La Robla

In the Plaza de San Marcos de León is the fork of the Camino Frances, which allows to take the detour onto the Camino del Salvador. From there, the Camino del Salvador continues along Avenida de los Peregrinos, following the course of the River Bernesga.

Until leaving the city of León, in Carbajal de la Legua, the day runs along paved roads. However, when arriving at a roundabout with a plane, there is the possibility of deviating from the official road, to follow the Bernesga river promenade, thus avoiding the asphalt. This variant is not signposted.

From Carbajal de la Legua, the Camino del Salvador begins becomes more beautiful. The following kilometres are made along dirt roads, crossing low mountains in the Bernesga Valley. The ups and downs on this stretch of the route are moderate in nature.

The first stage of the Camino del Salvador ends in La Robla, after 27 kilometres of travel. This small town is dominated by the presence of a coal-fired power plant, next to which the road passes.

What to see on the first stage of the Camino de San Salvador

One of the essential visits on the Camino del Salvador is found at the beginning of the route, in the historic centre of León. We refer to the majestic León Cathedral. A Gothic-style temple.

In the city of León, you will also find other places of interest such as the Palacio de los Guzmanes, la Casa de Botines de Gaudí, and the San Froilán Hospital, among others. In fact, given the importance that this city has had in the history of Spain, it is one of those places on the Camino de Santiago where it is worth stopping for a full day to visit it.

After 5 kilometres of travel, at the exit of the town of León, you can visit the Church of Carbajal de la Legua. At the end of the stage, in La Robla, you can visit the Church of San Roque and the Celada Chapel.

The second stage of the Camino de San Salvador

The second stage runs between La Robla and Buiza. This is a fairly short stage, with only 15 kilometres of travel. Many pilgrims extend it to Poladura de la Tercia, in order to shorten stage 3.

The River Bernesga, Camino de San Salvador

The River Bernesga continues to accompany the pilgrim from the Camino del Salvador to La Pola de Gordón. Up there, the route is completed along dirt roads, with some stretches of asphalt. Then, on a gentle climb, following a local road, you reach Buiza.

What to do on stage 2

Arriving in La Pola de Gordón, it is worth stopping to visit the monument that stands in honour of Our Lady of the Assumption. At the end of the stage, in Buiza, you can visit the Church Santos Justo and Pastor and the Chapel of the Virgin of the Valley.

Stage 3

The third stage of the Camino del Salvador is one of the most difficult on the route, but also the most beautiful. The route is 27 kilometres long and crosses the axis of the Cantabrian mountain range, entering Asturias.

The path that separates Buiza from Pajares can be done in two ways. One is to follow the official path, through a mountain environment and facing 875 metres of elevation.

The other is to take the variant to Villamanín, which runs along the national road. This option is much less beautiful, but much simpler than the official route. During the winter, since the official road runs to a higher level, it is recommended to follow this variant.

What to visit on the third stage

At this stage, in addition to enjoying one of the most beautiful landscapes on the Camino del Salvador, you will have the opportunity to visit the Collegiate Church of Santa María in Arbás del Puerto. The church is almost the end of the stage, one kilometre from the  Pajares pass.

Penultimate stage on the Camino del Salvador

On the fourth day, the Camino del Salvador leaves the highest points and descends to the valley of the River Lena. The day is characterized by the beautiful mountain landscapes it provides, full of extensive forests.

The route is made over small sidewalks that served, in antiquity, as routes of communication between the small villas of the region. In total, 27.5 kilometres separate Pajares from Pola de Lena.

Places of interest

The jewel of the fourth stage on the Camino de San Salvador is the Church of Santa Cristina de Lena, located at the end of the route. This pre-Romanesque temple has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, since 1985.

Arrival in Oviedo

32 kilometres separate Pola de Lena from the Cathedral of Oviedo. The beginning of the last stage of the Camino del Salvador is a pleasant walk, without unevenness. From Pola de Lena, you follow the valley of the River Lena and Caudal, to Mieres del Camino.

From there, the route become harder and faces three steep slopes. One of 185 metres, another of 205 and the last, 110.

This, together with the long distance of the route, make it considered a difficult stage. One option is to split the stage in two, staying overnight in Mieres del Camino, where you will find various places of interest, to spend the afternoon.

What to do on the last stage of the Camino del Salvador

In Mieres del Camino you can visit the Palace of the Palacio de los Marqueses de Camposagrado, Casa Duro or the Monumento al Minero Jubilado. This town is very marked by the presence that the heavy industry has had in it.

Of course, the essential visit on this day is the Cathedral of Oviedo, where the Camino del Salvador ends. In the city, you will also find other recommended visits such as the House of Dean Payarinos, the Palace of the Count of Toreno or the Episcopal Palace.

Signalling and infrastructure

As you have seen in the previous stage descriptions, much of the route is done through mountain environments. That means certain advantages and certain drawbacks.

On one hand, on the route you will find few villages and many of them lack services. Therefore, it is important to have enough water and some food, before leaving the larger urban centres.

On the other hand, the route is completed through totally natural environments. Away, almost entirely, from traffic.

The signalling along the route is quite precise. The work carried out on this point by José Antonio Cuñarro, has been fundamental to this.

By indicating the route, you will find signs of the most varied types. Metallic plaques, metal shells, wooden poles and yellow markings painted with spray are some of them.

However, on the first part of the Camino del Salvador, it is more common to find the wooden poles typical of the Salvadoran route. While in the Asturian part, the classic stone markers of the Camino de Santiago predominate.

The accommodation network on the Camino del Salvador is also adequate. Although the route does not have many villages, neither does it have many pilgrims who venture onto it. Therefore, unlike other more popular sections, accommodation is not usually a problem, even in high season.

Peculiarities of the Camino del Salvador

The Camino del Salvador, as indicated at the beginning of this article is a peculiar pilgrim route, since it does not go to the Cathedral of Santiago. This gives the route certain peculiarities compared to other routes of the Camino de Santiago. Here are some of them.

The credential on the Camino de San Salvador

The Camino de San Salvador has its own credential. Although, pilgrims who wish, they will also be able to seal the classic pilgrim credential used in the other routes of the Camino de Santiago.

One of the peculiarities of the credential of the Camino del Salvador is that it includes information about the tour. In it you will find a map of the terrain on each of its stages and the various services that you will find in the locations along the route.

The credential of the Camino del Salvador can be requested at the hostel of Las Carbajalas, in León. Since it is also possible to make the route in reverse, that is, from Oviedo to León, you can also get it at the hostel of Oviedo.

La Salvadorana

The Camino del Salvador, having its own credential, also has its own pilgrim certificate. It is named Salvadorana and is the equivalent of The Compostela, which is obtained by reaching the Cathedral of Santiago.

La Salvadorana can be obtained both in the Cathedral of Oviedo and in the municipal hostel. The document is signed by the Dean of the cathedral.

The jubilee years

One of the characteristics of the Jubilee years is that they grant plenary indulgence, that is, the forgiveness of all sins. On the other routes of the Camino de Santiago, jubilee year is considered to be the one in which the 25th of July, the day of Santiago the Apostle, falls on a Sunday.

However, the Camino del Salvador celebrates Jubilee year every year. From 14th to 21st September, all pilgrims who make this route get plenary indulgence.

History and origin of the Camino del Salvador

To understand the origin of the Camino del Salvador, it is necessary to go back to the time when much of the Iberian Peninsula was dominated by Muslims. At the time, Oviedo was the capital of Spain, as only the northern territories had managed to resist the Muslim invasion.

Oviedo as a centre for pilgrimage

It is in this context that the discovery of the remains of Santiago the Apostle, was carried out, and the appearance of the first pilgrimage routes. First the Camino Primitivo, and then the  Camino del Norte to Santiago.

Oviedo was the starting point of the pilgrimage made by King Alfonso II, a strong promoter of pilgrim tradition. So the passage through the city, during the first years of the Camino de Santiago, obeyed issues of both security and loyalty to the king.

Cathedral of Oviedo, Camino del Salvador

However, the Cathedral of Oviedo soon became one of the most important centres of religious relics in all of Europe. Surpassed only by Rome.

King Alfonso II of Oviedo ordered the construction of a chamber in the Cathedral to guard all the relics scattered throughout the Iberian Peninsula. This space was intended to protect the religious heritage from the continuing strife between Christians and Muslims, which were developing in the southern territories.

The transfer of power to León

Years later, with the advance of the Reconquista, Oviedo lost political power, moving  to León. It was at this time that the Camino Frances, which had become a safe route and much easier than the two northern routes, began to gain popularity among pilgrims of the Middle Ages.

However, Alfonso II’s weight in the history of the Camino de Santiago was such that, although other routes emerged, the passage through the Cathedral of Oviedo was mandatory. Whether on the way or the return, the pilgrims were to honor San Salvador, the patron saint of the Cathedral of Santiago. Hence the popular song:

“Quién visita Santiago y no al Salvador, sirve al criado y olvida al señor” Or: “Whoever visits Santiago and not the Saviour, serves the servant and forgets the Lord”

Popular singing

We hope that with all the information we have provided in this article, you will also be encouraged to visit the Cathedral of Oviedo, during your pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. If you want more information about the Camino del Salvador or any other route on the Camino de Santiago, do not hesitate to contact us.

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Buen Camino!