Camino Lebaniego: the route to Santo Toribio de Liebana

This guide of the Camino Lebaniego collects information about the pilgrimage route that joins San Vicente de la Barquera with the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana. Here, we talk about the characteristics of the stages on the Camino Lebaniego and the alternatives you have to combine this route with other routes of the Camino de Santiago.

Camino Lebaniego Guide

Of course, we also provide you with information on what to see and do on the Camino Liebaniego, as well as a detailed guide for you to enjoy your visit to the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana. You’ve reached the most complete guide on the Camino Lebaniego!

If you have already decided to do the Camino Lebaniego so that you can venerate the Lignum Crucis in the Monastery of Santo Toribio, we can help you. Leave your details and we will contact you to make it happen.



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    Guide to the Camino Lebaniego: stages

    The Camino Lebaniego has a total of 72.7 kilometres in distance, from San Vicente de la Barquera to the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana. The route is marked with red arrows and sometimes you will also find a red cross.

    If the route is done on foot, the route can be divided into three stages. However, in this guide of the Camino Lebaniego, given the difficulty of the route, we recommend doing the route in 4 stages. By bike, the course can be completed in 1 or 2 days, depending on your fitness and your skill on wheels.

    Stage 1 on the Camino Lebaniego

    The first stage of the Camino Lebaniego runs between San Vicente de la Barquera and the town of Cades. To complete the route, it is possible to follow the historical route, which passes through the urban centres of Gandarilla and Bielva, or the itinerary designed in 2014, which takes advantage of the river path of the River Nansa.

    The road fork is located in the village of Hortigal, 5.3 km from San Vicente de la Barquera. If you take the route to the right, following the signs of the wooden panels, you will continue along the River Nansa route. This tour passes through the towns of Serdio, Mourrodero and Cabazón.

    Turning left, in the direction pointed to by the red arrows, the historical route is taken. This one is much shorter than the other, but it has more asphalt and is not so pretty.

    Since the River Nansa route is newly created, many of the Camino Lebaniego guides do not refer to it. However, this is the route we recommend, as it has more scenic beauty.

    Degree of difficulty

    The two routes linking San Vicente de la Barquera with Cades run in a rural setting. The climbs faced on both paths are moderate in nature.

    It can’t be classified as a difficult stage, but it’s not an easy walk either. The historic route is 17.1 km long, a fairly easy distance, even if it is your first day of pilgrimage. The River Nansa itinerary is 28 kilometres in distance.

    What to see and do on the first stage

    The first thing you should visit before starting your pilgrimage to the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana is San Vicente de la Barquera. This fishing village has beautiful coves and a rich architectural heritage.

    The most emblematic area of the town is the one known as Puebla Vieja, located at the fork of the estuary. In this area you can visit the Castillo del Rey, la Torre del Preboste, the Church of Santa Maria de Los Angeles and the Hospital de la Concepción. The area of Puebla Vieja is listed as a Historic Artistic Site.

    If you follow the advice we give you in this guide to the Camino Lebaniego, and take the route of the River Nansa, you can visit the medieval towers of Estrada and Cabanzón. In addition, you can enjoy the banks of the Nansa, dotted with a wide variety of trees.

    The official layout has a less interesting landscape, since most of the route is crossed over asphalt. On this route, you can visit the Church of Bielva and the Chapel of Christ of Bielva.

    Both variants end in Cades. In this town, the essential visit is the ironworks.

    The second stage of the Camino Lebaniego

    The second stage of the route to the Monasterio de Santo Toribio de Liebana joins Cades with Cicera. It is a short 17 km distance.

    You may find some guide to the Camino Lebaniego that proposes this second stage from Cades to Cabañes or Potes. We do not propose the stage distribution in this way, because that would mean facing a very difficult stage, with more than 30 kilometres of travel and climbing 1,000 metres.

    Degree of difficulty

    On this second stage, you won’t see much asphalt, most of the route is done along dirt tracks. The stage from Cades to Cicera faces only one steep climb, the 325 metre ascent that separates La Fuente-Cicera.

    What to see and do on the second stage

    In the town of La Fuente, 10 km from Cades, you will find the Church of Santa Juliana, located at the entrance of the town centre. The temple, declared of Cultural Interest, is considered one of the greatest examples of Romanesque art in Cantabria.

    After passing the village of Burió and the hill of Hoz, you can enjoy an excellent panorama over the Lamasón Valley. Don’t forget to take pictures!

    From Cicera to Cabañes (stage 3)

    The third stage of the Camino Lebaniego, which this guide recommends, runs between Cicera and Cabañes. The objective of this distribution is always to avoid accumulating in the same day all the unevenness that you face on this part of the route.

    The route of the third stage is also away from asphalt. The first part of the day is especially beautiful, as it runs through a forest of oaks and beech trees, with ancient specimens.

    Degree of difficulty

    The stage faces a distance of 15 km. The biggest difficulty is the ascent of 360 metres between Cicera and Lebeña. However, the effort will have its reward, because before your eyes will open the stunning and rugged landscape of the Picos de Europa.

    What to see and do

    In Lebeña, and after enjoying the magnificent scenery provided by the Picos de Europa, you can visit the Church of Santa Maria. It is one of the most valuable Mozarabic temples in the entire Cantabrian community.

    The church dates back to 925. Its construction is the work of Christians fleeing Arab rule, hence, this temple presents architectural styles very similar to those that can be seen in the south of the Iberian Peninsula.

    Arrival at the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana

    The last stage of the Camino Lebaniego joins Cabañes with Santo Toribio de Liebana. The setting of the last stretch of the Camino Lebaniego is especially beautiful.

    Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana

    During the first part of the day, you will cross an area known as Castañar del Habario. In this section, you will find chestnut trees with trunks up to ten metres in circumference. The second part of the route, starting from the centre of Tama, is carried out following the course of the River Deva, through the Valdebaró valley.

    What to see and what to do

    On the last stage of the Camino Lebaniego, in addition to the essential visit to the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana, you can visit Potes. This tourist town is known for its bridges and towers.

    On its small cobblestone streets, surrounded by huge stone houses, you can visit various towers. The best known is the Torre del Infantado, but also of interest are that of Osorio, Canseco, Linares and Orejón de Lama.

    At the end of this stage, you can finally enjoy the Monastery of Santo Toribio. Here’s a guide to make the most of the main visit of the Camino Lebaniego.

    Guide to visit the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana

    The Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana is a Gothic-style building dating back to the 6th century. Today, the monastery is inhabited by 4 monks of the Franciscan Order.

    The monastic site was listed as a National Monument in 1953. Its most important building is the church. It was built in 1295, although it has undergone several renovations over time.

    The architectural style of the church is also Gothic, although the Cistercian influence can be appreciated in the decorative sobriety it presents. Its main door is the well-known Puerta del Perdón (Door of Forgiveness), which only opens during the Liebana Holy Year.

    The most valuable piece of the temple is the Lignum Crucis, the piece of the cross where Jesus died, the largest known. This relic is preserved in a vaulted chapel, Baroque style. The interior of the church also guards the works of Blessed One of Liebana.

    The history of the Camino Lebaniego

    In this guide of the Camino Lebaniego, we also want to share with you the origin and history of this route, more than 1,000 years old. The origin of the Camino Lebaniego is related to the exploits of Santo Toribio, in the 5th century.

    It was Saint Toribio who found the Lignum Crucis, in the Holy Land, when he was preaching the Catholic religion. However, it was not until the 8th century that the remains of the monk and Lignum Crucis were transferred to the Monastery of Santo Toribio.

    Piece of the temple is the Lignum Crucis

    The decision to erect a monastery in Liebana, to guard this religious relic, was due to the reason that, at that time, this town, located in the north of Spain, was one of the few places that were considered safe in the Iberian Peninsula. Muslims dominated most of the south and continued to advance north.

    Since the completion of the monastery, many of the pilgrims during the Middle Ages who were heading to Santiago de Compostela, diverted their steps along this route, to honour Santo Toribio de Liebana. Many others completed the Camino Lebaniego exclusively to venerate the saint.

    Along with the recovery of the routes on the Camino de Santiago, this route was recovered. However, since 1512 the Camino Lebaniego has had its own Holy Year.

    How to do the Camino Lebaniego

    Today, most of the pilgrims who complete the Camino Lebaniego do so after doing various stages on the Camino del Norte. The most usual starting point is Santander.

    Once the pilgrimage to the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana is complete, you have two options if you want to continue to Santiago de Compostela. Return to the Camino del Norte or link with the Camino Frances, following the Camino Vadiniense, in Mansilla de las Mulas.

    We hope that with all the information we have provided you in this guide to the Camino Lebaniego, you have solved all your doubts about this route. Remember that if you want us to help you organize your pilgrimage to the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana, you only have to contact us.

    Our team will be happy to assist you, both through our contact form on our web or even on our Facebook or blog. Write to us or call us and we will contact you as soon as possible.

    Buen Camino!