As we mentioned yesterday, today we enter Galicia. Yesterday’s relaxed afternoon should have helped us to reflect on the experience so far and to prepare to enter the last stages of the Camino de Santiago.
Let’s go on the Camino Frances!
On today’s route, we will leave Castilla y León and arrive at the door of Galicia, specifically in O Cebreiro. It is one of the most emblematic stages of the Camino Frances.
Our entrance in Galicia indicates to us that we are almost ready to reach our destination, the tomb of Santiago the Apostle. On the other hand, the ascent to the mountain port of O Cebreiro is considered one of the hardest sections of the Camino Frances, especially if you did not complete the stage Saint Jean Pied de Port – Roncesvalles.
If you are thinking about walking the Camino de Santiago from Ponferrada tell us what your plans are for the Camino de Santiago and we will contact you to advise you on everything you need.
Itinerary stage Villafranca del Bierzo – O Cebreiro
Today’s journey takes place in a relaxed manner for most of the day. It is at the end of the stage when we face the challenge of ascending O Cebreiro. We are expected to almost reach an altitude of 500 metres in less than six kilometres of the route.
During the ascent, we will find the most photographed historical landmark, which, located one kilometre and a half from the mountain peak, announces the entrance to Galicia.
Villafranca del Bierzo (Km. 0). Beginning of stage
Practical tips for this section: If you didn’t enjoy the Calle del Agua yesterday, we recommend that you take advantage on the way out of this small architectural museum. Buen Camino!
We leave Villafranca del Bierzo by the emblematic Calle del Agua-Ribadeo. After crossing the street, when you reach Santa Catalina Street, we turn ninety degrees on the left by the Zamora Hill climb.
We pass by the Pilgrim’s Monument, cross the River Burbia and continue along Concepción and Espiritu Santo Streets. From this last one, we take the hard shoulder of the road that runs along the River Valcarce, for one kilometre. We reach a pedestrian path protected by a small wall that advances boxed between the A-6 and the N-VI roads. (km. 1.8).
Following the route, we pass under various viaducts of the highway A-6 (km. 4.1), and then take the detour to Pereje, located at the kilometer point 410 of the N-VI. With caution, we cross the national road and by an access lane, surrounded by poplars that grow on the banks of the Valcarce and huge chestnut trees, we enter the first populated place of the day, Pereje.
Pereje (Km. 5,2)
Practical tips for this section: At this stage, you will find different locations. We always tell you that the Camino de Santiago should be taken calmly and enjoying the urban areas that come across your path.
In this case, and given the specific characteristics of the stage, we advise you to make time to make stops during the ascent to the mountain peak. Buen Camino!
We go along the walkway and take the pedestrian lane. After one kilometer and six hundred meters, we will find a resting area, known as Trabadelo (km. 6.9).
A kilometer later we cross the N-VI road and take the detour that leads us to the town of Trabadelo. Surrounded again by the vegetation of the Valcarce, poplars and chestnuts, we arrive in the locality.
We walk the streets of Trabadelo and leaving on the right the detour that leads to Pradea and Sotelo, we advance by an asphalted track that runs on the national one. After overcoming the stream that feeds the River Valcarce (km. 10.5) We take the pedestrian path, at the edge of the national road (N-VI).
One kilometer and seven hundred meters later, we arrive at La Portela de Valcarce, where the Church of San Juan Bautista awaits.
After leaving the town, we continue for three hundred meters in the company of the road to take the detour that leads us to Ambasmestas, where the Rivers Balboa and Valcarce converge. In this locality, we can visit the Church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen.
Scarcely two kilometers separate Ambasmestas from its neighboring locality, Vega de Valcarce. In the twinkling of an eye, we have left one village and entered the other. In Vega de Valcarce we are awaited by the Magdalena Church and the Sarracín Castle.
Vega de Valcarce (Km. 16,5)
Practical tips for this section: although it seems that you will sleep here, or you must reach O Cebreiro today, it is not necessarily like this. Between these two points, you will find many places to spend the night if you consider it necessary. Don’t be afraid of today’s stage, your body will tell you how far you can go and where you’ll arrive, that will be your place. Buen Camino!
Vega de Valcarce, the capital of the Valcarce Valley, is a classic stage finish. Many pilgrims who do not want to face the ascent to O Cebreiro as their end of the stage, opt to spend the night in this locality.
The decision whether to continue and cope with the mountain climb or wait and do it first thing in the morning is totally personal. You need to evaluate your condition at this point in the stage. What lies ahead are more climbs.
Both sunset and sunrise from O Cebreiro are spectacular. If you choose to make the ascent on today’s stage you can enjoy the sunset during the trip or once you have reached O Cebreiro, it depends on your pace. If you decide to make the climb the next morning, you will not be able to enjoy the sunset and, very likely, you will be surprised during the ascent.
If it’s summer and you don’t like to walk in the heat, making the climb in the morning is a good option. Although you can also choose to let it cool down in the afternoon enjoying one of the localities that will come across your path during the ascent and make the climb when you feel fresher. It’s your decision.
From Vega de Valcarce we continue in the direction of Ruitelán, where we will have ascended 171 meters. In its vicinity is located the Chapel of San Froilán. To access it, it is necessary to go up a long staircase, I do not know if today is the day, but if you’re up to it, go for it. Its story is fascinating.
Ruitelán (Km. 18,6)
Practical tips for this section: If you start the climb and realize that it is too hard to complete in a day, do not worry. Throughout the ascent you will come across various places, all of them have accommodation. Buen Camino!
It is not long before the mountain rises completely. At the exit of Ruitelán the slope begins to get harder, although it will be only a small sign of what awaits us.
In ascent, on the left-hand side, we take the detour that treacherously descends to Las Herrerias. Before reaching the center, a stone bridge will help us to bypass the River Valcarce, which will cut off our passage.
Once in the village, we can visit the Church of San Julián and then head to the district of Hospital (km. 20.8), a continuation of Las Herrerías that takes its name from an old Hospital for English pilgrims. At this point, the real ascent to the mountain peak begins. O Cebreiro awaits us.
The route continues by a strong asphalt-like slope out of nowhere, which ascends along a kilometer. During the ascent, those who go on foot must take a path that is found on the left side of the tarmac, while the cyclists will continue on the asphalt (km. 22).
The Camino de Santiago presses us but does not drown us. On the way, the pilgrim route gives us a little respite, until the crossroads of del Arroyo de Refoxo. After this small recess, the ascent becomes harder under the canopy of the chestnut and oak leaves. With this scenario, we reach La Faba, where the Church of San Andrés awaits us.
La Faba (Km. 23,5)
Practical tips for this section: La Faba is a place with few houses, but has a bar where you enjoy a good wine with spectacular views. Take advantage to make a stop and regain strength for the last stretch. Sometimes we despair about getting to the end, but the important thing is to enjoy the route. Buen Camino!
After La Faba we continue on to open pasture land with beautiful views over the Atlantic forests. The panorama helps us to cope with the slope until the last village in León: Laguna de Castilla.
Seven hundred meters later we find a Jacobean landmark that tells us the distances. It is located at point 152.5 and is written Os Santos (el Teso dos Santos). Four hundred meters later, we find the landmark that tells us that we are leaving León and have our feet now in Galicia, specifically in the province of Lugo (km. 27).
Fatigued by the climb, we walk the short kilometer that separates us from the Church of Santa Maria La Real, which welcomes us to O Cebreiro.
O Cebreiro (Km. 27,8). End of stage
Practical tips for this section: O Cebreiro is a small place with a lot of mystery. A quiet afternoon awaits you but don’t forget to discover the miracles that have happened in these lands. See you tomorrow!
After the ascent to O Cebreiro, the pilgrim only wants to rest. Some bars and restaurants located near the Church of Santa Maria La Real will satisfy the appetite that the ascent must have increased.
After a break and some food, do not forget to approach the Church of Santa Maria La Real to discover the Milagro de la Eucaristía. If you have any strength left, you can also visit the roundhouses or get closer to one of the mills.
Comments stage Villafranca del Bierzo – O Cebreiro
Today’s route involves certain difficulties and it is important to take some precautions. To replenish the energy that we will consume while completing the stage, today we will have a closer look at the exquisite Galician cuisine.
Precautions stage Villafranca del Bierzo – O Cebreiro
Between Pereje and La Portela de Valcarce pilgrims who complete the Camino Francés by bicycle must take special care, as they must share a narrow hard shoulder with the rest of the vehicles.
Today’s stage, from Vega de Valcarce, has a mountain climb with a steep slope. This makes it a tough and quite demanding stage. Therefore, it is not suitable for people with disabilities.
The hardest part of the ascent is the section that runs between Hospital and La Faba. The best thing to do in this part is to slow down and climb slowly. For those who go by bicycle, it is recommended that from Las Herrerias follow the road, since the ascent is only suitable for the most experienced.
In winter, caution must be taken as some parts of the route may be covered with snow.
Despite the challenge that this stage implies, the pilgrim must not be frightened. Many localities will be crossing your way throughout the day and all have places to spend the night and bars to rest in. If in the middle of the stage you find that you don’t have energy, do not hesitate to split it into two stages.
Gastronomy stage Villafranca del Bierzo – O Cebreiro
Entering Galicia brings new gastronomic possibilities. It’s the last day to try the products of El Bierzo that you haven’t tried as yet and the first day to approach the exquisite Galician gastronomy.
- We can stop to taste the cheeses from the Veigadarte cheese factory, located at the foot of the Camino Frances, in Ambasmestas. Or we can taste cheeses with D.O. certification from O Cebreiro, a fresh cheese shaped like a chef’s cap.
- Galician Stew
- Celtic Pork
- Galician empanadas. (Pasties) These will accompany us until our arrival in Santiago de Compostela. You can find them everywhere and with lots of fillings. It’s all about finding your favorite one!
Services stage Villafranca del Bierzo – O Cebreiro
Consult the main health care services, cafes, ATMs, restaurants and are in this stage of the French Way.
Map stage Villafranca del Bierzo – O Cebreiro
Consult the map with the route, points and towns along the stage.
Profile stage Villafranca del Bierzo – O Cebreiro
Consult the profile of the stage: altitude and degree of difficulty of each section.
What to do stage Villafranca del Bierzo – O Cebreiro
The day is waiting for us with a multitude of small towns in the valley of Os Ancares, almost all belonging to the municipality of Vega de Valcarce. After the ascent of the mountain peak, we arrive at O Cebreiro, a place full of mysteries that will seduce the pilgrim.
The town of Pereje belongs to the municipality of Trabadelo. About 30 people live in the village.
This small village is located in the area of Os Ancares, a region with a strong presence of chestnut trees. The locality was witness to a strong dispute between the Cluniac of Santa María de Crueñego, from Villafranca del Bierzo, and the Monks of Aurillac, in O Cebreiro.
The cause of the dispute was that the Abbot of O Cebreiro decided to erect a church and a hospital in this locality, which was under the administration of Villafranca del Bierzo. The conflict reached such magnitude, it involved Alfonso IX of León, Pope Urbano II and Queen Doña Urraca.
The municipality of Trabadelo extends along 65 square kilometers, in the region of Os Ancares, and has a population of 350 people. The origins of the locality date back to Roman times. Nowadays, given its proximity to Galicia, Galician is spoken in the village.
One of the things that characterize this town, is the presence of dense areas of chestnuts. In fact, during the autumn, the chestnut collection is one of the main activities of the locals.
In the locality, you can see some roundhouses, typical of the entire region of Os Ancares. Traditional houses with elliptical floors and covered by a high ceiling. This type of construction has been inherited from the Roman tribes that inhabited the region.
La Portela de Valcarce
The town of La Portela de Valcarce belongs to the municipality of Vega de Valcarce. Its population is about 20 inhabitants. Its name refers to the local tax that the travelers were to pay to the feudal lords in order to cross the valley. It was a practice so ingrained that, in the year 1702, Alfonso VI tried to abolish it but was not achieved until several years later.
In the town, you can visit an old blacksmith’s shop from the 19th century, located by the river, and the Parish Church of San Juan Bautista.
Parish church of San Juan Bautista
The Church of San Juan Bautista de La Portela de Valcarce dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The construction, of popular Baroque style, was made with stone from the San Fiz quarry.
Its structure is rectangular and consists of a single nave, topped with a belfry. In the interior stands out the altarpiece of San Juan Bautista and a tabernacle ornamented in silver.
Ambasmestas is a locality that belongs to the municipality of Vega de Valcarce. More than 40 people live in its streets. Its name, from Galician origin, refers to the mixture of waters since the Rivers Valcarce and Balboa converge in it. In the town, you can visit the Parish Church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen.
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen
The Parish Church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen is located in the town of Ambasmestas. The temple is a rectangular plant and consists of a single nave. It is preserved in a 19th-century haystack, two-story and covered by slabs.
The construction is topped with a small belfry with a triangular pediment, where two bells are lodged. A baroque altarpiece is preserved inside the temple.
Vega de Valcarce
The municipality of Vega de Valcarce is composed of 23 localities and extends along an area of 69 square kilometers. The locality of Vega de Valcarce is the largest in the valley and in it resides 620 people.
On the hill of the town stands Sarracín Castle and in its streets, you can visit the Church of La Magdalena, patron saint of sinners and penitents.
Iglesia de la Magdalena
The Church of La Magdalena is located in the town of Vega de Valcarce. It is a reference place on the Camino de Santiago, as it is dedicated to the patron saint of sinners and penitents.
The building shows various moments of construction and renovation. In the 17th, 19th and 20th centuries. The temple is formed by a single nave with a rectangular floor and has a bell tower.
Castillo de Sarracín
Sarracín Castle is located on one of the hills of Vega de Valcarce. The construction dates from the 15th and 16th centuries and is attributed to the Knights Templar. It is possible that before the castle in the same place another defensive construction from the 10th century was located.
With regard to the origin of this primitive construction, there are two theories. One points out that it was first built in 850 by order of Count Gatón, and the other says that it was founded by Sarracino, son of the count, between 852 and 885.
The castle was erected with the intention of guarding and protecting the locality. At present, the castle is in ruins. Only its ground floor is preserved, with a rectangular shape, and the towers that border it.
The town of Ruitelán belongs to the municipality of Vega de Valcarce and has a population of 20 inhabitants. In its streets, you can visit the parish church dedicated to San Juan Bautista, which has been built and refurbished between the 13th and 17th centuries. On the outskirts of Ruitelán, the Chapel of San Froilán is located on the slopes of its mountain.
La Capilla de San Froilán
The Chapel of San Froilán is located in the foothills of the mountain that stands next to Ruitelán. In this place, the retired hermit Saint Froilán lived. It is told that during his stay in the grotto he domesticated a wolf after he attacked him.
Saint Froilán later became Bishop of León. In the 16th century, the chapel was erected in its name. At the back of the main nave, covered by a vault, lies the mouth of the grotto where the monk took refuge. To access the chapel, you have to walk a staircase of 39 steps.
The town of Las Herrerias belongs to the municipality of Vega de Valcarce and some 40 people live there. The name of the town is due to the four blacksmiths that were located in the locality and that worked with iron and metal. The town belongs to the district of Hospital, which takes its name from an old 12th-century hospital, created to shelter English pilgrims.
In its streets, you can visit the Church of San Julián and a blacksmith’s shop that is in good condition. In it, you can still see a mill in operation.
Iglesia de San Julián
The Church of San Julián is located in the town of Las Herrerias. The Baroque-style temple with neo-classical influences dates back to the 18th century.
Of the temple stands out its façade, divided into three horizontally separated bodies. The first one is the access cover. In the second, there are two large spans that house the bells. And the third one is topped with a triangular gable.
La Faba is a population of 28 inhabitants belonging to the municipality of Vega de Valcarce. In its streets, you can visit the Church of San Andrés.
Iglesia de San Andrés
The Church of San Andrés de La Faba was erected between the 16th and 18th centuries. The temple combines two styles, baroque and renaissance.
Its structure consists of a single nave, divided into two sections. The temple wall has a half-barrel vault and on the pilasters attached to the nave, a blockwork arch is erected. The nave is covered by a gabled wooden structure.
The interior of the temple retains a baroque altarpiece and two baptismal stacks, one with a dome and another with holy water.
Laguna de Castilla
The locality of Laguna de Castilla has 25 residents and belongs to the municipality of Vega de Valcarce. The main attraction of the town is its three granaries, but they are not in a very good state of conservation. The locality is also renowned among the pilgrims of the Camino Francés, as it is the last locality of Castilla y León, before entering Galician lands.
O Cebreiro is a parish (hamlet) of the town of Piedrafita, located at 1,330 meters above sea level. Its origins go back to the discovery of the tomb of Santiago the Apostle.
At that moment this enclave was founded, being formed in its origins by hostelry that gave shelter to the pilgrims on the Camino Frances. However, before this, it was probably a village of people dedicated to grazing.
After confiscation, the monks who inhabited the place abandoned it, and O Cebreiro went into decline. From the 1960s, restoration works began in the village.
Today, a few people reside in the village, whose life revolves around the Church of Santa Maria La Real and some bars and restaurants around this church. The architecture of the place is mainly stone, probably of Roman origin.
The location of O Cebreiro and the Milagro de la Eucaristía from which the place was witnessed, give the hamlet a mysterious atmosphere. The roundhouses, the wind, the fog and the breath-taking views leave no one unmoved. Announcing your arrival in Galicia, you can visit the monument to the Piper and in its vicinity, you can visit mills, still in use.
El Milagro de la Eucaristía
The miracle of the Eucharist happened in O Cebreiro, specifically in one of the chapels of its church. The legend goes back to the year 1300, in the midst of a blizzard. As they tell, at that time there was a man named Juan Santín, whose house was located in the hamlet of Barxamaior, half a league from the temple.
The man was so devoted that he never missed mass, come rain, wind, snow or inhuman cold. On the night of the miracle, a raging storm had unleashed itself and the roads were full of snow. The pastor of the church thought that, with those atmospheric conditions, no one would come to the service that day.
When he saw John Santín enter, and to mock him, he exclaimed, “This one comes here in the middle of storm tired out and to see some bread and wine!” Noting that his presence was not worthwhile, thus belittling the effort made by the parishioner. In these words, God, to punish the lack of faith and charity of the pastor, worked the miracle.
When the priest was giving the consecration to the devotee, he perceived how the host becomes flesh and the chalice, where the wine was found, is transformed into blood. Today, both are preserved the chapel of the miracle. And the Church of Santa María la Real, in memory of the miracle, the graves of both protagonists are to be found.
The legend also says that the figure of La Virgen de Los Remedios, located in the same chapel, turned its head to see how the miracle was being worked. They say that’s why the carving presents the head slightly lopsided. It was such a surprise that she was paralyzed in that position for eternity.
La Iglesia de Santa María la Real
The Church of Santa María la Real is located on the mountain peak of O Cebreiro. The temple dates back to the 9th and 10th centuries, to the times of the discovery of the tomb of Santiago the Apostle. Its architectural style is Romanesque. In the past the temple was graceful with royal privileges, hence it is known as “La Real”.
The church was founded by the Benedictine monks, but later on, Alfonso VI gave the temple to the French monks of the Abbey of San Giraldo de Aurillac. Later, at the time of the Catholic monarchs, it returned to the hands of the Benedictine Order. Until the year 1853, which was then abandoned by the order, after the confiscation of Mendizábal.
The temple is famous for its Chapel of the Holy Miracle, where the famous Miracle of the Eucharist occurred. The chapel houses the image of the Santa Virgen de Los Remedios (Santa María la Real), with a slightly inclined head.
Legend has it that the saint turned his head to see the miracle and so it stayed in the same position. In the Hand of the Virgin you can see the pastoral ring, a gift from the Bishop of Lugo, Placido.
The chapel has been restored on several occasions, the last restoration was carried out in 1971. On the altar of the temple stands a showcase that guards the chalice and the paten, Romanesque style, which witnessed the miracle. Also, the relic where the Catholic monarchs offered to keep the flesh and blood of Christ.
Under the showcase is a silver tabernacle, representing the urn of the Cathedral of Santiago, where the remains of the Apostle rest. On the right-hand side are the sepulchres of the parishioner de Barxamaior and that of the monk of Aurillac, both protagonists of the Holy Miracle.
At the foot of the altar is the tomb of Elías Valiña San Pedro, who was pastor of O Cebreiro, from 1959 until his death, in the year 1989. During those years, he was a tireless promoter of the Camino de Santiago and the creator of the yellow arrow. In addition, various temple restorations were carried out under his influence.
Mass times: From 1 April to 31 October, Monday to Friday (19:00), Eves (19:00) and Public Holidays (12:00 and 19:00). From November 1st to March 31st, Monday to Friday (18:00), Vespers (19:00) and Public Holidays (12:00 and 18:00).
Pallozas de O Cebreiro
The Roundhouses of O Cebreiro are typical and unique in their construction and in the municipality. These are square-floor constructions, with wooden walls seated on slate slab. The building is fixed to the ground by four pillars, covered with a roof of rye straw, cone-shaped.
Inside the roundhouse is a non-ventilated chamber, which is used as a storage room to conserve food. The space is accessed through a small door. One of the roundhouses in O Cebreiro houses an ethnographic museum in its interior.
Timetable: Closed on Mondays, Sundays and holidays. From June 15th to September 15th, Tuesday to Saturday (from 8:30 to 14:30). From September 16th to June 14th, from Tuesday to Saturday (from 11:00 to 18:00).
Molinos de O Cebreiro
Some of the mills in O Cebreiro are still used to grind cereal. This is a traditional activity and still contributes to the economic development of the region. These constructions are usually located next to the riverbeds of those rivers that cross the region.
Among the most outstanding mills is the Aceña de Counavia, which stands out for its large dimensions and being on the banks of the River Navia.
Opening hours: open every day. From 11:00 to 14:00 and from 15:00 to 19:00.