The Camino Olvidado (or Camino Viejo)
The old route known as Camino Olvidado (or the Old Camino de Santiago) is a mountain route linking Bilbao with the Camino Frances, in Villafranca del Bierzo. A total of 678.5 kilometres of travel, of which 489.5 km are completed on the Camino Olvidado and the last 180 by the route known today as the Camino Frances.
In this guide on the Old Camino de Santiago we want to tell you all about this forgotten mountain route. Next, we will tell you about the historical origin of this route, its state of recovery and its stage plan.
History of the Camino Olvidado
In this article about the history of the Camino de Santiago we would tell you that after the northern routes, (the Camino Primitivo and the Camino del Norte) the Camino Frances emerged. However, until the Camino Frances was not completely safe, what is now known as the Camino Olvidado was in use.
Historic origin of the Camino Viejo
As the Reconquista progressed, shifting the Muslims south, pilgrims began to seek a path that avoided the difficulties on the northern paths. Both the Camino Primitivo and the Camino del Norte were difficult routes that faced difficult slopes and, in addition, the Camino del Norte was threatened by continuous pirate attacks.
Faced with this, and coupled with a search for a less adverse climate, European pilgrims from the Middle Ages used the Camino Olvidado. Its use was especially popular between the 11th and 13th centuries.
Subsequently, the Reconquista liberated the flat plateau territories from the Arab invasion and the Camino Frances was established as the preferred route, and the Old Camino de Santiago fell into oblivion. Hence the name of Camino Olvidado.
Recovery of the Camino de Santiago Olvidado
In 2012, with the recovery of the Camino de Santiago, this ancient mountain route was also recovered. However, a number of associations are still working on improving the infrastructure and signage on its itinerary.
Today, few pilgrims travel this route and it continues to be little-known. Perhaps the most unknown and forgotten of all the routes of the Camino de Santiago.
If you do the Camino de Santiago from Lugo you can enjoy the walk between forests and farmlands. It should be noted that Lugo stands out not only for its Roman wall that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but also for its gastronomy, so it is a starting point that is worth it. Tell us when you want to make your pilgrimage and leave the whole organization in our hands.
Infrastructure on the Old Camino de Santiago
Currently, doing the Old Camino de Santiago (or Camino Olvidado) is possible thanks to the recovery efforts that have been made. However, before embarking on the adventure of travelling along this historic route, you should know that its infrastructure and signage are not as abundant as on other pilgrim routes.
State of signage
The Camino Olvidado is completely signposted, however, the number of indications you will find on the route is not as abundant as on others. Therefore, much more attention must be paid to the signs to avoid getting lost.
It should be noted at this point that at the end of the second stage and during part of the third stage, someone is determined to erase the yellow dates with which the route is indicated. In these sections you should be guided only by yellow or red spray blurs, since, for the time being, the Association of Friends of the Camino has expressed its intention not to repaint them.
Where to stay
The main places to stay on the Old Camino de Santiago are cottages. Given the low usage of this route, the tour does not have many hostels and the existing ones are mostly private.
While the Camino Olvidado was considered a simpler route than the Camino Primitivo, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy route. The Camino Olvidado runs through a low mountain area, hence it is also known as The Camino de la Montana (or Ruta de la Montana).
Therefore, it is not one of the most recommended routes for doing the Camino de Santiago by bike. However, as is the case with the Camino Primitivo by bike, it’s not that it’s impossible, it’s just a big challenge.
It is also not a recommended tour for people with reduced mobility. The continuous slopes and scarce infrastructure on the route do not make it advisable.
Doing the Camino de La Montaña (or Olvidado)
The forgotten and old Camino de La Montaña starts from the Pyrenean mountain range, using to a large extent, Roman roads, which previously existed. On its route, it crosses the south of the Cantabrian region, crossing the mountains of Palencia and León, to enter Galicia through the region of El Bierzo.
From Bilbao, the historical origin of this route, to Santiago de Compostela, the route is a total of 678.5 kilometres. If you want to start earlier, you can follow the Camino del Norte, from Irun to Bilbao. You can check the description of these stages in our guide to the Camino del Norte.
From Bilbao to Villafranca del Bierzo, where you can link with the Camino Frances, in Santiago Ways, we recommend dividing the route into 18 stages. Below is a description of each.
Stage 1: from Bilbao along the Old Camino de La Montaña
The first stage on the Camino de La Montaña departs from the beautiful city of Bilbao. We recommend that you reserve the afternoon before the start of your pilgrimage or the day before to visit the city. The Old Town, the Plaza Nueva or the Guggenheim Museum are just some of its attractions.
To start the Camino Olvidado, you must go to the Puente del Diablo, which crosses the River Cadagua. One hundred metres after crossing it you will find the fork for the Camino del Norte and the Camino de La Montaña.
The Camino de La Montaña does not cross the tracks, so turn left to follow the course of the river to the municipality of Alonsotegi. From there, the route follows the course of the river, being cut off on some occasions by the road, to the town of Sodupe, where you will find all kinds of services.
The first stage of the Camino de Santiago Olvidado concludes in Gueñes, in the province of Biscay, 25 kilometres from Bilbao. In the town you can visit the Chapel of San Martín de Iturriaga.
Stage 2 on La Ruta de La Montaña
On the second day, on the Camino de Santiago Olvidado, it first goes along a rural stretch, following the pavement, to Aranguren and then to Zalla. Then you can continue along a stretch of the Roman road, to link later, with a disused road, which crosses the recreational area of Bolumburu.
Shortly after, the route takes the Roman road again to cross towns such as Balmaseda. There you can visit the Gothic church located in the Plaza de San Severino or the Basque Mosque (current location of the Town Hall).
On gentle descent and after crossing the River Cadagua, the Old Camino de Santiago arrives in Nava de Ordunte. There, the second stage concludes, after 26 travelling kilometres.
Stage 3: Nava de Ordunte – Espinosa de los Monteros
The third stage of the Camino Olvidado is considered long distance. 35 kilometres separate Nava from Ordunte from Espinosa de los Monteros.
The journey today is completed away from the Roman road, which has been buried by water or asphalt. In this section, you will advance through a mountain landscape, accompanied by the reservoir that crosses the River Ordunte, until you reach the town of Burceña.
Then the route ascends to Alto de Carel. From there, go downhill you reach Ordejón and then Concejero. Then through a beautiful environment you reach the Alto del Cabrío, to finally conclude the tour in Espinosa de los Monteros.
Stage 4 on the Camino de Santiago de La Montaña
The fourth stage of the Camino Olvidado involves a zig-zag tour that allows you to cross the numerous streams that come across your path. Through a wooded environment, on this day you will cross towns such as Para, Rebollar or Quisicedo.
After a few kilometres uphill, the stage ends, descending, in Pedrosa de Valdeporres. In total, 31 kilometres of travel.
Stage 5: On to Arija
In stage 5 on the Camino de La Montaña, you will find quite a few kilometres of asphalt. The 28 kilometres separating Pedrosa de Valdeporres from Arija cross towns such as Soncillo, Quintanilla de San Román and Villamedina de San Román.
After so much asphalt, and depending on the time of the year you have chosen to do the Camino Olvidado, you can enjoy a swim on the beach of the Arija Reservoir. In the town, you can also visit the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción and the beautiful Romanesque-style town hall building.
Stage 6 on the Camino de Santiago Olvidado
Again the Camino Olvidado has a stage with a lot of asphalt during the day. The good news is that these are low-density traffic roads, but still, you always have to pay attention to vehicles.
On this stage, Burgos is abandoned to continue advancing through the region of Cantabria. The tour is characterized by its photogenic landscapes.
33 kilometres separate Arija from Olea, where the 6th stage of the Camino Olvidado concludes. On the route, you will cross towns such as Llano, Renedo, Arroyo or the derilict town of Las Quintanillucas de Cervatos.
Stage 7: Olea – Aguilar de Campoo
You will find two options to leave the town of Olea. One begins the left of the Chapel of San Miguel and the other passes next to the parish church, heading towards the cemetery. The rest of the day runs through a valley full of ancient dolmens and megalithic remains.
This stage runs between Olea and Aguilar de Campoo. In total, 22.7 kilometres travelling, on a route that faces constant ups and downs on the terrain, an easier day.
Stage 8 on La Ruta de La Montaña
The 8th stage on the Camino de La Montaña joins Aguilar de Campoo with Cervera de Pisuerga. At the beginning of the day, you will face a steep slope to access the hills next to the Aguilar Reservoir.
This stage has sections of all kinds. Sometimes you will find yourself walking through open terrain, and on others surrounded by the company of pine trees; and for a few kilometres, advancing on gruelling asphalt.
The route crosses various villages, such as Corvio, Matamorisca, San Mamés de Zalima, Salinas, Barcenilla del Pisuerga and Liguerzana. Today’s distance is a total of 29 km.
Stage 9: Cervera de Pisuerga – Guardo
Stage 9 of the Camino Olvidado runs in the company of the Tosande stream. Much of the route is completed in the company of oaks and pines, passing over various metal barriers, arranged by the farmers to keep their livestock under control.
The day faces a total of 38 km, to conclude the stage in Guardo. The town had, in the past, a castle, which was built under the command of Alfonso II, the first monarch to promote the Camino de Santiago. In the town you can also visit the Casa Grande, a name that receives the Baroque building where we find the Town Hall.
Stage 10 on the Camino Olvidado
After the last long stages, the Camino de la Montana gives us a respite and invites us onto a rather short stage. 15.3 kilometres separate Guardo from Puente Almuhey, where this stage concludes.
On the tour, you will have the opportunity to visit towns such as La Espina, after which Palencia is left to continue through towards León. Afterwards, it is followed by charming villages such as Cegoñal, whose name owes itself to the high number of storks that inhabit their roofs.
Stage 11 of the Camino Olvidado
Stage 11 of the Camino Olvidado presents us again with a short route. 18.5 km separate Puente Almuhey from Cistierna.
Shortly after starting the day, you will reach Taranilla. On the outskirts of the town is a lake on which many legends speak of pilgrims, mermaids and monks. They say that pilgrims who pass through there on St. John’s Night can hear the singing of the sirens.
The tour continues through the Tuéjar Valley, in the company of the river of the same name. The last 12 kilometres on the journey are especially beautiful. To reach the end of the stage, you will cross a landscape of huge rocks, which is impressive to walk through.
Stage 12: Cistierna – Boñar
Stage 12 on the Camino de La Montaña joins the town of Cistierna with Boñar. A part of this stage is carried out following the Ruta Vadiniense, which links San Vicente de la Barquera with Mansilla de Mulas, on the Camino Frances.
Shortly before the town of Yugueros, the Camino de La Montana leaves the Ruta Vadiniense, to use the route of the ancient Camino de León. After the village of Barrillos, next to the River Porma, the route is coupled with the so-called Camino Rocinero.
The tour ends in Boñar, where you can visit its thermal fountain, La Calda. There you will find a plaque that attests to the Roman past of this town.
Stage 13 on the Camino Olvidado
Stage 13 joins Boñar and La Robla. The course is 27 km. Much of the day will be carried out in the company of a bike path and the railway tracks. On this stage you can visit towns such as Otero, La Vecilla, Robledo de Fenar or Candanedo de Fenar.
Stage 14: La Robla – Riello
Between La Robla and Riello there are 30 kilometres. The first 16 km, to the village of La Magdalena, is where you will see a lot of asphalt. From this town you will have two options, follow the route through the mountain or follow the road route.
The mountain route is 1.2 kilometres shorter than the road route. But to take it, you must keep in mind that in the remaining 14 kilometres, up to Riello, you will not find intermediate villages, nor services. Therefore, we must go well prepared from La Magdalena.
Stage 15 on the Camino Olvidado
The 15th day on the Camino Olvidado faces a rather complicated stage. Not only because of the distance that is covered (28.3 km) but also by the slope that the day presents (400 metres in total).
The stage ends in Fasgar, a small slate-roofed village. In it you can visit a chapel in honour of Santiago.
Stage 16: Fasgar – Igüeña
This stage is not much simpler than the previous one. In the first 11 kilometres on the route you face an ascent of 500 metres. The positive part is that the tour is much shorter. Only 19 km separate Fasgar from Igaeña.
Stage 17 on the Camino de Santiago de La Montaña
The penultimate and the last stage of the Old Camino de Santiago are the longest on the route. In both, you will find places where you can stay overnight if you want to divide them into two.
Stage 17, which we propose in Santiago Ways, joins Igoeña with Congosto. The route is 37.4 km long, but if you want, you can divide the stage by staying in Labaniego.
The path runs, to Labaniego, by mountain. The second part is done across small roads and over asphalt.
At this stage the pilgrims who will continue along the Camino Frances and those who want to deviate onto the Camino de Invierno, from Ponferrada will separate. The latter will have to think tomorrow about an intermediate stage of 12 km that allows them to join Congosto and Ponferrada.
Last Stage on the Camino de Santiago Olvidado (Stage 18)
From Congosto to Villafranca del Bierzo there is a total of 38.5 km. Those pilgrims who wish, can divide the stage, stopping in the village of Cabañas Raras, 22.1 kilometres from the beginning of the stage.
The first part of the day is quite ugly because it runs mostly over asphalt. In the second part of the route, asphalt continues to be present, but the landscape becomes more attractive, with fruit trees and vines appearing on the edges of the road.
Arriving in Santiago by the Camino de La Montaña
After arriving in Villafranca del Bierzo, everything changes. The infrastructure of the route improves and with it the influx of pilgrims. Ahead, you have 180 kilometres left on one of the most popular routes of the Camino de Santiago. If you want, you can check out the description in our guide to the Camino Frances.
We hope that the information we have provided you in this article about the Old Camino de Santiago has been useful to you. Before saying goodbye, we want to remind you that although it is a forgotten route on the Camino de Santiago, in Santiago Ways we have not forgotten it, and we also help to plan the route along the Camino de La Montaña.
If with everything we have explained, you are encouraged to come and explore the Camino Olvidado and you want to call on the help of an agency specialized in the Camino de Santiago, do not hesitate to contact us. Call us, leave a comment or write to us on Facebook, our team will resolve any doubts you might have.