Walk the Via de la Plata Pilgrim Route Independently
Via de la Plata (Self Guided) - Camino de Santiago
The Quiet Camino. Witness a rural Spain still largely unchanged by modern times. Take your own time for walking the Camino de Santiago. Well researched walking notes and excellent lodgings make this a route to savour.
The Ruta de la Plata has various variants. Starting in the south, pilgrims came mainly from Seville or Granada (via Cordoba) before meeting in Mérida and continuing north to Zamora. Here pilgrims would either carry on due north to Astorga to join the Camino Francés, or they would swing northwest (as we shall do) making a beeline over the slightly shorter route to Santiago via Ourense, known as the Camino Sanabrés. This route crosses a more varied terrain than the Camino Francés and is also less frequented.
Our route crosses Galicia from south-east to north-west, an ancient land with its own peculiar language and customs. Very much a land with Celtic roots, some have drawn similarities with Ireland, and certainly there is no shortage of hearty food, foot tapping pipe music and even the odd glass of cider!
From our start in Ourense, we find ourselves following a northerly option avoiding the newly built motorway to the south; a quieter route passing through a mix of small riverside arable fields and pastures bordered by heathland with superb all round views of the Galician countryside.
The Via de la Plata from Ourense to Santiago follows a delightful route through wooded rolling countryside passing through countless hamlets and stone built villages. Once in Santiago the focal point of the old centre is the Cathedral and most pilgrims make their way on arrival to visit the tomb of St James. The daily mass where pilgrims’ journeys are read out can be a spectacular affair especially if you are lucky enough to coincide with the botafumeiro, when the largest incense burner in the Catholic world is swung the full width of the cathedral.
Transfer to Ourense (pop. 96,000) the biggest centre on our route. Deriving from the Roman Aquae Urientes, the hot water still runs and we can bathe at the open air public spa. The old town is small but a real delight, and there is an abundance of small inns and bars, the speciality being the tapas or pinchos as they are known in Galicia; small mouth watering snacks to accompany your refreshment. Amongst its many monuments are the 12th century Romanesque Cathedral with its outstanding doorway and the arched Praza Maior. Situated on the River Miño, Ourense and the surrounding valleys enjoy a local climate perfect for producing Ribeiro wines, as yet largely unknown to the outside world.
A short but steep ascent out of the Miño valley to our overnight stop at the superbly converted Pazo San Damian.
- 11.5 kms
Onto the Monasterio de Oseira via Cea, famous for its bread, still baked in wood fired ovens. The Cistercian Monastery at Oseira, the largest and grandest in Galicia is a curious mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles. The buildings date from the 12th century though a fire in 1552 left only the church standing. Rebuilt stylishly it is sometimes referred to as the “Escorial of the North”. Guided visits are available. There is also an interesting ethnological museum displaying many traditional agricultural tools and household implements, but can you spot the mole splatter?
- 21 kms
We take a lift to the charming country house of Casarellos set in beautiful wooded grounds and with its own swimming pool, which will be our base for two nights.
Starting back at Oseira, we climb gently uphill to the Pass of Santo Domingo, one of the highest of the walk at 819 metres, passing the scenic hamlets of Outeiro and Vidueiro.
- 13.5 kms Overnight back at Casa Casarellos
A slow descent through mixed woodland of oak, pine and chestnut, takes us to Bendoiro and its stately mansion or pazo.
- 20 kms
To Bandeira through rolling countryside filled with hamlets and quiet lanes.
- 15.5 kms
Ponte Ulla is our next stop after a day of gentle undulations, the river marking the border between Pontevedra and Coruña provinces. Continue by climbing to our farmhouse at Casa Casal
- 19 kms
Near the start of the walk, the more energetic members of the party may make a detour to the summit of the Pico Sacro. The peak has links to the legend of St. James. From here, pilgrims had their first sight of Santiago de Compostela and a wonderful panoramic view of the countryside. The final leg to Santiago approaches the city from one of the quietest directions; no busy motorways or modern housing estates. Before you know it you pass your last cruceiro and descend on a cobbled track through the only remaining medieval gate into the heart of Santiago’s old town and on to the tomb of St James, housed in the stunning cathedral . Santiago de Compostela is your base for the last two nights.
- 11.5 kms
Santiago with its unique architecture is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a busy, vibrant town with a daily market and a large student population.
More holidays Walking the Camino de Santiago
A mix of two and three star hotels as well as family run farmhouses and historic homes.
All rooms have en suite facilities.
The Monastery at Oseira
In ruins until the late 20th century, much of the interior of the monastery has been lovingly restored.
The 12th century church is the oldest part of the building, and there are still vestiges of the early slightly pagan cult of the virgin. The Virgin of the milk is an unusual and arresting sculpture.
What You Said...
"We had a wonderful walking Holiday! The accomodations were great. Each had it's own distinct characteristics and the hosts were warm and inviting. The meals were scrumptiously delicious in each place. Our luggage was always at the next place when we arrived. We would most definitely use Frontier Holidays again. Thank you all for a wonderful memorable holiday that we will never forget!"
Ed and Mary Ellen Richardson, USA
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At a glance...
Date: All year availability
Cost: Price from £786 for 9 nights
A mix of 1-3* hotels, Stately Homes and traditional Farmhouses on a Bed & Breakfast basis.
Madrid, A Coruña or Santiago de Compostela airports. Ourense railway station