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El Camino Primitivo

Many years ago I met a couple who had walked the Camino de Santiago and some years before I spent the summer in a small village called Villafranca, where many pilgrims stopped on their way towards the shrine.

Lots of Europeans and non-Europeans, especially those with a liking for the outdoors, start their journey in France and follow the Milky Way up to Finisterre, in La Coruña, a land’s end where they throw away their scallop valve, which should have gone along with them as a symbol of good omen.

Not that many pilgrims know that there is a different route towards Santiago de Compostela, all along the coast, or at least a detour that takes them to the cathedral of Oviedo, where they should pay homage to El Salvador, the Saviour, because, as the saying goes, “whoever goes to Santiago, without having visited the Saviour, prioritises the servant over the lord”.

From there, there is a nine-stage walk, each between 9 and 21 km. long, that goes across the oldest, most intimate and less well-known part of Asturias.

You start in the cathedral, which keeps a Sindone like the one in Torino and other jewels that are preserved in its Cámara Santa. From there you head for San Lázaro de Paniceres towards La Venta del Escamplero, where still is the same medieval hostel for pilgrims. Go to Grado, ascend the Alto del Fresno, and take the path down to the riverbanks of the Narcea. There you can pay a visit to the monastery known as San Salvador de Cornellana.

You will cross the western councils of Asturias: Salas, Tineo, Pola de Allande, Grandas de Salime (here you should stop and visit the ethnographic museum). You will enter Galicia through the Puerto del Acebo. From there, go to Fonsagrada and follow the old pebbled road called “calzada” towards Lugo. It will lead you to the Camino Francés, the main path. The landscape you will have seen will contrast to the one the pilgrims who went along the best known route describe, something already obvious in these pictures.