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(I have tried to give the reader a simple yet concise view of The Camino de Invierno, along with my own photographs, in the hope that it will explain the route and will encourage other people to do it. I have given accreditation to all sources. Written permission to use maps and elevation profiles was granted by www.gronze.com)

The Camino de Invierno trail goes from Ponferrada on the Camino Francés as an alternative "winter" route to Santiago de Compostela along the banks of the River Sil, merging with the Camino Sanabrés in A Laxe, 50km before Santiago de Compostela. The Camino de Invierno represents 264 km of walking between the two points, compared with 210 km on the Camino Francés. It has quite a few sharp elevation changes, particularly between Ponferrada and Las Médulas, between Quiroga and Monforte de Lemos, and at Belasar between the church at Diomondi and Chantada.

Route Map courtesy of www.caminodeinvierno.es

 

 

Camino de Invierno
The Winter Road
by
Aida Menéndez Lorenzo
Chairwoman of the Ribeira Sacra Roads to Santiago Association

For over a thousand years, since the remains of Saint James appeared in Compostela, waves of pilgrims have visited the place to pay tribute to his mortal remains and receive their plenary indulgences. Without a doubt, there was never just one single route, rather the devout pilgrims followed many roads all over the Iberian Peninsula and from the furthest reaches of Europe. One of the roads in that network to Santiago is "The Winter Road". It is a route that some pilgrims chose to avoid the harshest weather that affected the snow-covered peaks of the Cebreiro region or the flooding of the rivers in the Valcárcel valley, crossing the river could be quite dangerous, travelling across its feeble bridges. When the pilgrims reached Ponferrada, they could choose a much flatter road, through the Sil gorge, through the Valdeorras region of Ourense and the south of Lugo towards Santiago.

The Winter Road begins in Ponferrada, following the left bank of the River Boeza and then the River Sil, skirting mount Pajariel, towards Las Médulas. It is an inroad to Galicia that takes advantage of the natural contour of the River Sil gorge, used since Roman times. Historians such as Menéndez de Luarca documented the existence of a secondary Roman road from Las Médulas to the great Via XVII or Via Nova that ran through the Valdeorras region, used to move out the rich deposits at the Las Médulas gold mine. This secondary road continued through the south of Lugo, parallel to the River Sil. Along the canal there are also mines and other archaeological ruins used to extract the rich minerals, such as the Montefurado tunnel, bored into the rocky mountain to change the course of the river and to extract the gold from its waters. Many pilgrims chose this route, known later as the "Camino Real" or "Royal Way", which offered lower terrain that was much easier to traverse on foot.

There were also places where they felt protected, such as Cornatel Castle, in Priaranza do Bierzo, where the Knights Templar lived, or Torre Novais Castle, in Quiroga, Lugo, site of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, such as those in Borrenes, A Rúa, Monforte de Lemos, which also had a lazaret, or in Chantada, as well as the many Romanesque monasteries dotting the Ribiera Sacra region where the exhausted traveller could pray and find shelter.

From Ponferrada, the Winter Road crosses the Bierzo region, through the Priaranza regions, with the Cornatel fortress, followed by Borrenes, towards Las Médulas in the Carucedo region, leaving the lands of León over the Domingo Flórez Bridge. The route enters Galicia parallel to the River Sil, in the Sobradado region, towards the Valeorras region in Ourense. However, from the Domingo Flórez Bridge. it is possible to take a somewhat longer alternative route towards the Rubiá region of Ourense and join up with the previous route in A Proba, in the region of O Barco. The route crosses this lovely valley of vineyards through the Vilamartín de Valdeorras and A Rúaregions, where the River Sil broadens and offers a magnifcent view.

The path continues along the right bank of the River Sil and enters Lugo through the Quiroga region, crossing Montefurado and Torre Novais. From here, the route offers several options for reaching Monforte de Lemos, each one as spectacular as the next. Nowadays, however, the only viable one for continuing to Santiago is the one that follows the right bank of the River Sil towards A Probra de Brollón, via Barxa de Lor, where a well preserved Roman bridge crosses the river.

The other option goes from Quiroga to San Clodio de Ribas de Sil, up to Torbeo and from there down to the spectacular gorges of the River Sil, in Covela, where there is an impressive meander that was once crossed by a boat that no longer exists, controlled by the monastery of Santa Maria de Torbeo. From the river it rose towards Monforte de Lemos past the ancient Adega houses of San Salvador de Vilachá de Vilamatín. In the village of Monforte, it is joined by another road that came from Castro Caldelas, crossed the River Sil over a bridge and up amongst the ancient stone terraces of the Sober region, where the prized Ribiera Sacra wine is produced, on to the village of Monforte.

The route continues towards the Chantada region, crossing the regions of Pantón and O Saviñao, rich in large houses, pazo mansions and Romanesque churches, such as San Pelagio de Diomondi, which marks the start of a spectacular descent to the River Miño, along the remains of a Roman road, the famous Cóbados de Belesar, which zig-zags down amongst thick English oak groves and terraced vineyards. The impressive distant view of the picturesque town of Belesar, on the bank of the River Miño, leaves no one indifferent. It crosses the river, over a Roman bridge in times gone by, and begins an ascent towards Chantada amongst vineyards dotted with ancient Adega houses and some more modern ones. We enter the village of Chantada at the Convent, on an arcaded street with old houses that bear witness to the power and nobility of their residents. the route ascends up O Faro mountain, an almost mythological place, where the hermitage of Nosa Señora do Faro stands and where many pilgrims went to plead for the Virgin's favours. The spectacular views from this remote place are themselves worth the visit. We continue towards O Rodeiro, passing through Casa de Camba, Puente Pedroso and Lalín de Arriba to A Laxe, where it merges with the Silver Route to Santiago de Compostela, which is the destination of all pilgrims

 

 

 

Getting There

Date From To
24 April 2019 Ryanair FR8378 ETD London Stansted 12-15hrs ETA Santiago de Compostela 15-25hrs
24 April 2019 RENFE train ETD Santiago de Compostela 10-06 hrs ETA Ponferrada 13-42hrs (3H36)
10 May 2019 Ryanair FR8379 ETD Santiago de Compostela 10-35hrs ETA London Stansted 11-45hrs

It is quite helpful to have an understanding of the rail connections, both regional and along the Sil River from Ponferrada to Monforte de Lemos, and on to Santiago de Compostela via Ourense.

 

Diagrams courtesy of www.renfe.com

There are 4 buses a day between Santiago de Compostela to Ponferrada:-

  ETD Santiago ETA Ponferrada  
  08:00 hrs 12:00 hrs  
  09:45 hrs 14:15 hrs  
  13:45 hrs 17:30 hrs  
  21:30 hrs 01:15 hrs (+1)  
 

Although I had intended initially to travel by bus, in the end I opted to go by train, booking my ticket on Trainline.com.

I took the RENFE Intercity 280 departing Santiago de Compostela at 10:06 hrs, arriving in Ponferrada at 13:42hrs, for a cost of £23.35 plus a booking fee of £1.20

 

 

Ponferrada

Ponferrada (from the Latin Pons Ferrata, Iron Bridge) is the capital city of El Bierzo in the Province of León, Spain. It lies on Sil River and it is completely surrounded by mountains. It is the last major town on the French route of the Camino de Santiago before it reaches Santiago de Compostela.

In pre-Roman times the region was populated by the Astures, a Hispano-CelticGallaecian people. They were conquered by Emperor Augustus in the Astur-Cantabrian Wars (29-19 BC) and the area quickly became the largest mining center of the Empire during the Roman period, where gold and other metals and minerals were extracted. Numerous Roman mining sites are still visible in the area, one of the most spectacular being Las Médulas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. The Romans also imported grapevines, and wine production thrived in the region until the propagation of Phylloxera at the end of the 19th century, which destroyed the majority of the vineyards.

The modern name of the city derives from the iron reinforcements added to the ancient bridge over the river Sil (Latin pons for "bridge" and ferrata for "iron"), commissioned in 1082 by Bishop Osmundo of Astorga to facilitate the crossing of the Sil River to pilgrims in their way to Santiago de Compostela.

The railroad arrived in Ponferrada in 1881, and during World War Ilocal tungsten deposits were exploited to supply the arms industry. In 1918 the Ponferrada Mining, Iron and Steel Company (SpanishMinero Siderúrgica de Ponferrada (MSP)) was founded to exploit coal deposits in the region, and it grew to become Spain's largest coal mining corporation. The Spanish National Energy Corporation (Endesa) was founded in 1944 and in 1949 it opened Spain's first coal-fueled power plant in Ponferrada, Compostilla I. In 1960 the Bárcena Dam (SpanishPantano de Bárcena) opened and by the second half of the 20th century the economy of the city was mainly based on miningand electricity generation, both hydroelectric and coal-fueled.

Starting in the late 1980s most mines were closed, and after the collapse of the mining industry Ponferrada was for a while in a crisis. However, in the late 1990s the city underwent a major transformation with the establishment in the city of several industrial and services firms, the reintroduction of commercial wine production, the opening of a local branch of the University of Leónoffering several undergraduate degrees, and in general a radical improvement of the town's infrastructure. The economy is now based mainly on tourism, agriculture (fruit and wine), wind powergeneration and slatemining, with a mild but constant population increase.

 


 
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponferrada

 

 

Ponferrada Hotel Map

 

My 11-day Plan

From (Elevation in m) To (Elevation in m) Section Stage Cum Gain (m) Loss (m)
Ponferrada 539m Toral de Merayo 494m 5.78   5.78    
Toral de Merayo 494m Villalibre de la Jurisdicción 485m 2.36   8.14    
Villalibre de la Jurisdicción 485m Priaranza del Bierzo 1.60   9.74    
Priaranza del Bierzo Santalla del Bierzo 538m 1.88   11.62    
Santalla del Bierzo 538m Villavieja 764m 3.84   15.46    
Villavieja 764m Borrenes 557m 4.81   20.27    
Borrenes 557m La Médulas 736m 6.94 27.21 27.21 1,235 1,535
La Médulas 736m Puente de Domingo Flórez 370m 8.35   35.56    
Puente de Domingo Flórez 370m Quereno 372m 1.25   36.81    
Quereno 372m Pumares 368m 3.63   40.44    
Pumares 368m Nogueiras 368m 1.57   42.01    
Nogueiras 368m Sobradelo 359m 3.58   45.59    
Sobradelo 359m Entorna 352m 2.30   47.89    
Entorna 352m O Barco de Valdeorras 329m 4.80 25.48 52.69 550 355
O Barco de Valdeorras 329m Arcos 326m 5.00   57.69    
Arcos 326m Vilamartín de Valdeorras 404m 3.30   60.99    
Vilamartín de Valdeorras 404m A Rúa de Valdeorras 308m 5.90 14.20 66.89 400 50
A Rúa de Valdeorras 308m Alvaredos 241m 7.11   74.00    
Alvaredos 241m Montefurado 241m 3.28   77.28    
Montefurado 241m Hermidon 241m 0.93   78.21    
Hermidon 241m Bendillo 241m 6.76   84.97    
Bendillo 241m Soldon 241m 2.14   87.11    
Soldon 241m Sequeiros 241m 1.78   88.89    
Sequeiros 241m Novais 241m 1.01   89.90    
Novais 241m Caspedro 241m 2.12   92.02    
Caspedro 241m Quiroga 266m 1.96 27.09 93.98 1,265 1,313
Quiroga 266m Espandariz 241m 3.05   97.03    
Espandariz 241m Noceda 266m 1.46   98.49    
Noceda 266m Caballo de Lor 469m 9.18   107.67    
Caballo de Lor 469m Barxa de Lor / Ponte 298m 1.89   109.56    
Barxa de Lor / Ponte 298m Castroncelos 507m 6.26   115.82    
Castroncelos 507m A Proba de Brollon 387m 2.00 23.84 117.82 1,059 906
A Proba de Brollon 387m Cereixa 326m 2.97   120.79    
Cereixa 326m Reigada 326m 4.82   125.61    
Reigada 326m Monforte de Lemos 297m 4.40 12.19 130.01 100 200
Monforte de Lemos 297m A Vide 290m 3.63   133.64    
A Vide 290m Regueiro de Moreda 290m 3.73   137.37    
Regueiro de Moreda 290m A Broza 290m 1.00   138.37    
A Broza 290m Pineiro 290m 2.60   140.97    
Pineiro 290m O Camino Grande 290m 2.68   143.65    
O Camino Grande 290m A Barxa 290m 0.60   144.25    
A Barxa 290m Fion 290m 1.34   145.59    
Fion 290m O Cerdeiro 290m 3.08   148.67    
O Cerdeiro 290m Montecelo 290m 2.76   151.43    
Montecelo 290m San Paio de Diomondi 290m 0.42   151.85    
San Paio de Diomondi 290m Belasar 218m 2.14   153.99    
Belasar 218m Chantada 489m 7.44 31.42 161.43 927 727
Chantada 489m Centulle 801m 1.57   163.00    
Centulle 801m Boan 801m 3.47   166.47    
Boan 801m Lucenza 801m 0.93   167.40    
Lucenza 801m Panasillas 691m 2.51   169.91    
Panasillas 691m Alto de Faro 4.62   174.53    
Alto de Faro Rodeiro 638m 12.50 25.60 187.03 812 673
Rodeiro 638m Penerbosa 594m 5.22   192.25    
A Penela 594m A Eirexe (Rodiero) 582m 2.28   194.53    
A Eirexe (Rodiero) 582m Laxas 553m 1.53   196.06    
Laxas 553m Palmaz 594m 7.48   203.54    
Palmaz 594m Lalin 519m 2.25   205.79    
Lalin 519m A Laxe 471m 5.96 24.72 211.75 505 673
A Laxe 471m Prado 455m 2.09   213.84    
Prado 455m Transfontao 455m 5.72   219.56    
Transfontao 455m Silleda 492m 1.83   221.39    
Silleda 492m Bandeira 353m 8.75   230.14    
Bandeira 353m Dornelas 300m 5.18   235.32    
Dornelas 300m San Miguel de Castro 257m 4.90   240.22    
San Miguel de Castro 257m Ponte Ulla 65m 2.73 31.20 242.95 822 1,006
Ponte Ulla 65m San Pedro de Vilanova 210m 4.27   247.22    
San Pedro de Vilanova 210m Lestedo (Sanabres) 210m 3.69   250.91    
Lestedo (Sanabres) 210m A Susana 210m 3.32   254.23    
A Susana 210m Aldrei 210m 2.45   256.68    
Aldrei 210m O Pineiro (Santa Lucia) 210m 2.19   258.87    
O Pineiro (Santa Lucia) 210m Santiago de Compostela 250m 4.67 20.59 263.54 412 444
       
263.54 263.54 8,087 7,882

 

My Actual Schedule

Day To Distance Time Elevation in meters
   
Km
Elapsed
Hrs-Mins
Moving
Hrs-Mins
Gain Loss Min Max
  Travel to Santiago de Compostela              
  Train to Ponferrada              
1. Orellán (Las Médulas) (*) 25.92 7H42 5H26 662 414 481 789
2. O Barco de Valdeorras 24.5 7H35 5H12 441 860 359 942
3. A Rua de Valdeorras (Sobradelo) 18.82 4H54 3H53 304 290 298 502
4. Quiroga (Soldon 23.71 7H06 5H06 539 615 258 480
5. Montforte de Lemos (From A Proba de Brollon) 13.23 3H26 2H40 101 184 298 441
6. Rest Day in Monforte de Lemos              
7. O Camino Grande (Taxi back to Monforte de Lemos) 15.24 3H32 3H04 367 88 289 577
8. Chantada (Taxi back to O Camino Grande) 17.80 4H56 3H29 399 486 20 618
9. Rodeiro 24.50 7H30 5H50 724 324 487 1,154
10. Lalin (Taxi to A Penala) 16.59 5H51 3H09 299 274 551 664
11. Silleda (Taxi to Outeiro) 16.32 5H24 3H23 251 285 359 527
12. Santiago de Compostela 19.2 5H44 4H00 406 366 209 262
13. Sightseeing in Santiago de Compostela              
14. Sightseeing in Santiago de Compostela              
15. Flight home              
 

Total

215.83

    4,423

4,186

   
 (*) Note that I could not get a reservation in Las Médulas, so I opted to stay at nearby Orellán. Whilst this turned out to be enjoyable and interesting, it does involve a mighty climb up a twisting road to the village, the last thing you need at the end of a stage! However, it does give you the opportunity to visit Mirador de Orellán the next day and do a very pleasant link walk to Las Médulas.

Accommodation Details

Date Accommodation Details
Wednesday 24th April Hotel San Clemente,
Santiago de Compostela

Hotel San Clemente,
San Clemente, 28,
Santiago de Compostela,
A Coruña
Tel: +34 981 56 93 50
Via www.booking.com
Euro 50 per night excl breakfast

Thursday 25th April Hotel El Castillo,
Ponferrada


Hotel El Castillo,
Avenida El Castillo, 115,
Ponferrada 24401
Tel: +34 987 45 62 27
Via www.booking.com
Euro 46 per night excl breakfast
Friday 26th April O Palleiro do Pe do Forno
Orellán (Las Médulas)

O Palleiro do Pe do Forno,
San Pablo, 2,
Orellán 24444,
Tel: +34 649 71 14 39
Via www.booking.com
Euro 36

Saturday 27th April Hostal Mayo,
O Barco de Valdeorras

Hostal Mayo,
Avenida Eulogio Fernández, 70,
32300 O Barco de Valdeorras
Tel: +34 988 32 20 98
Via www,booking.com
Euro 30



Sunday 28th April Pacio do Sil,
La Rúa de Valdeorras

Pacio do Sil,
Calle de Xestal, 33,
Rua de Valdeorras,
32350 La Rúa,
Ourense
Tel: +34 988 31 13 46
Via www.booking.com
Euro 60

Monday 29th April Hotel Remansino,
Quiroga
Hotel Remansino,
Ctra Ricobao, 4,
27320 Quiroga,
Lugo
Booked direct
www.remansino.com-lugo.com
Patricia Quiroga
patukaa@gmail.com
Tuesday 30th April Parador de Monforte de Lemos,
Monforte de Lemos
Parador de Monforte de Lemos,
Plaza Luis de Góngora y Argote, S/N,
27400 Monforte de Lemos
Tel: +34 982 41 84 84
Via www.booking.com
£66 inc breakfast (PREPAID)
Wednesday 1st May
Thursday 2nd May
MON ComeySueñya Guesthouse, Monforte de Lemos

MON ComeySueñya Guesthouse,
Roberto Baamonde, 30,
27400 Monforte de Lemos
Tel: +34 677 47 47 36
2 nights via www.booking.com
Euro 72 inc breakfast

Friday 3rd May Hotel Mogay,
Chantada

Hotel Mogay,
Jose Antonio Lorenzana, 3,
27500 Chantada
Tel: +34 982 44 08 47
Via www.booking.com
Euro 55

Saturday 4th May Hostal Carpenteiras,
Rodeiro
Hostal Carpenteiras,
62 Carretera General, Rodeiro
Tel: +34 986 79 01 96
Booked over phone
Mailed confirmation details
Sunday 5th May Hostal Caracas,
Lalín
Hostal Caracas,
Corredoira, 32,
36500 Lalín
Tel: +34 680 17 62 05
Via www.booking.com
Euro 22
Monday 6th May Pazo de Galegos,
Ponte Ulla

Pazo de Galegos,
Galegos, 6,
15885 San Pedro de Vilanova
Tel:+34 981 51 22 17
Booked direct over internet
hotel@pazodegalegos.com
Euro 60 inc breakfast

Tuesday 7th May Santiago de Compostela,
Hotel Lorenzo

Hotel Lorenzo,
San Lorenzo 2,
15705 Santiago de Compostela
Tel: +34 981 58 01 33
Euro 62 booked directly by email(Note: due to extensive refurbishment work going on at the hotel I shortened my stay from 3 nights to 1 night.)

Wednesday 8th May
Thursday 9th May

Santiago de Compostela,
Rosa Rosae

PR*** RosaRosae,
Calle La Rosa 7,
15702 Santiago de Compostela
Tel: (+34) 981 528 300
www.rosarosae.es

     

 

The trip to Santiago de Compostela is almost becoming routine as I have done it so many times. Drop off at Stansted airport, check in for Ryanair flight, arrive at Santiago and get the Euro 3 bus ride into town which takes less than 30 minutes. I usually pay on the bus, but this time I noticed new automatic ticket sales machines. I thought that I would try it, but it took quite a while and seemed overcomplicated compared with paying on the bus. I got to the end of the sequence and realised that you could not pay cash; you had to pay by credit card. I insterted my Mastercard but coukd not work out how to put the pin number in. By this time the bus had arrived and the last passenger was about to get on. Panic! I could not abort the automated ticket purchase and I could not work out how to get my Mastercard back! I noticed that a little bit of the card was showing and managed to pull it out! Phew! I got on the bus judt in time and paid my 3 euro. Never again will I bother with the automated ticket vendor when it is so easy to pay cash on the bus!

I was soon in Plaza de Galicia in downtown Santiago and made the short walk to Hotel San Clemente. It started raining quite heavily and was quite cold, so I was looking forward to checking in. Unfortunately the receptionist had popped out to visit their sister hotel, so I had to wait on the doorstep. I phoned their helpline a couple of times, and eventually she came. It was nice to be back in Hotel San Clemente..... My home from home.

I went over to the Cathedral to see what was happening. The outside renovation is complete and looks great, but they have now started on the inside. All the pews and confession boxes have been removed and replaced by scaffold whilst they do the work. You can still walk around, but of course there is absolutely no atmosphere. The 12-noon pilgrims mass is now held in the nearby Church of San Francisco. Leaving the cathedral I walked along the narrow streets to Peticos Cardinal, my favourite tapas bar, and after a light meal headed back to the hotel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accommodation

Hotel San Clemente

 

Hotel San Clemente,
San Clemente, 28,
Santiago de Compostela,
A Coruña
Tel: +34 981 56 93 50