We leave Villafranca del Bierzo towards O Cebreiro crossing the river Burbia and we find a fork with two options: The historical road or the mountain road, both of them join in Trabadelo.
Option A) Historic route: We continue straight on along a secondary road that leads to the national road, with hardly any traffic. We go along the hard shoulder next to the river Valcarce and we reach Pereje by a detour on the right. We cross Pereje by the main street and continue without complications until Trabadelo.
Option B) Mountain path: We continue to the right and start a steep climb. This path has 400 meters of positive slope and is 1.5 km longer than the historical route. Before starting the steep descent to Trabadelo, we pass through the small village of Pradela. This option is not suitable for cyclists.
We leave Trabadelo and pass several times over the gigantic viaducts of the A-6. After 2 kilometres the Camino ends, in a very dangerous way, right at one of the exits of the busiest motorway. We recommend extreme caution. In Portela de Valcarce, we find a service station with cafeteria where we can make the first stop of the day. It also has a small supermarket where they sell typical products from El Bierzo.
We leave Portela behind us and after a long stretch walking along the left-hand side of the N-VI, we reach a crossroads where we must turn off towards Ambasmestas, from where we continue straight on to Vega de Valcarce, where we find all the services.
The path continues gently uphill until it reaches the villages of Ruitelán and Las Herrerías. At the latter, we pass the fountain and come to a fork that leads either to the Molino Verde or to La Faba, which is the option we should take. As soon as you cross the wooden bridge the climb becomes steeper and steeper. We leave the road and turn off onto a path that gives us a break as we cross the Refoxo stream. Now we start an important zigzagging ascent that leads us to the next high point, we arrive at La Faba.
We leave the village along an ancient Roman road and contemplate the beautiful landscape of Atlantic forests in the distance. We continue along a mountainous stretch where there is hardly any vegetation and we approach Laguna de Castilla, the last village in Castilla y León on the French Way. Here there is a restaurant and a hostel where we can stop. We leave La Laguna and continue in the same direction, advancing halfway up the slope of a mountain range and slowly gaining altitude.
We enter, at last, in Galicia. A stone cairn marks the entrance to the Autonomous Community and indicates that we only have 152 km to Santiago de Compostela.
The last effort takes us past an uninhabited stone house. And so we arrive at the Gaiteiro monument, which recalls a medieval legend that tells of a German pilgrim who got lost in the mountains and was able to reach this place guided by the sound of a bagpipe.
Once at the top, the views are spectacular. We pass in front of a crossroads, constructions that once marked the crossroads and with which we must become familiar from now on.
The path takes us to the end of the stage at the back of the church of Santa María la Real. We arrive to O Cebreiro and we enjoy a magical day among pallozas, and cobbled streets that keep secrets of important legends and miracles.
The stage between Villafranca del Bierzo and O Cebreiro has several points to take into account when preparing the stage. On leaving Villafranca del Bierzo, we find the Pradela variant, also known as the “mountain road”, well signposted. Despite being 1.5 km longer, it is a perfect option for pilgrims seeking solitude and silence. The path crosses spectacular Atlantic forests and gives us beautiful panoramic views of the Valcarce valley. This option is not recommended for cyclists.
In O Cebreiro accommodation is scarce and is usually full in high season. We recommend getting information in advance or spending the night in one of the villages along the way, such as Las Herrerías or Laguna de Castilla, which has a hostel.
Places of interest
- Church of San Juan Bautista – La Portela de Valcarce
- Church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen – Ambasmestas
- Castle of Sarracín – Vega de Valcarce
- Church of San Julián – Las Herrerías
- Pallozas de O Cebreiro – O Cebreiro
- Church of Santa María la Real – O Cebreiro
- Cheese D.O. O Cebreiro
- Galician stew
- Slaughter by-products
- Galician Empanada
- Meat from autochthonous livestock