One of the most common problems of the pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago is the inherent difficulty, the extra difficulty that is added by the mere fact of the popularization of it. It is not the same to look for lodging in some routes that in others, since in the most known they are practically collapsed in certain stages of the year. That is why we want to introduce you to the Winter Camino de Santiago from Ponferrada, better known as the Winter Way.
This particular tour has the beauty and charm of other tours and the advantage that it is less traveled. Although you’re probably wondering why it’s less popular. Don’t worry, we’ll answer all your questions right now.
Why is it known as Winter Way?
One of the most common mistakes is to think that this tour can only be done in the cold months, which, let’s face it, is not a great idea since in the north in the months of December, January and February it is really cold. This is not the idea; you can go through all seasons of the year, although the ideal time is not the winter. In this article we tell you what is the best time to do the Camino.
Its name comes from a bygone era, from a time when there was neither Wi-fi, nor smartphones, much less all the advantages and comforts we enjoy today. We’re talking about the Middle Ages.
The way adopts this name because the pilgrims who tried to enter Galicia decided to choose a route more quality and therefore more hospitable. Keep in mind that in the Middle Ages the temperature was lower than today’s, so the cold was really cold and there were no means of thermal insulation that we have today.
For this reason, this route adopted such a curious name. The question we must ask ourselves now is what is the travel of the same.
What is the route of the Winter Way?
First of all, it should be noted that the beginning is located in the city of Ponferrada, which is worth visiting before starting the journey. Ponferrada is one of the most beautiful cities in Castile and Leon, capital of the beautiful region of El Bierzo. It is a historical enclave that is worth knowing.
Stage 1: Ponferrada – Las Médulas
The stage is not particularly complex and we will have to start it from the Town Hall square, and then in a crossing that will barely last 800 metres to reach the Mascarón Bridge, which is an obligatory stop since it is located on the river Boeza, which is usually a great unnoticed for the pilgrim who wants to complete the route in a short time, or what we called in another article: the Spartan pilgrim.
Once we have crossed the Bridge Mascarón, of medieval origin, and we face the second iter of our route, we will find the Toral de Merayo, that will mark us the way for the arrival to Villalibre de la Jurisdicción. This town barely has 250 inhabitants, in which the main tourist attraction is the church of San Juan Bautista.
Near the tenth kilometre we will find Priaranza del Bierzo, a town where we will not stop long to get to Santalla del Bierzo. Arriving at Villavieja we will be able to observe the Castle of Cornatel, which is a fortress of Roman origin and that belonged in century XIII to the Order of the Temple.
Passing through Borrenes we will arrive at Las Médulas to finally complete our tour in a Cultural Landscape (catalogued as such by UNESCO).
Stage 2: Las Médulas- O Barco de Valdeorras
This 26.4-kilometre-long stage will not present us with any problems if we tackle it with sufficient spirit and with the full will to complete it and enjoy it.
From Las Médulas, we will travel 8 kilometers until we reach Puente de Domingo Flórez, where we will be able to appreciate the slate museum. However, we should not stop too long, as other localities have a greater tourist interest. Passing through Pumares we will reach Sobradelo which is a municipality of great interest, as its bridge of 7 arches is a true architectural wonder and a sign of the resistance of the Spanish troops in the War of Independence, as the partial blasting of it prevented the passage of Napoleonic troops.
Finalizing our stay or stop in Sobradelo we will face the way in order to arrive to Éntoma to observe its medieval bridge sito on the river Galir. From Éntoma we will reach the end of the stage in O Barco de Valdeorras, a town that has wines with its own denomination of origin, which we recommend tasting.
Stage 3: O Barco de Valdeorras- A Rúa de Valdeorras
Starting from O Barco de Valdeorras, we will have to complete a much shorter route. Just 14 kilometers long, so we will be able to cover it in less than 4 hours. Arriving at Arcos, a town where we must not stop too long, we must continue until we reach Villamartín de Valdeorras. It’s a town that will appreciate those who like good alcohol as it has more than 200 wineries.
We will finish the stage in A Rúa de Valdeorras, which is a medium-sized town where we can visit both the Chapel of San Roque and the parish church of San Estaban, which dates from the sixteenth century. However, the main tourist attraction lies in the Puente A Cigarrosa of Roman origin located on the river Sil.
Stage 4: Rúa de Valdeorras to Quiroga
This stage is of medium difficulty and comprises 26 kilometres that can be made a little long. It will take us about 7 hours to complete the route. However, it is a beautiful route that we recommend to complete carefully. But not so carefully that it’s night.
We begin by A Rúa de Valdeorras and we will have to pass by Albaredo, which to his exit has a beautiful footpath in which we will be able to observe as much vines as olive trees, which is curious at least.
From Albaredo we will depart to Montefurado, a small village of less than 200 hbitantes. There we can find the church of San Miguel dating from the eighteenth century.
Passing through O Ermidón, Bendilló and Soldón we will arrive at Os Novais where we will find the fortress of the same name as the locality, being the perfect place to contemplate the greatness and majesty of the river Sil. At the end of the tour we will pass by Caspedro and finally we will arrive to Quiroga, town where we will be able to visit the ethnographic museum and again, with a great activity linked to the world of wine.
Stage 5: Quiroga-Monforte de Lemos
We are now at the equator of the Winter way. It is a good time to regain energy and devote a little to rest, as we are waiting for what will surely be the hardest stage. This stage lasts almost 9 hours and has a length of almost 36 kilometers. We are not going to deceive you is the queen stage of this Camino de Santiago, so we must be rested and have the necessary strength. It is advisable to leave in the morning, otherwise we will not be able to complete it without it being done at night. And being in the country at night is not a good idea.
Beginning with Quiroga we will arrive at Carballo de Lor in which we will be able to observe in the way to A Ponte spectacular views of the valley that gives name to the town. From A Ponte we will continue to Castroncelos where there is a small church which is recommended to visit. However, perhaps we should not do much tourism at this stage because otherwise we will not be able to complete it in one day, but we will have to divide it in two.
From A Pobra de Brollón, having already travelled almost 23 kilometres, we must continue to Cereixa to finally reach Reigada. In Reigada we will continue until we arrive to Monforte de Lemos where we will complete the route.
The Condal Palace, the Monastery, the Torre del Homenaje (Homage Tower) and all that has to do with the architectural complex included in the Monte de San Vicente are worth a visit in this locality.
Stage 6: Monforte de Lemos- Chantada
It is also a long stage, almost 30 kilometers, but the difficulty is less, so in less than 8 hours we will have completed it. It is necessary to indicate as key points of this stage the localities of Montecelo. In this city is the Church of San Paio de Diamondi and the locality of Chantada, which has as tourist claim its Casonas. It’s the best of all the Casona de Lemos.
In Chantada, at the end of the tour, we can see many Romanesque buildings and monasteries such as San Salvador de Asma.
Stage 7: Chantada- Rodeiro
Medium difficulty stage and almost 26 kilometres of route. It is characterized by its duration of less than 7 hours and by the natural beauty of its landscapes. It is worth mentioning that the Penasillás stage is located at kilometre 9, where the San Antón hermitage is located.
Also point to A Feira in which we will find the parish of Rio and of course. We must point out the end of the stage: Rodeiro. Rodeiro is a village of unique nature and great beauty in which we can see the fortress of Rodeiro dating from the fourteenth century.
Stage 8: Rodeiro-A Laxe
This stage is the final one. This stage can be a blessing for the one who is not given more than if the legs and an enormous sorrow for the one who has fully lived the Winter Way and wants more. However, this is the end of everything so we have to make the most of this stage.
Starting at Rodeiro, we will cross through Penerbosa to reach A Penela and end at A Eirexe de Pedroso. In these first 10 kilometres, apart from the landscapes, we can not stand out much. So we can take advantage to walk a little faster and thus have more time for the rest of the tour, to do it more slowly.
Passing through Palmaz, we will reach Lalín, possibly the largest town in the entire route, since it has 10,000 inhabitants, so we could consider it a city. In it we can see the church of Lalín de Arriba, dating from the tenth century, so its origin is Romanesque. Therefore, it is advisable to stop for a few minutes to visit it and observe it closely. In addition, this city celebrates the Stew Fair, so if we pass on the exact date we can enjoy it.
Once we have crossed Lalín we will arrive at Bergazos to end in A Laxe after 27 kilometers and about 6 hours of walking.
Unfortunately, the Winter Way ends here, which does not mean that we cannot reach Santiago. To arrive at Santiago de Compostela we will have to continue until arriving at Outeiro and passing this town we will finally arrive at Santiago, having realized more than 100 kilometers being able to obtain the Compostela, if you have the credential of the Pilgrim sealed that yes.
Why is this road less popular?
Honestly, there is no reason to think that this path is worse than the French one. In addition, it has the advantage that it is only 260 kilometers, which is less traveled than the French Way or the North Way.
However, it is better to enjoy the advantages it provides us with, such as authenticity, for example, than to seek an answer to this question. In addition, as the years go by it is becoming more and more popular. We recommend that you go as soon as possible, as it may be too late for when you want to go. It could be that it had already become massified, losing the authenticity of which we spoke at the beginning of the article.
Therefore, if you want to enjoy the true Camino de Santiago, we recommend that you complete the Winter Way. Let yourself be dazzled by its landscapes and its people.
If you haven’t decided yet, we recommend you read Which Way to Santiago Choose?