Primitive Way

The Primitive Way to Santiago de Compostela begins in Oviedo, the capital of Asturias, in northern Spain. Its total distance is 321 km and it normally consists of 11 stages (plus 3 stages of the French Way).

This path is the oldest pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, with records dating back to the 9th century. It stands out for being a more difficult than usual route for pilgrims, especially in the Asturias section, where there are many ascents and descents of mountains. Therefore, it is essential to have poles to assist in the walk. Despite being a difficult route, it crosses landscapes of great natural beauty and of great patrimonial and historical importance.

What equipment to take for the Primitive Way?

It is essential that you carry the least amount possible in your backpack and that everything is good quality. What is recommended by experts is to carry the equivalent of 10% of your weight, never exceeding 20%. It is essential to bring light and comfortable hiking clothes, waterproof clothing and rain protection, for yourself and for your backpack.

Important equipment:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Towel
  • Medicines and toiletries (small packs that you can refill on the way)
  • Hiking boots (preferably waterproof boots) and flip-flops
  • Flashlight
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Insect repellent (on this route there are a lot of bugs)
  • Don’t forget your phone charger and portable batteries
  • Pegs to hang clothes in your backpack and even on a clothesline
  • Always good to have some utility cord
  • cap or hat

What kind of physical preparation is necessary to do the Primitive Way?

It is recommended to start preparing physically a few months in advance, taking short walks and increasing gradually. If you have the opportunity, it is recommended to walk along hilly and uneven trails and terrain during training. It is also essential to make sure that you are in good health and fit to make the journey.

The Stages of the Primitive Way:

1st stage Primitive Way: From Oviedo to San Juan de Villapañada (27 km)

The first leg of the route starts in Oviedo and passes through the village of Grado, heading to San Juan de Villapañada. On the Asturian part of the route it is suggested to try the typical foods, such as bollos preñaos (bread baked in the oven with a chorizo inside), and frixuelos, a type of sweet crepe.

Primitive Way 01

2nd stage Primitive Way: From San Juan de Villapañada to Salas (18.2 km)

This stage starts in San Juan de Villapañada and continues to one of the most visited sanctuaries in Asturias, the Sanctuary of the Virgen del Fresno, from the 16th century.

Primitive Way 02

This stage also crosses two rivers, the Nalón and the Narcea. It is also possible to see the famous Mount Naranco.

Primitive Way 03

3rd stage Primitive Way: From Salas to Tineo (19.8 km)

On this stage you start from Salas, which is known as “the Door of the West”, and continue to La Espina. In this village is located the famous crossroads of Alto de la Espina. From La Espina, you head towards Tineo.

4th stage Primitive Way: From Tineo to Pola de Allande (26.4 km)

The walk on this stage is through woods and valleys, until reaching Pola de Allande (La Puela). Eonaviego or Galician-Asturian is still spoken here, a variety of Romance languages that extends between the Eo and Navia rivers. There you can visit the 14th century Cienfuegos de Peñalba Palace.

Primitive Way 04

5th stage Primitive Way: From Pola de Allande to La Mesa (21.6 km)

This stage consists of the ascent to the top of Puerto del Palo, with more than 1000 meters of altitude. Due to the spectacular view of the Nisón valley and the nearby mountains of Galicia, this stage is considered one of the most beautiful on the Primitive Way. At the end of the stage, you can try the Oscos cheese or the sweets made with butter, called mantecados.

Primitive Way 05

6th stage Primitive Way: From La Mesa to Grandas de Salime (15.2 km)

At this stage, you will descent all the way to the Salime dam. After crossing the dam, you will head towards Grandas, the last stop in Asturian lands.

7th stage Primitive Way: From Grandas de Salime to Fonsagrada (25.2 km)

This is the section where you enter Galicia from the top of Acebo. It is important to be aware that the signage will change when arriving in Galicia. The well-deserved rest is done in the city of Fonsagrada, where you can try Butelo, a typical food from the mountains of the province of Lugo. It consists of a sausage with meat and pork ribs, peppers and other stuffing condiments.

8th stage Primitive Way: From Fonsagrada to O Cádavo (24.3 km)

It is a difficult stage, but with beautiful views along the way. It consists of the descent from the ruins of the Hospital de Montouto to O Cádavo. The Montouto Hospital has its origins in 1357, despite receiving a renovation in 1698 and some later modifications.

Primitive Way 06

9th stage Primitive Way: From O Cádavo to Lugo (29.5 km)

This stage will go through several villages and small inhabited centers, among them Castroverde, where the Church of Santa María de Vilabade is located. When arriving in Lugo, you can choose to visit the Cathedral of Santa María or the convent of San Francisco.

10th stage Primitive Way: Lugo to San Romao de la Retorta (19.6 km)

This stage is made up mainly of asphalt roads, with some dirt roads and passes through remains of Romanesque art and medieval buildings, such as the Santa Eulalia de Bóveda Sanctuary, a monument worth visiting. Then the path becomes only dirt roads until reaching San Romao da Retorta, in Guntín.

Primitive Way 07

11th stage Primitive Way: San Romao da Retorta to Melide (28.3 km)

In this stage you will meet the pilgrims who are making the French way. Route where the Order of Malta established several hospitals dedicated to the pilgrims, such as the Hospital de Seixas in Serra do Careón. In Melide, in the province of La Coruña, it is recommended to try the octopus and the melindres dessert, typical dishes of the place.

12th stage Primitive Way: Melide to Arzúa (14 km)

This stage consists of a 14 km walk along irregular rural paths until arriving in Arzúa.

13th stage Primitive Way: Arzúa to O Pedrouzo (19.3 km)

At this stage, the pilgrim can choose between two options. The first would be to spend the night in Pedrouzo and in the morning follow the path through Santa Irene, where the hermitage of San Pedro is located. The second option would be to go straight to Monte do Gozo, already on the outskirts of Santiago de Compostela, thus making it possible to enter Compostela the next morning.

14th stage Primitive Way: The Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela (19.4 km)

The final stage is short and simple until arriving in Compostela, where the Cathedral of Santiago is located in Praza do Obradoiro. Welcome to Santiago de Compostela pilgrim!

The Pilgrim’s Credential on the Primitive Way to Santiago

In order to issue their Compostelana upon arriving at the Cathedral of Santiago, each pilgrim must carry their Pilgrim’s Credential at all times, a kind of passport that is issued in the main cathedrals in Portugal and Spain.

Along the way, the pilgrim must request the seals of the places they pass through, a type of stamp of the place. Pilgrims must have at least two stamps per day of walking on their credential to be entitled to issue their compostelana.

There are a few good options for stamping your credential:

  1. If your Camino starts in Oviedo, you can get your first stamp from the city’s tourist information service;
  2. All pilgrim hostels have stamps;
  3. Bars and restaurants along the route, as well as bakeries and some neighborhood services also have stamps.
  4. The Jacobean Associations, the main churches of the Primitive Way and all the hostels on the route also have seals.
  5. Public bodies such as municipal councils also usually have their stamps and seals.

Although challenging, the Primitive Way is worth knowing because of its historical and heritage importance, magnificent landscapes and local cuisine. It will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience of much reflection and personal learning.

Bon camino, ultréia et suséia!

Luiza Bergamini

Luiza Bergamini


Graduated in Tourism at Faculdade Anhembi Morumbi in São Paulo, Luiza is fluent in English and is passionate about travel and nature. She currently works with student tourism and loves to discover new cultures.

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