The Way of St. James or The Camino is one of the largest spiritual, cultural and religious events to take place throughout the history of humanity attracting pilgrims from all over the world to make their way to Santiago de Compostela, the final resting place of the Apostle St. James.
There are two of routes or “ways” that pass through the region of Asturias… one is the Northern Coastal Route and the other is The Camino Primitivo or “The Original Way”, said to be the very first pilgrimage ever made to Santiago.
During the 9th century, while holding court in Oviedo, King Alphonse the chaste set out on a journey to Galicia in the north-west Asturian Kingdom in order to confirm the discovery of the remains of the Apostle St. James. On confirmation that the discovery was indeed St. James, King Alphonse ordered the construction of a basilica to store the saint’s remains and since then the Way of St. James between Oviedo and Santiago de Compostela has become one of first and most important Christian pilgrimages in the world. The Camino starts in the Asturian capital of Oviedo passing through Las Regueras, Grado, Salas, Tineo, Pola de Allande and Grandas de Salime where the route then enters the province of Lugo in Galicia finally finishing at Santiago de Compostela.
The Camino starts at the Cathedral of San Salvador in Oviedo which has been an important religious centre since medieval times. The Cathedral is home to some of the most important relics in Christendom including the holy shroud and is considered to be essential stopping point when doing any of the ways of St. James It’s because of this there is a saying that goes “He who visits Santiago but not San Salvador visits the servant but not the lord”.
On bidding farewell to Oviedo the landscape changes from urban to rural as you make your way along The Camino to the municipality of Las Regueras. It is here where you can visit the pre-Romanic church of San Pedro de Nora. This beautiful 9th century church has been declared a national monument since 1931.
The next stage of The Camino brings us to the market town of Grado. As you enter the town, you will pass over the magnificent Roman stone bridge and church of Peñaflor acting as a gateway to this fertile and pretty valley. Grado is a hub of activity thanks to its traditional market which has been running since medieval times. The market is held on Sundays and Wednesdays and is a good opportunity to stock up on essentials and maybe try the local cheese called Afuega’l pitu or the dessert Tocinillo de Cielo. The old town centre is worth passing through as it has plenty of places to stop and eat as well as some excellent examples of classic Indiano architecture.
Once rested, it’s time to leave Grado and continue The Camino stopping briefly at the Sanctuary of El Fresno and take in the wonderful views of the valley.
Salas is the next port of call but before you get there, you’ll have an opportunity to visit the beautiful 11th century monastery of San Salvador in the village of Cornellana. This monastery boasts some incredible stone carvings as well as an impressive bell tower.
You then proceed on to the medieval town of Salas where you will find the stunning castle and tower of Valdes as well as the Collegiate church of Santa Maria la Mayor. Within the quaint town centre you will find plenty of places to eat and also try the famous biscuits called Carajitos del Profesor.
We continue on to the town of Tineo, a hill side village with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Tineo has been an important town since Roman times thanks to vast gold mining in the area.
As pilgrims arrive into the town, they first pass by the Campo de San Roque church heading on to the town centre where they will find the Pilgrims hostel and hospital, the very interesting Sacred art Museum and San Pedro and Crucerio Church. While in Tineo you will have an opportunity to sample the famous cold meats from the area such as Chosco.
Leaving Tineo, we make our way towards Pola de Allande stopping at the 13th century Monastery of Santa Maria la Real de Obona. This is a good place to rest a while and take in its natural surrounds. From there, you enter into the beautiful mountain town of Allande greeted first by the Cienfuegos Palace and then the Anellano Church. Close by Allande you will find the church of Celon and the San Chuis Celtic settlement.
Pola De Allande is famous for heart-warming casseroles and cured meats as well as delicious wild mountain honey.
From Allande you will make your way towards the impressive Palo pass and Montefurado where you are rewarded with incredible views of the journey ahead. You will pass by the Xuan Rata and Fana de la Freita aqueducts allowing you to witness the large impact the Romans had on the area.
From here, we follow the way down through the valley passing by the beautiful historic stone village of San Emiliano and enter into the last stage of The Camino Primitivo in Asturias. Our journey takes us to the mountain village of Grandas de Salime stopping briefly at the dramatic engineering feat of Grandas dam and reservoir. Afterwards you reach Grandas de Salime, a quaint rural town which is home to one of the most impressive Ethnographic museums in Asturias. At the centre of the town you will find the 12th century Collegiate church of San Salvador.
Grandas de Salime is famous for its rustic food with plenty of influence from neighbouring Galicia, especially octopus. You will also have a chance to try the wonderful sponge cakes called Mantecadas.
A short distance from Grandas de Salime is the pilgrims hostel which sits at the foot of the well preserved Chao San Martin Celtic Settlement and interpretation centre.
It is from here that you bid farewell to Asturias descending towards the Acebo Pass and into the province of Lugo in Galicia. By now, you will have been well fed, well rested and spiritually replenished as you continue in the original footsteps of King Alphonse towards the magnificent Santiago de Compostela, the resting place of St James.
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