Have you ever heard about the Winter Way or Camino de Invierno? This is the only route that crosses all the Galician regions (Ourense, Lugo, Pontevedra and A Coruña). You may meet the green countryside in one of the less walked Camino routes: The Winter Way.
A Guide for the Winter Way
A recurring question for all those who are thinking about doing the Camino is if it’s possible to walk it during the winter months. In order to solve this one and other similar doubts, we have written a short-guide for you. Here you will find the answer to questions like…
Is it possible to do the Camino in winter? Is it difficult? By bike or foot? How is the track? What clothes will be essential for the winter way? Are there some advices that I should consider? What’s the weather like in the Winter Camino?
First of all, before providing the keys to these questions, we are going to tell you a little historic review about one of the loveliest routes you will find to reach Santiago, both on foot and by bike.
An Ancient Camino
Many pilgrims walking the French Way have founded serious problems in order to cross O Cebreiro during the Winter, due to the huge snowfalls. For this reason, they diverted the French route and took the Winter one, following the beautiful river Sil.
“You may find an alternative route for the French Way from Ponferrada”
We are two hundred and ten kilometres far from Santiago, starting in Ponferrada and crossing the four Galician provinces. This Camino is a classical route for those who came from Castilla and León region, but it’s also an old roman route. In fact, it’s famous for the great heritage you will find along the trail, but also for the amazing landscapes.
From Puente Boeza, at the French and Winter Way junction, in Ponferrada, you will start the first stage. Walking along the river Sil, you will discover beautiful paths where the leafy trees are dominating the views.
Do you love trees? Be ready to contemplate the magnificent collection of them that you will find in Ponferrada, 64 different species. A healthy manner to start the way, don’t you think?
After crossing some little towns surrounded by vineyards and fruit trees, a moonscape will appear soon, but you will still be in Spain. Las Médulas, a World Heritage Site since 1997, is a unique place that has been shaped by the Romans in the past. The history tells us that Las Médulas was a golden mining area. Make a stop to contemplate the perforated caves and the reddish clay hills, between the ancient chestnut trees.
Moreover, famous for their wines, Valdeorras lands will take you until the South Area of Lugo, crossing the Ribeira Sacra region, in Ourense. You will be able to look at the spectacular views over the river Sil.
Then, you will pass the Deza region, in Pontevedra province, joining later to the Southeastern Way (Silver Way – Via de la Plata), in A Laxe. From that point, this path will be your trail to reach Santiago de Compostela. Sounds good?
The Camino de Santiago in winter
Walking the Camino de Santiago in winter is possible, since there is a special route for it. Although it is not the most suitable period of the year for it due to the weather, or the absence of services in the area.
This is the Winter Camino (Camino de Invierno), a route originated as an alternative for those pilgrims who made the French Way during the winter months and wanted to avoid the huge snowfalls came down in O Cebreiro.
It’s one of the less busy Caminos you may find to reach Santiago de Compostela. So, if you want to live a real adventure, watching startling landscapes, breathing pure air, and discovering yourself, this will be your Camino.
Despite the age of this ancient track, it was declared an official route just since a bit more than a decade ago. However, the cultural and natural interest are undeniable, due to the great importance that it had as a route that connected with the central part of the Iberian Peninsula. Moreover, it used to be the road where people, horses and even carriages crossed to get Galicia; A Galician history witness during more than 2 thousand years.
It would be extremely difficult to put into words the uniqueness of the landscape that you may find on this Camino, you need to experience it! Neither a picture could express the feeling of seeing the forests in the Ribeira Sacra; the majesty of the Bierzo landscapes; the untamed nature found in the Deza Region; or all the cultural heritage that you may find in these four provinces in the northwest part of Spain, where the Winter Way runs.
Moreover, we’ve already told you about the therapeutic effects of the Camino de Santiago. As you know, these ones are connected to the forests and the air that we breathe when we take a walk in the nature.
Did you know that the Winter Way is one of the richest trails in terms of flora and fauna? You can be glad to take a deep breath along this path. Look at the lichens on the trees, they indicate the cleanliness of the air. An oxygenated breeze will go with you towards Santiago de Compostela.
Difficulty level in the Winter Way
Some of the most common doubts you may have while planning your Camino experience are about the easiness of the track. Regarding this question, you may know that the Winter Camino is pretty easy.
In fact, from Ponferrada the route profile is around 512 metres and 250 metres. But, even so, there is an only steep incline in the stage from Chantada to Rodeiro.
Thus, before Rodeiro, you will climb from 483 metres to 1188 metres in order to reach A Serra do Faro, but then you will start to descend. Walking to the Serra do Faro will be worth it, since you may contemplate the fascinating views over Galicia. Did you know that from there you can see the four Galician provinces? It’s the best point to see the largest part of Galician territory.
Cycling the Winter Camino
If you are a bike rider, you have the opportunity to pedal the Camino. Riding the winter Camino is another way to enjoy the journey, but don’t attempt to go fast if you don’t want to miss such splendid landscapes.
Contrariwise, taking it easy is the best manner to get the most out of this adventure. So, are you ready to go?
If you’ve just decided to start your Camino by bike, don’t hesitate to take it in to be inspected by a mechanic before starting the trip. But, if you are an expert, you probably know everything about its maintenance already.
Furthermore, don’t forget to follow the path and some advices about the diversion for riders. There are some difficulties in some of the sections, so it’s advisable to follow the alternative indications. We must also consider the fragility of the ecosystem, so being respectful of the environment is the best you can do.
All about the stages on the Winter Way
In the same way as the other Caminos, you can walk the Winter Camino in several journeys. The starting point is in Ponferrada, but if you don’t have enough time to complete it in 12 nights, you can opt for doing the last 100 km. from Monforte de Lemos; and even to split it in several parts. We offer tailor-made routes, so feel free to contact us to get your special itinerary. We will be glad to organize your dream holidays in Galicia.
First Stage (Ponferrada – Las Médulas) 27 Km
The first stage is one of the longest in the Winter Way. The official path runs until O Barco de Valdeorras, but it is about 53 km, so it’s hard to finish it in just one day. That’s the reason why we split it in two stages.
You will find a soft profile, there are not inclines or slopes, so it will be a good form to start the Camino.
Ponferrada is a little city, but it offers all the needed services. In terms of tourism, it’s a great city to enjoy the nature, since it’s like a botanical garden with around fourteen thousands trees.
Concerning the cultural heritage, you will see some typical buildings with a wooden balcony at the façade. They are known as Casas de Priaranza. There are also several churches from 17th and 18th centuries, and ahead, a great castle, called Castillo de Cornatel, which origins seem to date back before the 11th century. This monumental building is set deep in the edge of the hill, in a strategic location.
The relation between the Castle and the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is due to the Templars, who inhabited it from 1213 and 1312. During this period the order of the Templars provided protection to the pilgrims. Then, it was transferred to a Count who promoted the Camino de Santiago and maintained such protection for pilgrims.
Following the Camino, we will arrive in Las Médulas, an opencast mine where the romans obtained the valuable gold. The shapes were arisen as a result of the excavations where the water flew. Consequently, due to the pressure of the water, the hill fell down, causing such beautiful shaped hills.
Furthermore, you will discover ahead a great area to stop: el Lago de Carucedo (Carucedo lake). It was formed as a result of the movements of the water that dragged the gold mining.
Stage 2 (Las Médulas – El Barco de Valdeorras) 27 km
The second day you will find several roman bridges. Moreover, you will discover the Via Nova (also known as Via XVIII), a roman itinerary that connected Braga (North of Portugal) and Astorga (León, Spain). This is an ancient path where you may see the Miliarios (the old roman milestones).
Moreover, the vineyards are also very important in O Barco de Valdeorras. You may try their wines, made it with Godello grapes, with a sweet and soft taste.
Stage 3 (O Barco de Valdeorras – A Rúa de Valdeorras) 14 Km
The area of A Rúa de Valdeorras will offer you fantastic panoramic views and more vineyards. You will continue finding roman traces, like the bridge of A Cigarrosa, where the Via Nova crossed over the river Sil.
Stage 4 (A Rúa de Valdeorras – Quiroga) 26 Km
Keep walking along the Via Nova. We will reach Montefurado. This place has a famous mine shaft, dated on 2nd century. The tunnel was made in a straight line, out of the river course, in order to divert the waters of the river Sil and remove the gold. Part of this stage runs parallel to a low-traffic road, but it’s also aligned with the river course. So the views are still very nice.
After Montefurado, you will find a litte chapel, known as Capela das Farrapas, where pilgrims relinquished their old, dirty and ripped clothes after a long trail, in order to avoid any infection.
Since this area is characterized by having a Mediterranean climate, the olives and the oil are also very typical. You will find a 300 years oil mill next to the Chapel das Farrapas, where the residents celebrate an event in honor to the Oil every year.
Before arriving in Quiroga, you will find the remains of a 10-13th Century Castle (Castillo de Novaes). It was the residence of the Hospitallier Order of St. John of Jerusalem (San Juan de Jerusalén), founders of many pilgrims’ hospitals.
Besides the cultural heritage that you will find in Quiroga, the most notable aspect in this area is the nature. Quiroga belongs to the Serra do Caurel (Courel mountais), a UNESCO Global Geopark since 2019 and an authentic geological sample that hides fossils and unique remains from hundreds of millions of years ago. A real paradise!
Stage 5 (Quiroga – Monforte de Lemos) 36 Km
This is probably one of the most difficult stages in the Winter Way. In particular, the section from Nocedo to Carballo de Lor is a long and pronounced ascent. So, be ready and take it easy! Moreover, in this section you won’t see any village or people. It’s the best time to enjoy a moment of peace and the self-awareness.
Although the lack of people and villages is common within this area, you will quickly find a little village with a fountain. After crossing the roman bridge over the river Lor (14th -15th Century), used by pilgrims and residents for centuries, you will arrive in Castroncelos. Here, there is a church dedicated to the apostle Santiago El Mayor (St. James the Great).
Finally, you will reach the town of Puebla de Brollón, where you can have some food and drinks, before the short pronounced ascent you will have ahead. After reaching the place “Alto da Serra” (a high point in the mountain), you will start to descent towards Monforte de Lemos.
Monforte has a significant cultural heritage. Among some of the features that you will find, there is the Benedictine monastery, which gave origin to the town. Nowadays, the building hosts the Parador Nacional hotel. Besides that, you may also find several elements of the religious heritage, like the Convent of Santa Clara that houses an important religious art collection. Valuable goldsmithing pieces, sacral jewels, altarpieces, sculptures, paintings and even religious clothing.
On top of that, the old quarter is well worth visiting. Don’t forget to visit the Ribeira Sacra interpretation centre, placed in the old Sancti-Spirit hospital. In middle of the 18th century, it used to be a hostel for pilgrims.
Stage 6 (Monforte de Lemos – Chantada) 30 Km
In the past, Monforte was a bridging point and intersection between ways, such Monforte and Castro Caldelas, through the Roman road “Via Nova”; Monforte and Sober, Pantón and Belesar; and even between Monforte and Lugo. The Roman roads were still used in the Middle Ages and later for pilgrims and all sorts of people.
This stage doesn’t encounter serious difficulties, despite the incline to reach the peak of Líncora (Alto de Líncora) from Belesar. Anyway, the vineyards, that hung on the riverbank, will conform an amazing landscape.
The Ribeira Sacra is famous for its high quality wines. The grape “Mencía” is one of the best red ones you will ever try. Its sweet fruity flavor is very characteristic.
An enormous reservoir, known as “Os Peares” is located on this area. Both the old Roman bridge and the old Church were flooded after the construction of this reservoir. Furthermore, there are several “petos de ánimas” (religious sculptures to honor the wandering souls), along the route. They used to be placed on the entrance and the outskirts of the villages. Although you won’t find remarkable ancient monuments in Chantada, the arcades on the streets at the Old Quarter are an exceptional sample of the typical architecture of this area.
Stage 7 (Chantada – Rodeiro) 26 Km
Continuing the Camino from Chantada you will have the opportunity to see the four provinces of Galicia region. In fact, this journey passes through the Sierra de O Faro (Faro Mountains). A pronounced incline will take you to the best views of the Galician territory. Take a break on the top of the mountain and enjoy the amazing landscape. There, you will find a chapel, the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de O Faro.
The peak is over the 1.100 meters, so you may contemplate the Courel, Ancares, Peña Trevinca, Manzaneda and Monte Farelo mountains from there. During the winter period, it’s common to find the mountains coated in a blanket of snow, that resembles a crown. From that point, you will start to descend. Along the route, several raised granaries will appear in the middle of the fog.
Soon, you will see a building, known as Pazo de Camba or Pazo de los Churruchaos. The first reference to this country house appeared in 832 A.D., but the annexed church is dated on 12th century. It also served as a shelter for pilgrims and a prison in the past, but nowadays it’s a private residence, so it’s not open to the general public.
In addition to that, keep walking on the route, and you will see another classic construction known as “Os Pendellos” (18th century approx.).
This set of buildings formed a local market where people exchanged their excess of vegetables production for other artisanal products. But, due to the adverse weather conditions and the lack of roads in the past, they also used to serve as shelters to spend the night.
Stage 8 (Rodeiro – Lalín) 22 Km
We are approaching to the final stages! This is the last journey on the proper winter itinerary. That’s because the way joins to the Silver route (Via de la Plata) from Lalín. You will cross the Deza region, a livestock area where you will also pass the “Ponte Pedroso” medieval bridge (12th Century) over the river Arnego. There are two old mills next to this bridge and also along the riverside.
The stage from Rodeiro to Lalín is the last one on the Winter trail
The track is topped by ancient oaks and chestnut trees, and there is a primitive cemetery ahead, “campo de mámoas in Coto Mamuela”.
Just a little further you’ll find Lalín. This town is known as the Km.0 of Galicia region, because it’s the geographical centre of the Community. Furthermore, the “Cocido” it’s very typical here, a meal consisting on boiled turnip greens, cabbage or kale, several cuts of pork meat (like spicy pork sausage, ears or salted tail), chickpeas, beans, potatoes and so on. At Galiwonders, we strongly recommend you to try it! In fact, the pork on this area is so famous that there is even a pork sculpture in the centre of the town. Don’t miss this post about the food along the Camino de Santiago!
Besides the great food you may find in Lalín, you can also visit Pazo de Liñares, an ancestral home that dates back to the 17th century, listed as a Site of Cultural Interest in 2009.
Stage 9 (Lalín – Silleda) 15 Km
From now on you will join to the Silver Route, and of course, Santiago de Compostela is not far… This is a shorter stage, and you may note that it’s becoming more social. That’s because you will find other pilgrims, and also because the Silver Route and the Winter Way become one.
The path runs around forests and rural areas where you’ll see some interesting archaeological sites, several Romanesque and Gothic churches, and typical stone houses.
The water from the river Toxa in Silleda comes down the waterfall that you shouldn’t fail to visit, as well as the Monastery of Carboeiro from the 10th century.
Stage 10 (Silleda – Ponte Ulla) 20 Km
Finally, you’ll reach A Coruña province, and Santiago de Compostela is getting closer. Ponte Ulla is the border between A Coruña and Pontevedra Province. It’s a little place where the high speed train viaduct crosses towards Santiago. You may see many old country houses, stone crosses, the church of Santiaguiño (St. James Apostle) and a famous pilgrim fountain from 17th century.
Final Stage (Ponte Ulla – Santiago de Compostela) 25 Km
Ponte Ulla is well known by its historic bridge, which dates back in the Middle Ages, but the most reliable place is the Monte Sacro (Sacred Mountain). This was the location where the St. James Disciples found the oxen that carried the Apostle’s remains to the Libredón forest. Moreover, if the day is clear, you may distinguish the towers of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela from the top of the Monte Sacro.
Before arriving in Santiago, you will cross the last medieval bridge along this pilgrimage route. That’s the bridge over the river Sar from the 13th century, and just then you can contemplate the collegiate church “Colegiata del Sar”, one of the Romanesque jewels in Santiago region.
You are finally reaching Santiago de Compostela! You will enter in Obradoiro Square through the “Puerta de Mazarelos”, where the Cathedral will be waiting for you. Did you know that there were 7 doors in the fortified enclosure of Santiago de Compostela? Well, this is the only that survives! And you may have the opportunity to cross it! Sounds good?
What clothes are essential for the winter way?
First of all, if you are thinking about walking the Camino, and you’ve decided to do it in winter, you should keep in mind the weather.
So, what’s the weather like in the Winter Way? Well, as you probably already know Winter period is characterized by colder and rainy weather, but we have different types of climate in Galicia.
Despite the fact that the weather is changing due to climate change, in the area where the Winter Way passes, it predominates the Oceanic Climate. Anyway, from Ponferrada to the Ribeira Sacra you will mostly find a continental climate, but there are influences from the Mediterranean, Oceanic and Continental climate.
Contrariwise, in the Region of Deza there are rainy winters, but softer temperatures than in Lugo area.
Considering this kind of climate, you may need a raincoat and some waterproof shoes. You must also keep in mind that temperatures do not use to be lower than ΟºC. Anyway, the level of humidity is high, so we highly recommend you to dress like an onion and think in terms of layers. Moreover, a windbreaker is also useful if the wind appears. Check out what we suggest you to bring to the Camino de Santiago!
Are there any advices that should I consider?
Besides the weather tips, you should know that you need to be ready for an uncrowded route. What does that mean? Well, as you know, there are few pilgrims during the winter period. That’s the reason why it’s very nice to enjoy the landscape and the peaceful of the places.
Also, you will really enjoy this adventure in case you are a solitude fan and love the remote places. Otherwise, you could feel alone until Ponte Ulla, from where you would join to the French route. Are you looking for an alternative route? Are you searching some peaceful, magical and healthy area? Would you like to escape from the noisy and contaminated areas? If you answer YES, the Winter Way is waiting for you!
If you want to have a different experience and enjoy the most rural zones of Galicia region, please don’t hesitate to contact us to request your tailor-made itinerary. The Galiwonders Team will be glad to organize everything you need for this adventure.