Camino Primitivo

The Primitive Way is the oldest documented route of the Camino de Santiago, but curiously one of the least travelled. Its layout makes it a physically demanding route, but rich on an emotional level. It is the most spiritual and authentic Camino that we can find. In 2022, about 20,000 pilgrims made this pilgrimage route. This figure is 2,000 more pilgrims than in 2019.

Popular tours of the Primitive Way

Camino Primitivo desde Lugo
100 Km
5 Etapas
6 Noches
desde 580 €
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Camino Primitivo Completo
314 Km
14 Etapas
15 Noches
desde 1225 €
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This route is considered one of the routes of the Camino de Santiago with more scenic beauty, as its green landscapes from the height give views to keep in memory. Thanks to this, it was recognised by UNESCO in 2015, along with the Camino del Norte, as a World Heritage Site, the highest distinction that a cultural asset can receive.

The route crosses dozens of forests, rivers, mountains, villages, rivers, streams, valleys, hills and pastures with grazing cattle. In addition, most of the route is in the middle of nature, so you will hardly walk along roads with vehicles.

The solitude of some sections makes the Primitive Way a paradise for those seeking to explore and rediscover their inner self. It is one of the most beautiful and peaceful routes in the whole peninsula.

How difficult is the route?

The Primitive Way is a medium-high difficulty route. However, this is perhaps the most physically demanding route. You should bear in mind that the level of difficulty of this route may vary depending on the starting point, how you decide to divide the stages, your physical condition and the weather conditions at the time of the journey.


The entire Primitive Way is approximately 314 kilometres long from Oviedo. Although this route can also be completed in fewer kilometres if you decide to start at another point closer to Santiago, such as Lugo or A Fonsagrada. The distance travelled each day can affect the feeling of difficulty, so it is important to plan stages that are suitable for your level of fitness.


The terrain of the Primitive Way is varied and can be challenging in certain sections. You will find paved roads (although few), forest trails, dirt tracks, mountainous terrain and rocky paths.

This route can be especially tough for cyclists due to the lack of specific infrastructure such as cycle paths. It should also be noted that during the winter months, mud floods parts of the route, which can be a disadvantage.

Forest paths along the Primitive Way
Forest paths along the Primitive Way.


The Primitive Way has considerable gradients compared to other routes. From Oviedo to Lugo is a typical medium-mountain route, except for the descent to the Salime reservoir (where the altitude drops from almost 1000 metres to 300 metres) and the climb to Puerto de Palo (where the altitude rises to almost 800 metres) there are no major gradients to overcome in one go. Nevertheless, the route is a continuous up and down with all types of terrain.

How many stages are there on the Primitive Way?

The Primitive Way from Oviedo consists of 14 stages and approximately 314 kilometres. The most common practice among pilgrims is to do this entire route walking in 14 days. Depending on the availability of time of each person, it is also possible to do this itinerary in more days and take the opportunity to make a visit of interest. Or alternatively, walk fewer kilometres in fewer days if you do not have so much time.

There are various starting points for the Camino Primitivo, but among the most popular are the following:

  • From Oviedo – 314 km – 14 stages
  • From Tineo – 245 km – 11 stages
  • From Berducedo – 198 km – 9 stages
  • From A Fonsagrada – 149 km – 7 stages
  • From Lugo – 100 km approximately – 5 stages

If one of your objectives is to obtain the Compostela, you should bear in mind that you must have covered a minimum of 100 kilometres on foot or 200 kilometres by bicycle, so your route will have to start very close to Lugo or in the Asturian town of Pola de Allande, respectively.

Even so, don’t forget that our itineraries are completely flexible, if you have a different idea in mind (you want to add or remove nights, services, etc.) don’t hesitate to let us know.

The route and signposting on the Primitive Way

The route of the Primitive Way is well signposted and can be done by following the signs that indicate the route: stone cairns, the iconic scallop shell tile on the façades of buildings or urban constructions, yellow arrows, bronze scallops embedded in the floors of the streets…

We recommend you to look for these signs among the urban or rural geography to be able to follow the Camino to Santiago, as sometimes they can be hidden or covered by some element such as cars or people, making you follow the wrong way. If you arrive at a crossroads without any indication and you don’t know how to continue, we recommend you to go back to the last sign you have seen to try to reorient yourself.

Important note:

In Asturias you must follow the scallop in the direction in which it closes, i.e. in the direction of the base of the scallop (like an imaginary arrow). In Galicia, it is the opposite, you should always follow the open part of the shell, i.e. the large semicircular part. In addition, it is quite common for scallops to be accompanied by a yellow arrow, so you will not have any difficulty in following the path.

What is the best time of year to do this route?

We recommend you do the Primitive Way in spring, summer and autumn, as this is when the weather conditions are most favourable for walking this route.

The autonomous regions of Asturias and Galicia have an oceanic climate characterised by mild, rainy summers and cold, rainy winters. Rainfall is abundant throughout the year, and the air temperature is usually moderate, with an annual average temperature of between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius.

Unless you are an experienced mountaineer or hiker, we do not recommend walking this route in winter as it passes through high mountain areas with extreme weather conditions: snow, heavy rainfall, wind… Moreover, as it is the low season, the availability of tourist services is lower than on other routes, such as the French Way, and some are not open during the winter months.

The History of the Primitive Way or the First Pilgrimage

The route that King Alfonso II undertook from Oviedo in the 9th century, in order to verify for himself the discovery of the remains of the Apostle, is known as the Primitive Way of Saint James.

This pilgrimage route was much frequented by Asturians and Galicians during much of the 9th and 10th centuries and also attracted pilgrims from other parts of northern Spain and Europe. King Alfonso III the Great, the successor of Alfonso II, also walked along this route on two occasions.

During the 11th and 12th centuries, León became the new capital of the kingdom of Asturias and the monarchy chose the French Way as its main route. Despite this, the Primitive Way continued to be an alternative for pilgrims who did not want to miss the relics of the cathedrals of Oviedo and Lugo. Likewise, the importance of this itinerary can still be seen in the remains of the pilgrim hospitals that are found along this route.

From the 17th century onwards, the Camino de Santiago in general went into decline with the arrival of events such as Luther’s Protestant Reformation and the liberal disentailments of the 19th century. This set of events brought disease and political unrest that relegated pilgrimages to the background.

Its resurgence in the 20th and 21st centuries is thanks to the efforts of the Public Administrations and the Associations of the Way of St. James, which improved signposting and infrastructures.

Alfonso II and the Cathedral of Santiago

Alfonso II was the king who ordered a chapel to be built on the site where the remains of the Apostle St. James were found. To do so, the king made a donation of three miles of land located around the tomb of the apostle. These lands were known as the lordship of Santiago and were inhabited by the first monks of the place.

Alfonso II also requested the creation of a monastic community in charge of guarding the remains of the apostle St. James. This gave rise to San Salvador de Antealtares, the first monastery in Compostela and the present-day convent of San Paio.

This king is also credited with creating the legend of Santiago Matamoros. At that time, Spain was occupied by Muslims and the Christian part of ancient Spain was confined to the north of the peninsula. Alfonso II took advantage of the discovery of the saint’s remains to turn him into an emblem against the fight against Islam. With this, the king intended to rearm the Astur-Leonese kingdom ideologically and morally in the face of the advance of the Muslim troops.

The first chapel built by King Alfonso II underwent modifications and became a church in 829 and a pre-Romanesque church in 899, which was built by his son, Alfonso III the Great.

Less than a century later, it was destroyed by the troops of Almanzor. In 1075, under the reign of Alfonso VI and the patronage of Bishop Diego Peláez, construction began on the present-day Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Where does the Primitive Way pass through?

The complete route of the Primitive Way of Saint James from Oviedo is approximately 314 kilometres long. The route starts right at the entrance to Oviedo’s Cathedral and runs through the interior of the Principality of Asturias until it enters Galicia, crossing the Galaico Massif to reach Fonsagrada. From there the Way continues towards Santiago de Compostela passing through Lugo to Melide, some 55 kilometres from the Cathedral of Santiago. Here the Primitive Way joins the French Way and shares the same path to Santiago.


This city, located in the north of Spain, is the capital of the Principality of Asturias. Oviedo is a modern and vibrant city, combining historical heritage with a lively urban atmosphere. Its monuments include Oviedo Cathedral, Santa María del Naranco, the Royal Monastery of San Pelayo and the Aqueduct of the Pillars.

Its origins date back to the 1st century BC when the city was established as a Roman settlement. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Oviedo went through various stages of domination, including Visigothic and Muslim. However, it was in the 7th century that the city achieved great importance thanks to the Asturian king Alfonso II.


The history of Berducedo is linked to the Camino de Santiago and its role as a resting and supplying place for pilgrims on this route since the Middle Ages. During this period, shelters and hostels were built to accommodate travellers.

This small town, located in the autonomous region of Asturias, is today a peaceful and picturesque place, surrounded by mountains and impressive landscapes. Its tourist attractions include the church of Santa María de Berducedo.


The city of Lugo is located in the province of Lugo in Galicia. Although its origins date back to Celtic times, the city experienced its period of maximum splendour during the Middle Ages. Today Lugo is a contemporary city that still preserves elements of this period integrated with the city. The Wall of Lugo, which borders the city, its Cathedral, the Domus de Mitreo or its Roman bridge are some of them.

The Roman bridge of Lugo
The Roman bridge of Lugo is a bridge of Roman origin that has undergone numerous reconstructions during the 12th, 14th and 18th centuries.


This municipality is located in the province of A Coruña, in Galicia.

Since the Middle Ages, Melide has been an important resting and meeting point for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. The town developed around this activity, establishing hostels, inns and services for travellers.

One of the most emblematic aspects of Melide is its gastronomic tradition. The famous “Pulpo á feira”, a typical Galician dish consisting of octopus cooked with olive oil, paprika and salt, is a central element in the culinary culture of this region.


This small town of pre-Roman origin is located in the province of A Coruña and experienced its period of splendour in the Middle Ages. Here you will find the hospital of Ribadiso da Ponte and the Convent of La Magdalena, built during this period to assist pilgrims, as well as the church of Santiago de Arzúa, dedicated to the Apostle.

Nowadays, Arzúa has a prosperous industrial fabric and one of the most important agricultural and livestock sectors in Galicia. On your way through Arzúa you can visit the Centro de Divulgación do Queixo e do Mel.

Other important towns on the Primitive Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago are: Grado, Salas, Tineo, Pola de Allande, Grandas de Salime, A Fonsagrada, Cádavo Baleira, Ferreira and O Pedrouzo.

Monuments not to be missed on the Primitive Way

Cathedral of San Salvador in Oviedo

San Salvador Cathedral of Oviedo
The Gothic Cathedral of Oviedo, also known as Sancta Ovetensis, referring to the quality and quantity of the relics it contains.

The Gothic-style Cathedral of San Salvador de Oviedo was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1998. It is also known as Sancta Ovetensis, in reference to the quality and quantity of the relics it contains. A popular saying says of pilgrims that “he who goes to Santiago and not to the Saviour, visits the servant and forgets the Lord”.

Monastery of San Salvador de Cornellana

The Monastery of San Salvador is located in the Asturian town of Cornellana. The creation of this monastery dates back to 1024, when Infanta Cristina, daughter of King Bermudo II and Queen Velasquita of León, donated a group of properties and a church that had been built by her husband Ordoño Ramírez the Blind.

With the Disentailment of Mendizábal in the 19th century, the monastery was exclaustrated and the monks expelled, which meant the loss of a large part of its artistic and cultural heritage. In 1931 it was declared a National Monument and, once the Civil War was over, the architect Luis Menéndez Pidal was commissioned to carry out the restoration projects.

Collegiate Church of Santa María la Mayor in Salas

The collegiate church of Santa María la Mayor is a Christian temple located in the municipality of Sto be a family pantheon. However, it ended up becoming a parish building after being ceded by the Dukes of Alba in 1894. The collegiate church has been declared a Historic-Artistic Monument and an Asset of Cultural Interest due to its historical and architectural relevance. It is still an active place of worship today.

Monastery of Santa María la Real de Obona

The Monastery of Santa María de la Real is a Benedictine temple located in the Asturian town of Obona. Although its origin is unclear, as there are doubts as to the veracity of its founding document. During the Middle Ages it became an important religious and cultural centre.

The Wall of Lugo

Wall of Lugo
The Roman wall of Lugo surrounds the historic centre of the city.

The Wall of Lugo is a defensive structure located in the city of Lugo, in Galicia. It is one of the most valuable and best preserved Roman monuments on the Iberian Peninsula and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.

It was built between the end of the 3rd century and the beginning of the 4th century BC. The wall was erected with the purpose of defending the ancient city, Lucus Augusti, from possible external threats. Over the centuries, the wall has undergone various modifications to adapt to the defensive needs of each period.

Other monuments you can discover along the Primitive Way are: the University of Oviedo, the Palace of the Cienfuegos de Peñalba, the parish church of El Salvador de Grandas de Salime, the necropolis of Chao Samartín and the Port of Acebo.

Alternative places to discover in the Primitive Way

If you are one of those people who like to see new places and also plan to book extra nights to learn about the history and architecture while doing the Camino, here are some interesting places near the road that you could visit on your pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago Primitivo.

Santa Maria del Naranco

Santa María del Naranco is a former leisure palace located in Oviedo, Asturias. This architectural jewel dates back to the year 842 and has a pre-Romanesque style known as “Asturian” or “Ramirense”. It was declared a National Monument in 1885 and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.

The closest city to this palace is Oviedo, as this monument is an 11-minute drive or a 45-minute walk from the city centre.

The Route of the Hospitals

The ruins of 3 hospitals for pilgrims are located on a detour of the Primitive Way known as the Route of the Hospitals. This variant goes further north than the current official route and begins just over a kilometre from Borres, linking up again with the main road at Puerto del Palo. The route, which is well signposted, runs for the most part above 1,100 metres above sea level.

The detour is located on the stage between the municipalities of Tineo and Pola de Allande.

Paicega Viewpoint

If you like photography and you are always looking for the perfect snapshot, you cannot miss the Paicega viewpoint. The path to reach this viewpoint starts in the municipality of Pesoz and climbs through forest (and some road) until you reach the panoramic view of the Grandas de Salime reservoir and the River Navia.

The Salime reservoir
The Salime reservoir, located on the course of the river Navia, was inaugurated in 1955.

If you wish to visit it, you can do so on your way through Grandas de Salime, which is just 13 minutes away by car.

Tips for walking the Primitive Way

The Primitive Way is one of the best routes for discovering the scenic beauty that inland northern Spain has to offer. Although it may require more physical preparation than other pilgrimages, this route is a manageable experience for everyone if it is properly planned. In addition, there are a number of things to bear in mind before embarking on this adventure:

  • Train physically if you are not used to walking long distances. Take a daily walk 2 or 3 months before starting your pilgrimage.
  • Don’t load your backpack with unnecessary things, take only the essentials. This will help you avoid fatigue and stress.
  • Choose footwear that you have used before. The best option is a pair of light, comfortable, low or mid-calf hiking boots.
  • Drink 250-500 ml of water half an hour before you start walking. Also, try to eat foods rich in carbohydrates and minerals that will help you recover your energy after a long day of physical exercise.

If you need more detailed information, you can access it here. Remember that each pilgrimage is unique and personal, take your time to enjoy this experience.

Enjoy the Camino!

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