Camino de Invierno | Winter Way

A challenging and authentic route, less traveled and full of discoveries at every step.

The Winter Camino de Santiago invites you to venture on a challenging and authentic journey. A less crowded route to discover Galicia and connect with nature in its purest state. Each step is an adventure in itself. Get ready for a unique and unforgettable experience!

Top routes on the Winter Way

Camino de Invierno
255 Km
Ponferrada
11 Stages
12 Nights
from 990 €
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Camino de Invierno Fácil
250 Km
Ponferrada
13 Stages
14 Nights
from 990 €
See Tour
Camino de Invierno
138 Km
Monforte
6 Stages
7 Nights
from 495 €
See Tour

Where to start Camino de Invierno | 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?

Winter Camino Santiago

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.

Winter Way

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.

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.

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.

DISTANCIA: ETAPAS: DURACIÓN: DIFICULTAD: INICIO:
255 Km 11 Etapas 12 Noches 4/5 Ponferrada

Ponferrada on the Winter Way
Ponferrada’s timeless charm it’s captured in its stone streets and medieval grace.

Ponferrada is a municipality and city in the province of León, capital of the region of El Bierzo. Surrounded by mountains and located in the heart of the Camino de Santiago, it is also known as “The city of the Templars” because of its castle, one of the most spectacular fortress in Spain, declared a National Monument. It is said that on of the reasons why the castle was modified on numerous occasions was in order to provide greater security for the route and for pilgrims passing through the city.

DISTANCIA: ETAPAS: DURACIÓN: DIFICULTAD: INICIO:
138 Km 6 Etapas 6 Noches 4/5 Monforte de Lemos

Monforte de Lemos on the Winter Way
Between mountains and stone, Monforte de Lemos stands out as a town with historic atmosphere.

Located in the Ribeira Sacra, a land where the mencía grape reigns supreme, is this town that still conserved echoes of the great city it was in the Middle Ages. Monforte de Lemos also preserves the medieval walls of the old castle of San Vicente and boasts an impressive Parador de Turismo, which was the palace of the powerlful Counts of Lemos.

Route map Camino de Invierno | Winter Way

Map of the Winter Way

Stages Camino de Invierno | Winter Way

Stage 1
28 km
3/5
7h15m
Stage 2
27 km
3/5
6h45m
Stage 4
27 km
3/5
7h
Stage 5
33 km
4/5
7h20m
Stage 6
30 km
5/5
7h30m
Stage 7
25 km
3/5
6h45m
Stage 8
22 km
2/5
5h30m
Stage 9
16 km
1/5
4h
Stage 10
20 km
2/5
5h
Stage 11
25 km
2/5
6h

Difficulty level Camino de Invierno | Winter Way

Difficulty route profile 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.

The Winter Way is an itinerary of intermediate difficulty and more physically demanding than other routes of the Camino. However, keep in mind that the level of difficulty may vary depending on your physical condition, how you decide to plan your stages and the weather conditions.

Difficulty of the Winter Way

Distance

The Winter Way has a distance of 263 km from Ponferrada to Santiago de Compostela. Like other routes of the Camino de Santiago, the starting point can vary, being Monforte de Lemos an alternative, with 120 km remaining to the holy city.
Most pilgrims who walk this route walk an average of 20 km per day, but it will be important to plan the stages according to your level of fitness so that the sense of difficulty is not affected.

Gradient

The Winter Way has steep slopes, with continuous descents to the river Sil and ascents to the mountains, since the Ribeira Sacra is one of the main areas that the Way crosses. One of the most demanding stages due to the steepest climbs is the seventh stage, which will take you from Chantada to Rodeiro.

Pavement

Along the route, you will find different types of terrain such as asphalt and dirt roads. In some sections, it is possible to find stretches in the form of Roman roads.

Climate

The Winter Way runs through areas where the predominant climate is continental. With scarce rainfall during the winter and temperatures that can drop below 0ºC on some winter days.

At the same time, it is also possible to find, on the route from Ponferrada to the Ribeira Sacra, areas influenced by the Mediterranean climate, with wet winters and mild temperatures between 10º and 15ºC.

On the other hand, as we get closer to the coast, in the Deza area, a coastal Atlantic Oceanic climate predominates, characterised by winters with a higher probability of rain and milder temperatures.

Signposting

The most common signposting on the Winter Way are cairns with tiles and arrows painted at the crossroads. Although in urban and rural sections you can find signs between the geography and buildings. Thanks to the work of the Asociación de Amigos do Camiño de Santiago por Valdeorras, this route is correctly signposted, making it easier for pilgrims to follow.

Look carefully. Sometimes they may be hidden or covered by something like cars or people, making you follow the wrong path. If you reach a junction without any indication and do not know how to continue, we recommend you return to the last sign you have seen to try to reorient yourself.

Important note: You may come across signage in the shape of the iconic scallop shell. If it is not accompanied by a yellow arrow, you should follow the shell along its open side, i.e. the semi-circular part with the largest diameter, as if it were an imaginary arrow.

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

Our recommendation is to do the Winter Way in spring, autumn or summer, as temperatures are more pleasant.
In spring, temperatures are mild but there is a greater chance of rain. Nevertheless, it is, together with autumn, the best time to do the route.

The summer months are the most popular time for pilgrimages, as temperatures are milder and make the long walks more bearable. The north of Spain, due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and Galicia’s own latitude, has milder temperatures, preventing it from being too hot.

What to see and do in Camino de Invierno | Winter Way?

Where does the Winter Way go through?

The Winter Way is the only route of the Way of St. James that runs through the four Galician provinces: A Coruña, Lugo, Ourense and Pontevedra. It starts in the region of Valdeorras (Ourense) and the Ribeira Sacra, both known for their spectacular landscapes full of vineyards and the amazing Sil Canyons. The final section of the Winter Way runs through the Deza region, in Pontevedra, and ends in the province of A Coruña with the last two stages of the Silver Route.

If you follow this route, you can pass through towns such as Ponferrada, O Barco de Valdeorras, Monforte de Lemos, Ponte Ulla and Santiago de Compostela.

O Barco de Valdeorras

O Barco de Valdeorras is located in the Sil valley and at the foot of the Eje mountain range. Known for its mining tradition and for the production of wine under the Valdeorras Designation of Origin, it also has a rich historical heritage with vestiges of Roman and pre-Roman culture and several stately manor houses.

Ponte Ulla

In the parish of Vedra, we find the medieval village Ponte Ulla.
It is sheltered by the magnificent bridge of Gundián, part of the old railway line that connected Santiago de Compostela with Ourense and considered one of the most important civil works of the 20th century. Among its cultural heritage, the hermitage of Gundián, a chapel dedicated to the Virgin, and the manor house of Rivadulla, in the vicinity of the city, stand out.

Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela, a place where spirituality, history and culture converge, is one of the most important centres of Christian pilgrimage along with the cities of Jerusalem and Rome.
Its historic centre of cobbled streets was declared a World Heritage Site in 1985, and is home to numerous monasteries, temples and stately manor houses that reflect the very essence of the city. In the heart of the Old City you will find the emblematic Obradoiro square. The end point of the Way of St. James, this is where all the pilgrim routes converge and is a meeting place for pilgrims and locals alike. Here you will find the Cathedral of Santiago, where the remains of the Apostle rest.

Places and Monuments not to be missed on the Winter Way

Ribeira Sacra

Ribeira Sacra

Bathed by the rivers Miño, Sil and Cabe, lies the Ribeira Sacra, one of the greatest treasures of the Iberian Peninsula.
Its hillsides and lush forests hide the highest concentration of Romanesque churches and monasteries in Galicia and its ancient vineyards give rise to the famous DO Ribeira Sacra.

Montefurado Roman Tunnel

Also known as Boca do Monte, this is one of the great landmarks of the Roman Empire in Galicia. This tunnel was ordered to be built by the emperor Trajan in the 2nd century to extract the gold brought by the river Sil, but a flood caused its collapse centuries later.
Legend has it that a fortress reigned at the top of the tunnel, known as the castle of Pena do Corvo. However, the collapse led to the disappearance of the archaeological remains of the castle.

The Médulas

Considered the largest open-pit mine and declared a World Heritage Site, Las Médulas is one of the greatest engineering works of antiquity.
This area was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in 1996 for its archaeological interest; it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Natural Monument in 2002.

Carucedo Lake

This artificial lake has its origins in the gold washing places from the mining excavations of Las Médulas. This place is endowed with a certain mysticism, as legend has it that the Sword of Roland, nephew of Charlemagne, is found in its waters.

Sacred Peak

This mountain is 12 km from Santiago de Compostela, from where the holy city can be seen. It is closely linked to the Jacobean tradition, as it was the site of one of the episodes of the Traslatio of the remains of the Apostle St. James from Palestine to Finisterre.

This mountain is also related to Queen Lupa, an enigmatic protagonist of Jacobean history and legend, as it is said that one of her residences was located on the summit.

Monastery of San Vicente do Pino

Monastery San Vicente do Pino

At the highest part of the town of Monforte de Lemos is this monumental complex, which also houses the Homage Tower and the Palace of the Counts of Lemos.

It was originally built by the Benedictines in the 10th century and is considered one of the first monasteries built in Galicia after the Arab invasion.

Other places of interest that you can visit if you do the Winter Way are the Sierra del Caurel, in Lugo, or Cornatel Castle, in El Bierzo.

Alternative places to discover on the Winter Way

Covas de Valdeorras

On your way through Valdeorras, deep in the heart of the region, you will find these caves that were used as wine cellars. They were used to make and produce D.O. Valdeorras wine, one of the oldest Designations of Origin in Galicia, recognised by Ministerial Order in 1945.

Church of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Miño

On the sixth stage, on your way through the Ribeira Sacra, if instead of passing over the river you follow its course towards the north, you can admire the church of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Miño, one of the Romanesque treasures hidden in this fascinating region.
It is located on a hillside with privileged views of the river Miño and has a crypt under its façade reminiscent of the Pórtico de la Gloria of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, made by Master Mateo.

Toxa Waterfall

On your way through Silleda you can visit the Fervenza da Toxa, one of the highest waterfalls in Galicia. It is surrounded by a forest of oak, chestnut and other species, evoking the authentic native forest of Galicia.
In the upper part of the valley, a viewpoint was built on some huge rocks from which you can observe the environment surrounding this natural phenomenon.

If you wish to visit the Fervenza da Toxa, you should bear in mind that it is located 15 kilometres from Silleda, so it will require additional time. To get there, you can consider taking transport from Silleda, such as a taxi or renting a car.

Pazo de Oca

Pazo de Oca

Very close to Silleda, in A Estrada, you can visit the Pazo de Oca, also known as the “Galician Versailles”. This is the best preserved and most visited manor house in Galicia. It dates from the second half of the 15th century, when the Galician nobleman Don Álvaro de Oca ordered the construction of the pazo on the remains of an old 12th century fortress.

Its gardens, considered one of the 10 most beautiful gardens in the world, are a product of the French landscape tradition and feature various species of maples, magnolias, camellias, among others.

You can visit the Pazo de Oca on your way through Silleda. A Estrada is 20 km from this city, so we recommend you to go by transport, such as a car or taxi.

The History of Camino de Invierno | Winter Way

The Winter Way is a millenary route that was, over the centuries, the natural entrance to Galicia from the
natural entrance to Galicia from the plateau. This route is the result of the bifurcation of the original route of the French Way at Ponferrada, when an ancient Roman road was taken to access Galicia in a simpler way. This new route was much travelled by Roman legions, medieval muleteers and Napoleon’s troops, which led, in 1883, to the construction of the first railway line that would connect Galicia with the rest of the Peninsula.

During the winter, especially in mountainous areas, weather conditions can be extreme on some sections of the French Way, which makes the pilgrimage more difficult and dangerous. Instead of continuing to Villafranca del Bierzo, pilgrims would detour through Las Médulas until they reached Ponferrada, to avoid the heavy snowfalls of O Cebreiro and the overflowing rivers of the Valcarce valley. From there, the Winter Way follows the natural course of the mighty river Sil through the Valdeorras region of Ourense, through the south of the province of Lugo and through the Deza region (Pontevedra). In Lalín, the route joins the Vía de la Plata and the Sanabrés Way, sharing the route to Santiago de Compostela.

Tips if you are going to do Camino de Invierno | Winter Way

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.

Climatic zones Winter Way Galicia

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.

Good hydration and nutrition are essential. Make sure you stay hydrated during the Camino and eat energy foods to maintain your energy level.

Bring a raincoat. Weather conditions in northern Spain are varied, so we recommend that you always carry a rain jacket in your backpack.

Clothing should be light, breathable and insulating. As for footwear, we recommend waterproof trekking boots, with good cushioning and that you have not worn before to avoid chafing.

If you need detailed information to start preparing your trip, you can access here.

Buen Camino!

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