Stages 21-28, 202km
( click on name to see an image)
What’s en route?
This is the hill stage as you pass over the Cantabrian Mountains shortly after the city of Astorga. Some of the best scenery on the entire Camino is found on these sections as you climb from the plains over the mountains into the province of Galicia. The walk upto the ‘Iron Cross’ near Foncebaddon ( 1520m high point) and the climb upto the hamlet of O’Cebreiro (1330m) are the biggest on the Camino after the Pyrenees section.
Whilst Leon itself is a very attractive & lively city , the walk out of Leon is possibly the least attractive of the entire Camino, but once you reach the village of Hospital de Orbigo with it’s Roman Bridge things look up. Soon afterwards you will reach Astorga – an attractive city and it’s Cathedral and Episcopalian Place designed by Gaudi are worth seeing. (Not to mention the Chocolate museum!)
Afte leaving Astorga you come to Rabanal Del Camino and from here the climb starts to the once abandoned ( not now though) village of Foncebaddon and shortly afterwards the famous Cruz Ferro / ‘Iron Cross’ monument where for centuries pilgrims unburden themselves of any stones they’ve carried that symbolise burdens/ bad habits they’ve been carrying. So afterwards they continue lighter on their journey. It’s an interesting spot with many mementoes of different sorts.
Ponferrada is the next city you’ll encounter, home to the grandest Castle of the Knight’s Templar – the semi – mystical order that once protected Pilgrims on the Camino and the Holy land. Before you reach the Mountains you have Villafranca del Bierzo, a delightful town at the foot of the hills. The climb upto O’Cebreiro although not the highest is certainly one of the steepest. The tiny hilltop Hamlet reminds many people of a village in Ireland and the contrast in archtectural & cultural styles is very evident as you enter into Galicia – reflecting it’s Gallic roots.
A long down hill takes you to Triacastela and Samos – home to a magnificent Benedictine monastery that nowadays hosts Pilgrims and a museum. From here onwards you’ll usually find new Pilgrims joining the trail around Sarria.
The guidebook stages
Please note that the breaking of the Camino into these stages this is purely arbitrary and there is no compulsion to follow these stages. It can be useful to follow the guidebook stages but also good to deviate and spend the night in other places than those specified. (Distances given below have been rounded up to nearest Km.)
21. León to Villar de Mazarife 22KM
22. Villar de Mazarife to Astorga 31KM
23. Astorga to Rabanal del Camino 21KM
24.Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca 26.5KM
25. Molinaseca to Villafranca del Bierzo 31KM
26. Villafranca del Bierzo to O Cebreiro 30KM
27.O Cebreiro to Triacastela 21KM
28. Triacastela to Sarria 19KM
To see all the different altitude profiles of each stage of the Camino please click on the link below which you can view over two pages as a PDF:
This was produced by the French friends of the Way of St. Jacques