Camino Sur (Huelva-Zafra)

A newish route, created by the Asociación de Amigos del Camino de Santiago de Huelva, which starts in Huelva and goes north-east to Zafra where it joins the Vía de la Plata from Sevilla. The scenery includes the delightful Sierra de Aracena and is particularly attractive in spring; it is quite varied for a short camino and the Spanish guide describes it as ‘Spain in miniature’.

The Route     This 176km camino is initially pretty flat.  However, after Minas de Riotinto, the countryside becomes more undulating as it heads into the Sierra de Aracena.  After the climb to Aracena it continues its switchback course, before flattening out as it approaches Zafra, now firmly in Extremadura.

Suggested Stages
1  Huelva – Trigueros 19km   3.5km from an unprepossessing Iglesia de Santiago Apóstol, past the cathedral and a fine viewpoint over the Río Odiel and marshes to the ring road.  Minor road across the cultivated Campiña to the motorway at 9km where it picks up a broad track to the small town of Trigueros.
2  Trigueros – Valverde del Camino  27km   Almost entirely on a Vía Verde, formerly a railway line, now used mainly by cyclists and walkers; part tarmac, part track.  Gently climbs and holm oak and pines gradually replace cereals, fruit, olives…
3  Valverde del Camino – Minas de Riotinto  27km   Continue on Vía Verde; scenery increasingly attractive, varied and gently undulating.  Minas de Riotinto is famous for its vast opencast mines as well as being the birthplace of Spanish football.
4  Minas de Riotinto – Aracena  28km   Initially on road past extensive mines and two large reservoirs before climb up to village of Campofrío.  Delightful ancient path and then road to cross Río Odiel before gradual climb to Aracena.  Choice of staying on road or trickier but very rewarding route on paths and tracks.  Aracena is in superb countryside and a very pleasant and interesting town in its own right.
5  Aracena – Cañaveral de León  25km   More outstanding countryside; on tracks through fertile little valley for the first 10 km and largely downhill until you cross the Embalse de Aracena after 15km.  Gentle climb, then follow stream and ancient oaks to village of Cañaveral.
6  Cañaveral de León – Valencia del Ventoso  31km   Camino climbs up out of the province of Huelva and leaves Andalucía.  Minor road to Fuentes de León and then paths to Segura de León.  Beautiful undulating countryside with fine views, mainly on tracks and paths, to Valencia del Ventoso.
7  Valencia del Ventoso – Zafra  15k   Gentle ups and downs and two small rivers to cross on the paths to Medina de las Torres.  Two kilometres of road before joining the Camino de la Plata (NOT the Sevillan Vía de la Plata) to Zafra.

Waymarking     Reasonably well waymarked with yellow arrows.  The Amigos de Huelva are gradually installing familiar mojones (mileposts) with the scallop symbol to indicate direction at crucial intersections.  Extra care is needed in towns and particularly on the 4th stage between the Río Odiel and Aracena where extra signage is needed.

Terrain     Not unduly strenuous; gentle first three days, Sierra de Aracena more demanding but most climbs/descents are reasonably gentle.  One or two rivers to cross but stepping-stones present or nearby road bridge.  Stages 3, 4 and 6 could be subdivided as possibility of accommodation en route.  A mixture of surfaces but some road inevitable such as on approaches to reservoirs or larger rivers.  Plenty of thoroughly enjoyable, peaceful countryside.  Expect to see plenty of pigs, most of whom will become delicious, and often top quality, ham, pork, sausages…

Weather/When to go     This is southern Spain so best to avoid July and August but otherwise the route should be practicable all year.  First stage has virtually no shade.  The Sierra de Aracena does have 1000mm of rainfall p.a. (Sevilla 420mm, Santiago 1700mm) so expect a shower at any time!  April-May and September-October are recommended.

What to see     Near Huelva, the Monasterio de Santa María de la Rábida, part of a ‘Columbus Complex’.  On leaving Huelva, Santuario de Nuestra Señora de la Cinta.  Several churches, castles and museums, including La Casa de la Dirección (British and mining connection) in Valverde; Museo Minero, Barrio Inglés and open mines in Minas de Riotinto; Iglesia del Castillo, castle, Museo del Jamón and Gruta de las Maravillas in Aracena; hilltop fortress, Convento de San Benito, Ermita de los Remedios in Segura de León, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Camino in Medina de las Torres – complete with statue of Santiago Matamoros.

Accommodation     Hostales/pensiones at end of each stage and elsewhere.  Valverde del Camino allows pilgrims to use basic R&F facilities of La Casa del Pueblo.  Guidebook also lists possible pilgrim accommodation in El Campillo, Minas de Riotinto, Cañaveral de León and Valencia del Ventoso but these are normally accessed via town hall/mayor or policía local and may not be available all year.  Segura de León has recently opened an albergue but it was closed in May 2009 as woodworm had been discovered in the beams of the renovated building.  Albergue in Medina de las Torres and Zafra.

Other features of the route/General     A new route so expect to be met with the extremes of great enthusiasm or total ignorance.  ‘I thought the Camino de Santiago was in Galicia’ was one unexpected comment.  However, the Amigos’ enthusiasm is contagious and some villages and mayors are realising that more pilgrims means more tourists means more money…  The local people I met were, without exception, very welcoming and helpful – and interested to meet a pilgrim.  You are unlikely to meet other pilgrims and will have to fend for yourself in Spanish.  The town of Aracena is certainly used to tourists, but only to the occasional pilgrim.  Most days it would be advisable to carry with you sufficient water and food.

Cyclists     I would imagine most of the route is accessible, with no problems at all on the early stages, nor on the 4th if you stay on the road before Campofrío and the road option is taken before Aracena.  Parts of the later stages would be easier on mountain bike on account of the nature of some of the paths.  Any pilgrim considering cycling the route would be advised to contact the Huelva amigos.

Guide books     Guía Camino Sur  Huelva-Zafra  Fernando Quintero Dominguez & José Antonio Vieira Roldán,  Asociación de Amigos del Camino de Santiago de Huelva  28 pages in Spanish about the 7 stages of the route and accommodation, supplemented by essential sketch maps and an update sheet.  Available from  the Asociación or possibly www.mundicamino.com which has some information on its website.

Websites and contacts     The very helpful Asociación de Amigos del Camino de Santiago de Huelva  Casa de Galicia, Avenida Alemania, 26 bajo, 21002 Huelva Tel: 959 241 829 or (Fernando Quintero, Presidente) 630 250 255 www.caminosantiagohuelva.blogspot.com   ferquindo*hotmail.com  (shown this way to avoid spam, replace * with @) Office open 1800-2100 Wednesdays and possibly other evenings.

Language.  Pilgrims without a reasonable command of basic Spanish will find this route difficult. Please see our FAQ Do I need to speak Spanish or French? for suggested ways of learning.

Thanks to Michael Gaches, September 2011