A route, first waymarked in 2000, which deviates from the main Via de la Plata in Zamora to lead west via San Pedro de la Nave and Alcañices, crosses the border into Portugal and continues via Bragança, Vinhais and Segirei before going back into Spain to join up with the southern route through Galicia in Verín. From there the pilgrim continues on via Xinzo de Limia and Allariz to Ourense and then, together with pilgrims coming via Puebla de Sanabria and A Gudiña, to Santiago.
The Route. 198 km long from Zamora to Verín, with 184 km more to Santiago (say 380 km in total). 18 km shorter than the option via Puebla de Sanabria.
Waymarking. Generally well-waymarked throughout, with the yellow arrows familiar to those who have already walked the Camino francés. The Fundación Ramos de Castro has also placed terracotta information plaques in every town and village along the way from Zamora up to and including Bragança, plus one in Vinhais, informing the pilgrim (and local residents) of features of this camino in that area, as well as, more recently, large marker stones at main turning points.
Terrain. Not particularly demanding as far as Alcañices (though the route is gently but almost continuously uphill from Zamora onwards) but once the pilgrim crosses the border into Portugual and into the mountainous Parque Naturel de Montesinho it becomes extremely strenuous. This continues until the Camino reenters Spain, after which it becomes flatter as far as Ourense.
Weather/When to go. Avoid July and August but otherwise the route is normally practicable throughout the year. March-May and September-October are recommended but later in the year it can be very foggy.
What to see. 22 Romanesque churches in Zamora, Visigothic church of San Pedro de la Nave, Gothic wall paintings in church in Vivinera, Cidadela (fortess town) in Bragança, many smaller churches and interesting vemacular architecture.
Accommodation. Hostales, pensiones or casas rurales in most places of any size. Refugios in Zamora, Fonfría, Alcañices, Quintanilha, Verín, Alberellos de Monterrei, Viladerei/Trasmiras (in preparation), Sandías, Ourense (and thereafter to Santiago) plus R&F (roof and floor) facilities in Valdeperdices and Edral, thus making it possible to walk this route without doing more than 25km a day.
Distinctive features of the route/General. An extremely solitary route at present, with few pilgrims and terrain that is only sparsely inhabited. On several parts of the route in the province of Zamora and in the section through Portugal pilgrims will not encounter villages with facilities of any kind all day long so well-organised daily planning is needed. However, despite its physical difficulties this is a very interesting camino and recommended to anyone who has already walked from Seville or other places further south and is already fit.
* Camino Portugués de la Via d la Plata, Alfonso Ramos de Castro, Zamora: Fundación Ramos de Castro, 2002. A very brief, useful guide to the route with clear but small-scale maps, though this is no longer readily available.
* Vía de la Plata, C: Zamora-Braganza-Santiago (Pilgrim Guides to Spain #2), by Alison Raju, Confraternity of St James, 2005. Detailed route-finding descriptions as well as information on places of interest, accommodation and services. For copyright reasons no detailed maps can be provided. A second, updated and enlarged edition is in preparation. Available in our Shop.
However, the main tourist office in Zamora (Oficina Regional de Turismo at Avenida Principe de Asturias 1, website here for opening times, phone number and email) has detailed information, much of it in English as well, on the route in that province plus briefer material on the rest of this camino.
Cyclists. Much of the route is accessible to very fit, energetic mountain bikers though there are sections where the cycling pilgrim will need to dismount and push his/her machine up steep hills. Touring bikes will have to stick to the roads.
Language. Pilgrims without a reasonable command of Spanish and Portuguese will find this route difficult. Please see our FAQ Do I need to speak Spanish or French? for suggested ways of learning.
Thanks to Alison Raju. June 2011.