Vía de la Plata

The Camino Mozárabe or Vía de la Plata

The route used by the Mozarabic (Christian) pilgrims during the period of Muslim domination and by all those coming from the south of Spain, including those who arrived in Seville by sea from North Africa and other parts of the Mediterranean.  Also known as the Vía de la Plata as it follows the course of a Roman road of that name (but note that the name does not mean ‘Silver Route”:  plata is a corruption of an Arabic word indicating a ‘broad surfaced road’).

As the Camino francés becomes ever more crowded, we are encouraging pilgrims to choose the Via de la Plata as a more peaceful, and very beautiful, alternative.

The Roman Arch at Cáparra

The Roman Arch at Cáparra

The Route. 1000km camino starting in Seville and leading north via Mérida, Cáceres, Salamanca and Zamora.  After that pilgrims can continue to Astorga and from there to Santiago via the Camino francés or go there directly through Galicia via Pueblo de Sanabria and A Gudiña and from there take either the northern option via Laza, Vilar de Barrio and Xunqueira de Ambía or the (slightly longer) southern one via Verín, Xinzo de Limia and Allariz, after which the two routes meet up in Ourense. It takes, on average, 7 to 8 weeks to walk from Seville to Santiago. Alternatively you can begin in Granada, passing through Córdoba and joining the main route in Mérida (click here for an Overview of this route), and/or continue from Zamora via Braganza and northeastern Portugal before entering Galicia near Verín (click here for an Overview of this route).

For anyone wanting to start further south, there’s now a waymarked route from Cádiz to Seville (click here for an Overview of this route) as also from Huelva to Zafra (click here for an Overview of this route).

Waymarking. Yellow arrows throughout, but a little sparser than on the Camino francés.

Terrain. Undulating and not very taxing as far as Astorga, though the distances between towns/villages are often very long; strenuous after the border of the provinces of Zamora and the entry into Galicia, with many steep climbs and descents (for example the passes of Padornelo (1329m) and A Canda (1262m). For a height profile of the route (as well as a list of the stages), go to www.godesalco.com/iphp/perfil.php

Weather/When to go. Definitely not July or August (i.e. in the south) though the farther north you go the cooler it gets.  April – June (especially for the wild flowers) or September-October are the best times.

What to see.  Much evidence of Roman Spain (especially in Mérida), Romanesque churches and cathedrals and many pilgrim, St. James and other related references, art and architecture along the way.

Accommodation. There are now many more refugios along this route, both private and municipal, as well as nine albergues turísticos along the route through Extremadura so that you can now find somewhere to sleep at approximately 25km intervals.   There is also plenty of hostal accommodation, at least every 25 km as far as Mérida, and between 30-35 km after that.

Distinctive features of the route/General.  Still a fairly solitary route where you are unlikely to meet many other pilgrims even though it is becoming better known (by people who live along the way too) and better used each year:: in 2010 189,120 (69.8%) pilgrims reached Santiago along the Camino francés (out of a total of 270,818), compared to 14,008 (5.7%) along the Via de la Plata, 2,834 of whom started in Ourense (to fulfil the minimum 100km required for a walker to qualify for a compstela).

Unlike the Camino Francés, you will not find many specifically pilgrim masses along the Vía de la Plata.  Since May 2011:a Pilgrim Blessing is offered daily after the 8.30 am Mass in Seville Cathedral for pilgrims setting out.

Guide books.

*     Guía del Camino Mozarabe de Santiago: Vía de la Plata, Asociación de Amigos del Camino de Santiago Vía de la Plata, Seville: 2011. Covers both the route to Astorga and the northern one through Galicia, with good maps, details of accommodation and historical information relevant to the pilgrimage.  Available from the Asociación, Calle San Jacinto 25 Portal 6, Local 4, 41010 Sevilla, Tel.  95 43 35 274 or 696 60 06 02.(They also have a web site: www.viaplata.org)
*     Way of St. James: Vía de la Plata, Alison Raju, Cicerone Press 2nd ed 2005, 310pp.  ISBN: 1-85284-444-2.  Covers the entire route (both options, including the camino from Granada to Mérida and the continuation from Santiago to Finisterre) with both historical and practical information. Available in our Bookshop. This has now been withdrawn as it is very out-of-date but a new, third edition is in preparation.
*     The Confraternity of St James guide is now in three sections, all available in our Shop: Seville to Santiago (Pilgrim Guides to Spain #2A), a new 2011 edition of which is now available); Granada to Mérida (Pilgrim Guides to Spain #2B); and Zamora-Braganza-Santiago (Pilgrim Guides to Spain #2C). Guides to accommodation and services, updated regularly.

Pictures. For pictures of the Via de la Plata, visit our digital image gallery and the Picture Pages of the Camino.

Discussion Forum. Visit the Camino de Santiago Forum to join in the current conversation.

Cyclists.  Most of the route is suitable for mountain (though very definitely not touring) bikes.

Spanish.  Pilgrims without a reasonable command of Spanish will find this route much more difficult than the Camino francés. Please see our FAQ Do I need to speak Spanish or French? for suggested ways of learning.

Thanks to Alison Raju, June 2011.

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