From Valencia via Toledo and Avila to Zamora; then by one or other of the branches of the Vía de la Plata to Santiago.
The Route. Starts in Valencia and initially goes south to Xátiva, then west/northwest via Albacete, San Clemente, Toledo, Avila, Arévalo, Medina del Campo, and Toro to Zamora. From Zamora there are three options: continue to Astorga and then by the Camino Francés to Santiago, go directly through Galicia via Puebla de Sanabria and Ourense to Santiago or turn west after Zamora and go via Bragança and northeastern Portugal, joining the southern variant of the Vía de la Plata in Verín. The distance from Valencia to Zamora is c. 900 km and to Santiago c.1300 km. Allow 7 weeks or so for the full trip.
Distinctive features of the route. There are some very long stages, 48-52 km, where there is nothing en route, no bars, no accommodation, sometimes not even fresh water, so it is essential to carry sufficient food and especially drink, given the temperatures, more so than on any of the other pilgrim routes. It is also a very solitary route. You will see only a handful of other pilgrims on this route. Having said that some of the locals in the villages are aware of the camino and are extremely hospitable. But no one speaks any English and it is imperative to be able to speak, read and understand Spanish to a good level of proficiency to survive on this route. The route is suitable for mountain bikes although some of the earth tracks could be hard going when wet.
Waymarking. Yellow arrows, generally good, although very sparse on some stages and on these it is essential to be able to read in great detail the Spanish text of the only guide.
Terrain. Not particularly strenuous in general, but the distances involved on some of the stages, combined with the heat can be exhausting. There are many days with very little or even no shade: days of vineyards, orange groves, and maize with no shelter from the elements. There are a few steep climbs including the Alto de la Paramera, 1345m, approaching Avila.
Weather/when to go: We advise against going in July/August for the Valencia-Zamora stretch. September/October is a good time although it can still be very hot, 30/35º C. At this time of year, there is also more activity in the vineyards and orchards on the route – with grape harvest and oranges, figs and apples in full fruit.
Accommodation. In the larger towns and villages finding a room in a hostal/pensión should not be a problem on weekdays, but at weekends in September there can be local festivals (“fiestas/ferias”), when accommodation gets all booked up. There are albergues mentioned in the Spanish guide, but it is advisable to ring ahead.
Discussion Forum. Visit the Pilgrimage to Santiago Forum to join in the current conversation.
Language. While it is not impossible to take this route without any command of Spanish prospective pilgrims are strongly urged to learn as much as possible before they set out.
http://www.vieiragrino.com/ has detailed stage information including accommodation.
www.mundicamino.com provides lots of route details too.
Confraternity of Saint James,
27 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8NY, United Kingdom.
Tel: (+44) (0)20 7928 9988
Company Limited by Guarantee, Registered no. 4096721 — UK Registered Charity no. 1091140
Founded in 1983 to promote the pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela