A route through the Cordillera linking León to Oviedo.
Introduction: The route is an ancient one. When the Moors swept northwards through Spain, many of the holy relics from religious communities in the south were sent northwards for safety. Many of them ended up in the Catedral del Salvador in Oviedo. No doubt promoted by the authorities there, pilgrims were encouraged to think that they should first visit the Cathedral of Our Saviour in Oviedo before travelling onwards, usually by the Camino Primitivo, to Santiago.
There are still sound reasons for doing this in order to avoid the overcrowding of the Camino Francés, particularly in the stages beyond León, and Oviedo is a very interesting town which is well worth visiting. This overview is best read in conjunction with Piers Nicholson’s set of 300 pictures , which also contains some further explanations and a diagrammatic map of the section of the Camino crossing the Cordillera
The route: The route is some 120 km. long, and starts from León following the east bank of the Rio Benesga. For the first 40 km as far as Buiza, the Camino follows the river valley, and is fairly flat, mainly on paths or very minor roads. There are a number of small towns. The next 25 km cross the Cordillera to Pajares village in Asturias, and has two quite substantial ascents and descents. You are recommended to refer to stage 2 of the website for details of this stage. There is then a further steep descent to San Miguel del Rio, followed by a mostly fairly flat section through some more substantial towns on the way to Oviedo.
Planning your Camino: The refugios are, however, not ideally spaced for walking this in manageable stages, since they are at 41, 74, 97, 111, and 130 km. from León. There is other accommodation available along the route, but this again is not ideally located. The second stage from Buiza over the Cordillera mountains to Pajares is 33 km. and we would strongly recommend starting it from Buiza, since the path is steep and stony, so it is difficult to make good time.
If 41 km of fairly level walking seems too much, good alternatives are to spend half a day sightseeing in León, and then walk to Cascantes, which has 4 buses a day to and from León. So it is possible to get a bus back to León that night and then get a bus out again in the early morning to start walking to Buiza. Another alternative is to sleep in one of the many hostals in La Robla (likely to cost around €20) or in Pola de Gordón.
Waymarking: Generally good. The first 50 km are waymarked with the brown marker posters of a consortium of local authorities (the Cuatro Valles) often accompanied by small signs pointing in the same direction and marked “Rodiazmo” and a few yellow arrows. Various improvements were made in 2011 by a group of Camino Salvador enthusiasts led by Ender. They have waymarked the section from Poladura de la Tercia to Santa María de Arbas with yellow metal signs welded and painted by Ender himself. The last 50 km are waymarked with concrete marker posts with the blue-and-white stylised shell markers like those in Galicia, with more yellow arrows. Please note that these Asturian ceramic markers indicate direction with the hinge of the shell, not the radiating lines.
Weather/When to go : The weather in the province of León is very hot in July and August, and generally similar to that on the Camino Francés. The weather for the crossing of the Cordillera mountain range is highly variable, and you need to be prepared with suitable clothing and equipment for sudden changes of weather, which may include thick fog, heavy rain and severe cold. In particular, the weather on the Asturias side of the Cordillera can be very different from the weather on the way up in León. Take local advice on conditions and let people know when and where you are walking so that the alarm can be raised if you don’t arrive when expected.
Where to stay. León and Oviedo are large cities with a wide range of accommodation including albergues (though the refugio in Oviedo is very small, so you have to get there early to get a bed). La Robla, Pola de Lena, and Mieres are towns with hostals and other accommodation. There is some accommodation in Pola de Gordon. There are refugios at Buiza (40 km from León, but note that you need to shop for food in Pola de Gordón), Pajares village (65 km), Pola de Lena (83 km), la Pena near Mieres (102 km). The only accommodation between Buiza and Pajares is the Hostal Golpejar between Villamarin and Villanueva de la Tercia on the N-630; this has rooms above a good restaurant. Some sources say there is accommodation at Santa Maria de Arbas and at the summit Puerto de Pajares, but in 2008 this was not true.
Guide books and pictures:
- We have a free PDF guide (and a 2017 update) to this route which can be found on our CSJ Guides and Updates page. Please consider making a donation to help us cover the costs of making this available.
- There is also a guide with pictures, written by Ender, translated into English here.
- There is also a small leaflet obtainable from the tourist office in León, and the tourist office in Mieres will give you a photocopy sheet entitled “Camino de Santiago”.
- Please also see the website (in Spanish) of the Associacion Astur-Leonesa de Amigos del Camino de Santiago and the picture website (in English) of Piers Nicholson who walked this Camino in 2008 and wrote our first overview of this route. The first has some useful diagrammatic maps and links to Google Earth – however, the routes shown crossing the Cordillera do not appear to be waymarked (2008). The second has a diagrammatic map of the Cordillera crossing which is believed to be accurate at the time of writing. More information on this section of the route would be very much appreciated.
- Information and links are also available from the Léon amigos association http://www.caminosantiagoleon.es/
Discussion Forum: Visit the Camino de Santiago Forum to join in the current conversation
Language. It is helpful to speak a little Spanish, particularly if you need to ask for directions in the section crossing the Cordillera.
List of places en- route:
Carvajal de la Legua
Puente de Alba
Nocedo de Gordon
Pola de Gordon
Hut at roadside where the routes divide
(Direct route probably with poor waymarking) Pobladura de la Tercia
(route via N-630)Rodiezmo
(join N-630)Villanueva de la Tercia
Sta. Maria de Arbas (direct route joins N-630, and said to continue on off-road camino to the east)
Puerto de Pajares (off-road camino said to cross from west to east just below here)
Pajares (routes join) (New refugio)
San Miguel del Rio
Llanos de Somerón
Puente de los Fierros
Vega del Rey
Vega del Ciego
Pola de Lena
Mieres del Camino
Puente de Parra
Venta del Aire
Many thanks to Piers Nicholson who wrote the first version of this overview in 2009. Revised 2014 RA.