Also known as La Ruta del Interior. Many pilgrims left the Camino Francés at León and travelled 121 km north along the Camino San Salvador to Oviedo Cathedral. The saying goes: “Quien va a Santiago y no al Salvador, visita al criado y deja al Señor” (Whoever goes to Saint James and not to the Saviour, visits the servant and misses the Master). The Primitivo was then the shortest viable route to regain the Camino Francés to Santiago.

History: The Primitivo is believed to be the first camino route taken by a pilgrim to Santiago. The Spanish King Alfonso II walked from the Kingdom's then capital, Oviedo, in the 9th century after hearing that the remains of St James the Apostle had been discovered in Compostela.

The Route: El Camino Primitivo takes a direct route from Oviedo to Lugo and then on to Melide, on the Camino Francés. There is a fair percentage of road walking although probably not much more than on the Camino Francés.

From Oviedo the route passes through: Grado, Cornellana, Salas, Tineo, via Pola de Allande or the “Hospitales” route to Berducedo, Grandas de Salime, Fonsagrada, Cadavo Baleira, Castroverde, Lugo, San Román, Ferreira, As Seixas and on to Melide.

A suitable point for leaving the coastal route and going to Oviedo is Villaviciosa.  This gives the opportunity to visit the monastery at Valdediós and make use of the Albergue de Peregrinos at La Vega de Sariego.

Distances: The entire route is approximately 370 km which can be broken down into the following stages: Villaviciosa to Oviedo 47 km, Oviedo to Lugo 220 km approximately (shorter via Hospitales route), Lugo to Melide 50 km and Melide to Santiago 53 km.

Terrain. It is a hard route through the mountains with a great deal of climbing and descending, but mainly on well-made paths. There is also a fair amount of road walking, especially between Villaviciosa and Oviedo and after Lugo. There are some fantastic views if the weather is kind.

Waymarking: This is good overall.

Weather/When to go: The weather can be harsh, even in summer, damp and cold.  As in all high regions it can change very quickly. You can have many superb days of sunshine with magnificent views, you can also be shrouded in damp mist for the whole day and become wet through and miserable.  You should really have had some other hill walking experience before going this way. It would be wise to restrict yourself to the summer months if you are contemplating taking the high-level option. This route is very popular in July and August.

Accommodation: There are Albergues de Peregrinos at: Sebrayo (before Villaviciosa), Valdediós, La Vega de Sariego, Oviedo, Escamplero, Villapañada (5 km after Grado), Cornellana, Salas, Bodenaya, Tineo, Borres, Berducedo, La Mesa, Grandas de Salime, Padron (2 km after Fonsagrada) Cádavo Baleira, Castroverde, Lugo, San Román da Retorta, Ponte Ferreira, As Seixas and then onto the Camino Francés. Details of the albergues along with hostales and pensiones are in the guidebooks. There is private accommodation at one or two points once Galicia is reached, since the towns and villages are quite small, it is well worth phoning ahead to book accommodation.

Oviedo Cathedral of San Salvador

What to see: Oviedo Cathedral, Cámara Santa, the three pre-Romanesque churches on the outskirts (San Julián de los Prados, Santa Maria del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo). The ruined monasteries at Cornellana and Obona, old pilgrim hospital and the dolmen at Montouto.  Mountain scenery which is quite dramatic at times, especially near Grandas de Salime.

Guide books: We have a few different guidebooks that cover this route available in our online shop - including the CSJ’s own guide written by Stacey Wittig and Johnnie Walker and the more up-to-date Wise Pilgrim guide.

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

Cyclists: Perfectly feasible for normal touring cycle, the road surfaces are generally good and although many of the roads are narrow the traffic in most places is quite light. Some of the off-road sections can be taken by mountain bikes although. Restraint should be exercised to avoid damaging the tracks and causing annoyance to pilgrims travelling on foot.

Spanish: There is no doubt that a reasonable grasp of the language essentials will enhance the experience.

Website: Good information is available from Mundicamino