The Pilgrim Office officially recognised this route in 2015. The route primarily uses the old Roman route for transporting ore from the mines which follows the Sil river. It is possible that in the past this track was preferred in winter to the snowy heights of O Cebreiro but there is as yet no firm evidence to support this theory. This is a solitary route for fit and confident walkers with good basic Spanish.
The Route. It starts in Ponferrada and passes through the Bierzo region of Léon and all four Galician provinces, covering approximately 275 km. The best starting place for those looking to cover the minimum distance is Monforte de Lemos at 120 km distance from Santiago, remember your two stamps per day from this point onwards.
Terrain. Hilly in parts (be prepared for various strenuous ascents or descents), the path passes through towns, villages, forests, farmland (bee-keeping a speciality, also orchards, vineyards and pastures), beside old mine-workings and slate quarries, and alongside the Sil and Minho rivers. There are some fantastic views if the weather allows. Watch out for wild boar….
Waymarking. The waymarking has been much improved over recent years but you may still find signage sparse or contradictory in some areas. Be prepared to ask local people for directions.
Weather/When to go. Best undertaken between April and November. Despite the name, the “Winter” route can be subject to the same snow, sleet, fog, high winds as the mountainous regions of the Camino Francés which it purports to avoid. Weather in hill country can be unpredictable and you should be prepared for mud and for cold and wet weather all year round. Some stretches of this route are long and isolated.
Accommodation. There are hostels or non-pilgrim specific albergues (and one excellent private albergue) at various points along the way. There is plentiful private accommodation in the towns along the way, some of it very reasonably priced.
What to see. Ponferrada Templar castle, Santo Tomás de las Ollas church just outside town near hospital, Priaranza del Bierzo Mirador de Santallo viewpoint, Castillo de Cornatel medieval castle in dramatic setting, Las Médulas UNESCO World Heritage site (Roman gold-mining area which has left dramatic man-made landscape of red cliffs and peaks), Sobradelo 16th century seven-arched bridge, Torres Novais ruined medieval castle, Barxa del Lor Roman bridge, Monforte Renaisaance monastery Colegio de los Escolapios, Diamondi Romanesque church of San Pelagio, Chantada old town with 15th and 16th century buildings, Lalin Romanesque church.
- Guía del Camino de Invierno, 2011, by José D. Rúa Pérez. 128-page Spanish guide, €15, available from:
Editorial A Pena D´Agua Edicions
Praza das Airas, 1
32350 FONTEI-A RUA (Ourense)
Teléfonos 616 124 521 y 988 311 614
guiacaminodeinvierno*gmail.com (To reduce the amount of spam, we’ve removed direct e-mail links from this site. To use the following addresses, copy them into your normal e-mail programme, but REPLACE THE ‘*’ WITH THE CONVENTIONAL ‘@’)
- Guía del Camino de Invierno a Santiago, 2014, by Aida Menéndez Lorenzo. 204-page guide, €20 plus shipping, available from:
- App available from Wisepilgrim
Associación Amigos do Camiño de Santiago por Valdeorras has some information on the stages and services available in towns along the way.
Mundicamino has information on all stages.
Discussion Forum. Visit the Camino de Santiago Forum to join in the current conversation.
Cyclists. The route is a joint cycle/hiking track. However, given the ascents and descents, and the muddy condition of some of the paths, it is probably only suitable for mountain bikes. It is possible to cycle this route mainly on country roads and there are travel companies that offer self-guided tours along such road routes. The second edition of Guía del Camino de Invierno by José D. Rúa Pérez has cycling information.