The Camino Primitivo is known as the first pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. In fact, it is also called the Original Way or the North Way Inside or even the Old Way. This is a short Camino, which can be walked from Oviedo (North-west of Spain) to Santiago de Compostela in two stages: 1st stage Oviedo-Lugo (11 days) and the 2nd stage Lugo-Santiago (5 days). Pilgrims should go through the 343 km of the Primitive Way from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela.
Oviedo was the main point of origin of the Primitive Way, but it was also followed by pilgrims from other parts of northern Spain and Europe. It was possibly a very safe itinerary which was commonly used until the current French Way departing from León, the new capital of the kingdom, was consolidated in the 10th century.
Nevertheless, the route from Oviedo to Compostela was still a relevant alternative, especially for the spiritual value that certain pilgrims conferred to the fascinating collection of relics that the cathedral of San Salvador de Oviedo and the basilica of Lugo, where the Blessed Sacrament was permanently exhibited, had to offer.
According to Spanish history, in the first period of the Reconquest nearly the whole Iberian peninsula was under the caliph´s rule, but a tiny Christian kingdom remained unconquered protected by the mountains of Asturias. Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela started following the hardest but most protective way crossing the heart of the mountain rage. This route was the only operative itinerary at that time free from the Moslem invasions.
However, nowadays as a deviation of Camino de la Costa or the Northern Way, some travelers, who are following the Northern way along the coast from the Basque Country, close to France, decide to divert their way towards the Camino Primitivo in the town of Villaviciosa.
The Primitive Way joins the French Way in the historical Jacobean town of Melide. It then heads for the cathedral of Santiago, 53 kilometres away.
Good reasons why to choose the Camino Primitivo
- The Camino Primitivo is short but challenging
As it has already mentioned, the Camino Primitivo can be completed in 11 days. However, it is physically demanding with many ups and downs. Make no mistake. The mountain passes top a dizzy 1200 metres, and to walk 25 kilometres per day, you’ll need to be in shape. If you are fit and you want to challenge yourself, this is your camino.
- Outstanding landscape
You will have the reward of walking through unspoiled nature, beautiful mountains, streams of fresh water and charming little old villages, sometimes untouched by progress. The walk itself starts out through Oviedo’s suburbs, but soon you are in rural Asturias, sidestepping cows and greeting wooden-clogged farmers. The entire route is well-waymarked, so you shouldn’t get lost. As the walk approaches Lugo, the countryside just gets better. The hardship of ascent and descent is offset by views of snow-capped mountains, dense eucalyptus forests and colourful flowers. These are Spain’s green provinces for a reason, and that reason is rain. It can be relentless at any time of year. Pack clothes for all seasons, as you may experience them all in one day.
- One of the less crowded Camino
A total of 29374 pilgrims received their Compostela in June 2013. That is an average of 979 pilgrims per day. The actual number will be higher, since not all decide to pick up their Compostela. As you can see in the chart below Camino Primitivo was only walked by a 2,82% of pilgrims in 2013.
|Camino traveled||Number of pilgrims|
|Camino Francés||20964 (71,37%)|
|Camino Portugués||4070 (13,86%)|
|Camino del Norte||1536 (5,23%)|
|Via de la Plata||1408 (4,79%)|
|Camino Primitivo||827 (2,82%)|
|Camino Inglés||465 (1,58%)|
|Otros caminos||56 (0,19%)|
- Prehistoric itinerary
This route offers wonderful prehistoric remains as milestones of the megalithic culture, fortified settlements and “mamoas”.
The Megalithic culture:
This was the first great culture to appear in Galicia and was characterized by its surprising capacity for construction and architecture, together with deep sense of religion, based on the cult of the dead, the mediators between man and the gods.
From this era there remain thousands of dolmens (mámoas), a type of tomb or sepulchre, throughout the entire territory. From its social organization it has been confirmed that it corresponded to some type of clan structure.
- Roman remains along the Camino and town of Lugo
You will walk through heavily forested rural Asturias and Galicia, witnessing the Roman influence on Spain’s roads and bridges.
The route to the town of Lugo runs through captivating landscapes: fountains, brooks, crop fields, forests, stone walls and wooden fences, traditional houses … Near the route we could highlight Soutomerille, an abandoned village with a pre-Romanesque church. We are 20 km from Lugo and the place names with Jacobean references are a constant — Camiño, Casa do Hospital, Costa Francesa, Santiago de Castelo. We then come into the oldest city in Galicia, the Roman Lucus Augusti, after passing under the bridge of A Chanca. We go up — Lugo is built on the site of a hill fort — until we come to the Roman wall (3rd and 4th centuries). The wall has been a world heritage site since 2000. We go in through the Gateway of San Pedro and then the city layout takes us first of all to the beautiful and welcoming Praza Maior, and then the cathedral of Santa María, where pilgrims stopped to pray before the Holy Sacrament, permanently exhibited in the church since the twelfth century. Apart from the monuments — from Roman archaeology to significant Baroque buildings —that pilgrims can admire in Lugo, there is also an excellent natural area of native woods on the banks of the River Miño, and marvellous food. 1 km from Lugo, the Roman baths (1st and 2nd centuries AD), in the current Hotel Balneario,right by the River Miño.
- Traditional cuisine
If you are going to walk the Camino Primitivo, you shouldn´t miss the traditional cuisine of this part of Spain. Cuisine here is rustic rather than fancy, but there can be little better at the end of a day’s walk than an Asturian fabada or a Galician caldo, heavy hearty bean-based stews laced with ham, black pudding and sausage. ‘Pilgrim‘s menus are available at restaurants and hotels, and at 9 or 10 euros – including wine and bread – they represent great value. Take also a break at Lugo, and enjoy the Roman walls that surround the city. Sample the pulpo gallego, the octopus for which the Galician province is famous. A meagre 4 euros will get you a tentacle or two at the Cafe-Bar Miraz in the lively Rua Nova. There are plenty of delicious dishes along the camino, don´t be afraid of tasting them all, it is sad to watch pilgrims having plain sandwiches instead of a traditional dish, which are probably the same price.
In conclusion, the Camino Primitivo is mainly for physically fit pilgrims, for nature lovers and for those who don´t mind a bit of solitude (or maybe they are actually looking for it) since this is one of the less crowded Camino de Santiago.
Buen Camino , amigos!