The Camino Primitivo or Original Camino is the oldest Camino de Santiago route, as this was the route followed by King Alfonso II the Chaste in the 9th century, from the city of Oviedo, in Asturias, to Santiago de Compostela. This was the first Camino de Santiago trail when most of Spain was under Moorish control. The first stage of the Camino Primitivo, across the mountains, is one of the most challenging of all Camino routes but the scenery is breathtaking.
Oviedo is the starting point of the Camino Primitivo but this was also a route traditionally followed by pilgrims from further afield in Northern Spain and Europe. The route crosses the Cantabrian Mountains giving walkers outstanding views of the Picos de Europa and passes quaint mountain villages in Asturias and Galicia. The city of Lugo is one of the highlights of this Camino route. Lugo’s old town is nested inside the only fully preserved Roman wall in Spain, an impressive UNESCO World Heritage site.
From Lugo, the Camino Primitivo continues towards Santiago de Compostela through peaceful forests and farmland, joining the final stretch of the Camino Frances in the lively town of Melide where you should try Galicia’s most classic dish: octopus.
In order to get your Compostela pilgrim certificate in Santiago you will need to walk a minimum of 100kms into Santiago (we suggest starting in Lugo) or cycle at least the last 200kms of the route (from Grandas de Salime).
King Alphonse II, the Chaste, played an important role in establishing that the remains unearthed in Compostela belonged indeed to the Apostle Saint James. He also sponsored the building of the first basilica in the city and promoted the establishment of the early cult to Saint James.
The Camino Primitivo was probably a safe and well-traveled route until the present-day Camion Frances from León, the new capital of the kingdom, consolidated its position as the major Camino route in the late 10th century. Nonetheless, the Oviedo route to Santiago remained a popular alternative, due particularly to the spiritual value of the magnificent collection of relics at the cathedral of San Salvador de Oviedo and the basilica of Lugo with its permanent exhibition of the Holy Sacrament.
The many hospitals set up along the way bear witness to the importance of this route, especially those in remote spots high up in the mountains. They served a fundamental purpose: attending to the pilgrim, who, in the region of A Fonsagrada, was forced to cross areas of breathtaking beauty yet also represented an arduous challenge for the most part of the year, with snowstorms, strong winds, and treacherous paths. Walk the last 100km of the Camino Primitivo for your next walking holiday.