Walking the Camino San Salvador

The Camino San Salvador, also known as the “San Salvador Way” or the “Camino de San Salvador,” is a lesser-known but deeply rewarding pilgrimage route that connects two major cities in northern Spain: León and Oviedo. This Camino is relatively short compared to other routes like the Camino Francés or the Camino del Norte, but it is renowned for its challenging terrain and stunning natural beauty. Here’s a detailed description of the Camino San Salvador:

Overview

  • Length: Approximately 120-130 kilometers.
  • Duration: Typically 5-6 days to complete.
  • Terrain: Mountainous and challenging, with significant elevation gains and losses.
  • Starting Point: León, a historic city known for its Gothic cathedral.
  • Ending Point: Oviedo, is famous for its pre-Romanesque architecture and the Cathedral of San Salvador.

Key Characteristics

  • Scenic Beauty: The route traverses the Cantabrian Mountains, offering breathtaking views of mountain landscapes, lush valleys, and serene forests.
  • Physical Challenge: Known for its steep ascents and descents, this Camino is more physically demanding than most others. It’s favored by experienced hikers and those looking for a physical challenge.
  • Spiritual Significance: The Camino San Salvador is historically and spiritually significant, linking the French Way with the Northern Way, and allowing pilgrims to venerate the Shroud of Oviedo.

Stages

  1. León to La Robla: The route begins in the bustling city of León and heads towards the smaller town of La Robla.
  2. La Robla to Poladura de la Tercia: This stage involves a significant climb into the mountains.
  3. Poladura de la Tercia to Pajares: One of the most challenging sections, featuring steep trails.
  4. Pajares to Pola de Lena: The path descends into the valley, offering some respite from the previous day’s climb.
  5. Pola de Lena to Oviedo: The final stretch to Oviedo is less strenuous and allows for reflection on the journey.

Significance

  • Cultural Experience: The Camino San Salvador goes through small villages and towns, offering an intimate experience of rural Spanish life.
  • Historical Sites: Along the way, pilgrims encounter various historical and religious sites, including ancient churches and hermitages.

Tips for Pilgrims

  • Preparation: Due to its challenging nature, physical preparation is essential.
  • Accommodation: There are fewer pilgrim-specific accommodations (albergues), so planning ahead is recommended.
  • Season: Best walked in late spring, summer, or early autumn to avoid harsh winter conditions in the mountains.

The Camino San Salvador is often seen as a pilgrimage within a pilgrimage, attracting those who seek solitude, physical challenge, and a deep connection with nature and history. Its relative obscurity compared to other Camino routes ensures a more solitary experience, ideal for introspection and spiritual growth.