The Camino de Invierno is a route whose origin actually dates back to the ancient Roman Empire. Throughout history it has served as a way of passage to enter Galicia from the Iberian peninsula during the winter months, thus avoiding the cold snow of O Cebreiro.
From the Roman Empire legions to the Napoleonic troops, and including in between the pilgrims who went to Compostela to see the tomb of the Apostle, this route is the only one of all the Caminos to Santiago that, after starting in Ponferrada, runs through the four provinces of Galicia before join the Camino Sanabrés or Via de la Plata in its last stages.
Despite its name, the Camino de Invierno (Winter Way) has become an ideal path for any season of the year due to the beauty of its landscapes. In addition, in summer it is a good alternative to avoid the crowded Camino Francés (French Way), at least from Ponferrada, to join the Sanabria Way in the province of A Coruña and thus avoid the greater influx of pilgrims.
By choosing the Camino de Invierno we are following an ancient Roman road with centuries of history in every step of the way. It will allow us to enjoy the best places in the four Galician provinces. On our route, we will see the Sil Canyons in the Ribeira Sacra, or the Deza region in Pontevedra, as well as castles, medieval bridges, monasteries and other heritage of great historical importance.
The Camino de Invierno is divided into 10 stages on foot, during which we will enjoy unforgettable natural landscapes throughout the four Galician provinces. An ideal route for those who want to escape from the routine and lose themselves among forests and a unique rural environment.
The first stage of the Camino de Invierno begins in El Bierzo, where we will walk through vineyards and chestnut trees until we see the Templar castle of Cornatel. Our route ends in Las Médulas, the largest uncovered gold mine during the Roman Empire. These excavations attract attention due to the contrast of its reddish sands with the vegetation that surrounds them.
We enter the Galician region on the second day of the Camino, and we will do it from the province of Ourense. But first, the Mirador de Pedrices awaits us, after which we will descend to the Sil river, the natural border between Galicia and León. After crossing it, we will continue walking along its channel until we reach the Valdeorras region, famous for its wine.
The third stage is short and easy, without many slopes to walk since we will stay next to the Sil river. We can enjoy the vegetation that surrounds us at all times until we reach our goal for the day, A Rúa de Valdeorras. Here we will have to spend the night as we do not have many places to stay later on. Our recommendation is to take advantage of this short stage to taste the best wines in the area, made in the traditional way in underground caves. But remember to drink responsibly, as the following stages will be tougher.
The greatest difficulty of this stage, in addition to being longer than the previous one, is the lack of services throughout the different villages we will pass by. But everything will be rewarded by our journey along the Ribeira Sacra, which will give us incredible views dotted with monasteries and churches that date back to the Middle Ages. From here we will arrive at our destination, Quiroga, already in the province of Lugo.
On this fifth day of the Camino de Invierno, we face what is probably the most difficult stage of the entire route, given its long mileage and its continuous ascents and descents through forests. We will finally leave the river Sil, which has been with us until now, to change it for the river Lor. We will cross it through a beautiful bridge of Roman origin. The hermitage of Los Remedios will give us good views and the fort of San Lourenzo will bring us little by little to Monforte de Lemos, where we will spend the night.
We will leave Monforte through its medieval bridge to start a stage dotted with Romanesque churches along its route. In addition, in this stage we will reach the milestone that marks the 100 kilometer of the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. From here we will begin to descend through the mountain before reaching the typical vineyards located on both sides of the Miño river. After crossing the Belesar bridge later on, we will be closer to Chantada, where we will spend the night.
After leaving Chantada we will find the highest point of the Camino de Invierno in the Sierra de Faro, with more than a thousand meters of altitude. We will reach here after a progressive and constant ascent. Do not miss the opportunity of enjoying the sights at this point, the spectacular panoramic views of the four Galician provinces. In the second half of the stage we will begin the descent towards Rodeiro, the destination of our journey, crossing the Fragas do Arnego first.
We will enjoy the most rural landscape in this stage in which we will have to cross the Arnego river several times. The last of them will be through the beautiful medieval Pedroso bridge. Later on, we will find the town of Lalín, famous for its cocido (stew), where many pilgrims choose to stay to enjoy its cuisine. Others will continue to the village of A Laxe, where the Camino de Invierno joins the Sanabrian one and the Vía de la Plata until our arrival in Compostela.
This is a long but relatively easy stage in which we will probably have more company, since we have left the Camino de Invierno to join the Sanabrian one. There will be an important descent to the Ulla river by asphalt track, but in general we will not find many steep slopes. We will also leave the province of Pontevedra behind to enter A Coruña through the small village of Outeiro, ending the penultimate stage of the Camino.
We are now very close to Santiago de Compostela. We will only have to go through this short stage that does not involve much difficulty to reach the Obradoiro square by mid-morning. But before this we can see the Pico Sacro, where we can ascend if we have time and see the towers of the Cathedral of Santiago. Our entry into Compostela will be through Ponte de Sar, where we will pass through a historic Roman stone road, from where we can see the cathedral in the distance. From here there is nothing left but enjoying the short distance that separates us from the Plaza del Obradoiro.
The Winter Way, since it has only been considered official since 2016, still has fewer accommodations than desired.
In Ponferrada, the starting point of this Camino, you will find numerous options, although you will not have the same luck in the rest of the stages, where you will see that the number of shelters drops considerably. However, there will always be pensions and hotels at your disposal.
Let us show you some options in the main towns of the Winter Way until its union with the Sanabrés Way.
O Barco de Valdeorras
Monforte de Lemos
The French Way (Camino Frances) is the most popular one, but there are many other ways you should know.