A Camino less travelled: The San Salvador Way.

By Dawn, Wandering the World.

In the Australian winter months, I am usually on the Camino, enjoying the warm weather of Spain and Portugal.  I have spent the last five European summers walking and have experienced the rewards of 24 different Caminos. You could say I’m addicted to walking “The Way”.

I often think about the Caminos I’ve walked and one special Camino I really enjoyed was The San Salvador Way, from Leon to Oviedo (130 kms) that I walked with Glenyce in October 2018.

It’s a quiet, less travelled route and very beautiful.  It is also one of the most mountainous Caminos. I had done a lot of walking already this particular season and was feeling very fit and up for the challenge.  I had just finished the last 100km of the Camino Francis with a youth group. Prior to that, I had completed 827 spectacular kilometres of the Camino del Norte, from San Sebastian to Bilbao. My walking season had started a few months earlier in June, in Ireland, on the rugged Dingle Way and was followed by the pretty Portugal Coastal.  We were on a break with a few free days to spare, so to keep in shape we decided – yes, let’s do it, let’s do the San Salvador. I felt fit and ready to take on the demanding San Salvador Way.

We were in Leon, an historic Spanish city hosting many pilgrims on their way to Santiago, and the beginning of the San Salvador Way.  There was a festival in town the night before we left – we felt it was a fitting farewell for us. Packing light, with day bags only – a change of clothes, toothbrush, charger & sunscreen, we headed out of Leon, into the mountains, with the sun on our backs.

Armed with our Credential, the pilgrim’s passport, we stopped on the way out of town at the Leon Cathedral for our first stamp – exciting! Two stamps a day are required to prove your pilgrimage and to receive your Salvadorana at the Cathedral of Oviedo.

The San Salvador route is well marked, but contradictory to the Camino Francis, the shell points the opposite direction, which can be a bit tricky.  The San Salvador is a route that few people undertake. We met only four pilgrims on the way. One man on his own, who kindly who gave us some tips of where to eat and drink, and three Dutch women walking together. 4 pilgrims in 5 days. That’s it – nobody else! If you are looking for the road less travelled, this is the Camino for you.

We aimed to walk 25-30km a day and had planned which villages to reach each night of our 5-day Camino.

There were many highlights on the San Salvador path for me:

  • The very first night staying in La Roblia. Our room was above a local café and the lady owner was fabulous, taking us under her wing as two women alone.  We had an early dinner, sometimes hard to get in Spain as they don’t eat till around 9. The pizza was delicious, washed down by a local vino.  Breakfast the next day was equally fabulous, typical fare – tortilla, café, juice, perfect for the day ahead.  We thought how fabulous this is, long may it continue.
  • The sunny beautiful days and blue skies, the terrific weather for walking dusty roads, mountains and through little villages.
  • The early starts before sunrise to get to our destination before the heat of the day. I just absolutely love rising early and leaving in time to watch the sunrise as I walk – it’s so peaceful.
  • Crossing over the mountains was just magical and one day when we accidently strayed off the marked path, I swear the wild horses showed us the way back – a big stallion watched us from the hill, then came down to lead the way. Amazing. I’ll never forget that moment or the look in his eyes.
  • One morning having breakfast at a local bar we met a group of local lads having their café and port – they were heading out into the mountains to go shooting – we thought “hope we don’t see them today”!
  • The friendliness of the locals and the beauty of the rugged mountains is something I will always remember.

The San Salvador Way ends in Oviedo, the capital of Asturias, which is known for its medieval old town and its many churches. The Cathedral contains the famous Shroud of Oviedo, believed to be the cloth that covered the face of Jesus at his crucifixion.

We collected our certificate of completion at the Cathedral and celebrated with a fabulous lunch at a Sideria or Cider House, given Asturias is well known for its cider. We enjoyed excellent food served by friendly waiters then enjoyed exploring the pretty town of Oviedo.

The San Salvador Way had been a very different Camino for me,  quiet and solitary, with very few pilgrims to share the path with. I had thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  Once you reach Oviedo, the number of walkers grow, as it is here that 3 Caminos meet – the Primitivo, the Norte and the San Salvador Way.

The San Salvador Way is the less travelled way, but those that walk it are richly rewarded. I highly recommend taking the time to explore the beauty of the mountains and the local hospitality. It’s a Camino with a difference.