Camino de San Salvador – a guide & walking stages
The Camino de San Salvador or del Salvador is a long-distance pilgrimage route over the mountains in Northern Spain. The route is known for its steep ascents and descents, breathtaking scenery, and unpredictable weather conditions. The pilgrimage on this Camino is not to a tomb of a saint (like on the Camino de Santiago) but to the Christian relics that are kept in the Cathedral of Oviedo.
The history of the Camino de San Salvador dates back to the reign of King Alfonso II. To protect Christian relics from the Muslims the king ordered to transfer them to the Cathedral in Oviedo where they have been kept till nowadays.
What is the Camino de San Salvador?
The Camino de San Salvador is a multi-day pilgrimage route from Leon (Castille and Leon) to Oviedo (Asturias). It’s not a part of the Camino de Santiago because it doesn’t end in Santiago de Compostela but it is often used by pilgrims who walk the Camino Frances and want to switch to the Camino Primitivo and continue their pilgrimage on that route. The French Camino passes through Leon and the Camino Primitivo starts in Oviedo.
How long is the route?
The Camino is 120 km. It takes between 5 and 7 days to complete the route.
Where does the Camino del Salvador start?
The Camino de San Salvador starts in Leon, Castille and Leon region, Spain. The starting point is at Plaza de San Marcos (San Marcos Square) in front of San Marcos Church. In the middle of the square, you’ll see a statue of a pilgrim with a cross. In front of the statue, there is a metal plank indicating the direction of the route. On the right-hand side (facing the church) across the road on Avenida de Peregrinos there is a pole with a shell marking the beginning of the Camino.
San Marcos Square is km north of the Cathedral and the historical center. If you stay in the center you’ll have an extra 1 km to walk on the first day.
Where does it end?
The Camino del Salvador ends at the Cathedral in Oviedo. After finishing the Camino you can continue walking to Santiago de Compostela following the Camino Primitivo which is considered to be the first Camino route ever walked.
Where to get a Credential?
You can get a Credential for the Camino de San Salvador at the Albergue of the Benedictine Sisters Convent (Monasterio de Santa Maria de Carbajal) at Plaza del Grano. The Albergue is 600 m from the Cathedral of Leon. The Albergue is open daily. The Credential costs 2 euros. They put the first stamp into your Credential marking the beginning of the route.
Can you get the Compostela for completing the route?
No, you don’t get the Compostela for completing the Camino del Salvador instead you can get the Salvadorana. It’s an analog of the Compostela that is issued to pilgrims for completing the Camino de San Salvador. In order to get your Salvadroana, you have to collect stamps in your Credential (just like on any Camino de Santiago). You can get stamps at albergues, restaurants, bars, and churches along the route. After finishing the Camino you can get your Salvadorana in the Cathedral of Oviedo. The entrance to the Cathedral for pilgrims with a credential is 4 euros.
How difficult is the Camino de San Salvador?
Overall the route is quite challenging, especially the middle part of it which has many steep ascents and descents. In 5-6 walking days the accumulated ascent is more than 3000 m. Due to its relatively short distance, it’s quite doable for an average person but you’ll need some Camino training to prepare for the walk. You can adjust the itinerary to your needs and walk the route in 7 days instead of 5.
If you have never done any multi-day walking or hiking I would recommend doing the Camino del Salvador with somebody or choosing a different Camino route e.g. Camino Ingles or the last 100 km to Santiago on any Camino route. There are not many facilities on the route and often towns are quite far apart.
What is the scenery like?
For me, the highlight of the Camino del Salvador was the middle part between Buiza and La Pola de Lena. The mountainous scenery is truly spectacular. I would say that part of the route is one of my favorites out of all the Camino de Santiago routes that I’ve done. The one thing I enjoy that much on this route is walking next to or on the road. The beginning and the end of the Camino de San Salvador involve quite a bit of it.
When is the best time for walking?
In that part of Spain, it rains quite a lot. The summer months of June, July, and August are the best for walking the Camino de San Salvador. I walked the route end of August – the beginning of September. Except for the first day in Leon when it rained and even hailed the rest of the time the weather was very pleasant warm and sunny.
May and September are good months to walk the route though the chances of rain are a bit higher and it will be cooler in the mountains, especially in the morning.
In April and October, it’s still quite possible to walk the Camino de San Salvador though you’ll need warmer clothes.
Between November and March, it’s cold and wet. You can expect snow in the mountains. In snow, it’ll be difficult to find the route. For this Camino walking off-season is not recommended.
You can find more details on weather conditions in different parts of Spain in our post on the best time to walk the Camino de Santiago.
Is the route marked?
Yes, the Camino del Salvador is marked with yellow arrows and shells just like any other Camino de Santiago route. Yellow arrows painted on poles, trees, rocks, etc. are the most noticeable markers. Some other markers include poles with a shell, tiles and metal planks on the walls, yellow metal shells and arrows, etc. Overall the route is marked good but there are some parts through the forest and fields where you have to look for a path.
Is the Camino de San Salvador busy?
Not, the Camino de San Salvador is not a busy route even during the months of July, August, and September. I walked it end of August – the beginning of September and there were not many people. Some days I met 10 pilgrims on the route some just a couple. Most pilgrims who walk this Camino are Spanish. Some basic knowledge of Spanish will be very helpful.
Is it safe to walk alone?
I’ve walked the Camino as a solo female and never felt scared, in danger, or uncomfortable. But I have walked many Camino routes, done a lot of hiking, and I speak fluent Spanish. I’ve heard of a story of a girl walking alone on the Camino de San Salvador and being bothered by a man. I have walked 8 routes and never had any negative experiences.
I wouldn’t recommend walking some parts of the route that go through wild areas alone if you’re an inexperienced hiker. When I walked the Camino de San Salvador there was a group of four pilgrims they all met on the first day and walked all the way together.
How to get to Leon?
Leon is the beginning of the Camino de San Salvador. It’s a big city with good facilities, many hotels, restaurants, museums, etc. I would recommend spending there a couple of days before starting the pilgrimage. It’s easy to get to Leon from any city in Spain.
There is a small domestic airport 6 km outside of Leon but it has only one direct flight to Barcelona that leaves once a day 6 times per week. Other Spanish and European cities can be reached with a connection in Barcelona. It’s much faster and more convenient (especially if you can get a direct flight from your city to Barcelona) to fly than to take a bus or a train but it is quite a bit more expensive.
From Madrid, you can take a bus to Leon. There are many daily buses between the two cities including several direct buses from Madrid Airport Barajas to Leon. The journey takes between 3h30min. and 4h30min. The price is 26 euros. You can check the timetable and buy your tickets online.
There are several daily trains from Madrid to Leon including a couple of speed trains. It takes 2 hours to get to Leon by speed train. The tickets are 47 euros. Check departure times and buy your tickets online.
There are trains and buses to Leon from other Spanish cities including Santiago de Compostela, Oviedo, Barcelona, Burgos, etc.
Where to stay in Leon?
There are plenty of hotels, guesthouses, and albergues in Leon. You can find a place for any budget from an Albergue for donation to a luxury spa hotel.
Albergue Benedictinas (Carbajales) where you get a pilgrim’s passport (Credential) for the Camino de San Salvador is a good option if you want to stay in a historical center and feel the spirit of the Camino. Many pilgrims who walk the Camino Frances stay there.
We stayed at Hostal Quevedo outside the historical center close to Park. The hotel is just across the bridge from San Marcos Square (the beginning of the Camino).
Camino de San Salvador walking stages
- Distance – 120 km
- Time – 5-7 days
- Total ascent – 3055 m
- Total descent – 3573 m
- Walking surface – 54 asphalt (sidewalk, road), 66 km footpath/gravel road
Day 1. Leon to La Robla, 27 km
- Distance – 27 km
- Time – 6-7 hours
- Total ascent – 485 m
- Total descent – 361 m
- Max elevation – 990 m
- Walking surface – 13 km asphalt (can be less if you choose alternative routes at the beginning and at the end of the day), 14 km gravel road/footpath.
- San Marcos Square
- My favorite part of the route was between 10 km and 22 km over the hills and through the forest. In that part don’t miss trees with small figurines of Mary, Jesus, etc. nested between the branches. There are 3 of them at 10,5 km, 11,5 km, and 20,5 km.
- Wooden benches on the hills and in the forest offer spectacular views
- Ermita de Celada – a beautiful old chapel unfortunately the location is not that impressive next to the railway and a big factory.
- Several ascents and descents
- Walking along/next to the road for the last 5 km
The route was marked quite well with yellow arrows, metal planks, and wooden poles. Through the town, I would recommend relying on yellow arrows they’re easy to spot.
The Camino de San Slavador starts at San Marcos Square. From the pilgrim’s statue go right along the San Marcos Convent towards Avenida Los Peregrinos. Across the road, you’ll see a concrete pole marking the beginning of the Camino del Salvador. From there continue north on Avenida Los Peregrinos (along the cycling road) till the next roundabout with an old airplane in the middle. Avenida Los Peregrinos follows the river bank you’ll start seeing yellow arrows painted on trees, sidewalks, etc.
You can continue walking on the sidewalk or go under the bridge turn right and follow a walking/cycling track. There is a narrow footpath on the left that you can follow as well. It was wet and muddy when I walked the Camino I stuck to the sidewalk. Both routes merge at about 7,5 km just before the Camino leaves Carbajal de La Legua. If you want to stop for coffee or food it’s better to stay on the sidewalk. The next after Carbajal place where you can get food is 13 km away.
For the first 8 km, the Camino goes through residential areas, villas, etc.
4 km – a petrol station with a small shop
5 km – 8 km – Carbajal de La Legua. Technically it’s not one town but a group of neighborhoods near the town but it feels like one place stretch along the road for a couple of kilometers. Between 6 km and 7 km in the actual town, there are 3 cafes, a couple of shops, and a pharmacy.
8 km – 22 km – on gravel road/footpath.
17 km – Cabanillas, a tiny village with a Municipal Albergue and a church. No food places.
20 km – La Seca de Alba, a village with a bar. If you want to stop for food you have to go into the town across the bridge. The bar is about 300 m from the bridge.
22 km – Cascadas de Alba, a small town with a bar
23 km – the Camino splits. The right route goes along the road and the left route through the forest/fields. I took the road route and didn’t like it for 2 km I had to walk on the road though it wasn’t busy cars were driving quite fast. The scenery on the last 3 km is not very impressive on both routes through industrial areas.
23 km – 26 km – on the road.
26 km – Ermita de Celada
27 km – La Robla, a biggish town with restaurants, shops, ATMs, a hotel, and a Municipal Albergue.
Day 2. La Robla – Buiza, 23,5 km
- Distance – 23,5 km
- Time – 6-7 hours
- Total ascent – 680 m
- Total descent – 400 m
- Max elevation – 1467 m
- Walking surface – 11 km on asphalt, 12,5 km on gravel road/footpath
- A beautiful aqueduct across a river surrounded by the forest just outside La Robla
- An old Roman bridge about 300 m from the aqueduct
- Church of Nuestra Señora de Buen Suceso
- Beautiful mountainous scenery between La Pola de Gordon and Buiza
- Buiza is a charming little town surrounded by mountains.
- Spectacular scenery and breathtaking views on the route between Buiza and San Martin de la Tercia
- The last 4 km to Buiza are on the narrow winding road without any shoulders. There is not much traffic on the road but cars drive quite fast and drivers coming around the corner don’t expect to see anybody walking on the road. The scenery is stunning but you can’t really enjoy it because you have to keep your eyes on the road.
- A steep ascent from Buiza – 350 m over 3 km
The first half of the walk from La Robal to Buiza was flat and easy. Unfortunately most of the time on the road or next to the railways.
The second half from Buiza to Poladura is more challenging with a steep ascent that starts from the village. The Camino goes away from the road it’s on a footpath over the mountains all the way to Poladura.
The first 4 km are on the sidewalk past Puente de Alba (2 km) and Peredilla (3 km). Two small towns with no cafes or shops.
4 km – 5 km on a gravel road next to the railway
5 km – Church of Nuestra Señora de Buen Suceso and a restaurant
5,5 km – La Trinchera de Cordon, a small town with no cafes or shops
5,5 km – 7,5 km through the fields and forest on a gravel road/footpath
8,6 km – La Pola de Gordon, a biggish town with cafes, shops, pharmacies, and a couple of hotels.
10 km – 14 km on the road sometimes very narrow mountainous road
10 km – a petrol station
10,5 km – Beberino, a small town with a restaurant that is open at random hours (so it says on the gate)
14 km – Buiza. It’s a very small place with a Municipal Albergue and nothing else (no shops or cafes). If you decide to stay here bring food with you. Pola de Gordon (at 8,6 km) is the last place with shops.
14-22 km – a footpath over the mountains with stunning views. No place to stop for food or water.
22,5 km – San Martin de la Tercia is a small village with nothing.
23,5 km – Poladura de la Tercia is a village with a municipal Albergue and a private Albergue/bar.
Day 3. Poladura de La Tercia to Pajares, 14 km
- Distance – 14 km
- Time – 4-5 hours
- Total ascent – 605 m
- Total descent – 797 m
- Max elevation – 1560 m
- Walking surface – 2 km asphalt (road), 12 km footpath
- It was the most beautiful walking day on the Camino de San Salvador and one of the most beautiful days on any Camino de Santiago route that I’ve done.
- A beautiful church Colegiata de Santa Maria at 8 km
- The view of the valley and the mountains from the Mirador Puerto Pajares, at 10 km. At that point, you cross the border between Castile and Leon and Asturias.
- A couple of long and steep ascents from the start of the day
- A steep descent at the end of the day
- No place to stop for food or water for the first 10 km
- The last 2 km to Pajares are not well-marked.
- Walking on the road for the last 700 m.
This stage is described as the toughest stage on the Camino de San Salvador. For this reason, many pilgrims walk it as a short 14-kilometer stage. I personally didn’t think that part was that difficult but it was nice to have a lot of time to enjoy the scenery. Even if you walk very slowly and struggle with going up you’ll be able to complete 14 km in less than 6 hours.
The Camino goes over the mountains through isolated areas it’s not recommended to take this route in bad weather conditions. If you’re an inexperienced hiker you might be more confident walking this stage with another pilgrim. I didn’t feel unsafe or in danger at any point during the walk. In fact, I really enjoyed the tranquility of the area.
The only drawback of the day was the lack of route marking on the last 2 kilometers to Pajares. The route goes through the fields and forest and sometimes there is not one arrow pointing the way. You just have to keep an eye on the footpath and try not to lose it.
The first 8 km from Poladura de la Tercia are on a footpath over the mountains. It’s the most beautiful part of Camino del Salvador.
8 km – 9 km – on the road
9 km there is an old Parador (a castle-like building) and a lookout point. You’ll see many yellow arrows there pointing toward the road. According to the official sites it’s not recommended to follow that route as it goes on the road. Instead, take the official route on the right 50 m before the Parador. I’m quite confident that the official route is 1-2 km longer than the road.
9,6 km after going through a metal gate don’t lose the Camino. It goes toward the road. You’ll see some yellow arrows down the hill. The route goes down and across the road. Don’t follow the footpath that goes right along the mountain.
10 km crossing the road.
10,4 km there is a split. I took the right route but I believe both trails merge after a short while.
From there on make sure you don’t lose the footpath there will be some markers here and there but overall the route is not well indicated.
13 km there is a split. From what I’ve read the right route goes to Pajares. The left route goes down to San Miguel del Rio skipping Pajares and is used by pilgrims who don’t want to stay in Pajares overnight and continue their walk.
The last 700 m to Pajares are on the road.
Day 4. Pajares to Pola de Lena, 24 km
- Distance – 24 km
- Time – 6-7 hours
- Total ascent – 655 m if you take the mountain route between 6 km and 11 km, 500 m if you take the road route between 6 km and 11 km
- Total descent – 1319 m (on the mountain route) and 1160 m (on the road route)
- Max elevation – 1000 m
- Walking surface – 16 km mostly footpath with bits on the gravel, 8 km on asphalt (the mountain route), 11 km footpath/gravel, and 13 km asphalt (the road route)
- Incredible mountainous scenery
- Beautiful forest
- Many steep descents sometimes on a footpath with loose rocks and mud. You go more than 1000 m down in one day. Walking sticks will be very helpful here.
- On the mountain route between 6 km and 11 km several ascents and descents
- On the road route between 6 km and 11 km walking on the narrow winding road with not much traffic.
It was a beautiful day on the Camino de San Salvador. I really enjoyed the scenery, the forest, and the views. Most of the day you walk in the wild I’d highly recommend taking some snacks with you and making sure you have enough water. The last 5 km were mostly next to the highway but it didn’t spoil the overall impression of the day.
0 km – 1,5 km – a steep descent on a footpath that starts at the exit of Pajares. Make sure to have breakfast in Pajares or pack food with you. There will be nowhere to stop for food or water in the next 17 km.
1,5 km – San Miguel del Rio, a small village with nothing
2,8 km – St.Marina, another small village with nothing
5 km – Llanos de Semeron, a village with 2 albergues. The first one is albergue/bar there was nobody there. I’m not sure if you can order food or if they prepare meals only for pilgrims who stay there.
6 km – a split. The left route goes through the forest and mountains and is rated as difficult. The right route continues on the road and is rated as easy. Both routes are 5 km. The road route goes straight down, the mountain route has some ascents. I took the mountain route and it was quite challenging with a couple of steep descents on a muddy rocky path. The views from the top were impressive and the forest was beautiful. Which route to choose is up to you but the mountain route does take longer.
11 km – both routes merge in Fresnedo, a tiny village with nothing
11 km – 17 km – the Camino continues on a footpath through the forest.
15,5 km – Herias, a small place with nothing
17 km – 19 km – Campomanes, a biggish town with bars, shops, hotels, and ATMs. Just before the town, there is a very steep and quite long ascent, 200 m down over 100 m.
19 km – 24 km – on the gravel/tar road next to the highway with a short detour at 20 km to an old small church of Vega el Ciego. After the church, the Camino goes back to the highway, don’t miss the turn and take the first left route.
24 km – the center of Pola de Lena
Day 5. Pola de Lena to Oviedo, 32 km
- Distance – 32 km to the Cathedral of Oviedo, 31 km to the Municipal Albergue
- Time – 7-8 hours
- Total ascent – 630 m
- Total descent – 696 m
- Max elevation – 406 m
- Walking surface – 20 km asphalt, 12 km footpath/gravel road
- Church of Santa Eulalia de Ujo
- Mountainous scenery between 16 km and 20 km
- Forest walk between 20 km and Olloniego
- The Medieval ruins in Olloniego
- The Old Town of Oviedo
- Long distance, 32 km
- A lot of walking on or next to the road mostly a very quiet road though
- The last 6 km to Oviedo have several steep ascents and descents
The longest day on the Camino de San Salvador in the suggested itinerary. The first half is easy and flat mostly next to or close to the highway so you can always see and hear it. The second half after Mieres is more challenging with several steep ascents and descents and very few places to stop for food. Keep it in mind when planning your walk. There will be nothing between 15 km and 22 km.
The middle part of the route between Ujo and Mieres lacks the route marking (no painted yellow arrows) though it’s very straightforward all the way next to the river and the railway.
The first 3,5 km are through the town and along the highway on asphalt
3,5 km – 4,5 km footpath in the forest with ruins of two old houses overgrown by trees
4,5 km – 6 km a footpath along the highway that is partly very overgrown
6 km – 20 km – sidewalk or road
7 km – Ujo, a town with a beautiful 12th-century church, a couple of bars, and a nice bakery next to the church
7,5 km – 13 km – follow the sidewalk on the left side of the Caudal River. It would be a lovely walk along the river if it wasn’t for the highway on the right side of it and the railway on the left side. There are not many signs on that part of the route you just go along the river from Ujo to Mieres train station where you cross a pedestrian bridge.
13 km – 15 km Mieres, a big town with many restaurants, shops, ATMs, hotels, etc. If the suggested stage is too long you can split it into two; Pola de Lena to Mieres – 15 km and Mieres to Oviedo – 17 km.
15,7 km – a hotel and a restaurant. The beginning of a long ascent on a quiet road past small neighborhoods with no facilities.
20,6 km – the beginning of a steep descent through the forest following an overgrown footpath
21,5 km – 23,5 km – along the road or on a sidewalk
22,5 km – Olloniego, a small town with a couple of bars and beautiful ruins (at the exit of the town)
24,5 km – the beginning of the ascent on a footpath through the forest. There will be several ascents and descents at the end of the day.
28 km – the suburbs of Oviedo
31 km – Municipal Albergue of Oviedo
32 km – the Cathedral of Oviedo. The route from the albergues to the cathedral is not marked. Here and there you see small metal shells on the sidewalk.
Where to stay in Oviedo?
There are plenty of accommodation options in Oviedo. You can stay in Municipal Albergue El Salvador after completing the Camino or in one of the private places.
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The pretty half of Stingy Nomads, responsible for all our land adventures (hiking, climbing, walking the Camino) and following them write-ups. Alya loves walking since she was a child, she prefers to walk 1000 km with a backpack rather than to do a 10 000 km road trip (actually any road trip). Alya is a big fan of Latin America, the Spanish language, and dancing. Every time we go away she desperately misses our dog Chile.