Welcome to the Ruta Vadiniense, otherwise known as the Camino of the Peaks. This is one of the most demanding and rewarding hikes in the Camino network, 134 kilometers of spectacular views, natural wonders, great food, historical sites, and friendly people.
The Ruta Vadiniense is a new camino for most English-speaking pilgrims. As recently as 2004 a guide to the northern caminos listed it among “Routes That Have Little to Offer Today.” Still, travelers have been using this route for at least 2,000 years to move safely from the heights of the Picos de Europa mountains down to the flatlands of the Tierra de Campos of León province, with the added bonus of viewing what venerable CSJ guide writer Eric Walker termed “some of the wildest and most beautiful scenery in northern Spain.”
From its official start at the mountain resort town of Potes, Cantabria, the Vadiniense follows 135 kilometers (more or less) of trail and rural roadway over spectacular mountains and along the bank of the Rio Esla. Spiritual seekers may find their pilgrimage begins at the monastery and Shrine of the Holy Cross of Liebana, four kilometers from Potes, and ends at the serenely beautiful Cistercian convent of Gradefes, where 20 nuns still sing the hours in a stony chapel on the plain. A long day´s walk from there, past the Mozarabic Monastery of San Miguel de Escalada, puts the pilgrim on the busy Camino Frances, in Mansilla de las Mulas.
The route can be done in seven days, with stops in towns along the way. Four dedicated pilgrim hostels exist on the Vadiniense: in Potes, at Liebana monastery, in Cistierna and in Gradefes. Other towns offer food and rest at more touristic rates. Unless you carry a tent or have caravan backup, this is not a camino for travelers on a tight budget, as it passes through some of Spain´s favourite tourist areas.
Suggested daily stages are:
Day 1: Potes to Fuente De or Espinama (23 or 21 km.)
Day 2: to Portilla de la Reina (21 km.)
Day 3: to Riaño (14 km.)
Day 4: to Venta de Valdoré (22 km.)
Day 5: to Cistierna: rest day (13 km.)
Day 6: to Gradefes (27 km.)
Day 7: to Mansilla de las Mulas (24 km.)