A donation to the forum removes ads for you, and supports Ivar in his work running it

Advertisement

Luggage Transfer Correos

Camino de Invierno in winter: personal experience

2020 Camino Guides

Athena Atterdag

time&space traveller
Camino(s) past & future
Via Francigena (2017,2018)
Via Turonensis (Paris-Chartres,2018)
Camino de Invierno (Dec2018/Jan2019)
Why the Invierno: I had two weeks for a walk (my Christmas vacation + the Russian winter holidays), I wanted to finish in Santiago, and I didn’t want to walk the Frances this time (personal reasons: last spring, I started the Camino from Paris, walking the first 100 km to Chartres, so now I want to walk the Francés as a continuation of this route). So I started to research alternative routes and discovered the Invierno – I must say that it was its name that drew my attention, in the first turn! I read several threads on this forum and other information on the internet, looked up the towns along the way, and then I knew this was the route for me.
I started from León on Christmas (and, accidentally, arrived in Santiago on Epiphany) and walked four stages of the Francés to Ponferrada before turning south on the Invierno; this gave me time to get used to the walking and meet more experienced pilgrims and learn some useful things from them.

Way-marking: it’s very, very good! I almost got lost just twice, on the way through Soldón and between the river walk in Lalín and the albergue at A Laxe. I consulted the guide every now and then, but mostly to see if there was something interesting I should not miss. Overall, there were lots of arrows, mojones, and hand-made wooden signs (very beautifully carved and heart-warming!).

Weather: I was extremely lucky to have two weeks of warm and sunny weather, which is highly unusual for Galicia. However, the mornings were always cold, frosty, and foggy, and the dirt tracks were often wet and muddy.
The biggest disadvantage of walking in winter seems to be the reduced daylight hours. I usually started at 8:30 am as I didn’t want to walk in the dark, and finished walking by 4:30 or 5 pm. Not much time left for exploring the next town, but the towns on the Invierno are generally very small anyway.
I had two pairs of shoes: Quechua trekking shoes and old Ecco sandals. I walked in the shoes for the first couple of hours and then changed into the sandals, changing back only if the road got too muddy.

Scenery: it's an unbelievably scenic route! I especially loved the long stretch from the border of Galicia to the crossing after the descent from Monte Faro, and my absolute favourite is the long road above the Sil . The last three stages are less scenic on the whole, but also pass through some very beautiful places.

Safety: I was walking solo, and I felt absolutely safe. The only occasions when I was feeling uncomfortable were when I had to walk along a highway in a thick fog (down from the castle of Cornatel, for example). But all was well: I wore a bright pink jacket, and the drivers were remarkably careful and attentive.
The Invierno is indeed a very solitary route, but I knew that I wasn’t the only one walking it this time of the year. If you’re on Facebook, there’s a very active group dedicated to the Invierno (some of the members are locals - the owner of the Bar Mar in Sobradelo, for example, is an active member), and I saw posts by and about other pilgrims currently walking this route almost daily. I never met anyone until almost at the steps of the cathedral in Santiago, but knowing that there were other people on the Invierno supported me greatly.

People: I found the locals to be very friendly, and some of them very happy to see a pilgrim passing their lands! A woman in Santalla del Bierzo gave me two apples from her garden; a patron in the bar in Rodeiro paid for my lunch; a man in Éntoma specially stopped his car and leaned out of the window to chat with me and wish me a Buen Camino; several people in different towns showed me the way to the nearest open bar or the direction of the Invierno before I even asked. And when I asked for help, I got it immediately, and the people seemed only too happy to help!

Language: I used to self-study Spanish about ten years ago and used Duolingo to remember something before my Camino; I also speak some Italian and French, and I’m generally very good at languages. However, I use hearing aids, so speaking with people is much more difficult than reading and even writing. The biggest problem was calling ahead for reservations, as I have difficulties with understanding speech over the phone even in my native language, but then I would ask the owner of the accommodation I was staying to help me with the next accommodation, and they would gladly help!
Generally, knowing at least some basic Spanish seems to be practically a pre-requisite for the Invierno. The good news is that the people are very, very friendly and willing to help you!

Dogs: I owe a special thank-you to Laurie for including a special paragraph on dogs in the guide and mentioning her being a dog-phobe :) I’m an awful dog-phobe myself, and even the smallest dog can easily scare me out of my wits if it barks loudly enough! I encountered A LOT of dogs on the Invierno, but most of them were either safely chained or behind fences, and those who were not were either absolutely disinterested in any passers-by or accompanied by their owners. Two places with the largest numbers of angrily barking dogs were Santalla del Bierzo and Éntoma. In the former, there was quite a number of dogs running freely, but I forced myself to just continue walking, and they soon lost any interest in me. And as I was passing the latter, several dogs barked at me from behind a high fence so vehemently that I stopped and told them, I’ll take that as a Buen Camino! I think I accidentally invented a nice strategy for coping with all this barking!:)

Services: yes, there are fewer bars, restaurants, stores, etc. along the Invierno, but I didn’t see much difference from the Francés where almost everything was closed for winter anyway. In high season, the difference must be striking, but in winter, these seems to be virtually none. I carried my own supply of food (ground coffee, porridge sachets, fruit bars, bouillon cubes), which added about 2 kg to the weight of my backpack in the beginning of my Camino, but allowed me not to worry in case I wouldn’t come across any open bars or supermarkets for the whole day.

Accommodation and stages: yes, there are very few albergues, but where there are no albergues, there are inexpensive hostals, and I spent, on average, the same amount of money per day as I did during the four days on the Francés.
I did the Invierno in 9 days, leaving Ponferrada on December 29 and arriving to Santiago on January 6. Most of my stages were pretty long, some over 30 km, that was okay for me, especially since the Invierno is a relatively easy route – nothing even close to that stretch between Astorga and Ponferrada!

So, these are my stages with distances and accommodations:

Day 1: Ponferrada to As Médulas, 27 km, Casa Socorro, €20; rooms in a private house, very well-maintained, good bathroom, but hot water seemed to be in limited quantity, no wi-fi; basic breakfast – which is very nice, as there are no bars all the way from Casa Socorro out of As Médulas. Be warned that the lady of the house prefers to call this village the Castilian way, Las Médulas ;)

Day 2: As Médulas to Vilamartín de Valdeorras, 33.2 km, albergue municipal, donativo; very well-maintained, very friendly and helpful people, wonderfully hot water, kitchenette with microwave, sink, a couple of cups, plates, and some utensils, washer and dryer (seemed to be free of charge, i.e. for donativo), free wi-fi; not pilgrim-specific, but the people in this town are very enthusiatic about the Invierno – the albergue even has a supply of Invierno guides in Spanish, for free!

Day 3: Vilamartín de Valdeorras to Quiroga, 32.8 km, Hostal Dimar, €15 (there’s an albergue in Quiroga, but it was closed, maybe just because it was New Year); room with a private bathroom, all very clean and comfortable, no kitchen, but a number of bars and a Dia supermarket nearby, free wi-fi.

Day 4: Quiroga to Monforte de Lemos, 35.2 km, Hostal Medievo, €41; that was the most I had to pay for an accomodation on the Camino, but I got a superb room with a very well-equipped bathroom, AC unit, a view of one of Monforte’s famous landmarks, and a tasty breakfast. The owners are also great friendly people, and they can be contacted for reservation via WhatsApp.

Day 5: Monforte de Lemos to Chantada, 30 km, Hostal Yoel, €17; I found the “outdated a bit” description in the guide to be a bit of an understatement, but it’s okay for a one-night stay. Has wi-fi, but I forgot to ask for the password, so just used my mobile internet.

Day 6: Chantada to Rodeiro, 27 km, Hostal Carpinteiras, €22; excellent big room with private bathroom, good drying facilities, very friendly and welcoming owners.

Day 7: Rodeiro to A Laxe, 27 km (according to the guide and other sources; I took the alternative route along the highway, so I only walked 14 or 15 km to Lalín and then 6 more to A Laxe), albergue municipal, €6; a very modern and stylish building, washer (€3) and dryer (€1.5), kitchen (very few utensils, though), wi-fi (tricky registration process, but works very well, and the next albergue uses the same connection), no blankets. The young hospitalera Aurora speaks some English and seemed keen on practicing it!

Day 8: A Laxe to Outeiro, 34 km, albergue municipal, €6; very much like the albergue at A Laxe, but feels more homely, and the kitchen is much better equipped – complete with coffee cups! There are also sugar, coffee, spices, oil, and some food in the kitchen, and a box for donations. This albergue is also equipped with a washer and a dryer, the prices are probably similar to the those at A Laxe. No blankets, but here the friendly hospitalero Fernando managed to find one for me!

Day 9: Outeiro to Santiago de Compostela, 17 km. Apparently, there are lots of places to stay in Santiago, and many prefer to stay in hotels or pensions there, but in case someone is interested in albergues open in winter (and there are few!), I stayed at Mundoalbergue, €14 + €3 for breakfast – it’s very comfortable, very clean, and very close to the cathedral, and the staff are very nice and friendly.
 
Last edited:

Athena Atterdag

time&space traveller
Camino(s) past & future
Via Francigena (2017,2018)
Via Turonensis (Paris-Chartres,2018)
Camino de Invierno (Dec2018/Jan2019)
Now, for a more detailed account of each of the stages…

I was delighted to see maps of the Invierno and a list of albergues on the information board in the albergue in Ponferrada! When the hospitaleros heard that I was going on this route, they warned me that it had little services and no albergues. It may be seen as lack of support, but I saw it more as genuine concern for a solo peregrina embarking on a less-known route and off-season. Overall, they were very helpful and even helped me with contacting Casa Socorro in As Médulas and ensuring that it was open and could accommodate me!

Day 1: Ponferrada to As Médulas, 27 km

This was the most difficult day of my Camino – first, I had to part ways with the excellent friends I made during the previous four days, and had very little hope to meet them again in Santiago, as the Invierno is 50 kilometres longer than the Francés from Ponferrada to Santiago. Second, the entire day turned out to be foggy (“Nice view over Ponferrada,” the guide said!), and I couldn’t see more than a dozen metres in either direction. I emerged from the fog just twice, before the castle of Cornatel and close to As Médulas. It was eerily beautiful (my favourite part was going through the vineyards!), but, combined with it being my first day on my own, without other pilgrims walking somewhere ahead or behind me and with my knowing that I wouldn’t have a merry company for dinner, it was very hard on my spirits. The many dogs I encountered during the day, especially in Santalla del Bierzo, did little to lighten up my mood. About the only thing that lightened the day up for me were the locals I’ve met, first at Toral de Merayo and then in Santalla del Bierzo.
Toral de Merayo was some 5 km after Ponferrada, and as soon as I walked in, I started looking for a bar where I could have a cup of café con leche. There was a bar just before the bridge, and it was closed, but a woman getting into a car on the other side of the bridge noticed how I was looking around and gestured to me, showing where I could find an open bar. That was the Café Bar Nogal mentioned in the guide, and I found there coffee, muffins, and friendly people who seemed to be very pleased to see someone walking the Invierno.
I didn’t go either to the castle of Cornatel or to Orellan, as I was feeling too tired to do anything but reach As Médulas, find Casa Socorro, and just lie down. And everything would be hidden in fog anyway.
I didn’t find Casa Socorro at once – but it’s in fact easy to find, you just have to go straight after you’ve entered the town, pass the church, and it will be there, on your right. They rent out four rooms in a separate wing of the house, with a shared bathroom, all very clean. If you stay there, be careful with hot water: it may run out before you’ve finished! Very good drying facilities in the room.
As I went to sleep, I almost seriously considered going back to Ponferrada and returning to the Francés!

Day 2: As Médulas to Vilamartín de Valdeorras, 33.2 km

As Médulas has the advantage of being high in the mountains, so fog-free, so when I woke up in the morning, I saw a beautiful sky over the valley. This, and the breakfast (toasts, butter, jam, cookies, milk) lightened my spirits greatly, so I set off in a much better mood. It wasn’t immediately clear which way to go from Casa Socorro, but luckily, a man just went out a house opposite, so I asked him, and he showed me the way (basically, you have to leave Casa Socorro and go left, then left again, and then up and right).
The views were spectacular: the red peaks over the town, the thick fog in the valleys below, and the long way above. After several kilometres, the road dived down into the fog, and after some time, I came into Puente de Domingo Flórez. All the bars the Camino passes in this town were closed, and I decided not to veer off, as I had to walk over 30 km that day. As I was walking along one of the streets and approaching a corner, a woman walking towards me stopped and warned me that the Camino would make a sharp turn left at that corner. I don’t think I would miss that arrow around that corner, but that was very nice of her!
And then, ery shortly thereafter, I walked into Galicia.
(Note: the guide mentioned a very loud-barking dog and warned that it could scare the pilgrim so much they could miss the turn they needed. I found this dog to be an excellent way-marker: as soon as I heard his barking and saw him running up and down, I knew this was where I needed to turn right!:))
So, I walked into Galicia, and Galicia welcomed me like a long-awaited and dear guest. The thick clouds suddenly cleared, and I found myself in a sunlit pine forest above a beautiful blue and green river – the Sil, and then on a wonderful road somewhere in between the Sil and the sky. Thank God I didn’t go back to Ponferrada, I said to myself!
The 10-kilometre walk to Sobradelo was very light and easy, and in Sobradelo, I found two open bars – Pontenova and Bar Mar. I ate a sandwich (rather mediocre, but with lots of cheese and ham) and drank a glass of white wine in Pontenova and popped into Bar Mar for a cup of coffee. The owner, Paula, is a great enthusiast of the Invierno and regularly posts in the FB group I mentioned above; she is indeed a very friendly woman, and the bar has a special Camiño de Inverno stamp!
The next village was Éntoma: very pilgrim-friendly locals and very pilgrim-angry dogs (all behind fences, thankfully!). After more walking through the forest, I came into O Barco de Valdeorras – I chose to walk straight through the town and enjoy the river park and the opportunity to watch the water more closely. I also went into Bar Roque which was indeed very pilgrim-friendly (and has a stamp, too) for another glass of white wine, and was treated to a plate of a local meat and chickpeas dish.
The albergue in Vilamartín de Valdeorras is a bit difficult to find because there are no signs at all from the side you’re passing if going along the Camino. However, it’s the second to last building on the Sil waterfront, and it can also be recognised by a small football field and an open-air swimming pool nearby. I didn’t think to call in advance, and had hard time trying to contact the hospitalero, but a group of friendly locals on their evening walk helped me to contact another person with keys, so all ended well!
The friendly hospitalera helped me with making reservations in Quiroga, which proved to be tricky as all the phones listed in both the forum guide and the Spanish Invierno guide for Quiroga proved to be outdated. She contacted someone in Quiroga tourist office (and all this was taking place on a Sunday evening!), and finally a room was found for me at Hostal Dimar.

Day 3: Vilamartin de Valdeorras to Quiroga, 32.8 km

This way my third day on the Invierno, and I was absolutely delighted with the route. How could I even think of going back to Ponferrada, I wondered.
I was even more delighted when I reached A Rúa (and navigated the arrows to the town centre). The beautiful church, the small houses with their elegant balconies, the many bars, supermarkets, and pharmacies! The Bar Pepa recommended by the guide wouldn’t open until later in the day, so I went to O Cuatro (O4), another bar located directly opposite, and ate a lunch of toasts with cheese and ham and a muffin. I also made use of a nearby supermarket and a pharmacy, and then I felt I was ready to go on.
The next 7 kilometres, along a highway, would have been very boring if it weren’t for the many funny wooden signs on the trees: I spotted several owls and cats, a flamingo, and several signs featuring the Camino shell. Here I passed from the province of Ourense into the province of Lugo (and the Ribeira Sacra).
Montefurado presented a striking contrast of a modern railway station and an old semi-abandoned village. Beautiful, but a bit spooky, and the spookiest part was probably the well cared-for and working water fountain next to the old church amid seemingly deserted houses – I didn’t see a soul there.
The village of Soldón several kilometres after and down from Montefurado was a bit tricky to navigate. As I followed the arrows and emerged from under the elevated highway, I didn’t see any arrows at all, so I had to stop and re-read the forum guide. I figured out that since I was supposed to cross the river under the highway, the highway itself just couldn’t be the right way, and my best bet would be to try the narrow alleyway between the houses to the right of me. Sure enough, when I practically dived into the alleyway, there was an arrow!
The highlight of the day was the castle of the Knights Hospitaller – I’m a fan of medieval history and have an interest in this order, so seeing their castle (and you can still see their cross on the wall!) was a treat. There’s also a very nice house in the hamlet next to the castle, probably an albergue: a wooden map on the Invierno on the wall, a wooden sign with a Buen Camino! carved into it, and so on.
The building where Hostal Dimar in Quiroga is located is easy to find, but the (permanently closed) bar Dimar on the corner may be misleading. If you’re staying in the hostal, you need the door to the right of the bar!
The room I got was very clean and comfortable, and as a bonus, I got to cuddle with the owners’ two adorable little white dogs!

Day 4: Quiroga to Monforte de Lemos, 35.2 km

No breakfast or kitchen at Hostal Dimar, so this morning I had to rely solely on local bars. Thankfully, Quiroga is a lively town with quite a lot of them; however, the only bar open that morning after New Year was Bar Quiper (it looked as if it hadn't even closed for the night!), conveniently located along the Camino.

Today's was the longest stage, and I was a bit appreciative of it. It was also rather difficult, with three ups and downs (thankfully, from the hardest to the easiest).
In the late morning, I had probably the scariest moment of my entire Camino: as I approached the crossing of the forest road with the highway and looked up, I saw four large dogs running and playing there. As you remember, I’m a dog-phobe, and I was absolutely terrified – I even considered turning to the right or left and walking along the highway. As I was standing there, deliberating on which way to go, the dogs spotted me and decided to investigate. And I did that immensely difficult thing: I walked up to them.
Somehow, when I came closer, they didn’t find me interesting at all. I passed them, and then they ran away – possibly to their owners (they all had collars). Phew!..
When after a few kilometres I reached the village of Castroncelos, I realised that there was something on the Camino that scared me more than dogs – cows. Especially when they were on a grassland with no fence around it. By the time I reached Santiago, I learned to cope with cows as well, but this wasn’t easy!
A Pobra do Brollón, which the guide praised for its river area, is indeed a charming and friendly town with kind and attentive locals – when I couldn’t find the arrows, a family walking by showed me the way even before I asked. I highly recommend Café Bar Restaurante Avenida, just before the crossing where the Camino takes a turn to the left: a glass of excellent local wine and a couple of tapas for just €1!
The forest road on the last stretch before Monforte de Lemos was very wet, despite the sunny and warm weather, and for the last several dozens metres, I had to walk literally on water. On the bright side, I entered Monforte in freshly washed shoes!:)
Monforte de Lemos is, in my opinion, the crown jewel of the Invierno! It’s very beautiful, with a lot of elegant houses with elaborate balconies, not to mention the castle and other major buildings. As a matter of fact, Monforte was one of the reasons why I chose the Invierno, and I especially wanted to see the Colegio de Nuestra Señora de La Antigua.
Monforte has plenty of places to stay, and I chose the Hostal Medievo mostly because the owners could be contacted by WhatsApp. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that it was located directly opposite the Colegio de Nuestra Señora de La Antigua, and not so pleasantly surprised when I discovered that the price of stay would be €41, not 22.5, as the guide claimed. However, the room was magnificent (and with a real luxury item, an AC unit!), and when my host threw the curtains open, I found myself speechless for a moment: the Colegio I wanted to see so much was right there before me! Here's a photo of it I took from the balcony:
331761_original.jpg

It was the first town where I specially went for a walk, despite having walked 35 kilometres. I drank a glass of wine with tapas at Restaurante Cardenal and walked around the town, admiring the elegant houses.
The breakfast next morning was tasty and plentiful, and all in all, I had an excellent rest in Monforte. Next time I’m walking the Invierno, I’ll make sure to spend at least one full day there!
The only drawback of this beautiful town is that it was surprisingly difficult to get a stamp there, and of all the towns I’ve passed on the Invierno, it seemed the least involved, so to say. Maybe this is because Monforte is famous and attractive to tourists on its own, so it doesn’t need the Invierno as a means for self-promotion. I was told that the only place to stamp my credential would be the Oficina de Turismo, which was closed on the day I arrived (it is generally closed on Mondays; I came on Tuesday, but it was January 1). It would only open at 10, so I had a leisurely breakfast at my hostal and then a piece of cake and a coffee at Bar Chokolat next to the Oficina. It dutifully opened at 10, and I finally got my credential stamped. To my disappointment, the stamp didn’t carry any mention of Monforte or the Invierno, it simply said, Centro do viño Ribeira Sacra. It’s all the more surprising when you take into account that Monforte is (if I’m not mistaken) the official starting point for the minimum 100 km on the Invierno. It just leaves me puzzled.
 
Last edited:

Athena Atterdag

time&space traveller
Camino(s) past & future
Via Francigena (2017,2018)
Via Turonensis (Paris-Chartres,2018)
Camino de Invierno (Dec2018/Jan2019)
Day 5: Monforte de Lemos to Chantada, 30 km

After having stamped my credential, I passed the bar Puente Romano mentioned in the guide. It was closed the evening before, but open now, so I popped in for a coffee. Sadly, it turned out to be a rather unfriendly and smelly place.
Leaving Monforte was fairly easy, although it was not immediately clear which street to follow after the roundabout with the granary (the guide, which stated that you should pass the Repsol station on the right, helped here). And then I had to walk in the fog for about five hours – it was much easier than that first day on the Invierno, though!
My absolute favourite part of this stage was walking through the old forest – very much like Fangorn in the Lord of the Rings! And here I have something grave to confess: I passed Diomondi without making the detour for the old church – it so happened that I got too absorbed in my thoughts and remembered about it halfway down the steep descent towards the Miño! Another thing on my to-do list for my next Invierno!
That descent and crossing the Miño, with all those views of its vineyards, were simply amazing. The ascent was slightly less spectacular, and getting out of the valley was made rather difficult by a very wet path – more like a stream, really.
Chantada turned out to be somewhat alike Monforte – the same elegant houses with white balconies, but much more involved in the Invierno. The woman in the Casa de Cultura greeted me very friendly, stamped my credential, gave me a map of the town, and showed me the location of my hostal, the way out of town, and even the next town with a bar!
Hostal Yoel is rather outdated, but conveniently located, clean, and with friendly owners who live in the same building. For dinner, I went to pizzeria Agocho around the corner (recommended by the hostal owners) – they have a menu of platos combinados, €6 for a heap of hot tasty food. The vino de casa is remarkably good – I didn’t catch the name, but it tastes like my favourite Italian wine, Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato.

Day 6: Chantada to Rodeiro, 27 km

I went for breakfast at the Panadería Ascensión, and I wholeheartedly second the guide’s recommendation of it. They only have pastries and bread (and coffee), but it’s a very friendly place, and the locals pop in all the time for bread and a chat with the staff. As I was leaving, one of the bakers shouted Buen Camino! to me from the kitchen :)
The morning was again foggy, but not for long. After 8 kilometres, I reached Penasillás – a very well-maintained village with a friendly bar which I highly recommend for a snack and coffee, especially before ascent to Monte Faro. The bar also has a stamp, and a beautiful one!
From Penasillás, there are two options: going up, to Monte Faro, or right, to avoid the ascent. The ascent is steep in places, but overall not so difficult, and the views from the road are simply stunning! Here again I became so absorbed in my thoughts that I missed the stone steps leading to the top, and went all the way until the T-junction and picnic area. There I stopped and after some deliberation decided to try going up on the T-junction – I figured out that it must lead to the top. Part of me insisted on going on and not risking getting lost and having to walk another half a dozen kilometres in addition to the daily distance; but it seemed just such a shame to miss the opportunity to climb the mountain top in the geographical centre of Galicia and looking over all four provinces, and on such clear and sunny day, too!
I didn’t regret it (and I didn’t lose my way, after all).
The next section, on the limestone road along the line of windmills, was exceptionally beautiful and peaceful. I loved every step of it.
The guide warns that the mojón on the intersection of several highways points left and that the Camino in fact goes right (but both ways would lead to Rodeiro); I found the mojón to be pointing right, and followed it. It was the most unpleasant part of the day’s stretch: through some very smelly fields, I even had to cover my nose and mouth with my scarf.
In Rodeiro, I stopped for a snack at Bar Desito – it has excellent tortilla, i.e. potato cake, absolutely delicious with white wine with ice! When I finished eating and asked for the check, I was told that one of the patrons had already paid for me. This was very touching!
The Hostal Carpinteiras uphill is a great friendly place, I got a very big room with a large photograph of Santiago Cathedral covering almost the entire wall. That night, I practically slept under the Catedral’s walls :)

Day 7: Rodeiro to A Laxe, 27 km

The guide offered two options: following the Camino and following the highway. I decided to take it easy (and avoid going through farmlands) and use the highway, so I only walked 14 or 15 km to Lalín and then 6 more to A Laxe.
It was the easiest day, and also the most boring. I avoided walking through farmlands, but there are several compost plants along the highway, so some areas are quite smelly. I stopped for a coffee in a bar, A Taberna Do Tais – it looked closed, but when I tried the door, it opened, and I wasn’t even the only one to come in! It’s nothing special, but it has coffee, donuts, and restrooms, and it’s conveniently located between Rodeiro and Lalín.
Lalín itself is a lively and merry town, with lots of bars and restaurants, and as I passed through the square with the church (which was open – quite a rare occurrence these days!), loud music was playing from one of them. I spent some time in the church and went in search of the bar A Casa do Gato which proved to be a friendly and especially pilgrim-friendly place (and with a stamp, of course).
The river walk was easy to find and very pleasant to walk. Leaving it was much less pleasant, though: the mojón was pointing straight into the middle of a big mud pool! Thankfully, it looked worse than it was, and after just a few metres, the path became much less muddy. I had significant difficulties with finding my way through the industrial park, but finally I came across the yellow arrows, crossed the highway, and found myself under the door of the albergue in A Laxe.
As I couldn’t find any contact numbers for this albergue (or for the next albergue, in Outeiro), I decided to just walk and see if it was open. If not, I always could go back to Lalín. But the albergue was open, and I was greeted by the English-speaking hospitalera Aurora. The albergue itself wasn’t very comfortable, and the thing that perplexed me most was lack of doors or curtains in the showers. The bathrooms are separate for men and women, but I would still feel uncomfortable if I weren’t alone. And there were no blankets.
Another problem of both the albergues, in A Laxe and Outeiro, is that all lights are automatic. The lights in public spaces never go out, and the lights in the dormitories, bathrooms, etc. are switched on and off automatically, and you can find yourself standing in the shower in absolute darkness. A couple of steps will do the trick and turn the lights on, but it gets really annoying.

Day 8: A Laxe to Outeiro, 34 km

At first, I was planning to walk only 30 km, spend the night at Puente Ulla, and then walk the remaining 20 kilometres to Santiago. But a couple of days before I looked at the calendar and realised that I was going to walk into Santiago on Sunday, and what’s more, on the feast of Epiphany! And then I checked the cathedral’s website for Mass schedule and discovered that there would be a solemn Mass at 11:40 – with a procession and the botafumeiro. So I decided to try and get there in time for this Mass; besides, Puente Ulla only had private accommodation, and Outeiro had an albergue.
So, I had 34 km to walk, and these turned out to be easy 34 km, although not quite so spectacular as the earlier stages. I made stops at the bars in Silleda (Bar Toxa; good hot sandwiches!); Bandeira (Arume; local wine and some tapas), and Dornelas (Casa Leiras, a bar and albergue run by Andrea and Cristina, Italians in Galicia, best coffee I’ve drunk in Spain, and simply a place not to miss: very beautiful house, very friendly people, a chance to chat in English or Italian!).
The Taboada bridge is one of the most beautiful places on the Invierno – it’s a bit spooky, especially if you look into the dark quiet waters under the bridge.
It was shortly after the bridge that I came into a village and found myself on a narrow lane with two seemingly unsupervised cows. And I suddenly realised that I wasn’t that much afraid of them – I passed them, and after a few steps, I became almost totally absorbed in navigating another path-turned-stream.
The only bar open in Puente Ulla seemed to be O churrasco de Juanito, but frankly, I wouldn’t recommend it: the coffee was mediocre, and the people rather indifferent. Good news is that there is a Dia supermarket nearby, and the albergue in Outeiro has a well-equipped kitchen, so no need to dine out.
I stocked up on yoghurts and tuna in the Dia supermarket and walked the last 5 kilometres to the albergue on the edge of the town. It was built, apparently, in the same style as the albergue at A Laxe, but has more homely feel. I was welcomed by the friendly and attentive hospitalero Fernando, who even managed to find me a blanket (I suspected that he fished it out of his own car!).
I liked this albergue: nice view over the village and the hills, excellent kitchen with lots of utensils (even coffee cups!), salt, sugar, coffee, oil, milk, and spices (and a box for donations). The showers, however, would present even more problems to people who are very touchy about their privacy, as there are four wall sprinklers in a row and no curtains between. Again, I was lucky to be the only pilgrim in the albergue, even though by now the Invierno had already merged with several other routes! Oh, and same issue with the automatic lights as in A Laxe.

Day 9: Outeiro to Santiago de Compostela, 17 km

So, the Mass was to begin at 11:40, and I had 17 km to walk. I had asked people on Facebook about storage facilities in Santiago at this time of the year, and knew that my best bet would be to leave my backpack at the pilgrim’s reception office. I decided to start at 7:30 and just see how it goes.
I left the albergue at 7:35, lit a small torch (a present from one of my walking friends from the Francés), and started towards Santiago. It was still dark, the albergue was practically in the forest, and when I looked up, I saw a sky full of brightly shining stars. I remembered that it was Epiphany – the day when the Magi came to Bethlehem following a star. It was a truly wonderful moment.
I had some concerns about missing a mojón and losing my way in the forest, but I thought that at least it would be something to have a hearty laugh with friends for years afterwards: once upon a time on the Camino, I walked three and a half hundred kilometres to Santiago and got lost when there were just fifteen more kilometres remaining!
I didn’t get lost, though. After a couple of hours, I found myself before a sign pointing forward and saying, “Santiago de Compostela, Praza do Obradoiro, 4 km”. I still have absolutely no idea how I managed to walk 13 km in two hours!
The rest was piece of cake, really. I walked a bit up, went down, and, just before turning into a cobbled pedestrian street, caught a sight of the cathedral. That was almost it.
In a nutshell, I made it. I went into a pastry shop for a coffee and a couple of chocolate truffles (and the nice lady gave me a muffin for my coffee, as a gift), got to the pilgrim’s office, got my Compostela and certificate of distance (I was especially pleased that they included both routes I’ve walked, the Francés and the Invierno), left my backpack, had another cup of coffee, and went to the Mass. I hadn’t looked up what a pilgrim mass in the Cathedral was like, so I didn’t know that they would specially greet the pilgrims and read a list of those who’d arrived, including desde León, peregrina de Rusia:)
By the way, when the people at the pilgrim’s office asked me, “So, you’ve finished your Camino?”, I was a little surprised: wait, what, I haven’t even been to the Cathedral yet, what do you mean, finished my Camino? Now it was finished indeed. And, oh, how well I understood now why people would go from Santiago to Finisterre and Muxia!
And Santiago had a wonderful gift for me: I met again most of the people whom I met and with whom I walked in the first four days on the Francés! Some arrived the day before and decided to spend more time in Santiago, and some arrived on the same day as myself.

That was a very buen camino!:)
 
Last edited:

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Oh my goodness, Athena, I am gobsmacked! This is so terrific. You have given me the little kick in the pants that I needed to finish up on the guide revisions. I will incorporate all of your information, and hope that Kinky sends me his info on leaving the Lalin river walk and then it will be ready to go. I am really hoping to get back to the Invierno myself this year, and this thread has really fanned those flames!
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
Very interesting description of Camino de Invierno thank you.
Monte Faro (1180 ms) is the highest point in Pontevedra province. The highest peak of Galicia is Pena Trevinca (2120) in the border Ourense / Zamora near Camino Sanabres.
 

Athena Atterdag

time&space traveller
Camino(s) past & future
Via Francigena (2017,2018)
Via Turonensis (Paris-Chartres,2018)
Camino de Invierno (Dec2018/Jan2019)
Oh my goodness, Athena, I am gobsmacked! This is so terrific. You have given me the little kick in the pants that I needed to finish up on the guide revisions. I will incorporate all of your information, and hope that Kinky sends me his info on leaving the Lalin river walk and then it will be ready to go. I am really hoping to get back to the Invierno myself this year, and this thread has really fanned those flames!
I know that feel now, Laurie! One of my future Camino plans involves walking the Mozárabe with a friend, and I'm going to propose taking the Invierno as the last stretch of the way :)
 

Athena Atterdag

time&space traveller
Camino(s) past & future
Via Francigena (2017,2018)
Via Turonensis (Paris-Chartres,2018)
Camino de Invierno (Dec2018/Jan2019)
Thanks that’s great! Especially the bit about the dogs.
We dog-phobes have to look out for one another!😄
I'm immensely grateful for that paragraph on the dogs in the guide - otherwise, I'd have found walking the Invierno and passing so many vigilant dogs much more difficult. Thankfully, I'd been warned!
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Just one more comment -- I think it´s very helpful to other pilgrims when a "reporting back" pilgrim adds the lows as well as the highs, it kind of gives the rest of us confidence in moments of doubt. So thank you Athena for sharing those doubts you had at the end of the first day. Especially when you are on a solitary route like the Invierno, you're unlikely to have anyone to hash it out with at the end of the day, so reading others' experiences and seeing how things turned around so beautifully can be a big help. Buen camino.
 

Athena Atterdag

time&space traveller
Camino(s) past & future
Via Francigena (2017,2018)
Via Turonensis (Paris-Chartres,2018)
Camino de Invierno (Dec2018/Jan2019)
This is exactly how it worked for me - on my third day or so, I opened this forum and decided to re-read your detailed account of your Invierno in 2011. I was very much relieved to know that someone else had felt the same in the beginning of their Invierno, and this was a great comfort to me!
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
We dog-phobes have to look out for one another!😄
I'm immensely grateful for that paragraph on the dogs in the guide - otherwise, I'd have found walking the Invierno and passing so many vigilant dogs much more difficult. Thankfully, I'd been warned!
In case of cows in Galicia if you aere frightened because one of them stares at you in an "agressive way" raise your stick and shout "go", she will run away for sure.
This porcedure is also avalaible for dogs but in this case the dog reaction is not so clear and sometimes not good for someone with dog phobia.
 

Leibniz

Peregrina
Camino(s) past & future
Frances from Astorga (2018)
Frances/Invierno from SJPP (2019)
@Athena Atterdag I re-read your posts above just for fun and wanted to tell you that they are such a pleasure and a joy to read. Even if I wasn’t planning on walking the Invierno this year I would still really have loved reading them. Beautifully written as well as informative.
 

Athena Atterdag

time&space traveller
Camino(s) past & future
Via Francigena (2017,2018)
Via Turonensis (Paris-Chartres,2018)
Camino de Invierno (Dec2018/Jan2019)
Thank you @Leibniz, I'm very touched by your comment!
I'm sure you'll love the Invierno, too, and I'm looking forward to reading your impressions! :)
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Ch. d'Arles: Oloron Ste Marie to Aragones; Frances (2016); V.d.l.P.; Sanabres (2017)
I intend to walk the Invierno in the fall as the last major part of my journey to Santiago. However, I shall have to spend some time in planning, as most of the distances presented here are too far for me to walk on a continuous basis. I do not wish to use buses or other transport, even to try to return or detour to available accommodation. I don't know why, but a continuous camino seems essential to me. I guess if I could manage to plan and walk the VdlP/Sanabres, the Invierno should be possible. It certainly looks very desirable.
 

alaskadiver

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
May 2017-Camino Primitivo
April 2019-Camino de Invierno
I intend to walk the Invierno in the fall as the last major part of my journey to Santiago. However, I shall have to spend some time in planning, as most of the distances presented here are too far for me to walk on a continuous basis. I do not wish to use buses or other transport, even to try to return or detour to available accommodation. I don't know why, but a continuous camino seems essential to me. I guess if I could manage to plan and walk the VdlP/Sanabres, the Invierno should be possible. It certainly looks very desirable.
You should look at my 16 day stages. It’s what we’re walking in April.
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Ch. d'Arles: Oloron Ste Marie to Aragones; Frances (2016); V.d.l.P.; Sanabres (2017)
You should look at my 16 day stages. It’s what we’re walking in April.
Thank you. I saw it and I may consult it closer to the time. But as I remember it, it involves at least one taking of transit in order to return a second night to the same lodging. And was there a pick up scheduled at one point to get you to the night's lodging? I just don't do any motorized travel between locations when walking my caminos. Your planning may still, in part, be helpful and I thank you for offering it.

P.S: I have checked my bookmarks and find that I have bookmarked your post on shorter stages on the Invierno, to use with my planning when I am ready to prepare my stages.
 
Last edited:

alaskadiver

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
May 2017-Camino Primitivo
April 2019-Camino de Invierno
Thank you. I saw it and I may consult it closer to the time. But as I remember it, it involves at least one taking of transit in order to return a second night to the same lodging. And was there a pick up scheduled at one point to get you to the night's lodging? I just don't do any motorized travel between locations when walking my caminos. Your planning may still, in part, be helpful and I thank you for offering it.

P.S: I have checked my bookmarks and find that I have bookmarked your post on shorter stages on the Invierno, to use with my planning when I am ready to prepare my stages.
No my stages don’t have a return to the same lodging. There is one spot where I chose to shorten the stage and the only lodging is another few miles off the road. They transport to the pension and then back to spot where they picked us up. Nothing wrong in that. It’s still continuous as you are skipping any part. You can always keep walking. The Invierno has very little accommodations so if you can’t or don’t want to walk 25-28km, and you won’t take a ride to the only pension for 30kms, then you will have a problem walking this Camino in short stages. Good luck!
 

Athena Atterdag

time&space traveller
Camino(s) past & future
Via Francigena (2017,2018)
Via Turonensis (Paris-Chartres,2018)
Camino de Invierno (Dec2018/Jan2019)
I intend to walk the Invierno in the fall as the last major part of my journey to Santiago. However, I shall have to spend some time in planning, as most of the distances presented here are too far for me to walk on a continuous basis. I do not wish to use buses or other transport, even to try to return or detour to available accommodation. I don't know why, but a continuous camino seems essential to me. I guess if I could manage to plan and walk the VdlP/Sanabres, the Invierno should be possible. It certainly looks very desirable.
The Invierno in autumn must be spectacular!

The forum guide lists several variants of possible stages, from 9 to 12 days, if I remember correctly! I decided to walk in 9 days, but I planned the first three stages differently, taking into account the availability of accommodations and trying to make the stages more or less equivalent.

Also, you can plan your own stages, as @alaskadiver did - with the help of the forum guide and maybe http://www.caminodesantiago.gal/es/planifica/las-rutas/camino-de-inverno - it has detailed maps and descriptions of each section.
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Ch. d'Arles: Oloron Ste Marie to Aragones; Frances (2016); V.d.l.P.; Sanabres (2017)
I am looking forward to walking the Invierno and do not think that the planning will be any more difficult than that for my last camino, the VdlP. I just haven't got around to it yet, as I am not going until the fall and am waiting for the 2019 version of the Invierno guide to be published. But I expect to walk the route without relying on any motor vehicle transport to help me to or from accommodation. This is just how I walk a camino. I guess that I need this to feel the continuous nature of the walk. No arguments about whatever anyone else does. I do feel comfortable with the occasional 30 km day, or I could not have walked the VdlP. But I am aware that the Invierno is more hilly, so distances may be challenging. The Invierno will be my last section of a walk on the Madrid, to the Frances, to the Invierno, so I should be into my stride by then. Thank you, @Athena Atterdag for the link. My Spanish is at last at the level where I can read the information and perhaps use the planner. I am bookmarking this thread, as there is much useful information from all posters. Thanks very much.
 

gollygolly

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2000, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
Thanks so much for your own account, which has brought back so many positive memories of walking the Camino de Invierno a couple of years ago
 

Gwaihir

Member
Camino(s) past & future
1-7-2019: Nijmegen-Santiago (Lim/Mon), Campaniensis, Voie Rocamadour, Podiensis, Norte, Primitivo
Gracias, Gracias for this post as I'm stuck in Oviedo not knowing which route to take. Norte is rainy, primitivo is snowy and Francés has too many pelgrims for my liking (experience dating back to my walk Roncesvalles-Puente). I was hesitating about Invierno but your post made my day.

Eres awesome.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)

Book your lodging here

Get e-mail updates from Casa Ivar (Forum + Forum Store content)


Advertisement

Booking.com

Most downloaded Resources

Forum Rules

Forum Rules

Camino Forum Store

Camino Forum Store

Casa Ivar Newsletter

Forum Donation

Forum Donation
For those with no forum account, it is possible to donate here as well. Thank you for your support! Ivar

Follow Casa Ivar on Instagram

When is the best time to walk?

  • January

    Votes: 15 1.3%
  • February

    Votes: 7 0.6%
  • March

    Votes: 46 4.0%
  • April

    Votes: 172 15.1%
  • May

    Votes: 278 24.4%
  • June

    Votes: 85 7.5%
  • July

    Votes: 23 2.0%
  • August

    Votes: 25 2.2%
  • September

    Votes: 325 28.5%
  • October

    Votes: 142 12.5%
  • November

    Votes: 15 1.3%
  • December

    Votes: 6 0.5%
Top