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Olvidado or Primitivo - which would you recommend?

PeteD

Active member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016
2023
I'm interested in hearing ideas on which camino you would recommend for my pilgrimage in September/October 2023.
My wife and I are planning on flying to Paris and then by train to Bayonne where we are looking to go in different directions. Margaret is keen to walk the Camino Frances as her first camino and is happy to do this solo as a great opportunity to walk independently and allowing her more space for reflection. As I completed the Frances in 2016 my plan is to walk another camino and for us to meet and walk some final stages together into Santiago.
Our original plans, which were put on hold in early 2020, had me walking the VdlP from Sevilla but that meant I would have to leave earlier due to the longer distance. Leaving together seems more exciting so revamping the plan. I'm now looking to walk from Irun and do part of Del Norte before either the Olvidado or the Primitivo to rejoin the Frances. Finding it hard to decide which would be best and would love to hear some feedback.
Some basic info that might be relevant:
  • I'm late 60s but fit and have continue multi-day pack hikes and long distance cycling
  • Have very basic Spanish but there is time to improve before I go
  • Good navigation, app and tech skills so should not be too challenged getting around
  • I'm concerned that the Del Norte will be too touristy? Are the albergues /hostals mostly pilgrims or tourists and does this camino feel like a pilgrimage?
  • I've read numerous Olvidado threads and have concerns about finding reasonably priced accommodation with my limited language skills?
Would like to hear your thoughts
 
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I'm now looking to walk from Irun and do part of Del Norte before either the Olvidado or the Primitivo to rejoin the Frances.

Tough choice, @PeteD. The Olvidado is definitely more solitary and with more limited accommodation offerings, but the number of albergues is growing. The Primitivo has a lot more pilgrims, and with that comes more accommodation. I walked the Primitivo in September 2021, because I only wanted to stay in private rooms, and had no problem finding things. I did book ahead, because of the covid uncertainty, but in other years on the Primitivo I have gone without reservations and have never had a problem. The Berducedo “bottleneck” is the one place I remember that people had to walk further on to find a place, but there are options as close as 4 km on in La Mesa.

The Olvidado has a lot of days, maybe 7 or 8, that I would define as “in the mountains.” That’s a pretty extraordinary ratio, and it is just beautiful. There was one facebook account of a person walking the Olvidado last year who couldn’t find accommodation, not even in a place like Cervera de Pisuerga (which has several small pensiones/hoteles), and I never did understand what had caused that. It is certainly not the norm. I don’t remember a lot of threads about people who have not found places to sleep on the Olvidado, but it may require a bit more planning. The Primitivo also has its ups and downs, but it is less remote and more populated. Both are beautiful. I have walked it twice and have not had problems, though I typically called or WhatsApped a day or two ahead.

I can’t really tell you whether either or both will “feel” like a pilgrimage to you. That means so many things to different people. For me, a camino means lots of time alone, walking with no distractions other than my natural surroundings and my own thoughts. I like caminos that take me to places with ancient churches and ruins, where I can see how earlier generations expressed their takes on “the big questions.” But for others, the camino means gathering and walking with other pilgrims and sharing the camaraderie and the bonds that arise. I don’t shy away from that, but it’s not why I walk. The Olvidado is growing in popularity, but the touted “camino family” is much less likely to develop on this route, though I think you will see other pilgrims.

Good luck with your decision, happy to continue the conversation! Buen camino, Laurie
 
Here is my take having walked many different Caminos including twice the Norte, VdlP and Primitivo and planning on the Olvidado this summer:

The Norte is "touristy" in the big city stops such as San Sebastian, Bilbao and Santander and a bit as well in small tourist towns such as Llanes, Comillas, Santiana del Mar to name a few but not so much to bother me. It's a beautiful route though A LOT of asphalt surfaces. Luckily there are many coastal alternatives which improve on the standard Camino route.

The Primitivo (along with the San Salvador) are my favorites but I like having mountain stages and lots of variation in terrain. I was lucky enough to walk the Primitivo for the first time in April 2019 and again June 2021 (many Covid restrictions were still in place) when it was relatively quiet, just enough for me. This past summer I heard that it was really busy but would guess that it will be quieter in September/October. September is on the other hand the busiest month on the Frances. The first time I did not make reservations but had to the second time around due to Covid restrictions limiting the number of albergues open (all municipals were closed) and those that were open had reduced capacity. September/October you could possibly wing it. As hospitaleros as you go how busy it has been.

The Olvidado is another story all together since it is not much travelled. I won't be surprised if I don't see any pilgrims and if I do maybe only one or two. I'm ok with that this year. Last year I had originally planned on walking the Olvidado but didn't do much pre-planning which you really need to do on this Camino (making stage plans, check to make sure accommodations open, download gps tracks etc.). Last minute I changed my mind and walked the Norte from Bilbao again. Glad I did.

As Laurie said, a "Camino feel" is so subjective. Walking with a large group or a "Camino family" is not my thing. I like to walk alone although do enjoy having a drink or dinner with others after a stage if it works out. If the social aspect is important to you than I'm not sure that the Olvidado is the best fit but who knows!

Goof luck whatever you decide.
 
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The Olvidado has a lot of days, maybe 7 or 8, that I would define as “in the mountains.” That’s a pretty extraordinary ratio, and it is just beautiful.
The Primitivo also has its ups and downs, but it is less remote and more populated. Both are beautiful. I have walked it twice and have not had problems, though I typically called or WhatsApped a day or two ahead.
I think I would rather be "in the mountains" than on the coast but I'm concerned by my lack of language skills if accommodation is going to be a daily challenge on the Olvidado. I've probably been spoilt by the ease of finding accommodation on the Frances!
A 'camino family' would be something I would like to experience once. I cycled the Frances and found it hard to always be leaving behind those who were walking. Seemed to spend the last part of every day walking the bike while talking with others. That's probably a nudge towards the Del Norte/Primitivo then.
 
The Primitivo (along with the San Salvador) are my favorites but I like having mountain stages and lots of variation in terrain.
If the social aspect is important to you than I'm not sure that the Olvidado is the best fit but who knows!
Seems like my choice is coming down to more mountain stages versus social contact. Really appreciate how this discussion is making the choice clearer. Not that it's easy to make though. :)
 
I have walked both and enjoyed both, but a few years ago. Primitivo was 2010 and Olvidado 2015, so infrastructure on both may be better now. I met NO other pilgrims on Olvidado.

I would suggest the Primitivo first.
 
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A 'camino family' would be something I would like to experience once.
That is something you are definitely not going to experience on the Olvidado. I think you will find it a very solitary experience. One compromise might be to follow the Olvidado to La Robla, then walk into Léon and meet your partner there, but that would mean missing the most spectacular and wildest part of the Olvidado. I think it depends more on how adventurous and confident you feel. Also, remember this, if you can do two caminos, you can do three caminos and what is to stop you doing even more?
 
A 'camino family' would be something I would like to experience once.
It was in May/June 2018 so things may have changed but I found the Primitivo to be the best 'social' camino I have walked, as the number of pilgrims seemed 'just right' to form a nice group -- that is, not the overwhelming numbers of the Francés, which can be a bit intimidating, but more than some of the more remote routes I have subsequently walked.
 
the number of pilgrims seemed 'just right'

I haven’t walked the Olividado but I agree with @jungleboy comments about the Primitivo. I first walked it in October 2014 and then again in October 2019. While there were more people thé second time around, it was not at all crowded. And has some great Albergues with communal dinners. It reminded me of my time on the Frances in 2011 and 2013. It’s a favourite.
 
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So many great replies in such short space of time! Haha. And seems you have found your answer already…

but in other years on the Primitivo I have gone without reservations and have never had a problem. The Berducedo “bottleneck” is the one place I remember that people had to walk further on to find a place, but there are options as close as 4 km on in La Mesa.
I did Primitivo also in Sep/Oct “shoulder” months. Most towns/villages will have options of muni albergue vs private albergues, and as @jungleboy said on the Primitivo you pretty much walk with the same group of people everyday, as most people tend to stop at the same places.

So! I found that most people would WhatsApp a private albergue they like a day before to book. And most of the time that worked and they would still get a bed. I have seen a few times that those who stayed at muni albergue were because they couldn’t get a bed in the private albergue, so they had to set off early to get a bed in the municipal.

The Berducedo “bottleneck” in my experience, was an example… there is a nice private albergue in La Mesa (4-5km after Berducedo) called Albergue Miguelin and it got booked out first before all the other places! And what people tend to do, if one day they couldn’t get a place they wanted because somebody beat them to it, is they would go and book 2,3,5 days ahead!


I found the Primitivo to be the best 'social' camino I have walked, as the number of pilgrims seemed 'just right' to form a nice group

And a few donativo albergues at the early stages with communal meals…
 
I'd recommend the Primitivo in your situation. I wouldn't walk the Olvidado alone: too much mountain terrain with the chance of a sprained ankle (or worse), a need for some decent Spanish, and accommodations challenges. It IS beautiful and I enjoyed it (two of us 70+, last May--from Bonar only), but I think the Primitivo might work better for you.
 
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In September-October 2022, I did the camino Olvidado/Viejo alone, meeting 3 couples from Bilbao to Ponferrada - Before any pilgrim on the Baztan or on the ruta do mar from Ribadeo to Ferrol -
The guides are sufficient since the path is largely on the road!
Only two albergue !
All my accommodations are reserved before departure - I leave in the morning knowing where I will sleep in the evening and the next day -
71 years old, walking alone, the Olvidado does not require any particular effort, less than the beginning of the Norte or certain stages of the Primitivo and San Salvador -
Google Maps or a recent Wikiloc will save you long stages by road -
The marking, useless on the road, appears further after leaving the tar without indication!
A path that did not cause me any problems with food, accommodation or language barriers -
The applications used, my road book are available, on demand -
This Path seems to me a good idea to join the Francés (2019-20-21) in Ponferrada and finish by the Ivierno and the Sanabres (2022 after the Levante) to avoid the crowd of the final -
No difficult passage, nor dangerous in my case -
 
That sounds like my plan!
Irun along the coast, Guernica museum, down to Oviedo and on to Santiago!
First though I need a new hip and then get fit again! Maybe next year🫰🫰!
 
In September-October 2022, I did the camino Olvidado/Viejo alone, meeting 3 couples from Bilbao to Ponferrada - Before any pilgrim on the Baztan or on the ruta do mar from Ribadeo to Ferrol -
The guides are sufficient since the path is largely on the road!
Is the road walking on the Olvidado mostly on paved roads with much vehicle traffic? Is it less than the road walking on the del Norte?
 
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Is the road walking on the Olvidado mostly on paved roads with much vehiclke traffic? Is it less than the road walking on the del Norte?
I was going to ask @JEAN1 to elaborate, because in my experience, the Olvidado did have a lot of asphalt only on the first day out of Bilbao to Balmaseda, but that was mostly on a bidegorri (bike path), so no cars.

There are other stretches with asphalt that I remember, like along the reservoir from Arija, but really I think the Olvidado has more beautiful off-road stretches, many of them out there in the mountains, than any camino I’ve walked!
 
Buen dia,

Use of recents guides on Camino Olvidado (caminoolvidado.com,
https://www.xacobeo.fr › ZE3.03.Viejo.htm, https://fr.wikiloc.com/itineraires-randonnee/camino-olvidado-variante-de-montana-41156823 by rayrosa who have done this way in 19 and still alive !
The first one with Wikiloc, Google maps were suffisant in mys case (For example, Camino Castellano-Aragones (Gallur-Sta Domingo dos S. had a lot of crossaroads but no flecha amarilla or many many flecha but...no road ! Funny ? Absolutly for me -
In Camino Olvidado, you can choice variants by Viejo or montana - I only have use rayrosa road or the only one people I met - 3 couples, porto-ricans, portugues and..spanish with two without electric assistance bycicles but a marvellous smile !
Absolutely the only one to do Bilbao/Ponferreda (20.9/07.10) and other choice than frances after to got Santiago (21 october-9th Compostela)
Not beautiful paved roads like in Portugal, not big, noisy roads like del Norte, Plata, Madrid or...frances -
Like many, many caminos, you have THE road on the guides but, if you are lucky, you will find old (olvidado) parts of forgotten way (Viejo), not maintained, but well signposted ...after going out off the official path without any sign on it !!!
How ? Wikiloc in my case - I mystake once among the brambles and the closed barriers, but I continued to follow the old degraded marking - Also with Wikiloc, I climbed up to a wind farm under construction, without any arrows or roads, feeling...alone , and it is an excellent memory of Chemin which is deserved -
The Wikiloc trace must be VERY recent - You are following someone who physically took this route....and was alive when it arrived -
All the alojamientos are reserved BEFORE I start since 2016, on ruta vicentina when I was sleeping under the stars in a balcon of an unknown old pilgrim beacause there was nothing else but his kindness !
Before I start, I had only one problem with Fasgar (not in Iguena) -
From memory, (and she is excellent) it's the most mountainous, wild part, without any difficulty for a French Breton of my age !!
Absolutely no problem with accomodations I had reserved - Don't forget, only 2 albergue on crossroad of other ways -
Uncrowded path, small stages (less than 30), without difficulty, being rehabilitated by sectors, along the mountains which protect from the wind and the rain, without crossing them -
One of the most varied, calm, safe camino with some 470 kilometers (out of the 1043 of my fall outing starting from Larceveau) -
It's the best choice, in my opinion, to join the frances from the Norte -
Camino Baztan? too short -
Vasco del Interior? without interest after the tunnel of san Adrian -
Why not the San Salvador in Oviedo/leon...upside down?







https://www.xacobeo.fr/ZE3.03.Viejo.htm
 

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Why not the San Salvador in Oviedo/leon...upside down?
Good suggestion @JEAN1- I had considered doing the San Salvador 'backwards' to join the Frances in Leon, but by my calculations I would probably arrive in Leon about 5 days later than my wife walking the Frances if we start in Batonne together. I would then have a very tough job catching up so the San Salvador will have to wait for another time!
 
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Hey PeteD,

An other idea - Oviedo until La Robla (Albergue !) and Viejo in direction of Ponferrada and Ivierno ?
By taking the Olvidado from Bilbao to Pampelona, you can return to the frances by branching off on the Vadiniense or the San Salvador -
 
I'm for the Del Norte/Primitivo in September 2023 and the Olvidado in the not too distant future!
PeteD: - That's the same time my wife & I will be walking our first trek to Santiago. We'll start in Gijón (we wanted to see at least a bit of the coast), then head up to the Primitivo. My legs are long, hers are shorter (yet she points out her feet still reach the ground). So we will be walking smaller segments, at least in the beginning. If you pass us on the way, we'll wish you buen camino.
Kim & Jenny M.
 
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HKim, if you are flying into the regional airport (excellent) that serves Gijon, Aviles and Oviedo, you might consider walking from Aviles instead of Gijon. Gijon is a beautiful city but between Gijon and Aviles is not a great introduction to the Camino and it is not along the coast. Buen Camino
 
So we will be walking smaller segments, at least in the beginning. If you pass us on the way, we'll wish you buen camino
@HKim, I've not set the actual start date yet but when I do next week I'll add details to the forum calendar and keep an eye out for you both on the Primitivo!
 
HKim, if you are flying into the regional airport (excellent) that serves Gijon, Aviles and Oviedo, you might consider walking from Aviles instead of Gijon. Gijon is a beautiful city but between Gijon and Aviles is not a great introduction to the Camino and it is not along the coast. Buen Camino
Thanks, Jerry - We'll look into that option!
 
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@HKim, I've not set the actual start date yet but when I do next week I'll add details to the forum calendar and keep an eye out for you both on the Primitivo!
Sounds good, PeteD. We're looking to start between Sept 21st - 26th. Will likely walk ~15km (+/- 5k) most days. As JerryStroebele suggested, Aviles is a possible starting point, then on to Oviedo and the Primitivo. Likely to schedule dates within a month or so for Sept/Oct. It would be cool to meet somewhere along the path!
 
I think I would rather be "in the mountains" than on the coast but I'm concerned by my lack of language skills if accommodation is going to be a daily challenge on the Olvidado. I've probably been spoilt by the ease of finding accommodation on the Frances!
A 'camino family' would be something I would like to experience once. I cycled the Frances and found it hard to always be leaving behind those who were walking. Seemed to spend the last part of every day walking the bike while talking with others. That's probably a nudge towards the Del Norte/Primitivo then.
The Olvidado was definitely my favourite camino. I walked it in Sep 19 and did not have any real problems with finding a bed and I would expect there to be more options now. Now Spanish is fairly basic but I keep some stock phrases in my phone notes to remind me and the app SayHi is invaluable. I did have the advantage that I like long distance days so I had more options than some,
 
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The Olvidado was definitely my favourite camino. I walked it in Sep 19 and did not have any real problems with finding a bed and I would expect there to be more options now. Now Spanish is fairly basic but I keep some stock phrases in my phone notes to remind me and the app SayHi is invaluable. I did have the advantage that I like long distance days so I had more options than some,
Check Gronze as that website has very good information on all Caminos. Buen Camino
 
HKim, If you want to see the beautiful coast of the Sea of Cantabria you could just spend a day or two in Gijón, then backtrack the del Norte to Amandi, where the del Norte splits to Oviedo and the Primitivo. From Gijon to Amandi the del Norte DOES NOT follow the coast. Alternatively, you could bus from the airport to Aviles and walk 6 km west to Salinas and then another km or so up to the San Martin de Laspra albergue. This is among my "top 3" albergues of all the Caminos. In 2019 the hospitalero Jesus Lopez in the evening drove me up to a small park with a coastal lookout. But better check Gronze to make sure it is open. Buen Camino

C898ECA7-E21E-4C10-A5EF-201E8B23320A (4).jpgIMG-5151.JPG
 
I'm interested in hearing ideas on which camino you would recommend for my pilgrimage in September/October 2023.
My wife and I are planning on flying to Paris and then by train to Bayonne where we are looking to go in different directions. Margaret is keen to walk the Camino Frances as her first camino and is happy to do this solo as a great opportunity to walk independently and allowing her more space for reflection. As I completed the Frances in 2016 my plan is to walk another camino and for us to meet and walk some final stages together into Santiago.
Our original plans, which were put on hold in early 2020, had me walking the VdlP from Sevilla but that meant I would have to leave earlier due to the longer distance. Leaving together seems more exciting so revamping the plan. I'm now looking to walk from Irun and do part of Del Norte before either the Olvidado or the Primitivo to rejoin the Frances. Finding it hard to decide which would be best and would love to hear some feedback.
Some basic info that might be relevant:
  • I'm late 60s but fit and have continue multi-day pack hikes and long distance cycling
  • Have very basic Spanish but there is time to improve before I go
  • Good navigation, app and tech skills so should not be too challenged getting around
  • I'm concerned that the Del Norte will be too touristy? Are the albergues /hostals mostly pilgrims or tourists and does this camino feel like a pilgrimage?
  • I've read numerous Olvidado threads and have concerns about finding reasonably priced accommodation with my limited language skills?
Would like to hear your thoughts
Oh my goodness! This one is easy for me because I love ❤️ Oviedo and the Camino Primitivo. I love ❤️ walking the hospitales route and the windmills, and the cows,the horses, the green canopies and the Amazing hospitaleras: Casa Herminia and Ramona in La Mesa (Miguelina) and Mary in Lugo. My favorite restaurant on the Primitivo, El Cantábrico, in Fonsagrada. A word of caution: this Camino has less services and fewer stops. Please plan accordingly. The hospitales route is treacherous in bad weather and no services for miles after the mountain pass. The Primitivo is one of the most beautiful routes to Santiago: very peaceful, and meditative.
 
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HKim, If you want to see the beautiful coast of the Sea of Cantabria you could just spend a day or two in Gijón, then backtrack the del Norte to Amandi, where the del Norte splits to Oviedo and the Primitivo. From Gijon to Amandi the del Norte DOES NOT follow the coast. Alternatively, you could bus from the airport to Aviles and walk 6 km west to Salinas and then another km or so up to the San Martin de Laspra albergue. This is among my "top 3" albergues of all the Caminos. In 2019 the hospitalero Jesus Lopez in the evening drove me up to a small park with a coastal lookout. But better check Gronze to make sure it is open. Buen Camino
Thank you, Jerry, for this counsel! Yes, my wife and I have been going through Gronze - a terrific resource. For the moment we've charted a route south/south east from Aviles to Oviedo - but I'll take a look at the San Martin de Laspra albergue option. Buen Camino. -HKim
 

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