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Starting on the Camino Frances, not sure which route to take into Santiago (san salvador / primitivo versus invierno)

NicP

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
VDLP 2016, Frances 2023, starting SJPdP April 2024
Hello fellow Pilgrims, I'm looking for some collective wisdom / advice please, from those who have more experience of the routes above than I do. I've walked a little in Spain before (Camino Frances in March 2023, and Via de la Plata a few years back) but need to comeback and walk again. All in all I loved the Frances last year, although I started too early in the season, before lots of pilgrim venues were open, and allowed myself too little time so in retrospect, so walked faster than I should have (finishing in around 26 days I think) and timed the final part of my route very poorly (arriving in Saria right at the beginning of the Easter weekend - so the last week of my Camino was a super noisy carnival compared to what preceded that point).

I'm set on returning again this year and will start some time during the last week of April from SJPdP, this time hoping to walk over the Pyrenees rather than via Valcarlos (which was lovely, by the way).

In order to look for a different experience in the last part of my pilgrimage, I was considering either heading north after Leon via the San Salvador then walking the Primitivo, or heading to Ponferrada and walking the Invierno into Santiago. Does anybody have any good advice regarding the basis upon which one might make such a decision (i.e. if you like "XXX"then route A might appeal more, but if you like "YYY"then maybe route B might suit better)?

Of course, I will remain open to possibility and opportunity, so I can be flexible and change depending on whats happening at the time. I'm just looking for some general advice, perhaps of the more subjective kind, from people who have been there in the last year or two. I'm also aware that some of the infrastructure might have changed a little post-COVID - if this is relevant to these routes, I'm keen to hear about it. This time I should have about 45 walking days, I plan on carrying my own backpack and staying mostly in pilgrim accommodation (likely mostly a mix of private and public albergues, with occassional nights in a room to myself if needed) - that gives an idea of my cost bracket.

Thanks in advance for any advice you might be able to give me - it is greatly appreicated!
 
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Either would be a good choice, and similar in terms of difficulty and scenery, though the Salvador/Primitivo option will take a few days, maybe a week longer. You will also hit the crowded Frances for the last few days. The invierno, will be quieter overall and offers a gentler approach to Santiago..

Having done both, I would be happy to toss a coin and accept my fate..
 
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Hello fellow Pilgrims, I'm looking for some collective wisdom / advice please, from those who have more experience of the routes above than I do. I've walked a little in Spain before (Camino Frances in March 2023, and Via de la Plata a few years back) but need to comeback and walk again. All in all I loved the Frances last year, although I started too early in the season, before lots of pilgrim venues were open, and allowed myself too little time so in retrospect, so walked faster than I should have (finishing in around 26 days I think) and timed the final part of my route very poorly (arriving in Saria right at the beginning of the Easter weekend - so the last week of my Camino was a super noisy carnival compared to what preceded that point).

I'm set on returning again this year and will start some time during the last week of April from SJPdP, this time hoping to walk over the Pyrenees rather than via Valcarlos (which was lovely, by the way).

In order to look for a different experience in the last part of my pilgrimage, I was considering either heading north after Leon via the San Salvador then walking the Primitivo, or heading to Ponferrada and walking the Invierno into Santiago. Does anybody have any good advice regarding the basis upon which one might make such a decision (i.e. if you like "XXX"then route A might appeal more, but if you like "YYY"then maybe route B might suit better)?

Of course, I will remain open to possibility and opportunity, so I can be flexible and change depending on whats happening at the time. I'm just looking for some general advice, perhaps of the more subjective kind, from people who have been there in the last year or two. I'm also aware that some of the infrastructure might have changed a little post-COVID - if this is relevant to these routes, I'm keen to hear about it. This time I should have about 45 walking days, I plan on carrying my own backpack and staying mostly in pilgrim accommodation (likely mostly a mix of private and public albergues, with occassional nights in a room to myself if needed) - that gives an idea of my cost bracket.

Thanks in advance for any advice you might be able to give me - it is greatly appreicated!

The biggest difference, imo, in San Salvador/Primitivo vs. Invierno will be route population.

San Salvador (sparse) Primitivo (Well populated) vs Invierno (very sparsely populated)

Second difference is the entrance to Santiago.

SS/CP joins the CF after Melide (very well populated) vs Invierno joins other routes in Laxe but is sparsely populated all the way into Santiago.

Both are enjoyable Camino's to walk.
 
I'd vote for Primitivo with a stop in Oviedo to visit The Sudarium.
I've heard someone quip something to the fact of "If you are on Santiago Pilgrimage and dont stop at Sudarium, you are paying Homage to the Servant and not The Master".
A bit harsh, perhaps, but it sort of rang a bit of truth to me.
 
The Salvador/Primitivo is longer, other than that, having done both I´d say they are both fantastic routes. Different points of interest, but equal in that aspect and in scenery and difficulty. The Invierno is maybe a bit quieter and not yet as much infrastructure, otherwise I´d toss a coin.
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
Hello fellow Pilgrims, I'm looking for some collective wisdom / advice please, from those who have more experience of the routes above than I do.
Hi Nic - How well do you speak Spanish and are you familiar with using GPS tracks? These skills might factor into your route choice.
 
I haven't walked the Primitivo.
But if you like solitude and stunning landscapes, the Invierno fits that bill.
And I haven't walked the Invierno but I really enjoyed the San Salvador/Primitivo combination last summer. It doesn't force solitude, but solitude is available if that's your wish, and also provides some stunning landscapes. And it has some of my favourite albergues.

One thing to consider might be how much time you have/want to spend walking. I think the Salvador/Primitivo option might be a few days longer than the Invierno option.

Another thing to consider, if you are looking to avoid the Frances as much as possible on the way into Santiago is, instead of Salvador/Primitivo considering the Salvador/Primitivo/Verde.
 
Hi Nic - How well do you speak Spanish and are you familiar with using GPS tracks? These skills might factor into your route choice.
My Spanish is fluent, haven’t used GPS tracks much aside from occasionally using my phone and the wise pilgrim app to get back on the trail after getting lost
 
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And I haven't walked the Invierno but I really enjoyed the San Salvador/Primitivo combination last summer. It doesn't force solitude, but solitude is available if that's your wish, and also provides some stunning landscapes. And it has some of my favourite albergues.

One thing to consider might be how much time you have/want to spend walking. I think the Salvador/Primitivo option might be a few days longer than the Invierno option.

Another thing to consider, if you are looking to avoid the Frances as much as possible on the way into Santiago is, instead of Salvador/Primitivo considering the Salvador/Primitivo/Verde.
Yes- the verde looks like a lovely variante. Not sure I want to avoid the Frances entirely…. I’m assuming that it won’t be as crazy busy as walking from Saria in Semana Santa was last year….
 
The Salvador/Primitivo is longer, other than that, having done both I´d say they are both fantastic routes. Different points of interest, but equal in that aspect and in scenery and difficulty. The Invierno is maybe a bit quieter and not yet as much infrastructure, otherwise I´d toss a coin.
Fabulous, thanks!
 
You have a great plan and you can't go wrong.

I haven't walked the Invierno. I walked the San Salvador/Primitivo combo once and loved it so much I took my wife back to do it again! We walked the San Salvador, but weather and blisters caused us to divert south to Ponferrada and walk the CF in from there instead of the Primitivo. We did think about the Invierno from Ponferrada, but the relative lack of infrastructure and our complete lack of planning for it made us choose the CF, and we were happy with that.

Your Spanish fluency will come in handy on the SS/Primitivo. I didn't have a single English conversation for the first three or four days on the SS. The pilgrims and local people are great. Be sure to get Ender's Camino San Salvador guide (Google will take you to it) and that's all you'll need.

On the Primitivo I didn't take the Verde variant. I was fine with merging with the CF at Melide. I managed it by walking longer distances after Lugo and stopping in non-Brierly end points. So, I was walking between the packs that had stayed in the Brierly stops and I never felt like it was crowded at all. And, these turned out to be some of my favorite albergues! Lugo > As Seixas, As Seixas > As Quintas (Burres) Heidi's!, As Quintas > Santiago.

Buen Camino!
 
Ideal pocket guides for during and after your Camino. Each weighs just 40g (1.4 oz).
Hello fellow Pilgrims, I'm looking for some collective wisdom / advice please, from those who have more experience of the routes above than I do. I've walked a little in Spain before (Camino Frances in March 2023, and Via de la Plata a few years back) but need to comeback and walk again. All in all I loved the Frances last year, although I started too early in the season, before lots of pilgrim venues were open, and allowed myself too little time so in retrospect, so walked faster than I should have (finishing in around 26 days I think) and timed the final part of my route very poorly (arriving in Saria right at the beginning of the Easter weekend - so the last week of my Camino was a super noisy carnival compared to what preceded that point).

I'm set on returning again this year and will start some time during the last week of April from SJPdP, this time hoping to walk over the Pyrenees rather than via Valcarlos (which was lovely, by the way).

In order to look for a different experience in the last part of my pilgrimage, I was considering either heading north after Leon via the San Salvador then walking the Primitivo, or heading to Ponferrada and walking the Invierno into Santiago. Does anybody have any good advice regarding the basis upon which one might make such a decision (i.e. if you like "XXX"then route A might appeal more, but if you like "YYY"then maybe route B might suit better)?

Of course, I will remain open to possibility and opportunity, so I can be flexible and change depending on whats happening at the time. I'm just looking for some general advice, perhaps of the more subjective kind, from people who have been there in the last year or two. I'm also aware that some of the infrastructure might have changed a little post-COVID - if this is relevant to these routes, I'm keen to hear about it. This time I should have about 45 walking days, I plan on carrying my own backpack and staying mostly in pilgrim accommodation (likely mostly a mix of private and public albergues, with occassional nights in a room to myself if needed) - that gives an idea of my cost bracket.

Thanks in advance for any advice you might be able to give me - it is greatly appreicated!
I, like you, did the CF in a similar amount of time (27 days) as my natural pace tends to be fast. Still had no lack of photo and gawking-at-the-beauty time. It was spectacular! This year, starting in SJpD and REALLY want to do SS (with June 19/20 start but nervous to do solo with potential to get off track. Too bad you're starting in April. Saw your post and got excited at possiblebopportunity to share that route with someone for safety (always respecting 'alone' quiet solo time, of course). Enjoy whicher route you decide!!!
 
I, like you, did the CF in a similar amount of time (27 days) as my natural pace tends to be fast. Still had no lack of photo and gawking-at-the-beauty time. It was spectacular! This year, starting in SJpD and REALLY want to do SS (with June 19/20 start but nervous to do solo with potential to get off track. Too bad you're starting in April. Saw your post and got excited at possiblebopportunity to share that route with someone for safety (always respecting 'alone' quiet solo time, of course). Enjoy whicher route you decide!!!
Yes - that seems to be my natural pace - its a strange thing to walk faster than the majority of people you meet - for me it meant that I met with different groups and people everyday, rather than meeting the same people again and again and forming a "camino family"... I met one fellow repeatedly, but larger groups tended to be for much briefer periods. Next time might be different, however although my intention is to walk slower, its more to see if I can be more mindful whilst I walk and soak up more of the small details, than to walk others - that might be a happy coincidence though!
 
You have a great plan and you can't go wrong.

I haven't walked the Invierno. I walked the San Salvador/Primitivo combo once and loved it so much I took my wife back to do it again! We walked the San Salvador, but weather and blisters caused us to divert south to Ponferrada and walk the CF in from there instead of the Primitivo. We did think about the Invierno from Ponferrada, but the relative lack of infrastructure and our complete lack of planning for it made us choose the CF, and we were happy with that.

Your Spanish fluency will come in handy on the SS/Primitivo. I didn't have a single English conversation for the first three or four days on the SS. The pilgrims and local people are great. Be sure to get Ender's Camino San Salvador guide (Google will take you to it) and that's all you'll need.

On the Primitivo I didn't take the Verde variant. I was fine with merging with the CF at Melide. I managed it by walking longer distances after Lugo and stopping in non-Brierly end points. So, I was walking between the packs that had stayed in the Brierly stops and I never felt like it was crowded at all. And, these turned out to be some of my favorite albergues! Lugo > As Seixas, As Seixas > As Quintas (Burres) Heidi's!, As Quintas > Santiago.

Buen Camino!
Thanks - great tip re: the guide - I will have a look for that. I tend to read the guidebooks before departure and then relying on the wise pilgrim app whilst walking, I enjoy the planning and cogitation as part of the pre-camino experience!
 
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I, like you, did the CF in a similar amount of time (27 days) as my natural pace tends to be fast. Still had no lack of photo and gawking-at-the-beauty time. It was spectacular! This year, starting in SJpD and REALLY want to do SS (with June 19/20 start but nervous to do solo with potential to get off track. Too bad you're starting in April. Saw your post and got excited at possiblebopportunity to share that route with someone for safety (always respecting 'alone' quiet solo time, of course). Enjoy whicher route you decide!!!
Don't worry about getting lost on the SS!!! Ender was just on the trail re-marking the way. In fact, he posted photos/videos on the SS FaceBook group showing where some people might get confused. It's a beautiful, beautiful hike through spectacular mountains.
 
Yes - that seems to be my natural pace - its a strange thing to walk faster than the majority of people you meet - for me it meant that I met with different groups and people everyday, rather than meeting the same people again and again and forming a "camino family"... I met one fellow repeatedly, but larger groups tended to be for much briefer periods. Next time might be different, however although my intention is to walk slower, its more to see if I can be more mindful whilst I walk and soak up more of the small details, than to walk others - that might be a happy coincidence though!
My thoughts exactly! I enjoy my solo time in nature time immensely but was thrilled to have bonded with a few people intermittently along way. I was also unexpectedly blessed with a special 'family' towards the end and had an absolutely fabulous time with their company on a daily basis from Sarria to Santiago. Fun, so much laughter and of course tears at the Cathedral. Such a blessing! I hope you are fortunate enough to have your "happy coincidence" that includes mutually sharing your joy.
 
I was considering either heading north after Leon via the San Salvador then walking the Primitivo, or heading to Ponferrada and walking the Invierno into Santiago. Does anybody have any good advice regarding the basis upon which one might make such a decision


Someone asked this question about 10 days ago, look here. Both are lovely, no bad decisioin possible!
 
Ideal pocket guides for during and after your Camino. Each weighs just 40g (1.4 oz).
Don't worry about getting lost on the SS!!! Ender was just on the trail re-marking the way. In fact, he posted photos/videos on the SS FaceBook group showing where some people might get confused. It's a beautiful, beautiful hike through spectacular mountains.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! That's wonderful news. Barring anything going sideways, I'll go! Much appreciated
 
I certainly don't mean to hijack this thread, but at the same time, I don't feel right about starting a new one when I'm asking a similar question. I did have a look at the various links others provided here, and searched the forum but didn't find the answers to my questions, so here goes...

I'm a newbie, planning my first Camino for June/July of this year. I didn't realize these options existed as alternates to the crowded last stage of the CF...which honestly I am dreading. 😣 I tend to be the silent contemplative type and I love nature. Honestly I'd love the San Salvador/Primitivo route but I just don't have enough time for that this time around.

However, the idea of taking the Invierno from Ponferrada sounds ideal to me in every way...except...

1. I have budgeted about 33 days or so to do the full Camino, with a few days beforehand to visit Lourdes and a few days after to visit Fatima. Will the Invierno alternate take significantly longer? That might add stress...

2. I am in reasonably good physical health, and have been getting in hour-long walks most every day for the past few weeks, which I plan to increase between now and June...but is this route significantly more demanding than the CF? Again, this may add to the stress of finishing in time, which I wish to avoid...

2. I am conversant in Italian (which is somewhat similar), but I am not conversant in Spanish...only very rudimentary basics. Will this prove a difficulty?

Thanks in advance for any advice...so grateful for this forum!
 
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Hi @Roma247 - time is a mysterious factor that for me, is difficult to advise others about- we are all so different in both what we are capable of doing, and how we want to do it (on the camino and in life). Like you, I think if one can avoid stress regarding whether you have enough time, that’s ideal. There are lots of ways to do it, including starting further down the trail to take the pressure off (e.g. in Pamplona, or Burgos if you are walking the Frances) or just doing a different route. I have learnt the hard way that even the best laid plans and preparations can turn to custard at short notice, so it’s good if you can have the flexibility (if not with dates and times, then the mental flexibility to adapt within the limits of the time available) to make changes depending on how you feel, or potentially who you meet and what you lean along the way. Last time I was on a camino I got a really bad gastroenteritis, and ended up staying in Santiago for a week rather that walking to Finistere and Muxia, which was a disappointment (to say the least) but also really necessary. Next time I will walk more slowly from the outset, and with a different intention to the last time.

Good luck in your planning and buen camino!
 
the crowded last stage of the CF...which honestly I am dreading.
If you find that the Invierno works for you, great! If not, there are effective strategies for ensuring that the dreaded last stage of the CF is nothing to dread. I walked the last stage in late July last year (the busiest time of year), from Melide to Santiago, where the numbers from Sarria were augmented by the Primitivo pilgrims. I wasn't especially looking for solitude, but I found a lot of it. Nor did I find crowds. All it seemed to take was sleeping in Salceda and Lavacolla instead of Arzua and O Pedrouzo. So if the Invierno doesn't work out you can likely avoid the crowds you are dreading, if they start to manifest, simply by sleeping off-stage.
 
David, that is great advice, thank you!

NicP--I definitely agree, I want to leave myself flexibility and am trying to avoid my usual habit of overplanning...I figure by the time I reach Ponferrada, I will have a better feel for how my body is adjusting to walking everyday, etc. and can decide which route seems best then...but just trying to get a feel for whether it is most likely going to add several days, which may make it less feasible of an option. ;)
 
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IMHO 33 day youre sort of cutting it short. Great\Good physical shape or not - things do happen that are beyond our control so having a reasonable cushion may not be a bad idea.
Perhaps re-think few days beforehand to visit Lourdes and a few days after to visit Fatima?

Italian is Italian and Spanish is Spanish....but pretty much almost everyone on Camino speaks English (although.... to be fair... on Frances yes - not sure about other routes)

Good luck and Buen Camino
 
You have a great plan and you can't go wrong.

I haven't walked the Invierno. I walked the San Salvador/Primitivo combo once and loved it so much I took my wife back to do it again! We walked the San Salvador, but weather and blisters caused us to divert south to Ponferrada and walk the CF in from there instead of the Primitivo. We did think about the Invierno from Ponferrada, but the relative lack of infrastructure and our complete lack of planning for it made us choose the CF, and we were happy with that.

Your Spanish fluency will come in handy on the SS/Primitivo. I didn't have a single English conversation for the first three or four days on the SS. The pilgrims and local people are great. Be sure to get Ender's Camino San Salvador guide (Google will take you to it) and that's all you'll need.

On the Primitivo I didn't take the Verde variant. I was fine with merging with the CF at Melide. I managed it by walking longer distances after Lugo and stopping in non-Brierly end points. So, I was walking between the packs that had stayed in the Brierly stops and I never felt like it was crowded at all. And, these turned out to be some of my favorite albergues! Lugo > As Seixas, As Seixas > As Quintas (Burres) Heidi's!, As Quintas > Santiago.

Buen Camino!
"Lugo > As Seixas, As Seixas > As Quintas (Burres) Heidi's!, As Quintas > Santiago."
I like your idea. Please give the names (towns) of your non-Brierly stops. Thanks in advance.
 
And I haven't walked the Invierno but I really enjoyed the San Salvador/Primitivo combination last summer. It doesn't force solitude, but solitude is available if that's your wish, and also provides some stunning landscapes. And it has some of my favourite albergues.

One thing to consider might be how much time you have/want to spend walking. I think the Salvador/Primitivo option might be a few days longer than the Invierno option.

Another thing to consider, if you are looking to avoid the Frances as much as possible on the way into Santiago is, instead of Salvador/Primitivo considering the Salvador/Primitivo/Verde.
Thank you for the Salvador/Primitivo/Verde suggestion. I've never heard of the Verde. Please direct me to a source for its information.
 
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"Lugo > As Seixas, As Seixas > As Quintas (Burres) Heidi's!, As Quintas > Santiago."
I like your idea. Please give the names (towns) of your non-Brierly stops. Thanks in advance.
These are the stages with the towns I started/stopped. So, As Seixas (the municipal is practically attached to the private albergue that I stayed in and looked just as nice); As Quintas (Heidi's Place was a highlight!); then in to Santiago. I did make reservations for these last few nights when I was in Lugo. It worked out great.
 
I've walked Salvador/Primitivo and I think if you have time to do them, choose them. The Salvador is quite wide (except in the last part around Mieres) and Primitivo is great, namely if the weather is fine enough to choose hospitales variant.
I would like to walk on the Invierno too, but I think it is better when the weather is too bad to climb on O Cebreiro.
 
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