Camino Francés Stage 5: Villafranca del Bierzo to Santiago de Compostela

Photo by Beebe Bahrami

The Fifth of Six Sections on the Camino Francés

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Through León and Galicia to the Pilgrim’s Goal

Stage Five begins in the hills of León at Villafranca del Bierzo. It soon thereafter enters the mountains of Galicia. This is a dramatic ascent to O Cebreiro. The other highest ascent pilgrims experience on the Camino was long ago, at the crossing in the Pyrenees in Stage One.

The Camino then levels off slowly as it meanders through the green mountains of Galicia. These are some of the most enchanting stretches, through Triacastela, Samos, Sarria and Portomarín.

The Camino then descends more as it passes through Leboreiro, the Monte de Gozo, and at last, to Santiago de Compostela. Arriving at this long-anticipated goal, many pilgrims head first to Saint James’ tomb in the Cathedral.

Beyond the tomb and cathedral, well worth taking in, in Santiago you’ll also want to linger long enough to soak up the magic of this lyrical city.

Surrounded by green hills, perennial mists and rain, it is also infused with the sound of bagpipes, Celtic influences, and vibrant folklore. This includes traditional healers, known as white witches. Called meigas in Galicia, you’ll see this word a lot throughout town.

Santiago is also a city with a vibrant locavore and Slow Food movement. Visitors will find delicious and innovative local cuisine, most of the ingredients procured from the nearby farms, rivers and ocean.

Here, to you will also be presented with the next decision. Will you return home or continue onward to the Atlantic ocean on the Camino de Finisterre?

I strongly suggest carrying on to Stage Six. This stage is an exciting extension to the Camino Francés, where the road runs out and tumbles into the ocean. It is also the section of the whole road that Galicians claim is the oldest and that precedes Christianity, a road of the local Celtic people who lived here some 2,500 years ago.

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