Vía de la Plata Stage 3: Cáceres to Salamanca

Photo by Melanie Radzicki McManus

The last half of the first half of the journey

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You need to plan carefully for the start of Stage 3, Cáceres to Salamanca. The first town out of Cáceres, Casar de Cáceres, lies a mere 7 miles (11 km) north. But it’s a full 20.5 miles (33 km) between Casar de Cáceres and the following town, Cañaveral. The only place you can find water on the trek between Casar de Cáceres and Cañaveral is at the Albergue del Embalse de Alcántara. And that’s 14 miles (22 km) into your hike. During the off-season (November to February), the albergue is only open by advance reservation. So if you don’t intend to stay there and haven’t called ahead, it will be closed.

A tempting plan?

This is a roundabout way of saying that you might want to start this stage by taking a short hike into Casar de Cáceres on Day 1. Stay overnight. Then you’re only hiking 20.5 miles (33 km) to Cañaveral the second day, not 27.5 miles (44 km). There’s a lovely casa rural in Casar de Cáceres, La Encarnación, that makes this plan quite tempting.

The path to Cañaveral is quite pretty, especially when the spring wildflowers are blooming. The trail is gently undulating. At one point you’ll pass a cluster of crumbling miliarios, then hike through a sheep farmer’s pasture. One of the high points is emerging from the trails and spying the sprawling blue waters of the Alcántara reservoir on which the above-mentioned albergue sits. A town was submerged to create the reservoir, and when the water level is low you can spot Floripes’ Tower, once a town landmark.

Continuing on your trip from Cáceres to Salamanca, you’ll pass the albergue (not visible from the road), then cross the road and climb uphill. You’re in the home stretch of this stage now. Unfortunately, you’ll soon be entering the AVE (high-speed rail) construction zone, which is rather unsightly. And sometimes the trail signage is missing or confusing in the construction zone, so keep your wits about you.

Signs to ignore?

From Cañaveral you’ll hike up a short-but-steep path and then through some woods on your way to Riolobos. Ignore the signs to Grimaldo unless you want to stop there. It’s not part of the VDLP, although business owners often place Camino signs pointing you to there, presumably so you’ll think it’s the official route, walk into town and end up patronizing their businesses.

Riolobos has two prime casas rurales, while the next town, Galisteo, is known for its ancient walls, which date to the 13th century. If you blink you’ll miss Aldehuela del Jerte, although that’s O.K. as Carcaboso is much larger and makes a nice pit stop.

A stunning Roman Ruin

From Carcaboso, the next town in your path from Cáceres to Salamanca is Aldeanueva del Camino, 24.3 miles (39.1 km) away. The stunning Cáparra Arch, a famous Roman ruin, and the Cáparra Interpretive Center are part of this leg. Ideally, you’ll time your hike so that you can spend time at the Interpretive Center, which closes in the middle of the day.

If you stop at the interpretive center, however, that will add time to your day, which is already a long one if you’ll be hiking all the way to Aldeanueva. An alternative is arranging to stay in Oliva de Plasencia, a few miles/kilometers away from the interpretive center. You can walk there or arrange for a ride; some innkeepers in Oliva de Plasencia offer taxi service.

Hiking logistics aside, the trail in between Carcaboso and Aldeanueva del Camino takes you through some gorgeous countryside, especially when the spring wildflowers are blooming (generally March-April). So have you camera handy.

Hot springs anyone?

It’s a short hike from Aldeanueva del Camino to Baños de Montemayor, a town famed for its hot springs. Plan to stay over and enjoy a soak. From Baños, the next town of note is Fuenterroble de Salvatierra; en route you’ll enjoy a pleasant mix of dirt roads and paved paths, quaint bridges and intriguing miliarios.

As you enter Fuenterroble, home of the famous Fr. Blas, the Camino signs change from yellow arrows or shells to a yellow triangle on a wooden post. While you may be tempted to linger in Fuenterroble, keep in mind that you’re almost in Salamanca, the halfway point.

Impressive views

The walk from Fuenterroble to San Pedro de Rozados is notable because it takes you past an intriguing primitive shelter marked “Antonio,” miliarios and massive wooden crosses. Shortly after you pass the detour for cyclists, you’ll walk up the towering Pico de la Dueña, a steep hill that’s the highest spot on this route. Up at the top, you’ll be treated to spacious views of the countryside below (plus share space with numerous windmills). From here it’s downhill and a roadside walk for most of the remaining miles/kilometers to San Pedro.

San Pedro’s VII Carreras is a wonderful inn-bar-restaurant that makes a fine stop for the day. It’s also a short, easy hike on dirt roads into Morille, if you’re inclined to keep moving.

The last lap of Stage 3

Your final trail segment, from Morille to Salamanca, is about 12 miles (20 km). The first few miles/kilometers are a pleasant stroll through bucolic countryside. About halfway to Salamanca you’ll see a turn-off for the town of Miranda de Azán; the town lies just a quarter-mile off the Camino. But unless you need to resupply, there’s no need to detour there.

Three or four miles (5-6 km) shy of Salamanca you’ll climb a hill and see a cross, erected in honor of all peregrinos. Past pilgrims have placed hundreds of stones atop the surrounding rocks. It’s a very touching and inspiring scene. If you don’t know Spanish, the cross’ dedication plaque reads:

Buen Camino, pilgrim. May Saint James guide and protect you. Remember that at the end of the path, Santiago is on the horizon.

Dedicated to my parents for their dedication and support, to a little star in the sky, and to all the pilgrims, hospitaleros, associations and people that keep the spirit of all the Caminos more alive each day.

Thank you for respecting this place with little material value, but great sentimental value.

You have now made it from Cáceres to Salamanca!

Cáceres to Salamanca by the Numbers

Cáceres’ altitude: 1,476.4 ft / 450 m
Salamanca’s altitude: 2,595.1 ft / 791 m

Cumulative distance hiked for this leg: 137.1 mi / 220.6 km
Cumulative distance hiked for entire trail: 319.3 mi / 513.9 km

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