What is the Camino Primitivo route? - JWT Travel

What is the Camino Primitivo route?

While the Camino Frances is the most famous of the Camino de Santiago routes, the Camino Primitivo route is in fact believed to be the first Camino pilgrimage trail, hence its name which means ‘Original’.

Taking as a starting point the elegant city of Oviedo in the region of Asturias; the Camino Primitivo takes pilgrims on quite a journey over its 320kms. The stunning mountainous landscapes, wonderfully quiet tracks and remote little villages make it one of the most special, although it is also one of the hardest for its hilly terrain.

The Camino Primitivo tends to be preferred by seasoned Camino pilgrims who fall in love with the route’s ruggedness and scenery but also its splendid isolation. In a way, the Primitivo remains the ‘original’ trail, where pilgrims feel the experience is closer to those that have walked it before them.

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It was a shepherd named Pelayo who discovered the remains of Saint James having followed a shooting star to a field in what is known today as Santiago de Compostela, back in the 9th century.

Having heard of the discovery, King Alfonso II The Chaste of Asturias walked all the way from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela to confirm its authenticity and give it his official seal of approval.

This adventure makes King Alfonso the first ever Camino de Santiago pilgrim and the Camino Primitivo the first official pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela.

Once in Santiago, the King requested the building of a church to house the remains of the Apostle in order for other pilgrims to visit and pay their respects. This would be the first temple built in honour of St James in the city that bears his name, in the same place where the magnificent Cathedral stands today.

Santiago de Compostela would then become one of the main pilgrimage destinations of the Christian world, along with Rome and Jerusalem. You can find more about this here: History of the Camino de Santiago.


The Camino Primitivo route is 320kms long and takes approximately two weeks to walk the whole trail from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela, walking an average of 20 to 26kms per day. Bear in mind accommodation is quite dispersed and some of the sections might be slightly longer.

We highly recommend taking a break in Lugo, spending a day to rest and explore its beautiful Old Town, the Roman Wall, sampling the local delicacies available or even pampering yourself at its old Spa.


The short answer is yes. The first part of the Camino Primitivo, from Oviedo to Lugo, is quite challenging, due to the mountainous terrain which means trails up and down. It is therefore recommended for experienced walkers.

The second stretch from Lugo to Melide and Santiago de Compostela however, is definitely manageable for all walkers.

Like any other long distance trail, it is recommended that you plan and prepare physically for the walk, practicing walking with your backpack and going for long walks before your trip.

From Melide, the route joins the Camino Frances trail so you will notice a big change in the influx of pilgrims, leaving the quiet trails of the Primitivo behind and joining the livelier Camino Frances for your last couple of days.

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-It is less known and frequented, so it’s perfect for pilgrims looking for a less travelled path

-If you like mountains, this is the Camino for you. The Camino Primitivo main attraction is its natural beauty, stunning mountain landscapes and lovely little hamlets and villages.

-Oviedo and Lugo are two beautiful historic cities worth visiting and exploring: Oviedo’s San Salvador Cathedral has been a pilgrimage destination in its own right for many centuries and Lugo is home to an impressive UNESCO listed Roman Wall wrapped around the Old Town.

-If you are looking for a Camino trail that is challenging and rewarding. It definitely feels like the wildest of the Camino de Santiago routes.

-You’ll be able to dig into the regional foods of Asturias and Galicia

-You get to experience the contrast with the Camino Frances on the last couple of days walking into Santiago

-It is one of the toughest but most memorable Camino routes

We hope you found this blog post useful to help you plan your trip. For more advice and to start planning your trip on the Camino Primitivo route, talk to our knowledgeable travel experts about our self guided tours on the Camino Primitivo and other Camino routes.

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