The Camino de Santiago from Leon to Villafranca

The week spent in Léon had been wonderful but it was time to move on to our next destination. Our road followed the Camino de Santiago from Léon to Villafranca and we decided to stop in Astorga along the way. From Astorga we took a quiet, back road to Villafranca, continuing along the Camino de Santiago, a journey in total of c.132 kms.

Once across the River Bernesga, the road on the western side of Léon quickly leaves the city and enters the countryside, which stretches for miles of flatness on either side of the road.

Camino de Santiago leaving Leon

The road out of Leon, with pilgrims on the Camino (L)

I had read about Hospital de Orbigo on a WanderEssence post about the Camino de Santiago and so we turned off the main road to have a look. (Do investigate the blog – lovely photographs and interesting commentary!) The town is a major stopping point on the Camino and we saw lots of pilgrims there, and on the surrounding roads. It is named after a Pilgrim’s Hostel established by the Knights Hospitaller in the 16C. We only stopped for a brief look at the Mediaeval Bridge, and to stretch our legs and then it was time to move on to Astorga.

The Camino de Santiago over the bridge in Hospital de Orbigo

The Mediaeval Bridge in Hospital de Orbigo

The Camino over The Mediaeval Bridge in Hospital de Orbigo

The Mediaeval Bridge in Hospital de Orbigo

Pilgrims setting off from Hospital de Orbigo on the Camino

Pilgrims setting off from Hospital de Orbigo on the Camino

We didn’t make the most of  seeing Astorga, for various reasons. Nevertheless there was time for coffee (!) and I had a little walk and saw something of the town, which was very important in Roman times.

The Cathedral in Astorga

The facade of the Cathedral in Astorga

After a few hours we were on the road again, the LE-142 which follows the route of the Camino. We were still on the plains but the mountains to be crossed, the Montes de Léon, were on the horizon. This proved to be a beautiful drive on quiet back roads.

Leaving Astorga on the LE 142, the route of the Camino de Santiago

Leaving Astorga on the LE 142, the route of the Camino

The Camino de Santiago in the hills outside Astorga

In the hills

Heathers and low bushes along the road

The Cruz de Hierro on the Camino de Santiago

The Cruz de Hierro, the highest point on the French Camino, 1,500m above sea level

The Camino de Santiago In the Montes de Leon

In the Montes de Leon

In the Montes de Leon

Going downhill to El Acebo de San Miguel on the Camino de Santiago

Going downhill to El Acebo de San Miguel

The road took us through El Acebo de San Miguel, a small mountain village on the Camino de Santiago with a very narrow main (single) street. I was driving and I did not enjoy these few minutes as the road narrowed considerably while also going steeply downhill. And what is more, there were several pilgrims sharing the road with the cars!

El Acebo de San Miguel on the Camino

A pilgrim in El Acebo de San Miguel on the Camino

We lost the way in Ponferrado because of poor maps and out-of-date SatNav. We stopped underneath the Castle, had a quick look, and then set off for Villafranca via the back roads where the outdated SatNav lead us on another dance!

The photograph below was the last one before arriving in Villafranca del Bierzo – unbelievably this dirt road, down which I drove and which deteriorated rapidly, did eventually bring us to a tarred road. And finally we arrived at the Parador in Villafranca del Bierzo!

A forest road down which I drove!

The Parador of Villafranca del Bierza

The Parador of Villafranca del Bierzo

It had been an adventurous day!

Further information
The Cruz de Hierro
The Camino from El Acebo to Ponferrado with WanderEssence