Eight wonders of El Bierzo

Camino de Santiago en El Bierzo

One of the most distinctive regions that the Camino Francés passes through is El Bierzo. Located right before Galicia, between mountains and valleys, El Bierzo is a region with a distinctive identity that deserves special attention from the traveler. We are going to highlight here some of its wonders, so that the pilgrim can check them out in his next Camino and stop for a few minutes (or even hours) to experience the unique features that this region can offer.

Riego de Ambrós

Riego de Ambrós

Riego de Ambrós was a mandatory stop for pilgrims during the trip to Compostela. Being a town dependant directly from the king (“realengo”), it had a pilgrim’s hospital called San Juan de Irago, that was destroyed by a fire in the XVIII century. It has excellent samples of popular architecture, like the parish church of Santa María Magdalena with its Baroque altarpiece, the fountains of San Sebastian, Santa María Magdalena and the town square one. Close to it we also find the bridges of Malpaso, in a detour of the Camino towards Los Barrios.

Church of Santa María de Vizbayo

Iglesia de Santa María de Vizbayo

Probably the most ancient romanesque temple in the region, the church of Santa María de Vizbayo is in Otero, a small town close to the Mount Pajariel. Built in late XI century, it features horseshoe arches and a singular window on the front.

Ponferrada

Castillo de Ponferrada

The capital of El Bierzo is the biggest town we’ll find in the way until reaching Santiago, and it has plenty of attractions to visit. The most famous one is obviously the templar castle from the XII century, but we can also have a look at the “Fábrica de la Luz”, a technological museum located in an old power station.

Another important symbol of the region is the basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Encina, where we find an image of the Virgin Mary that was brought to Spain, according to legend, by Saint Turibius from the Holy Land.

Los Barrios (Ponferrada)

Lombillo

The parish of Lombillo, which belongs to Ponferrada, forms the region of Los Barrios along with other parishes such as Las Salas and Villar. Declared as Good of Cultural Interest by the spanish government, Lombillo preserves beautiful examples of popular architecture and magnificent examples of emblazoned houses. We can also visit the ermitage of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación and one of the most beautiful lookouts of the region, from which we can see Ponferrada, the Aquilane Mountains, Salas and Villar and the church of San Martín de Salas.

Cacabelos

Santuario de las Angustias

On the outskirts of the town of Cacabelos, the pilgrim can find the Sanctuary of Angustias, built in the XVIII century in the same place where there used to be an ermitage devoted to the Virgin Mary. In it, we can admire the image of the Virgin Mary and have a look at its seven altarpieces, among them the biggest one, made by Miguel Núñez and Juan de Solorzano, as well as a painting of the Nursing Madonna, a relief of Jesus as a child playing cards with St. Anthony of Padua and the organ, brought here from the monastery of Santa María de Carracedeo.

Church of San Miguel at Corullón

The romanesque church of San Miguel in Corullón was declared “Good of Cultural Interest” in 1931. Built in the XII century, it’s remarkable for its decoration full of real and fantastic animals and obscene motifs, as well as the southern door with its archivolt and blind arcade over columns.

Villafranca del Bierzo

One of the most important towns of the region, Villafranca is known among pilgrims mostly for the church of Santiago, where we can find the “Puerta del Perdón” (Forgiveness Gate), which opens only during Holy Years. Pope Calixtus III gave to sick or disabled pilgrims the privilege of getting the same indulgences when reaching this gate than if they had walked all the way to Santiago.

We can also visit the Santa María Collegiate Church, built on the old site of the Santa María de Cluniaco monastery, which belonged to the Order of Cluny. Other highlights are the church of San Francisco, with its mudejar decoration, and the “barrio de los Tejedores” (weavers’ neighbourhood), with its typical wooden galleries.

Gastronomy

Gastronomía del Bierzo

We can’t finish this text without talking about the food in El Bierzo. With two designations of origin -DO Bierzo and Reineta Apple-, three Guaranteed Brands -Conference Pear, Chestnuts y Cherries- and two european PGIs -Roaster Pepper of El Bierzo and Botillo-, this region offers a huge variety of products that can satisfy the most demanding consumers.

All pictures courtesy of Cardinalia Comunicación.

What’s going on with the restoration works in Santiago cathedral

Traditionally, one of the highlights for any pilgrim that manages to finish the Camino is the visit to the Santiago cathedral: hugging the saint’s statue, assist the Pilgrim Mass and, perhaps, if one is lucky, watch the botafumeiro fly.

However, pilgrims who walk the Camino during these months should be advised that, due to the restoration works in the cathedral, some of these experiences won’t be taking place.

Since last January 28th, the masses and religious services that used to take place at the cathedral have been move to other churches in town. The Pilgrim’s Mass, for example, takes place now at the St. Francis Church, close to Plaza de Obradoiro (about 300 m. further). This also means that the botafumeiro will not be working during these months.

Please note that this doesn’t mean that the cathedral is closed. It still can be visited, and the pilgrims will still be able to enter it, visit the Saint’s crypt and the museum and admire the Pórtico de la Gloria. The only visit that remains closed is the one of the rooftops. The entrance to the cathedral should be done through the Puerta de Platerías, in the southern facade (next to the Fonte dos Cabalos).

Cathedral authorities say that this situation is expected to last about 12 months. For further information:

 

Caminofacil Taxi: our people transport service

We are very happy to announce officially today what some of you had already noticed: our new passenger transport service along the Camino de Santiago. Now we don’t just transport your luggage, but we can also take you wherever you need to go.

Whether it’s from your airport to your starting point, or back home once you’ve finished your Camino, now you can also book your transport through our website. We operate both taxis and private hire vehicles, using a fleet of modern and comfortable cars up to 7 seats. And as usual, this is all backed by our more than 10 years of experiencia in the Camino and our thousands of satisfied customers.

Try it now, at https://taxi.caminofacil.net/en/

New year and new image

2019 begins, and as always, we at Caminofacil are looking forward to meet our friends at the Camino de Santiago again to assist them in everything they need. Some of them are veteran pilgrims of past years, while others are walking the trail for the first time. In any case, we’ll be happy to help you so that your experience is as trouble-free as possible.

This year we have introduced some news at Caminofacil. One of them is the passenger transfer service, which some of you know already and will be announced officially over the next few weeks. The other big news is our new corporate logo, which we introduce here. It’s our first logo change in over ten years, and we believe that it accurately reflects the forward-looking and customer oriented values that characterize us.

We’ll be introducing this new image in our website in the coming weeks, as well as in our stationery. We look forward to see you on the Camino with our new image, and we hope that you’ll see in us the reliable partner that we’ve always been for pilgrims.

6 places you can’t miss in the Northern Camino

Have you decided to make the Camino de Santiago and chosen the Northern one (Camino del Norte)?

Then we’d like to help you so that your experience can be awesome, referring you to 6 places that you can’t miss.

The fact is that, although there are many more landscapes, villages, monuments… that you can’t miss in the Camino del Norte, we want to highlight these 6 places (if not, we would lengthen this too much):

1- Monastery of Samos

If you take our advice, do not just watch it from outside; it’s worth entering and visiting it.

It’s an architectural ensemble from the 16th to 18th centuries that comprises a neoclassical church, two cloisters, etc.

2- Comillas

If you’re traveling the Camino del Norte, you can’t miss taking a walk through the charming streets of this noble and aristocratic town, seated over hills that shelter its lovely beach and its little harbor.

We recommend touring the old square, the church, and some houses in the town center featuring the popular architecture of the 18th century.

3- Enjoy the Cantabrian Sea

It will “wash your feet” in a large stretch of the route, that through the Basque Country and Cantabria lies along the shore, very close to the sea.

It’s a really spectacular stretch that leads to Castro Urdiales.

4- Walking among vineyards

Another landmark in the Camino del Norte, although it should be said that it’s true for every stage of the Camino de Santiago, is having the possibility of walking among vineyards.

In this case, you can travel through the vineyards where the delicious Txakoli wine comes from.

5- Faro de Plata (Silver Lighthouse) in Pasajes

You just can’t miss the views from the Faro de Plata in Pasajes, as they will rest engraved forever in your memory.

A panorama of the Gulf of Biscay that, although being tough to accomplish due to the steepness of the stairs, is really worth it.

6- Playa de las Catedrales (Cathedrals Beach)

The 26th stage of the Camino del Norte stretches from La Caridad to Ribadeo… We recommend a lot that you to take advantage of this stage, or the next one, to lose a little time and go to the Playa de las Catedrales.

We don’t have much to say that haven’t yet been said about this natural marvel.

And we end saying that in future articles we’ll show you other places that you can’t miss in the different Caminos: Francés, Aragonés, Primitivo, Portugués…

Virtual tours to the Camino de Santiago by Baidu

Baidu, the most popular Chinese search engine, has announced new alliances to offer virtual tours to the Camino de Santiago (and El Prado Museum and the route of Don Quixote) to Chinese users.
In this way, after their first digital museum success, dedicated to the architect Antonio Gaudi (with more than 3.5 million visitors), they stand up for the Camino as a tourist attraction for their users, putting at their fingertips the possibility to become a virtual pilgrim.
Thus, Baidu wants to go a step further, and has reached some agreements with the objective of creating additional virtual tours, among them the Camino de Santiago.
How will the Camino de Santiago tour be like?
We understand that, the same way that Chinese Internet users can visit today the digital museum dedicated to the architect Antonio Gaudi, it will be done through an application developed by Baidu Baike, an online encyclopedia owned by the big Chinese search engine.
This way they will be able to travel different routes with 360º panoramas and photos with 20 billion pixel resolution.
A possible addition will be a virtual tour with VR goggles (the same way the Sagrada Familia cathedral can be seen to the smallest feature today).
A different pilgrimage.
It’s true, this way of peregrinating to the Holy Door of Santiago de Compostela has nothing to do with the real thing. First, because it’s always better living it in person than seeing photos. And because, as good as the image quality could be, you will always feel there’s something missing. And second, because it lacks those real world experiences that enrich the Camino so much.
However, in case traveling the Camino and coming close to the magic places that make it up is something inaccessible to you, the best option is a virtual tour featuring the smallest details.
We impatiently look forward to its presentation, and the visitor numbers it could reach…

5 advices for walking the Camino de Santiago

Are you going to walk the Camino? Are you determined to make some stages? Then, this article can help you. We want to offer you some advices that we know will help you in this adventure.

  1. comfortable footwear
    One important maxim for a nice Camino experience is wearing comfortable shoes that you know adapt to your feet and your step. Think: you’ll spend hours and hours with them on.
    A spare pair won’t do harm, just in case…
  2. give importance to breaks
    Sleep at night, take small breaks on every stage, take a nap… Resting will help you recover, and recovering will let you go on the next day.
    Otherwise you’ll get a tiredness buildup and you won’t be able to reach the goal.
  3. set yourself for realistic stages
    That you know you can surmount with your current physical condition and your aptitude… otherwise you will be stifled and feel frustrated. It’s not required for every pilgrim to walk the same distance every day.
  4. beware the meals
    We know. In Galicia, as well as other parts of the Camino, meals are delicious and hearty… but if you have a bellyfull at lunch, you’ll have a hard time walking afterwards.
    So, if you want to proceed after lunch, have light lunches and more generous dinners. Furthermore, it’s better to rise early and get sooner to the lunch, and later spend the afternoon resting.
  5. enjoy the Camino
    Last, but surely not least, enjoy the Camino; it’s a one-off experience… imbibe other cultures, meet people, enjoy places, etc.

And now, at last: Buen Camino for everyone!

San Anton monastery, a mandatory stop on the Camino de Santiago.

For all lovers of the Camino, or those who are thinking of walking it, the Monastery of San Anton is a mandatory stop in the Camino Francés. It’s a group of ruins that are worth a visit and have a lot of history behind, and which you can reach from Hontanas, right before arriving to Castrojeriz.
The Monastery of San Anton is located in the abandoned village of San Antón, a zone which used to belong to the town of Castrojeriz, in the province of Burgos (Castilla y León). It was founded in the XII century (year 1146) by the king Alfonso VII, and it was known as the “Royal Xenodochium of San Antonio Abad” (a xenodochium was an hospital for foreigners or pilgrims). The current ruins, however, belong to the XIV century.
As mentioned before, these ruins have a lot of history behind them. In the XII century the order of the Hospital Brothers of St. Anthony was founded, and it opened several hospitals along the Camino de Santiago. They treated some contagious diseases, but specially the so-called “St. Anthony’s fire”, and treated the pilgrims in the way towards Santiago. This monastery was one of them.
The order gained reputation as miracle makers, since pilgrims got better one they reached Compostela…
Nowadays, the only part standing of the monastery is the arch of the tunnel, through which pilgrims passed on their way. Nevertheless, the ruins have become a mandatory stop for all those who walk along the Camino Francés.
Some curiosities about the San Antón Monastery.
Since the monastery was under royal protection for many years, the king’’s coat of arms can be seen in the church portal, as well as in the keystone.
During its heyday, the hospital had great influence, since it was the seat of the General Commendation of the order of St. Anthony in the kingdoms of Castille and Portugal, with more than twenty dependent monasteries and hospices, according to the Wikipedia. Its monks performed several ceremonies to bless objects like the so-called Tau cross, St. Anthony’s bread or the holy wine, which cured the illness. Many faithful attended these ceremonies.
Nowadays, the visitor can see the ruins of the monastery, the head of the church… and walk the road underneath the arch, which is still standing. The following video shows a reconstruction of what the monastery looked like (credits to José Antonio Peñas Artero for the magazine Muy Interesante).