Road to Santiago II – When the Northern way is not the right way anymore

As I was saying in the previous post I am going to Santiago de Compostela via the Northern way (Camino del Norte) this summer. I had no intention doing camino Primitivo at the beginning, however as the road progressed, I felt like camino Primitivo is the right for me and my current situation. I just wanted to find out some comparation between Camino del Norte vs Camino Primitivo.

Leaving the Camino del Norte

After walking more than 400km and with still 300 more to Santiago I’ve decided to leave del Norte. I explained the reason why I chosed the Northern way in my first article about going to Santiago. Please be aware, that I wrote this one before I actually started the journey. So some information there might not be 100% in line with things I know/feel now, after walking hundreds of km. I had no idea back than, that I would be in need of comparing Camino del Norte vs Camino Primitivo.

The reasons to change the road

When I chosed del Norte I did it because of many reasons. The main ones were – less people, more challenging, closer to sea, lower temperatures, … And it was all true. So why did I switch from camino del Norte to camino Primitivo

Camino del Norte vs Camino Primitivo

After you walk through Villaviciosa, there is a crossroad. The crossroad is well known among pilgrims and you will definitely hear about it at least few days before you get there. It’s basically a point, where you have to decide whether you will continue on del Norte and will go towards Gijon, OR you will turn left and walk towards Oviedo on Camino Primitivo.

Not until I stood on the crossroad was I completely sure, which way to take. However once I was there I knew, that I would like to go via Primitivo.

  • First of all, I think both options are good. You won’t make a mistake whichever you will choose, Camino del Norte or Camino Primitivo.
  • They are both pretty much of equal length (both in km and days).
  • Infrastructure (amount of albergues and shops) is little bit better on del Norte rather than on Primitivo. Better means there are more of those. Meaning that you have to plan your days and supplies tiny bit more while on Primitivo.
  • Camino Primitivo is the original way of pilgrims since medieval times. And it goes through Oviedo, which is one of the most famous cities in north Spain. Basically the route starts directly in Oviedo in the cathedral San Salvador.

He who goes to Santiago and not to San Salvador, visits the servant and not the Lord.

  • Camino Primitivo is supposed to be one of the most challanging caminos in Spain. Mainly because it goes directly through the mountain range, while del Norte follows the coast for another 150~km and avoids the highest mountains. However this might sound, the mountains here are not extra big and the camino Primitivo definitely doesn’t go on their tops all the time. It’s not a trip to the mountains, it’s moreless walking in the hilly roads.

  • If you would continue to Gijon and on camino Norte, you would arrive to one of the most industrial areas of Spain. And thus you would see and walk next to a lot of factories. On the other hand you would still have the opportunity to go to swim into sea. If you chose going Primitivo, this is sadly not an option anymore.
  • The weather is going to be most likely pretty similar. Meaning it might rain on both ways, as it rains surprisingly a lot in northern Spain. At least it’s raining for the last three days now. Needless to say, it’s not heavy rain, more like showers, but still not that enjoyable.
Read next:  Road to Santiago IV - Finisterre and Muxía

What else has changed since last week

  • The good thing is, that physical pain is pretty much gone. Of course, everyday something hurts, but you already know that you can live with it. Blisters are not a problem anymore, because your shoes and socks are basically part of your body by now.
  • Mental state highly depends on the weather I feel. It’s lot more demanding to stay happy and positive after 5-8 hours in rain for several days in a row. Actually the same goes also for the days, when the sun is going crazy and is trying to “compensate” you for not seeing it for few days. You can’t actually think about it too much, it’s just how the weather works in northern Spain. And it’s definitely nice.
  • The people are still awesome. You already found at least couple people with whom you see each other almost every day/evening because you walk similar pace and stay in the same albergues. Some days you walk together, some days you only talk in the evenings but you know, you will see them tomorrow again. That’s also a big part of Camino del Norte vs Camino Primitivo, that their are still pretty similar in these “non-walking” aspects.
  • You also meet a lot of completely new people. Oviedo, for example, is the official starting point of Camino Primitivo (for those who didn’t do del Norte before). You will meet a lot of new pilgrims wearing brand new and nicely smelling clothes. This will change after the first two days and they will turn into smelly pilgrims, like you. But you will be treated with more respect, because you have been already walking for some time and thus smell more.

Next steps

I am getting closer to Santiago every single day. Even though it’s still far away it doesn’t feel like such a distance anymore. It’s not about how many km can you walk in one day, it’s about how many days can you be on the road and still keep moving. I’ll try to make similar posts to Camino del Norte vs Camino Primitivo, so it helps you on your camino too.

Follow me, if you can.

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  1. 2016 yazında fench wayi 2023 yazında portekiz way i yürüdüm her ikiside harikaydı bu ya camino del norte yi yürümeyi düşünüyorum ama fikrimi biraz değiştirdiniz sanki camini pirimitivo dah iyi olacak gibi teşekkürler

    • Agree, I think it’s the simplest and best solution. All pilgrims know deep down, which way they really want to go, once on the crossroad:) enjoy

  2. Great insights to Camino Del Norte thank you! I’m planning to walk Del Norte in 2019. I walked Camino Frances 2016. I too will decide when there whether to stay on Del Norte or go Primitivo. I love walking the mountains and love the ocean but I did find the crowds on the final section more challenging yet walking with pilgrims I had met since St Jean Pied de Port made this meaningful also. Cheers from Australia

  3. Cool comparison of the two routes, I always get confused by the number of possible roots when I read about Camino. Cheering you on from The Czech Republic!)

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