O Cebreiro a Must See on the Camino Frances

O Cebreiro is the first village in Galicia, it has just over 1,200 inhabitants and sits at 1,293 meters (4242 ft). Due to the location, it has always been an important location on the Camino Frances in aiding pilgrims to get across the mountains safely.

There was a pilgrims hospital here in 1072 entrusted by Alfonso VI to monks from St. Giraldo d’Aurillac, later it was administered by the Benedictines until the disentailment.

Albergue Xunta, €6, 104 beds, W, D, Cred, Tel: 660 396 809, , open all year.

Statue in O Cebreiro

The Church of Santa Maria la Real is a simple pre-Romanesque construction typical of the area. It has a three-aisled interior and rectangular shape.

Inside there is a beautiful 12th-century Romanesque statue of Santa Maria la Real, the patroness of the area. On her saint’s day up to 30,000 people visit the church, 8th September.

A 12th-century chalice and paten commemorate the famous “Miracle of Cebreiro”, it is housed alongside the golden reliquary, donated by the Catholic Kings in 1486, in a glass-fronted safe. The present statue of Christ on the altar is a reproduction as the original is displayed in the Archeological Museum in Madrid.

The Miracle of Cebreiro likely occurred at the start of the 14th century. A peasant from a nearby village struggled in a snowstorm to receive communion, the monk officiating despised the peasant for bothering to come, as his faith was less than the peasant’s.

The sacramental bread and wine miraculously became the actual flesh and blood of Jesus. The peasant and the monk are buried in the Capilla del Milagro. It is also said that the chalice is the Holy Grail from which Christ drank during the last supper.

Palloza in Cebreiro

There are several great examples of pallozas, the straw-roofed houses, two of these house the Ethnographic Museum. Pallozas are also typical of Celtic areas in Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, and parts of Morocco.

They are perfect for their environment, the aerodynamic thatched roof sits on top of the rounded walls and is tightly tied down. The dwellings are normally split in two, humans on one side and animals on the other – entering by the same door.

The human side is often split into two levels by a wooden platform. They have no chimney as the smoke seeps out through the straw. In the rafters, meat was hung to cure in the smoke from the fire.

Today’s Walk: 20.3 km (12.6 mi)

Cebreiro to Triacastela Map

Most of this day is downhill, though it can still be hilly between O Cebreio and Fonfria – about 10 km (6 mi), after this, it is gently downhill until Triacastela at 662 meters (2,171 ft) then the route rises again to 900 meters (2,952 ft) at Alto de Riocaba then slowly downhill to Sarria at 453 meters (1,486 ft).

Early morning walking is beautiful with clouds often below in valleys, and a fleece jacket is required at almost all times of the year. However, the sun in the summer quickly burns away the clouds and stops the fleece from being necessary. But remember you are still in the mountains and the weather can change quickly.

Most of the walking today is on paths and tracks with only a small amount on minor roads. There are lots of places for food and water along the way. You will notice the concrete markers every few kilometers marking the distance left to Santiago de Compostela.

In Galicia the regional government has built and owns a string of albergues. They are purpose-built for pilgrims or sometimes converted old school buildings.

Overall they offer good accommodation and reasonable facilities. They all have kitchens, however, most will not have utensils or pot and pans. It is said that enterprising local restaurants have managed to have all these removed – however, I have stayed and cooked in one, so that is not true of all.


Linares Spain

3 km (1.85 mi), water, bar

Linares is a tiny hamlet with only half a dozen houses, it has however been here since the 8th century. The name of the town is derived from the flax that was grown in the area and supplied the looms in Hospital de la Condesa.

The parish Church of San Esteban was built during the 12th century and refurbished in 1963.

After Linares, there is an uphill climb to Alto de San Roque. There was once a hermitage here dedicated to San Roque who made the pilgrimage in the 14th century from France. Now the spot is marked by a bronze statue of St James with his head down fighting the strong winds.

Limestone was mined in Linares for the Cathedral in Santiago. It is reported by Aymeric Picaud that “pilgrims would pick up a stone here and carry it to Castaneda to provide limestone for work on the basilica of the Apostle”

Hospital de la Condesa

Hospital de la Condesa Spain

2.4 km (1.4 mi), water, bar

Albergue Xunta, €6, 20 beds, W, D, Tel: 660 396 810, , open all year

Hospital de la Condesa is another small hamlet with a handful of houses that hides its ancient past. According to some sources, there was a pilgrims hospital here in the 9th century founded by Dona Egilo. If that is the case it would make it one of the oldest pilgrim hospitals along the way.

The original Church of Santiago was built in the 12th century, however, the current church dates again from 1963. Note the cross of St James on top of the tower and scallop shells on the door.


Padornelo Spain

2.5 km (1.55 mi), water

Another small hamlet that will take only two minutes to walk through.

The village Church of St John reminds us that this area was once protected by the Knights of the Order of St John of Malta. The current church dates from the 19th century.

Leaving Padornelo is the last climb of the day to Alto do Poio the last high point before Santiago at 1,337 meters (4,386 ft). There was once the Church of Santa Maria and a hermitage here, today there is a bar and hostel.

Alto do Poio

Albergue Bar Puerto, just beside road, private, €8, 16 beds, B, M, Tel: 982 367 172, open all year


Fonfria Spain

3.6 km (2.3 mi), water, bar, shop

Albergue A Reboleira, private, 8, 80 beds, W, D, @, M, B, Bike, Tel: 629 826 559, 981 181 271, Web: , open Mar to Oct inc, 6 double rooms and 2 triples between €26 and €54

Fonfria is the largest of the small hamlets we have passed through today so far with about 40 inhabitants. The villagers make their living from pilgrims and the production of a local cheese known as Queixo de Cebreiro.

The shop is contained within the hostel which also does a great evening meal, it is advisable during the summer to book ahead as it is a very popular overnight stop.

The Church of San Juan was completely restored in 1962. However there was a hospice here in the 16th century, apparently, it was for poor pilgrims and constructed of mud with an unsealed slate roof. The hospice was tiny at only seven by six Galician yards.

After Fonfria the Camino Frances starts to drop, over the length of 9 km (5,6 mi) by 600 meters (1,970 ft), beware some of the descents are quite steep.


2.4 km (1.4 mi), water, cafe

Another small hamlet with a good restaurant called Mesón Betularia.

The Church of San Pedro is reputedly the smallest church along the Camino.

Biduedo Church

Between Biduedo and Triacastela you will pass through three small hamlets, Filloval, As Pasantes, and Ramil; it is unlikely that you will find water or a cafe in any of these however the Camino is developing rapidly and that can change.

Albergue Filloval, private, W, D, K, @, Bike, Tel: 666 826 414, open all year.

It’s a 6.7-km (4.2 mi) walk from Biduedo to Triacastela, where you will find all services.

Key: W = Washing, D = Drying, M = Menu, @ = Internet, K = Kitchen, B = Breakfast, V = Vending, Cred = Credential

Cebreiro to Triacastela Elevation Map

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