Villadangos del Paramo

The patron saint of the village is Santiago and the local parish church is dedicated to him. Inside it has one of the most warlike images of Santiago atop the high altar; he is dressed in military uniform on a horse with a sword above his head charging, not the gentle pilgrim or apostle St James. The whole retable is stunning and well worth visiting.

The village was once inhabited by the Romans; the Moors ruled the area until the reconquest and the village was repopulated in the late 9th century.

During the 10th century, it was the scene of a battle with Bishop Gelmirez of Compostela and Queen Dona Urraca on behalf of her son infant King Alfonso VII, and her ex-husband Alfonso I of Aragon on the opposing side.

Alfonso I of Aragon won this battle, however, the local history depicts the bravery of the Bishop’s troops of only 266 men against a force of 2,000; in the end the Bishop withdrew to take refuge in Astorga 40km west.

Today’s Walk

Today there are two routes, however the choice for these was made yesterday, both routes meet at Hospital de Orbigo.

Route A: 28.9 km (18 mi)

Villadangos Del Paramo to Astorga Map

The first part of the day again hugs the N120 until Puenta de Orbigo, from here the route is further from the road until a few kilometers before Astorga.

The day is easy walking without any steep ascents or descents until the short steep ascent into Astorga itself.

San Martin del Camino is the first village of day and perfectly placed for breakfast; it is an easy downward sloping track all the way to this village. The downward route continues to Hospital de Orbigo, the town over the magnificent bridge leading into the village.

This is a perfect place to stop for an early lunch or buy food from the many shops to eat later. There is a café/restaurant on the left-hand side at the end of the bridge. It is a great place to enjoy the views and watch pilgrims walk across the bridge into the village.

From here the route turns right at the end of the village and heads across the countryside passing through Villares de Orbigo and Santibanez.

By now the route will be ascending easily towards the Cross of Santo Toribio, where you will have a view over the valley to Astorga.

The bottom is the valley is incredibly flat; you will cross the railway tracks and walk the steep climb into the walled city of Astorga.

San Martin del Camino

San Martin del Camino

3 km (1.8 mi), water, cafe, bar, shop

With a population of just over 400, San Martin has almost all the services required by any pilgrim.

The village dates from the early 13th century, however, the oldest pilgrim’s hospice only dates from the 17th century. It no longer exists.

The parish church is dedicated to St Martin of Tours, the patron saint of pilgrims. Internally the altar is modern with other protectors of pilgrims grouped together; St Michael, San Antonio Abad, and San Roque.

Puente de Orbigo

Puente de Orbigo

7 km (4.4 mi)

Puente de Orbigo is only a spread of houses along the side of the River Orbigo, however it is the best place to take photos of the Gothic bridge into Hospital de Orbigo, one of Spain’s best examples.

The bridge is one of the most famous along the Camino Frances and in the past was of strategic importance.

The oldest arches are 13th century, numbers 3 to 6 from the east; the other arches date mostly from the 17th century: over the years they have been swept away by floods. General Moore while fighting Napoleon blew two up while retreating.

However, the reconstructions have maintained the medieval aspect of the bridge. The area around the bridge has been the scene of many battles over the centuries – it may be one of the most bloodied places you are ever likely to stand on.

The Swabians fought the Visigoths in 452, the Moors and Alfonso the Great also battled here, and before these, the Romans had established a town on the edge of the river.

There is a famous Spanish legend associated with the bridge. It is said that in 1434 Suero de Quinones, a Leonese knight, held a jousting contest on the bridge as the result of being scorned by the lady he loved.

He wore an iron collar around his neck and resolved to beat all comers, and being a Jacobean Holy Year many came. The tournament started two weeks before St James day and ran until the 11th August.

After 11th Aug he remained undefeated having broken 300 lances belong to his opponents. The iron collar was taken off and he declared his honor intact and himself free from the love that had bound him and then he proceed to Santiago.

Apparently, a Catalan challenger that had heard of Suero’s reputation decided to wear armor with double steel – Suero mocking him came out in light armor and a woman’s blouse.

Just off the route by about 50 meters past the bridge before you cross is the pretty Hermitage de Nuestra Senora de la Purificacion, the entrance is up an alleyway on the right.

Hospital de Orbigo

Hospital de Orbigo

2 km (1.2 mi), all services

Hospital de Orbigo is a pretty little market town and a great place to stop for lunch or to buy food for a later picnic.

There are two cafes: one on the left, the other just down a little on the right as you leave the bridge. Opposite the second cafe, there is a small supermarket.

This is another town along the way that once belonged to the Knights Templar in the 13th century, there was once a famous pilgrim’s hospice here of which nothing remains.

Further down the main street you will pass the Church of San Justo. This 12th-century church has been renovated many times over the years, but it is right on your path, inside it has San Juan as the central figure in the retablo.

Leaving Hospital de Orbigo it is possible to continue walking along the side of the N120, however, unless you are cycling, this is the least attractive route to take with no water or food available until San Justo.

Villares de Orbigo

Villares de Orbigo Spain

3.1 km (2 mi) , water, bar, shop

A small market town of less than 900 inhabitants. As is common when nearing a larger urban center on the Camino the sites of importance in the surrounding town and villages are less as if all worthwhile artist work has been sucked into the center.

The local parish church is dedicated to St James who presides over the altar as Santiago Matamoros.

Santibanez de Valdeiglesias

Santibanez de Valdeiglesias Spain

2.5 km (1.5 mi), water, bar, shop

The Church de la Trinidad has a few interesting images of Santiago as the Moor slayer and the pilgrim San Roque.

After Santibanez de Valdeiglesias there is an alternative path that follows the road, however, it is the least pleasant of the two choices although flatter and more even underfoot.

About 1 km (0.6 mi) before San Justo de la Vega you will come across a granite cross dedicated to St Toribio, a 5th century Bishop of Astorga. The cross marks the spot where he stopped to shake the dust from his sandals after being forced to leave his diocese.

San Justo de la Vega

San Justo de la Vega Spain

7.9 km (mi), all services

The town of San Justo has little to hold the pilgrim heading to finish their day in Astorga. The Church of San Justo although originally 16th century has been renovated over the years, only the bell tower has been preserved.

Inside there is a 17th-century retablo. An early Christian sarcophagus from here now resides in Astorga Cathedral.

It’s a 3.4-km (2 mi) walk from San Justo de la Vega to Astroga.

Villadangos Del Paramo to Astorga Elevation Map


Route B: 29.3 km (18 mi)

Villar de Mazarife to Astorga Map

From Villar de Mazarife it is nearly 10km without access to food or water so remember to stock up before leaving. But as above it is easy walking with a gentle downhill all the way to Hospital de Orbigo, which is a bustling market town.


Villavante Spain

9.8 km (6.mi), water, bar, shop

Villavante is a small village with little to see, however, from a pilgrim’s perspective it is a great place for an early lunch and to fill up your water bottle.

The next stop is Hospital de Orbigo, 3.8 km (2.4 mi), – see route description above.

Following the Camino is easy; the yellow arrows point me in the right direction. What gives me direction at home?

Villar de Mazarife to Astorga Elevation Map