Villar de Mazarife is a village of only 500 inhabitants that appears to be doing everything it can to attract the pilgrim traffic. An albergue on the outskirts has yellow arrows leading to it, even the fruit shop has Camino in its name; there are gift shops and a museum with a small attached art gallery.
Albergue Casa de Jesus, c/ Corujo, 11, private, €7, 50 beds, W, D, K, @, M, B, bike, Tel: 987 390 697,https://www.facebook.com/AlbergueDeJesus Open all year.
Albergue San Antonio de Padua, c/ Leon, 33, private, €8, 60 beds, M, B, W, D, @, Bike, Tel: 987 390 192, Web: http://www.alberguesanantoniodepadua.com/, open all year.
Alb. Mesón Tio Pepe, 2 El Teso, private, €9, 26 beds, M, B, W, @, bike, Tel: 987 390 517, http://www.alberguetiopepe.es/, open mid Mar to Nov inc.
Leonese Páramo owes its existence to Mazaref. Mazaref, a patriarch of a famous line of Cordovan Mozarabs who, under the protection of the kings of León, undertook enormous to repopulate these regions of the high Páramo.
Historic documents dating back to the last decade of the IX century, as well as the following X and XI centuries, mention the settlement of Mazaref.
The site of Villar was not chosen randomly. It was a strategic point on a Roman road that linked important cities.
Table of Contents
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)
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
3 km (1.8 mi), water, cafe, bar, shop
Albergue Municipal, Carretera de León, €5, 68 beds, M, B, K, @, Bike, Tel: 676 020 388, open all year.
Albergue Santa Ana, 3 Carretera de Astorga, private, €6, 96 beds, M, B, W, D, K, V, @, Bike, Tel: 987 378 653,
Albergue Vieira, Avenida Peregrinos, private, €7, 60 beds, M, B, K, @, Bike, Tel: 987 378 565, Web: http://www.alberguevieira.es, open Mar to Oct inc.
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
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
2 km (1.2 mi), all services
Albergue Karl Leisner, c/ Álvarez Vega, 32, par, €5, 90 beds, K, Bike, Tel: 987 388 444, open all year.
Albergue Verde, Av Fueros de Léon, 76, private, €9, 26 beds, M, B, W, D, @, Bike, Tel: 689 927 926, open Easter to Nov inc.
Albergue La Encina, Avenida Suero de Quiñones, private, €9.5, 16 beds, B, M, W, D, Bike, Tel: 987 361 087, Web:www.complejolaribera.com, open all year.
Albergue San Miguel, c/ Álvarez Vega 35, association, €7, 40 beds, W, D, K, V, @, B, Bike, Tel: 988 388 285, Web: www.alberguesanmiguel.com, open all year.
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
3.1 km (2 mi) , water, bar, shop
Alb. Villares de Orbigo, c/ Arnal, 21, private, €7, 24 beds, W, D, K, @, B, M, Bike, Tel: 987 132 935, Web: http://www.alberguevillaresdeorbigo.com/, open 1st Feb to 15th Dec.
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
2.5 km (1.5 mi), water, bar, shop
Albergue Parroquial, Caromonte bajo, 3, €6, 20 beds, M, Bike, Tel: 626 362 159, open Mar to Nov inc.
Albergue Camino Francés, Calle Real, private, €7, 12 beds, W, D, M, B, @, Tel: 987 361 014, Web: http://alberguecaminofrances.com/open Apr to Oct inc.
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
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.
Route B: 29.3 km (18 mi)
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.
9.8 km (6.mi), water, bar, shop
Albergue Santa Lucía, Carretera a Villadangos, private, €8, 29 beds, W, D, K, V, M, B, @, Bike, Tel: 692 107 693, 987 389 105, web: http://www.alberguesantalucia.es/ , open Apr 1st to Oct 31st. Double rooms between €24 and €40.
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?
Key: W = Washing, D = Drying, M = Menu, @ = Internet, K = Kitchen, B = Breakfast, V = Vending, Cred = Credential, Bike = Bike Storage
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I love hiking. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.