Day 21 Leon – Villar de Mazarife – 21.8km
It is fairly easy to lose the Camino leaving Leon, most of the way marks are on the ground so care has to be taken not to miss any. Fortunately the locals are great with pilgrims and will stop you and point you in the right direction if they see you walking in the wrong direction.
The way out of Leon is fairly uninspiring though rubbish dumps and industrial areas, but not as long and tough as the route into Burgos. The Camino once again hugs the N120 all day. If you are jumping parts of the Camino due to time constraints this is a day to miss.
After Virgen del Camino, (about 7km), the route is less industrial and becomes rural countryside once again. Virgen del Camino is a good place to stop for lunch as it has a few cafes, also it is worth stopping to visit the Sanctuary of the Virgen del Camino – about half way through the town on the right side.
After the Camino passes the A66 motorway between Virgen del Camino and Valverde de la Virgen the route becomes seclude again and you leave much of the traffic noise behind.
This day is easy walking with a long up hill at the start, however it is easy going all day – except on the eyes.
There is a choice of two routes after Virgen del Camino. The older traditional route hugs the N120, the other route is more secluded across countryside; both routes cross major motorway junctions. The latter route is not as well marked, but still good enough not to get lost. At the end of this day the routes finish about 3km apart, therefore it is possible to change route for the next day. Both routes meet tomorrow at Hospital de Orbigo.
Both routes follow the same path out of Leon until just after La Virgen del Camino. The point at which the routes part is unmissable due to the graffiti on the path pointing and encouraging you to different destinations for this day, one heading south for a time, the other west.
Trobajo del Camino 4.6km, all services
Trobajo, once the Jewish area of Leon, feels like a suburban part of the city as you have not yet left the built up area, the town has 25,000 inhabitants and one albergue. The albergue is used more with pilgrims not wishing to stop in Leon for the night.
Within Trobajo there is a unremarkable parish church dedicated to St John the Baptist, however inside there is a Statue of St James as the Moor slayer. On the out skirts of the town there is a stone cross on a small hill which affords great views back down over Leon.
La Virgen del Camino 2.7km, all services
Albergue Don Antonino y Doña Cinia, Av. Villacedre, 16, municipal, €5, 40 beds, W, D, K, @, M, B, bike, Tel: 987 302 800, http://www.aytovalverdedelavirgen.es, open Apr to Sep inc.
There is only a sign post that informs you that you are entering La Virgen del Camino, as there is no real demarcation between it and Trobajo.
The Sanctuary or Basilica La Virgen del Camino is the main sight to visit. This building was started in the 1950’s and completed in 1961. It is a rectangular box that is only worth viewing from the front. The front faces westward to Santiago and has massive bronze statues of the twelve Apostles, with St James raised just above, and the Virgin at the top. Each statue measures 6 meters and weighs 700 kilos. Inside the retable from the previous church has been retained and is topped by a 15th century figure of the Virgin.
This church was at one time a pilgrim destination in its own right. The Virgin appeared to a shepherd. Alvar Simon, in the early 16th century and ordered him to build a church on this spot. However the shepherd had to convince the Bishop of Leon to build first a hermitage, he did this by hurling a stone in his sling that turned into a boulder, this convinced the Bishop. This gave rise to the cult of Virgen del Camino throughout the area of Leon; many miracles have been attributed to the Virgin at this spot. The best know miracle concerns Alonso del Rivera in 1522 who had been captured by the Moors in Africa. He asked the Virgin to allow home to travel on a pilgrimage to Virgen del Camino. His jailers knew of his request and locked him in chains inside a chest, the Virgin miraculously carried him box, chains, and some church bells to Vigen del Camino where the bells rang with joy as he escaped the Moors.
Valverde de la Virgen 3.7km, water, bar, shop
Small wayside village with a parish church decicated to Santa Engracia an old Hispanic cult. The village was once called Valverde del Camino.
San Miguel del Camino 3km, water, cafe
The village is documented as having a pilgrim’s hospice in the 12th century, however today it is a wayside village providing refreshments to passing pilgrims. The local parish church is new and nothing remains of the internal statues, one of which is now in the San Marcos museum in Leon.
Villadangos del Paramo 7.8km, all services
Albergue Villadangos Del Paramo, municipal, €5, 72 beds, W, D, @, Bike, Tel: 987 390 003, Web: http://www.alberguevilladangos.es/, open all year
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 alter; 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, 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.
Route B – Leon to Villar de Mazarife 22.1km
Fresno del Camino 2.2km,
The Camino skirts the edge of village. The is the parish Church of San Andres.
Oncina de la Valdoncina 2.3km, water
Oncina is a tiny village with only 23 registered inhabitants.
Chozas de Abajo 5.6km, water, cafe, shop
Behind the cafe on Plaza San Martin there is a picnic area and an ultra modern bell tower made from steel.
Villar de Mazarife 4.7km, bar, cafe, water, shop
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.
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 it name; there are gift shops and a museum with a small attached art gallery.
What do I attract? I have noticed that some people attract that which they fear the most. Am I doing all I can to attract the best into my life?
Key: W = Washing, D = Drying, M = Menu, @ = Internet, K = Kitchen, B = Breakfast, V = Vending, Cred = Credential, Bike = Bike Storage
Please let me know if there are any omissions or errors by email email@example.com they will be integrated within the next update.