A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Thursday, 31 December 2009

Vía De La Plata

The Camino Mozárabe or Vía de la Plata.

The route used by the Mozarabic (Christian) pilgrims during the period of Muslim domination and by all those coming from the south of Spain, including those who arrived in Seville by sea from North Africa and other parts of the Mediterranean. Also known as the Vía de la Plata as it follows the course of a Roman road of that name (but note that the name does not mean 'Silver Route': 'plata' is a corruption of an Arabic word indicating a 'broad surfaced road'). As the Camino Francés becomes ever more crowded, we are encouraging first-time pilgrims to chose the Vía de la Plata as a more peaceful, and very beautiful, alternative.

The Route. Starts in Seville and leads north via Mérida, Cáceres, Salamanca and Zamora. After that pilgrims can continue to Astorga and from there to Santiago via the Camino Francés or go there directly through Galicia via Pueblo de Sanabria and Ourense: in either case the distance is 1000 km and it takes, on average, 6 to 7 weeks to walk from Seville to Santiago. Alternatively you can begin in Granada, passing through Córdoba and joining the main route in Mérida.

Waymarking. Yellow arrows throughout, as on the Camino Francés.

Terrain. Undulating and not very taxing as far as Astorga, though the distances between towns/villages are often very long; strenuous after the border of the provinces of Zamora and the entry into Galicia, with many steep climbs and descents (for example the passes of Padornelo (1329m) and A Canda (1262m).

Weather/When to go. Definitely not July or August (i.e. in the south) though the farther north you go the cooler it gets. April - June (especially for the wild flowers) or September-October are the best times.

What to see. Much evidence of Roman Spain (especially in Mérida) and many pilgrim, St. James and other related references, art and architecture along the way.

Accommodation. Few proper refugios but somewhere to sleep (at worst) on the floor with a sleeping bag at least every 30 km. There is also plenty of hostal accommodation, at least every 25 km as far as Mérida, and between 30-35 km after that.

Distinctive features of the route. Very solitary route where you are unlikely to meet many other pilgrims even though it is becoming better known (by people who live along the way too) and better used each year.

Taken from the Confraternity of Saint James website. With thanks.

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