North Route

road from the north to compostelaWe are starting the North Way to Santiago de Compostela, older than the French Way. Those who came from Europe through the Cantabrian coast and arrived in the north of the Iberian Peninsula came to the Western capital this way.

The first pilgrimages came from Asturias about the 10th century. Pilgrims arrived through the Basque Country and walked round green lands as a promise of the green Galicia of the Apostle. They would pass along Oviedo to honour the Saviour and either followed the Primitive Way on the inside or went on with the Cantabrian Route and the North Way or High Way. In this Way, Ribadeo was the main entrance to Galicia.
This itinerary is known to be used by the French Guillermo Manier, in 1726, and also Jean Pierre Racq in 1790, who wrote a guide about this route. Even St Francis of Assisi is thought to have travelled to Compostela following this north route, passing along Oviedo in 1214.
There are about two hundred kilometres from Ribadeo to Compostela, although the last ones from Arzúa form a section this Way shares with the French and Primitive Ways.

1: Ribadeo - Lourenzá

Ria de Ribadeo que une Asturias y Galicia

30 km stage.

Ría de Ribadeo

The estuary that separates Asturias from Galicia, Ribadeo Estuary, was crossed by boat or one went up the watercourse up to Santiago de Abres Bridge.

Already in the 12th century, there is a mention to the existence of the Bela family, owners of a charitable boat fleet to transport pilgrims free. A long time ago there were similar boat fleets along Ribadeo Estuary.

Pilgrims arrived in the estuary mainly through Castropol, which was founded on a great ‘castro’ in 1299 and belonged to Oviedo Bishopric until the 16th century. Pilgrims also came from Figueras, where there is a church dedicated to Santiago since the 18th century, built by Mareantes Association.

Puente de los Santos en Ribadeo, Lugo

Nowadays, one can comfortably cross the estuary over the giant Puente de los Santos and find the modern pilgrim’s lodging at the end



Ribadeo (Ripam Euve, in ancient times) is the capital of a wide scene that included Vegadeo (‘A Veiga de Ribadeo’) a long ago, marking its economical and social influence in a long section of our way.

St Clara Convent will draw our attention in the centre of the city. It dates from the late 15th century and was founded by nuns from the capital of Asturias.








The neoclassic building that was residence of Raimundo Ibáñez, Marquis of Sargadelos, is now the Town Hall, whose entrance shows a statue of the old owner of the building.

In the surrounding area we find the Torre de los Moreno, modernist from the early 20th century, the most known image of Ribadeo.

We should also mention two interesting monuments in Ribadeo: St María del Campo Collegiate Church, where there was a Franciscan convent erected in the 13th century, and Trinidad Chapel (14th century), in the watchtower dominating the estuary, as a memory of those times in which the defence of the city was necessary.

We will see many houses remembering those people who had to emigrate and came back to their native land to enjoy their well-deserved fortune.



The route starts at St Lazarus Chapel towards Obe but first we will go up to St Cruz, where there is a magnificent view over the estuary and a shrine that revives once a year at the beginning of August in a traditional ‘romería’. We also find here the memorial to the Galician piper and pipe.

Old Way to Lourenzá

This route is known as the old way to Lourenzá (“Camiño vello de Lourenzá”) and is thought to correspond to an ancient communication route.

We pass along Obe, that preserves a section of the old route, Vilela, which is known to exist already about the year 1000 and Cedofeita, mentioned as ‘Cito Facta’ in many medieval documents.

In Cedofeita, we see Santiago Chapel with altarpieces from the 18th century and images of pilgrim Santiago on horse.

In Cubelas, there is a three-nave church dating from the 17th century and restored in the 18th.

In Arante, on the way coming from Leon and Asturias, we find Virtudes or Santa María da Ponte Sanctuary, which has been a pilgrimage centre for five centuries. The church dates from the 16th century. The altar piece of the high altar (18th century) shows an image of Santiago on horse.

Its pictorial whole (16th century) is excellent as well. In this temple there is an image of the Virgin “miraculosa y muy debota que cada día face milagros infinitíssimos”.
St Andrés Hospital was next to this sanctuary. The hospital was founded in 1543 by Juan Marqués, canon of the Collegiate Church of Ribadeo, and his sister, Mencía, and functioned until the beginning of the 19th century.
We pass along Barreiros, Villamartín pequeno, Vilamartín Grande and Gondán to get to Vilanova de Lourenzá.

Asturian route

There was another route on this same way from Castropol passing along Vegadeo and Santiago de Abres which crossed over the bridge avoiding the Eo estuary.

The route entered Galicia through Trabada passing along Sante. Melchor Díaz de la Rocha was born in Sante where he led the revolt against the French in 1809.

We visit St Marcos da Cadeira Chapel and get to Lourenzá.

Vilanova de Lourenzá

Vilanova, called Vila da Ponte long ago, was the point that linked both ways going parallel from Santiago de Abres.

Vilanova de Lourenzá was arranged around the monastery founded in the first half of the 10th century by Osorio Gutiérrez, known as the Count-Saint, bishop of San Martiño de Mondoñedo and cousin to St Rosendo. This foundation coincides in time with the foundation of the monasteries in Sobrado dos Monxes (also in this North Way) and Celanova..

The rests of the founder, whose will was known on 17th June 969, rest at the church of the monastery in a marble Aquitaine sarcophagus (5th-6th century), chosen by the count himself following the custom of using old sarcophagus to bury noblemen.

According to the legend, Osorio Gutiérrez found this sarcophagus in his journey to the Holy Land and threw it into the sea, entrusting himself to Providence. The sarcophagus arrived in the coast of Foz and it was taken by the count’s servants in a miraculous operation similar to the arrival of the Apostle Santiago’s stone boat.


Monasterio de Vilanova de Lourenzá

The present building of the monastery is Baroque (18th century) with a church designed by Casas y Novoa. The splendid façade is considered to be an antecedent of the Obradoiro façade in Compostela at the end of the route.

Valdeflores Chapel, inside, dates from the 18th century and houses the sarcophagus with the rests of the Count-Saint.

Retablo Relicario de Lourenzá


Although the most outstanding thing in this church is the very original altarpiece-reliquary, there is also an interesting Sacred Art Museum, founded in 1960, which shows a collection of unique images and paintings.

The polychrome images by José Ferreiro and the paintings by Ferro Requeijo are notable as well.

The Count-Saint was the first one who took pilgrims in, giving thirty-three beds to the monks, twelve of which ought to be dedicated to attend travellers. Both wills in the first half of the 12th century provided for pilgrim’s protection.

2: Lourenzá - Mondoñedo


Stage rest and visits, 8 Km.

We quickly go round very small towns with modest chapels from Lourenzá to Mondoñedo, until we finally enter the old Vallibria, Val de Brea, Mondoñedo, the see, one of the seven capitals of the old Kingdom of Galicia. The village was declared as a historical and artistic site and has the North Way Interpretation Centre.

Puente de San Lazaro en Mondoñedo-LugoThe route enters St Lazarus Bridge, where there was a leper hospital in the 14th century. The present bridge was built by Bishop Friar Antonio Sarmiento de Sotomayor in the 18th century.


Pilgrims went up the present North Way Street that led them to the Cathedral Square. The lodging for healthy pilgrims was near. They visited the Fonte Vella (old bridge), built in 1548 by Bishop Diego de Soto to solve the lack of water supply in the city. It has four spouts and stairs to get to it and has a vault and the coats of arms of the Bishop and the King.Fonte Vella, Mondoñedo 


Catedral de Mondoñedo- Foto Carlos Rodríguez







Needless to say the Cathedral is the most outstanding monument in Mondoñedo. It was erected by Bishop Martin in the first half of the 13th century and has three naves, ten metres wide the central one and six metres wide each of the side ones.











Catedral de mondoñedo

There is a magnificent five metre in diameter rose window in the façade that the historian Villamil y Castro considers to be ‘the best ornamentation in the cathedral’, which provides a special light in the high nave.

The present façade built by Bishop Juan Muñoz y Salcedo dates from the 18th century. The bishop’s coat of arms appears above the rose window

The hand of several masters and Cistercian inspiration is noticed in the historiated and zoomorphic capitals of the façade.

Interior Catedral MondoñedoE

An ambulatory with chapels around the chancel was built in the 16th century. The ogival chapel known as that of the English Virgin is one of the most outstanding ones. It preserves an image of the Virgin, also known as ‘Nosa Señora A Grande’, donated by Alonso Ares de Mourelle in 1555, after having acquired it in Ferrol from some English arriving from London. The image is thought to have been at St Paul Church in London.


Frescos góticos en la Catedral de MondoñedoIt preserves frescos (16th century) from the late Gothic, found when the choir was removed from the central nave, which reflect some aspects of St Peter’s life and the Slaughter of the Innocents and the Flight from Egypt.

The rests of the Renaissance choir are in the north part of the transept.
The square plan and Herrerian style cloister was built by Master Ibáñez Pacheco in the 17th century (from 1636 to 1641) and substituted a Gothic cloister.     

The great Baroque altarpiece of the chancel dates from 1769 and the oil paintings from 1773.

Claustro Catedral de Mondoñedo


Entering from the Cathedral, we find the Diocesan Museum with valuable works of sacred art which are the result of a laudable work to preserve the artistic heritage of the diocese.


Seminario y Obispado Mondoñedo

The façades of the Bishop’s Palace and the Seminary (both from the 18th century),

Virgen de los Remedios Mondoñedo

Santiago Church (19th century) and the Baroque ‘Santuario de los Remedios’, erected by Bishop Sarmiento in the 18th century, are also worth a visit. And already out of the city, we visit Convento dos Picos with a façade from the 18th century, although it is known already in 1285 pilgrims to Compostela were attended here.


Barrio de los Molinos, Mondoñedo, Lugo

In the totally restored Barrio de los Molinos, one can observe the works of potters, clog makers, millers, jugglers, photographers, etc.

Puente Mondoñedo

The route towards Lugo and Castile passed along this district and crossed Ruzos Bridge a long time ago. According to the legend, when on 17th December 1483 the troops of the Catholic Kings had arrested Marshal Pardo de Cela and was going to be executed for having opposed to the royal forces, several canons distracted Isabel de Castro’s attention, the Marshal’s wife, so that she could not arrive in time to present the reprieve the Monarchs had granted his husband. Pardo de Cela was beheaded at the main square of Mondoñedo. Since then, this bridge was known as ‘Puente del Pasatiempo’ and the Marshal came into history and legend.

3: Mondoñedo - Gontán (Abadín)


The route between Mondoñedo and Abadín has an extremely hard section, Alto da X

The name ‘Abadín’ is supposed to come from ancient times, when it belonged to three monasteries (Mondoñedo, Lourenzá and Meira) governed by abbots. Abadín represents for walkers the entrance door of A Terra Chá, the great natural region whose capital is Vilalba and offers a comfortable way to go.

Iglesia de San Cosme-Galgao

We pass along Galgao, where people celebrate the traditional ‘Romería de San Cosme’ and a magnificent ‘cruceiro’ next to St Martiño Church is still preserved.


In Gontán, there is a very important cattle market and a pilgrim’s lodging with 26 available beds.

Abadin, Concello

After crossing Gontán River we get to the capital of this municipality next to the Town Hall and the school. The local sports centre takes pilgrims in as well.

Santa Maria de Abadín

St Maria Romanesque Church (12th century) has a beautiful rose window made up with only a stone. In the façade there are two worn coats of arms that belonged to the Luaces, noblemen from Abadín, since the 16th century.

4: Gontán - Vilalba

Stage 24 km

From Abadín, the way runs by A Terra Chá through the parishes of Castromaior and Goiriz


Crossing Abadín River we get to Castromayor. This town has a medieval bridge over Arnela River in Ponterroxal and the old bridge in Martiñán (‘Pontevella’, from the 17th century) over Batán River, marking the limit with Vilalba.

Pontevella en Martiñán


Already in Vilalba, in Santiago de Goiriz, one can admire the magnificent work carried out in the cemetery by stonemasons from Román.


The cross-shaped ends of the niches are authentic sculpture works.


At the entrance to Vilalba, in the industrial estate, there is a pilgrim’s lodging with a capacity of 48 people.


There is an excellent Archaeological Museum in Vilalba with a collection of valuable discoveries related to the prehistory of the region.

Parador de Vilalba, Lugo

The Andrade Castle (15th century) is the monumental jewel of the capital of the Terra Chá. It was turned into a parador nacional de turismo (tourist hotel), whose noble nucleus is situated in the old tower.

There is a wonderful view of the surroundings and anyone can understand the feeling of power the old Counts of Vilalba could have in those times.

Rests of the old walls of the village are also preserved.







There are two identifying elements in this land, two famous delicacies: St Simon breast-shaped cheese and capon. Capons are castrated chickens, handfed and carefully sacrificed and presented as the best Christmas delicacy in Galicia.

5: Vilalba - Baamonde

Stage 15 km.

Towards Baamonde

Pazo Pena Corbeiras y Muiño do Rañego

Once we pass Pazo de Penas Corbeiras, which belonged to the Marquis of Hombreiro, and the restored Muíño do Rañego, magnificent popular architecture piece, we find Ponte Rodríguez and finally Ponte de Saa over River. Puente de Saa -Vilalba

Albergue Baamonte, Lugo

Already in Baamonde - Begonte, we find a magnificent pilgrim’s lodging, one of the oldest in the present route.Iglesia Santiago de Baamonde, Lugo, Foto carlos Rodríguez

The parish church in Baamonde, dedicated to the Apostle Santiago, was built in the 14th century but also preserves Romanesque elements






Carballo en Baamonde, Lugo, Foto Carlos Rodríguez

Opposite the façade there are Stations of the Cross and we also see an ancient chestnut tree with a chapel dedicated to the Virgin inside. The chapel was carved by Víctor Corral.

Casa de Victor Corral, Baaamonde

Víctor Corral’s house-museum deserves a visit as well. A lot of sculptures in the garden and in the house sum up the sculptor’s artistic activity.

6: Baamonde - Miraz

Stage 20 km.


Puente de San Alberte, Parga, Lugo


After passing Baamonde, already in Guitiriz, we find St Alberte medieval bridge that has been recently restored. According to the legend, the devil was tied in this bridge so that he could not harm the travellers.

Capilla de San Alberte, Parga. Lugo, Foto Carlos Rodríguez

St Alberte Chapel, almost hidden in the middle of the grove, is a Gothic 14th century chapel with a unique nave and obvious buttresses. A great ‘romería’ is celebrated in this chapel.

San Breixo y Santa Leocadia, Parga-Guitiriz, Lugo

The route leaves Guitiriz behind after crossing St Breixo and St Leocadia de Parga.



Following the route, we get to St Paio de Seixón in Frio. In Seixón there is a Romanesque Church built by Master John in 1140.  
In Santiago de Miraz, there is a square-plan tower (15th century), which is a rest of the Saavedra Castle.

And next to our route we find St Paio de Narla Fortress, which houses the ethnographic section of Lugo’s Provincial Museum. On the top of the tower an unrepeatable landscape can be contemplated.

7: Miraz - Sobrado

Stage 21 Km

Sobrado dos Monxes

The route passes along small villages, leaves Friol and the province of Lugo and enters A Coruña.

Laguna Sobrado dos Monxes

It goes next to a pool which was the fish farm of the monks of Sobrado a time ago.
The Monastery of Sobrado dos Monxes was founded in 952, closed in 1006 and revived in 1142 during the reign of Alfonso VI as the first monastery of the Cistercian Order in Spain.

The present building (Baroque, 17th century) houses St John Chapel, the chapter house and the kitchen of the monastery dating from the 13th century.

The rectangular and two floor processional cloister was built in the 16th century. The Renaissance vestry in the South wing of the transept dates from the same century as well.
The Pilgrim’s Cloister, so called because of the dedication of the monks to attend pilgrims on their way to Compostela, was built in the 17th century. After being abandoned during the sale of the Church lands, it was restored and inhabited again in the middle of the 20th century. Nowadays, the monastery keeps a very important religious and social activity, mainly the attention to pilgrims to Compostela.

8: Sobrado - Arzúa

The end of the North Way.
We are about to finish our route.

In Carelle we find St Lorenzo Church and then, after passing along Corredoiras, we get to Boimorto, whose history is highly influenced by the nearby convent in Sobrado.
And almost immediately, we get to Arzúa, where the route joins the French and the Primitive Ways. From this junction, there is a unique way to the city of the Apostle, Compostela.

It links with Arzúa-Santiago from “El Camino de Santiago en España”.