The greatest part of this itinerary is above a height of 800 metres, and continually goes uphill and downhill. But the harshness of the trail is compensated by the beauty of the landscape, for it is surrounded by nature, crossing forests, mountains, rivers, streams, farm fields and charming hamlets.

We propose a thrilling experience on a 4x4 to travel the Primitive Way to Santiago, the most ancient and legendary route that leads up to the city of the Apostle Saint James.

We will take the 4x4 through trails that cross pine forests on the high eastern mountains of Galicia, which will treat us to spectacular landscapes. Trails blocked by watercourses will test the driver’s skill at the wheel, increasing the thrill of the experience.

Further information...
- Fonsagrada Regional Museum. Tel.: 982 340 507
- Hostel of O Cádavo. Tel.: 981 354 057
- Museo Vivente do Mel (Live Honey Museum). www.abelleiro.com
- Cathedral of Santiago. www.catedraldesantiago.es
- Fresh Produce Market. www.mercadodeabastosdesantiago.com

Day 1

We set off from A Fonsagrada towards Arzúa
  

In A Fonsagrada we see what life in a mountain village is like

We recommend arriving the previous evening to A Fonsagrada, Galicia’s largest municipality and also the municipal capital with the highest altitude in the whole autonomous community, standing nearly one thousand meters above sea level. It is located at one end of the province of Lugo, forming a mountain range that constitutes a natural border with Asturias, with which it shares the Biosphere Reserve River Eo, Oscos and Terras de Burón.

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Its main access road is the LU-530, which connects it with the province’s capital. In the town there are hotels and lodging houses and a large number of country guesthouses as well as some manor houses (pazos) where you can stay. If you haven’t had dinner along the way, we recommend tasting some of the rich local gastronomy, such as the botelo, delicious traditional sausage made from pork ribs seasoned with garlic and paprika, accompanied by boiled potatoes, which are of excellent quality in this area. And, for dessert, the tasty pie from A Fonsagrada, made with almonds and custard.

We recommend getting up early to stroll through the village before hopping on the 4x4’s accompanied by the guide and driver. You can visit the Fonsagrada Regional Museum, next to the tree-lined avenue known as the Alameda, which offers a good example of the ways of life and labour in a typical mountain county. We will see the reproduction of a cellar, a blacksmith’s forge and a lareira, or traditional Galician kitchen. There is also a section dedicated to popular architecture that uses drawings, scale models and photographs to show the materials, construction features and types of houses typical of the area.

The botelo is a traditional sausage made from pork ribs

We rest in O Cádavo and have lunch in Baamonde

Some time before mid-morning we jump back into the 4x4 and leave A Fonsagrada to tour the territory of this municipality while heading to O Cádavo, always along trails that are authorised for our type of vehicle. The land is hilly with sloping landscapes and contrasting heights between the valleys and peaks.
In this area we can enjoy spectacular mountain landscapes. The roads blocked by the watercourses caused by the water will test the mechanics of our car, adding thrill to the experience. They are not easy to see, but this area is home to wolves, wild boar and deer. It is easier to spot eagles, falcons and other birds of prey.

Our first stop to rest will be in O Cádavo, where there is a modern hostel and where one of the stages of the Galician Primitive Way ends. It is said here that a legendary battle took place where Alfonso II The Chaste defeated the Muslim armies, opening the way to Compostela. Place names such as Campo da Matanza (Slaughter Field) and several findings of swords and armour remains continue to feed the legend. Later, as we descend to the area surrounding the capital of the province, the landscape becomes more humanised. The road continues to border Lugo. We can stop for lunch in Baamonde

We visit Sobrado dos Monxes and end the stage in Arzúa

After a rest we go back on track, passing through trails that cross beautiful indigenous oak and chestnut forests in the area of Friol, on the way to Guitiriz. As we go down to Teixeiro, the pine forests give way to pastures and their inhabitants; cows, for this is a major milk-production area.

In the afternoon, the route, though quiet, is not exempt of thrills, for we shall have to wade across one or two rivers in order to reach our destination. Our first stop will be in Sobrado dos Monxes by mid-afternoon. We can take the opportunity to visit the Monastery of Santa María de Sobrado, a National Monument, founded over a thousand years ago. From here a short walk leads us to the lagoon of Sobrado, surrounded by meadows and dotted with pines and alders in a mountainous and agricultural landscape of great beauty.

At the end of our visit, back in the 4x4, we pass close to Arzúa to complete our journey and stay in any of its hotels, lodging houses, or in the nearby tourist guesthouses, where we can also dine or else we can choose any of the many restaurants that the town has to offer.

Day 2

From Arzúa to Santiago de Compostela
 

A 32-metre double waterfall and a honey museum

When you’re ready to go in the morning we suggest visiting a beautiful natural site, very close to the village of Dombodán. The Fervenza das Hortas, is a waterfall on the river Saimes, just before its meets the river Ulla, with a 32-metre double-drop.

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Nearby is the town of Portodemouros, where the Museo Vivente do Mel (Live Honey Museum) is located. Here we will discover how our ancestors farmed honey. Outside there is a reproduction of an alvariza (hive) containing cortizos, trobos and covos and a traditional larder. In contrast we will see a modern apiary and inside we can follow the processes for honey extraction, decantation and packaging. The shop sells all types of products related to bees: honey, pollen, royal jelly and even cosmetics. It will be mid-morning by the time we finish the visit, so, weather permitting, we can go for a swim in the nearby embalse de Portodemouros.

In O Pino we taste roast or stewed rooster

In the stage of the journey Arzúa-O Pedrouzo and between here and Santiago we can drive the 4x4 along wide and accessible trails that run close to the historic route. We will stop to have lunch at O Pedrouzo, in the municipality of O Pino. Here the specialty is galo piñeiro, a breed of indigenous rooster that we can taste either baked or stewed. Its culinary festival is held at the beginning of August.

"Dust, mud, sun and rain
is The Way of Saint James.
Thousands of pilgrims
and over one thousand years."

Fragment from an anonymous poem written along The Way

From the Monte do Gozo we can get a glimpse of the towers of the Cathedral of Santiago

In the afternoon we hop back into the 4x4 and begin a route that passes near A Lavacolla and brings us closer to Monte do Gozo, a small hill from where pilgrims can see the towers of the cathedral for the first time. Since Holy Year 1993 the area has been upgraded and it is now equipped with all types of services for pilgrims: shelters, a hotel, a restaurant and cafés. To feel the pilgrim atmosphere before reaching Santiago, this is the ideal place.

Tapas dining in the typical streets of Santiago’s old quarter

We reach Santiago de Compostela in the evening, so we have to postpone the visit to the cathedral until the following day. However, we can enjoy strolling through the lively streets of the historic old quarter and mingle with pilgrims, university students, tourists and locals.

We recommend tapas dining in the streets of the old quarter, where you will find the typical Galician helpings with the “essentials” from its cuisine: empanada (Galician pie), octopus á feira style, stewed meat (ao caldeiro), cockles, mussels, raxo, zorza, Padrón green peppers, sardines (xoubas), and even pig’s ear. Do not miss tasting the Tarta de Santiago (almond cake) for dessert, as well as the wines from Galicia’s different denominations of origin.

As for accommodation, the city holds numerous hotels to suit all tastes and needs.

Day 3

The jewels of the cathedral and the gardens of the old quarter
  

A surprising tour of the cathedral’s rooftop

After breakfast we propose discovering the cathedral from a different perspective, by climbing up to its rooftop. The visit consists of a guided tour that includes two consecutive itineraries. The first one is the Pazo de Xelmírez, one of the main civil works of Spanish Romanesque architecture and centre of the feudal power that was exercised by the church in Santiago. You will marvel at the great 32-metre long vault in the Synodal Hall, whose corbels are decorated with scenes from a lively banquet.

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We then climb up the narrow stairs of the Palace tower to tour the whole area of tiered rooftop, which offers a much better understanding of the different ages of the cathedral and their respective styles. But the greatest sensation will be to have the towers, domes and spires of the cathedral at our fingertips and to see the city’s rooftops all the way across to the surrounding hills.

We embrace the Apostle and visit his relics

We enter the temple through the Praza do Obradoiro, with the impressive baroque facade presided over by the Apostle Saint James portrayed as a pilgrim with cape and staff. We climb up the double exterior staircase and inside we are met by the magnificent view of the gate Pórtico da Gloria, a masterpiece of Spanish Romanesque sculpture. Again the Apostle Saint James is portrayed in the mullion, where halfway up we also find the sunken handprints of pilgrims in the marble. There are many treasures and rites kept within the cathedral’s walls. One of the main rites is embracing the Apostle when climbing up to the shrine by the main altar. We can also stop to visit his relics, kept in a silver urn in the crypt below the main altar.

We try the fish and seafood from the Galician rias

It will be almost lunchtime when we finish the visit, so on the second day we suggest tasting the excellent fish stew caldeirada prepared Galician style (with olive, oil and paprika) accompanied by different sauces, which we can enjoy in the restaurants or seafood restaurants that line the streets Rúas do Franco, A Raíña and other neighbouring streets.

From the Alameda (tree-lined boulevard) to the Park of Bonaval

An option for the afternoon is discovering the parks and gardens of the old quarter. The most popular is the Alameda, the city’s lung. The boulevard Paseo de los Leones provides the best views of the cathedral, especially with the light of the setting sun. Camellia trees, giant eucalypti, ancient oaks, sculptures, fountains and even some churches will entertain us during our tour.
The Park of San Domingos de Bonaval, located on the western slope of Monte da Almáciga, offers another splendid view of the city. As we climb up the hillside we begin to see buildings and their rooftops. This park has unique and beautiful sites, such as a desecrated cemetery, which because of its special acoustics and atmosphere is sometimes used as a venue for musical performances.

In the evening we suggest grabbing dinner and trying any of the dishes created by the chefs of the new Galician cuisine in any of the city’s signature restaurants.

Day 4

We say farewell to Santiago at the fresh produce market
  

As a final farewell to the city, a visit to the Fresh Produce Market is an enriching experience, since it is a lively place where you can mingle with the locals and find everything that Galicia’s sea and land produces. Fresh fish and seafood from the ria, excellent meat, cheese, honey, flowers… and even live chickens and other farm products in the market gardens close to the city are sold in this square. The market’s premises hold many restaurants that offer to prepare the products we have just purchased at a reasonable price.

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Arriba