The Northern Way

Historically, this route was traversed by the devout from the northern part of the peninsula, as well as those who came – by land or by sea – from areas such as England, Flanders, Germany and Scandinavia.

Through Ribadeo :

  • Length 195.5 Km
  • Difficulty Medium

Through Santiago da Ría de Abres:

  • Length 191.1 Km
  • Difficulty Medium
Northern Route

After the Primitive Way was established, this route, which runs along the Asturian coast and enters Galicia via the ría de Ribadeo, came to prominence in the late Middle Ages. At that time, medieval sea pilgrimages were at their height. This period also marked the first celebration of the Jubilee of the Holy Cross in Oviedo.

Pilgrims of the late Middle Ages, eager to venerate relics and gain indulgences, visited Oviedo as a complement to their pious journey to Compostela.

The route enters Galicia by crossing the Bay of Biscay via the lovely Ria of Ribadeo. Some pilgrims opted to skirt the ria, crossing the Eo River at Santiago Bridge in Abres. Today, Os Santos Bridge links the two autonomous communities.

The Northern Way remained very well travelled until the 18th century. It not only attracted pilgrims from Asturias, but was also traversed by the devout from the entire northern peninsula, as well as those who came – by land or by sea – from other areas of Europe, such as England, Flanders, Germany and Scandinavia. Many of these pilgrims were drawn by the relics at the Cathedral of San Salvador in Oviedo and of course, by the cathedral at Compostela.

The route has been followed by many illustrious pilgrims. It has been linked to St. Francis of Assisi, who, according to tradition, made the pilgrimage to San Salvador de Oviedo and to Santiago in the year 1214. In the late 15th century, this same pilgrimage would be made both ways by the Armenian bishop Martyr of Azerbaijan . In the 16th century, Jakub Sobieski, father of King John III of Poland, also made the journey. And we have written evidence dating from the 18th century, left by Frenchman Jean Pierre Racq.

After passing through Castropol – the last town in Asturias – the Way of St. James enters Galicia, crossing the Bay of Biscay via the lovely Ria of Ribadeo. Some pilgrims opted to skirt the ria, crossing the Eo River at Santiago Bridge in Abres. Today, Os Santos Bridge links the two autonomous communities.

Once in Galicia, our starting point is Ribadeo, in the province of Lugo. From here, it is 198 km to Santiago Cathedral. Pilgrims find the route signposted by a ceramic plaque depicting a scallop shell. This information is extremely helpful, supplementing the basic marking, a yellow arrow.

In 2015, the Northern Way was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, along with the Primitive Way. This is the greatest honour a heritage asset can receive. It also runs through landscapes which are part of biosphere reserves, including the area around the Eo River and the region known as Terras do Miño, among others.