The 2024 edition of the guide is now available
The guide covers the Vía de la Plata and the Camino Sanabrés, from Seville to Santiago de Compostela. It was entirely updated in spring / summer of 2023 after I walked the entire route between February and June.
There are two versions of the guide
The free guide is, as its name suggests, free. It contains the same information about pilgrim hostels and pilgrim facilities as the full guide but it doesn't contain the maps. You can get a copy of the free guide to download in PDF format from the DOWNLOADS PAGE.
You can download a sample of the full guide HERE.
You can download the full guide as a PDF by making a donation H E R E.
You'll also get a free copy of our comprehensive guide to preparing for the Camino, to see a sample click HERE!
The book can be bought from Ivar's online book shop.
You can also buy from Amazon where it's available in print or as a Kindle ebook.
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To see all the formats the guide is available in go H E R E.
The route followed by the Vía de la Plata was originally a Roman Road linking Asturias in the north of Spain with the port of Cádiz in the south. Its name in Spainish means The Silver Route. This name is of relatively recently origin (15th century) and is based on the belief that the Romans used this route to transport silver from Asturias to the Mediterranean port of Cádiz. Prior to that it was called al-balat, Arabic for the road.
Beginning in about the 9th century, as Santiago de Compostela was becoming popular as a Christian pilgrimage site, this route began to be used by pilgrims travelling to and from the tomb of St James the Apostle.
Starting in the 1980s the revived popularity of the Camino Francés as a walking pilgtimage route led to renewed interested in the Vía de la Plata. Since then numbers of pilgrims have increased slowly reaching a peak of 14,197 in Holy Year 2010. Since then it's been 8,061 in 2011, 8,163 in 2012, 9,016 in 2013, 8,491 in 2014, 9,221 in 2015, 9,067 in 2016, 9,138 in 2017 and 9,127 in 2018 (these are figures for pilgrims arriving in Santiago).
In contrast to the Camino Francés which is busiest in summer, the busiest times on the Vía de la Plata are spring and autumn.
Today the Vía de la Plata is a popular alternative to the Camino Francés for people looking for solitude and a more authentic Camino experience (with its accompanying difficulties).
If you'd like to find out more about what it's like to walk the Vía de la Plata, go to our Frequently Asked Question.
I started writing this guide after I can back from walking the Vía de la Plata from Seville to Santiago via Astorga in the winter of 2009, and finished it after returning to walk the Camino Sanabrés in 2012. Preparing for my walk I had been unable to find any reliable information in English about the routes and accommodation along them. This didn’t deter me and I managed fine with a print out of accommodation from a Spanish website and some Google maps of the towns with the route roughly sketched on them. However, if I hadn't been able to access information in Spanish I would have been lost, and I probably wouldn't have even attempted this walk. Based on this experience I decided to try to make information more widely available in English.
I started by making the guide available as a free download from my website, www.CaminoGuide.net. Thanks to the positive feedback and encouragement I received from other pilgrims who used it, I decided to try publishing it on Amazon (with the addition of maps). This has enabled me to bring the information to a far wider audience.
From the beginning I appealed to pilgrims to send me updates and corrections to help me keep the information up-to-date. Many people responded to my call, and this, together with the wealth of information available online, allowed me to keep track of new hostels and route changes. This system isn’t perfect and I would prefer (in fact I would love!) if I had the time and money to walk the Vía every year and do the updates as I go along. But I don’t, and given the small number of English-speaking pilgrims walking this Camino, it’s unlikely this or any other guide will ever make enough money to cover a full, yearly update (such as the German guides manage).
I set out to create a source of the essential information someone will need to walk the Vía de la Plata, and this book is still that, the essential information: distances, pilgrim hostels, places to buy food, places to eat, and notes about those few places where the yellow arrows may not be sufficient for you to find your way.
The Vía is very different from the Camino Francés in that it is longer, lonelier and less scenic. It is closer to the original experience of long-distance pilgrimage than the commercialised and 'tamed' Camino Francés. You can walk the Camino Francés on 'autopilot', by which I mean, without planning ahead or really paying much attention, and I don't mean that in a negative way, one of the great things about the Camino Francés is that it's accessible to people of all levels of ability and commitment. But, if you approached the Vía on 'autopilot' you'd quickly find yourself lost, hungry and thirsty. As a consequence, the people who walk the Vía tend to be a hardy, self-reliant bunch.
We've been providing free guides to Camino pilgrims since 2012 and updating them every year. This is part of our commitment to supporting the Camino community. This all costs time and money. If you'd like to help us financially and ensure that we'll still be able to provide this service in the future you can do so in two ways.
By making a small donation. When you donate you'll be able to download the full guide in PDF format as well as GPS tracks for the whole route which I created while walking and which are updated every year to reflect latest route changes.
By using our online booking tool when you're reserving accommodation. If you sleep in a hotel or hostel after booking through our site we automatically receive a percentage from Booking.com. It's a win-win, it costs you nothing, the Camino Guide benefits, and a major muntinational company loses some money (that should probably be "win-win-win") We've organised our booking tool so it's easy to see what accommodation is available along the Camino. Have a look by clicking HERE.
Copyright © Gerald Kelly 2023. All text and photos.