Stage 24: Molinaseca – Villafranca del Bierzo Distance: 34km
Follow the camino through Molinesca uphill along the main road to the top of a gentle rise. Here you have a choice of routes
Continue along the busy road into Ponferrada across a railway line, and heading left to an albergue.
Albergue San Nicolás de Flue, Calle de la Loma, off Avenida del Castillo.
Beds: 200 in rooms of 4. Open all year. Has cooking & laundry facilities.
Continue on the camino, turning left on Avenida del Castillo, then right at the Tourist Information onto Calle Peregrinos and Calle Temple and join up with the recommended route at Castillo de los Templarios.
Turn left along a wide track into Campo
Campo was once Ponferrada’s Jewish Section. Some if the restored buildings have elaborate coats of arms displayed.
The villages Fuente Romana is still in operation and worth a visit if you have time as is the 18th century Iglesia de Sam Blas.
Follow the road through the suburbs of Ponferrada, passing the city dump into Los Barríos. Cross a stone bridge over the Río Boeza.
Turn left to continue along the camino, under the railway bridge. Take a right onto Calle del Hospital then take a left opposite the Iglesia de San Andrés and you will soon reach the entrance to Ponferrada’s beautiful castle, Castillo de los Templarios.
Alternatively, on crossing the bridge keep straight on along Calle Cruz Mirada and turn right into Avenida del Castillo and then onto Calle de la Loma where you will find the albergue.
Ponferrada is the capital of the region of El Bierzo and is one of the major points along the Camino de Santiago as it passes through the province of León.
The historic quarter of this town sits below the imposing Castillo de los Templarios built by the Knights Templar.
It is believed that the town which was founded at the same time as the pilgrimage to Santiago.
At the end of the 11th Century, the Bishop of Astorga, Osmundo, ordered the building of a bridge over the Río Sil and strengthened it with iron rails, pons férrote, bridge of iron, which gave the town it’s.
In 1178, King Fernando II of León placed Ponferrada under the custody of the Order of the Temple. The Knights Templar used the site of a primitive Roman fortress to build a castle where they settled and which protected the passing pilgrims.
Tourist Office, Calle Gil y Carrasco 4. Tel: (0034) 987 42 42 36
From the albergue in Ponferrada take a left along the Avenida del Castillo, onto Calle Pregoneros and then Calle Temple towards the castle. Before you reach the castle take a right onto the Calle del Reloj then turn left onto Calle Santa Beatriz de la Silva. When you reach Calle Calzada, continue down to the bridge leading over the Río Sil.
Take a right at the Plaza San Pedro and then left onto Calle Río Urdiales followed by a right onto Avenida Huertas de Sacramento. Follow the road to Compostilla passing a sculpture of four women cooking.
Turn right at the Avenida Libertad and into Compostilla.
Follow the route along a path beside the Río Sil. Cross the river and go down steps onto the other side. Walk underneath two bridges then take a left after a power plant and walk to the road where you rejoin the main camino route.
Pass a church with a statue of the Virgin and Child in front. Continue on past the Iglesia de Santa María and it’s memorial to Santiago Peregrino.
The Camino now heads through a tunnel under a ring road passing vineyards to the Iglesia de Columbrianos.
From here, cross the busy road into the village of Columbrianos. The 18th century Ermita de San Blas y San Roque is at the entrance to the village. Inside it has a beautiful carved Baroque altar and on the outside it has a small mural dedicated to Santiago Peregrino.
Continue through Columbrianos and onto a country road which takes you through farmland into Fuentes Nuevas.
Fuentes Nuevas is a residential area and home to the Ermita Campo Divino Cristo with it’s pilgrim fountain. Opposite the chapel you’ll find a nice café if you feel like resting for a while.
Proceed through the village on the main street and continue on for 2km to the village of Camponaraya.
In the past Camponarayawas a key point on the Camino de Santiago, as it had two pilgrim hospitals, the Hospital de la Soledad and the Hospital de San Juan de Jaberas.
Today it has a mixture of old and new buildings and the Ermita Nuestra Señora de la Soledad
Continue through Camponaraya and cross the Río Naraya to the other end of the village.
Go straight on past the Cooperativa Viñas del Bierzo and through a park with a fountain.
The path now takes you through vineyards and woods into the Magaz valley crossing a stream and along a track into Cacabelos
Cacabelos was a popular point along the Camino de Santiago as it had five pilgrim hospitals.
At the beginning of the 12th century the Archbishop of Santiago ordered people to settle here and build the Iglesia de Santa María, which was rebuilt in the 16th century and church tower added in the early 20th century.
On the bank of the Río Cua stands the 18th century Sanctuario de la Quinta Angustia, which is built on the site of a former pilgrim hospital. On the doors of the sacristy is the figure of the baby Jesus playing cards with San Antonío de Padua.
The village has a museum displaying artifacts found at the nearby Roman settlements as well as a wine museum celebrating the local wine industry and the history of its production the area.
Tourist Office, Casa Consistorial. Tel: (0034) 987 38 82 06
Continue along the busy main road (N-VI) passing through the small hamlet of Pierros and it’s 11th century Iglesia de San Martín.
From the top of the hill there are two routes into Villafranca del Bierzo
Keep on straight along the main road passing the Arroyo Valtuilles and turn for Valtuille de Arriba. Stay on the main road until you get to a turn off onto a track which takes you through vineyards where you rejoin the recommended route.
Turn right then head left onto a gravel track through vineyards and into the hamlet of Villatuile de Arriba, which has two bars.
Continue straight through Villatuile de Arriba and at the otherside cross a stream into Plaza del Fondo del Lugar leading onto a track.
Follow this track through hilly vineyards and beautiful landscape before descending in Villafranca del Bierzo
Villafranca del Bierzo
Villafranca del Bierzo is the last important town in Leon along the Camino de Santiago.
At one time there were eight monasteries and six pilgrim hospitals in Villafranca.
It’s rich monumental heritage, and the influence of the St. James pilgrims, have made it an important tourist centre.
The Plaza Mayor, the Ayuntamiento, Calle del Agua, the arch at which it ends, the mansions, the Convento del Agustinas Recoletas, and other palaces, make up some of the more popular tourist attractions.
At the town’s entrance we find the popular 12th-century Romanesque Iglesia de Santiago, a temple where pilgrims who fall sick and cannot continue receive the same absolution that they would in Santiago de Compostela, at the steps of the Puerta del Perdón, Gates of Forgiveness.
You should also take the time to visit the disproportionate 16th century Gothic Colegiata de Santa María, built by Gil de Hontañón.
Only the 13th century Gothic Iglesia de San Francisco, with it’s beautiful Mudéjar style ceilings, remains of the former Franciscan monastery.
The 17th century baroque Convento de La Anunciada is home to the Clarissa Order.
Tourist Information, Avda. de los Escritores 6. Tel: (0034) 987 40 61 71
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