Day Five on the Camino de San Salvador is a long jaunt down two river valleys, first the Río Lena and next, the Río Caudal. On the way, you pass many historic places, the most significant being the 9th century UNESCO world heritage site of the Iglesia de Santa Cristina de Lena.
While this day was not my favorite, since it is on pavement and the Camino roads parallel the noisy A-66 highway almost the entire way, it is at least a gentle downhill stroll and not too lengthy.
"What is more beautiful than a road? It is the symbol and the image of an active, varied life." ~ George Sand
Most of us who have walked many kilometers on the Camino de Santiago would agree with the above quote from the 19th century French novelist. A road is beautiful because it takes you somewhere, isn't that so?
Perhaps the novelist never actually walked a long road, such as we did on day five of the Camino San Salvador, or perhaps the above quote may have been different? Regardless of how beautiful the road, walking a Camino certainly provides the "symbol and image of an active and varied life!"
While Campomanes at the start of this day is a small town, within 7.0 kilometers of leaving it, many services abound. Here is our Google map, and you can see your varied choices of where to stay and where to eat along the way.
This day's route has seen many changes in the past years. I have included on this map the old route, in orange, the “official” route in blue, and any alternatives in red that I will explain farther below. I kept this orange route on the map for information, and perhaps clarity’s sake if you stumble upon older directions or GPS tracks. You must also use the old route if you plan to stay at the Hotel Rural Reundu, mentioned on day four.
If you choose to stay in Pola de Lena, there is the Albergue de Peregrinos San Martín (+34 985 49 22 47), and many other accommodations, including the private Albergue Roma if you prefer alternatives to the municipal albergue. Click here to see them.
If you decide to go all the way to Mieres, there is a temporary albergue in the University of Mieres, the Nel Campus Universitario, on the south side of town, in the Residencia Universitaria, a student’s dormitory. You MUST call and make a reservation to stay here, (+34 625 18 53 01). This albergue is available only until the new municipal albergue is completed in the old Vasco train station in the center of town. The university accommodation is a few steps off-Camino (see the northern red alternative on the map below). This is your only choice for inexpensive accommodation at 22 Euros/per person/night.
If you wish to stay within the city of Mieres, click here to see your options.
The elevation profile shows one small hill climb at the beginning of the day. This is to the hilltop where the UNESCO world heritage church resides, the Santa Cristina de Lena, (+34 609 94 21 53). If you want to visit the historic church, you may call the number above, and the woman with the key will come and open it for you, even outside of visiting hours. I feel this church is a must-see!
The rest of the day is a downhill glide, with not even a 200 meter (650 feet) change in elevation.
We started out our day in Campomanes, from the Hospedaje Senda del Huerna, a few meters off-Camino, at daybreak. It was a misty and cool September morning.
We found an early café bar open, a few blocks from the Hospedaje. It was fabulous to have an early coffee with milk and pastries.
After filling our bellies, we set off. The Camino no longer directly passes by the lovely little Capilla del Santo Cristo, shown below, so you will need to find it a few meters from the main intersection in the center of town, along AS-375. It is a lovely little historic pilgrim’s church. I said a prayer of gratitude, as I always do as I approached. I was grateful for my knee to be actually working this morning! I hoped it would last for the day!
The prior routing on the Camino keeps you on the AS-375 to follow the Lena River along the west side; see the route on the map in orange.
After visiting the chapel, retrace your steps back to the intersection of the AS-375 and the LN-8 in the center of town and turn left, eastward, onto the LN-8. If you are walking through Campomanes and coming from the south, this is where you will turn right, or eastward onto the LN-8. You continue walking about another 200 meters, crossing the N-630 and farther along the Río Pajares.
After the river crossing take the first left turn that descends and reverses back sharply toward the river, then bends to follow the river on an asphalt pathway with a lovely wooden fence line to your left, pictured below from a street view shot from Google.
The Río Pajares joins the Río Lena here and the path along the river continues for another 2.3 kilometers on a long, easy descent. A bit more than halfway the asphalt turns to gravel and this road now follows the not-so-pleasant A-66 highway. At approximately 2.6 kilometers into the day, the gravel road comes to a T-intersection, where you turn to the right onto the LN-4. This is where the old route joins the new from Campomanes.
In only a few meters you will see this tunnel ahead. We knew we were on the right track, when the yellow information board, below, identified that we were arriving at the Santa Cristina de Lena church.
After walking through the tunnel, immediately come to this information board and a stone wall with a yellow arrow, directing you onto the path up the hill to the left and to the pre-Romanesque church.
Begin the short steep climb on the ancient road.
The rocky path peters out and becomes a pleasant dirt path through the trees. There are still remnants of the ancient paved road. It is a short 200 meter climb up this hill to the hermitage.
It is at about 2.8 kilometers into day five of the Camino del Salvador, that suddenly, the small church looms above you. The road to the right in the photo below is from where you arrive.
The hermitage of Santa Cristina de Lena (+34 609 94 21 53) was built in the 9th century and is of the pre-Romanesque style. Click on the Asturian link for more information on this ancient place. You will see a brief description of the history, its admission price and current hours of operation, that change by the season. Call ahead if you wish to see the church outside of opening hours.
Santa Cristina is one of five UNESCO world heritage churches in and around Oviedo. It is closely related in style (pre-Romanesque) to the two churches at the Naranco site on a hill just west of the city, the Oviedo cathedral's ancient center remnants called the Cámara Santa, and the fifth is the San Julián de los Prados Church, also in Oviedo proper.
If you are interested in seeing all five of these churches, you can see the remaining four once you reach Oviedo. Click on the links to my articles for photos and more information. These are fascinating historic places.
It was a shame that we did not arrive here at opening hours and did not know that we could call ahead to have it opened for us! Plan your own day accordingly if you wish to see inside. It is only open 11-1 and 4:30-6:30 in the summer.
The church sits on its own little serene hilltop where the surrounding views are phenomenal. The morning mist during our visit added to the mystique of the place.
Unfortunately, when we were there about 9:45 in the morning, all you could hear was the rush of traffic from the A-66 below. I could only imagine when the original builders chose this amazing spot, how much more tranquil it must have been!
Looking northward from the hermitage, you will see a gravel road. Walk toward it, but find the path going down the hill to the left. It is by the gate shown in the photo below. Take this inviting path instead. It is marked with yellow arrows.
This lovely path winds down the hill for 400 meters, on the ancient road, towards the next town of Cobertoría.
Once again, though brief, this downhill was very hard on my left knee. I needed to do my half-march again, picking up my left knee as if in a march, to avoid the extension that caused it so much discomfort. I also heavily relied on my hiking poles to reduce the weight on my legs. I was quite a sight, going down the hill!
And then through the trees, as they begin to open up, you will see the old train station of La Cobertoría, which is now used as a museum and interpretive center for pre-Romanesque art.
Walk on the road by the railroad tracks, and after passing the train station, cross a stream on a bridge and come to a T-intersection in town. Turn right and up the hill. Take your first left, in town, and continue the strong climb up the hill.
There are no services here in this small town.
Be sure to look back at the top of the hill and catch your final views of the hermitage, and the train station below. The view is worth the pause.
Here is Rich climbing up and out of Cobertoría. The climbs felt good on my left knee, and I felt strong. However, on the downhills, even though mild on this day five of the Camino del Salvador, my knee continued to give me discomfort once again.
You continue on the very narrow road with no traffic for about 1.14 kilometers.
While the Camino is very rural here, you can constantly hear the traffic of the A-66 in the valley below and to the left; not too great, for sure.
At about 4.4 kilometers into day five, come to this footbridge shown below, and take it to cross the Río Lena again to continue on the Camino del Salvador.
If you were to stay straight instead of crossing the bridge, you could find the private Albergue Columbiello, a full 3/4 km off-Camino.
This is a photo that shows the attractive old stone homes that line the river banks on both sides.
Turn right after the bridge in the town of Vega del Ciego, by the Iglesia de Santa María. Walk on for just over 200 meters and turn left, through a tunnel that walks under the A-66.
The old route continues straight here, continuing to parallel the A-66 and the river, on another very rural road, avoiding the town of Vega del Ciego entirely. It may not be as pleasant to have the highway on your left shoulder, as you walk past a large soccer field, and shortly after, turning left through another tunnel under the A-66 to walk into La Pola de Lena. Consult the orange route on the maps.
On the new route, after the walk under the A-66, the Way climbs a small hill and makes a right turn onto the AS-375 at the T-intersection. You will now follow this road all the way through Vega del Ciego, passing the historic Capilla de Santa Rita, shown below from a Google screenshot, past the Zamarrones Monument in the first roundabout, through the south fringes of La Pola de Lena, until you arrive at the south end of town after about 1.7 kilometers.
This is a big town with lots of services. The main drag through town is a bit more than a kilometer long, and you will encounter everything you need.
The old route joins the new just before the Alimerka supermarket at the south end of town, where we stopped and bought supplies to replenish our packs.
A few meters onward we stopped for a coffee break after barely 6.5 kilometers! We decided to take advantage of the opportunity, after having many days with almost no services.
Almost halfway through town, after about 6.8 kilometers, you come to the town hall. It is the yellow building in the photo below. Just before it, are the yellow arrows painted on the wall, letting you know this is the turn for the municipal Albergue de Peregrinos San Martin (+34 985 49 22 47). You can see the yellow "A" painted on the wall next to the arrow on the left. Turn here if you plan to complete your day in La Pola de Lena.
The actual Camino continues on the main street, as you can see by the arrow pointing to the right.
A new private, Albergue Roma is close by the municipal, a few meters to the south. They also have private rooms.
There are many more choices of accommodation in La Pola de Lena, if you choose to end your day here, including the economical Hotel La Payareta, (+34 985 493 975), a few blocks east of the Camino in the center of town. This hotel is just beyond the turnoff to the albergue. There is also the economical Hotel Lena (+34 985 49 32 34), on the south side of town along the river.
If you are going on through Pola de Lena, continue on to stay straight through town. In another 1/2 kilometer from the town hall, you turn right here, at this tall building. It is just before the Día supermarket, the red sign in the photo below, and just after the college, Colegio Sagrada, a prominent red brick building.
We found the waymarks hard to find at this intersection, so if you have read this, you will know where to look. There may still be a concrete waymark here, if you look closely in the photo below.
We were setting a pretty slow pace for the day, after our marathon the day before. At near midday, the mist still hadn't cleared. As I look at the photos it seems very gray, but it never did rain.
After the turn, you walk through a large roundabout and cross a bridge over the Río Lena once again. At the interchange with the A-66, the Camino del Salvador turns to the left and picks up the frontage road on day five.
I think I said out loud, "Are you serious?" I was really hoping the Camino would drop down by the river, or something else, other than walking by the noisy A-66 again!
You have to walk on this frontage road for a full 2.25 kilometers! When you come to the long industrial building, below, you know you are nearing the end of this stretch.
This frontage road brings you out by the Cepsa truck stop at about 10 kilometers into day five on the Camino de San Salvador.
There is an alternative at this point, if you want to avoid the coming stretch along the busy asphalt of the AS-375, which has no shoulder to walk safely upon. You can find this alternative, just before reaching the Cepsa truck stop, by taking the road to the right that leads you under the A-66 and through a tunnel, and around the backside of the Cepsa complex. This is a waymarked route but is not the official Way.
Volunteers have been working diligently to improve this alternative, however there were reports late in the summer of 2023 that this alternative was impassable due to high weeds. You may wish to speak to the locals before you choose this route, or be prepared to double-back if necessary.
The off-pavement route is a bit shorter, but requires a 200 meter climb up from the A-66, then necessitating an equally steep drop through the forest and back down to follow the highway closely on the east side instead of the west, eventually rejoining the official route after 2.3 kilometers.
If you choose this alternative, you will miss the historic pilgrim’s hospital in Villallana. The choice is yours, but we chose to stick to the official Way.
It was by the Cepsa that we got very confused. We could not find any waymarks. We asked a local at the truck stop and he had no idea! We doubled back, looking for a waymark. None.
You can see on the Google map above, if you zoom in, that there is a small road that bends to the left just before the truck stop. This road is across from the tunnel, described above. It takes you around the back of the Cepsa and into the next town of Villallana (alternatively Villayana). We saw no arrow leading us left before the gas station. I have marked this as an alternative, in red, on my map so you can find it easily.
Since we didn't know about the turn before the gas station, we kept walking, and sure enough, past the gas station and past a restaurant, we spied a yellow arrow pointing to the left on this next building, a furniture (muebles) store. You can see the yellow arrow below the white fence, painted on the concrete if you look closely in the photo below.
Whichever way you choose, the distance will be the same to Villallana anyway.
Turn left by the furniture store and onto a road that winds around by the back of the Restaurant Expres. Take the first right turn towards town and cross the Río Lena again.
Take the next right after entering town and come to the Plaza de Cristo and the town church, shown below.
Pass the church, and walk up the hill to join the AS-375 in a few meters. The Camino turns right here and onto the AS-375, but if you look to your left, you will see the old 16th century pilgrim's Hospital de Nuestra Señora de la Alberguería, built in the 16th Century. You will have to take a few steps to the left to identify the building by the sign in front of it, shown in the photo below.
After turning right onto the AS-375, you will be rewarded with a blue Camino de Santiago sign, below left, assuring you that you are on the path.
Pass the Villallana (Villayana) exit sign, below right.
After leaving the hospital, it is a gentle glide down the AS-375 for approximately 1.8 kilometers. You will see plenty of yellow arrows and concrete waymarks along this stretch. Exercise extreme caution on this busy road! There is no shoulder to walk upon to keep you safe!
After walking by a large industrial building on your right, followed by a big bend in the road, look carefully for a cluster of old stone buildings for the next turn. There was a yellow arrow on the pavement, below left (the photo is looking back), telling you to turn right.
The goal is to find this footbridge, below right, to cross the Río Lena and the highway again. There is also a small, old, stone chapel-like structure just after the bridge (not-pictured). It looks like at one time it may have been a church. You reach this bridge at approximately 12.3 kilometers into the day.
Coming down the opposite side of the footbridge, the Way turns into a nice dirt lane. This is where the alternative route joins the official route
Unfortunately, the dirt doesn't last for very long, and soon turns to pavement. It is a walk of 1.1 kilometers along this road.
Next, pass a tunnel, below left, keeping straight on the road, continuing to follow the A-66 on your left, photo below right.
At about 13.5 kilometers into day five, the Camino de San Salvador joins a river trail system of the Río Aller, just after the Starglass Company and a building that looks like an old train station, but is actually an historic electric station, and crosses the river on this wooden footbridge. below.
While you have been walking along the Río Lena from the south, you have crossed the Río Aller, coming from the east. Here is where the two rivers join to become the Río Caudal. It will now be the Río Caudal that you will follow all the way into Mieres del Camino, for a total of more than six kilometers.
Continue along the Caudal River trail system after the wooden footbridge that walks you under the A-66 and through a park area, bending to the north. After 380 meters thru the park, turn left at this bridge, shown below. Cross the Río Caudal on the road.
You have now entered the town of Ujo at 14 kilometers.
Immediately after the bridge, the old route used to take a hard right to pick up the river walk on the west bank of the Río Caudal, avoiding the town of Ujo altogether. This way is shorter.
Now, the new route stays to the second right, onto the Carretera General-Uxo to walk the pilgrimage traveler through town and to the 12th century Romanesque Iglesia de Santa Eulalia de Ujo. This church was moved in the 20th century to make way for the train!
I suggest this new route if you wish to get a bite to eat and/or see the church. You know that you are getting near the church and plaza, when you see a cluster of bars up ahead. Turn left between the bars to go to the church and its square.
After your stops in town, continue along the General-Uxo Street and take any street to the right, or east to go back to the riverwalk. The official route takes you all the way to the Bo. la Vega street on the north side of town but it truly does not matter which street you take. There are no accommodations in Ujo.
You will be walking along this riverwalk for the next 5.0 kilometers until Mieres del Camino. There are more cafés along this stretch as you near the large city of Mieres, but many are difficult to reach because of fence-lines and the parallel railroad tracks. Plan on waiting until you get closer to the center of Mieres for a stop, if you need one.
It is a pleasant enough walk along the river, if rather boring, as you can see from the next photos. The Way is easy and all downhill.
Pass by several interesting geographical features. While the photos look relatively serene, the constant noise of the highway echoing through the valley continues to be your background music.
This long riverwalk is popular with the locals as an exercise trail. In the town of Santullano, walk through this tunnel, under a road.
You will know you are entering the main part of Mieres, when you come to this decorated part of the riverwalk. The footbridge to the University Albergue is near!
As you enter town, you will see a long row of commercial buildings on your left. After about 1/2 kilometer, look for the business called the "Carpintería Metálica Valle del Caudal." Just a few meters after this business, at about 19 kilometers, there is a very obvious criss-crossing pedestrian way to the right, up and over the river and the highway, the A-66. If you wish to get to the University albergue, take this foot bridge. It will bring you out to the other side to the east, and onto a pathway that leads you to an intersection with the Calle los Llerones and the Calle Vega de Arriba.
Cross the Calle los Llerones and take the narrow Calle Vega de Arriba straight on, past tennis courts on your left, and walk for another block. This street will bring you out to the Calle Gonzalo Gutiérrez Quirós, and the Residencia Universitaria (+34 625 185 301) is almost directly across the street from you. You must cross a parking area, and a traffic circle is to the immediate left of the Residencia. You must call ahead to make a reservation if you want to stay here. Click on the link to see a photo of the building, so you know what to look for. This is not exactly an albergue, but single rooms with a private bathroom at 22 euros per person.
Otherwise, continue on the Camino river walk. Finally at about 19.9 kilometers into day five on the Camino del Salvador, come to this intersection with a bridge, telling you to turn right and enter into the center of town.
Below is the bridge that takes you over the Caudal River, down the stairs on the other side, up another set of stairs and over another bridge that spans the adjacent railroad tracks.
After crossing the bridges, you stay straight on and eastward, picking up the street, the Calle Manuel Llanesa. Immediately, you are greeted by tapas bars. At the first roundabout, if you look to your right, you will see a diagonal street leading to the Old Vasco train station (Antigua Estación del Vasco) where the new municipal albergue will reside!
Continue walking through the center of town on the Calle Manuel Llanesa. We passed a big park on the left, lined with several cafés. We were very hungry and sat down at one of them. Unfortunately, they did not serve food, so we drank our beers quickly and carried on down the Camino.
The Hostal Pachín is just after the park, a few steps off the Camino, if you are interested in staying in town.
After 650 meters on the Calle Manuel Llanesa, make a left turn northward and onto our old friend, the AS-375, shown below. The street is called the Calle Teodoro Cuesta and you can see the prominent church ahead, the Parroquia de San Juan Bautista.
This is where I will end the narrative for day five. We actually continued onward for another 1.85 kilometers to the now permanently closed municipal albergue in La Peña. As I stated earlier, there is a new municipal albergue being built in Mieres, and when it will open, I don’t know. For now, the Residencia Universitaria will have to suffice!
There are many accommodations within Mieres, if you wish to stay here instead of the university albergue. Click here for a list of them on booking.com.
There is another accommodation, just south of the church (turning right at the intersection just described), the Hotel L'Albar.
The Hotel Mieres del Camino is just another 3/4 kilometer past the intersection, farther along the AS-375 to the north. It is a triangular-shaped building on a corner by a large intersection. Another option for the night.
Just after the church, is the famous Plaza de San Juan Mieres with the statue of a man pouring the cider, known as an estanciador, in Spanish. The typical Asturian houses surrounding the square are cider houses.
If you are unfamiliar with the Asturian cider tradition, and the famous pouring maneuver, see my Oviedo article where I describe it fully! It is something you must try! Plan a stop here to witness the event if you are planning to stay in town.
We read the yellow information board by the statue and considered trying to get some food here, but thought we needed a real meal, so decided against it.
Unbeknownst to us, we passed by several cafés as we walked north along the N-375 and out of town. If you are staying in the Hotel Mieres, just a bit farther north of the hotel and just beyond the Mieres city limits, is this place, the Bar Nardo, shown in the photo below. We were still very hungry. As we walked by we looked at each other, knowing that we were soon at the old, now closed albergue and not knowing what was ahead, we made the decision to stop. What a wise choice it turned out to be!
Here we had the very economical menú del día. It was a fabulous multi-course meal for a fantastic price. I would highly recommend it if you are in the area at the right time.
Just beyond the Bar Nido, after walking under the highway and through a roundabout is the Hostal La Peña (+34 985 466 715), in the town of the same name. This is yet another choice of accommodation at about 22.75 kilometers if you wish to maximize this day and don’t care to stay in the city. It is a very basic and economical place. However, very important for the pilgrimage traveler to note, it has a 24 hour café, if you have walked out of Mieres and have been unable to find an open place for breakfast, the next morning.
As I stated above, this day was not my favorite. My left knee was giving me woes, the many long stretches on the pavement were quite boring and difficult for my knee and the sound of the traffic from the highway we followed all day was not pleasant. However, if you want to get to Oviedo, you must put your head down and just do it!
While I did very little complaining, my heart did not want to complete this day. I just wasn't feeling it! My spiritual training of accepting and including all that comes my way did not work well for me. I did not want to accept nor include. And so it is and was.
For most of the day, I just wanted it to be over. Where was my "symbol and image of an active life?"
I couldn't help wondering what I was doing to myself. I did not want to create a more permanent situation with my knee. Yet I carried on because my brain believed that it was all just a repetitive motion problem that would go away. I had merely pushed myself too hard and walked too far the prior day. Time would tell, wouldn't it?
May your own day five on the Camino de San Salvador be a wonderful road, as the novelist George Sand reminds us: It is the symbol and the image of an active and varied life. May you feel this road, and may it be beautiful for you as you walk to Oviedo! Ultreia!
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Need suggestions on what to pack for your next pilgrimage? Click Here or on the photo below!
Carbon fiber construction ( not aluminum) in a trekking pole makes them ultra lightweight. We like the Z-Pole style from Black Diamond so we can hide our poles in our pack from potential thieves before getting to our albergue! There are many to choose from! ( See more of our gear recommendations! )