This is one of my favorite days in the Camino de Santiago. You might wonder I walked such a long distance for this stage. Well that’s simply because I was really enjoying it and I felt strong to continue, so why would I have stopped? However there are many alternatives to make this stage shorter, actually the most common thing would be to split it in two, for example staying in the abandoned village of Foncebadon which has a couple of hostels. As you see at this point I was making up for those lazy days of short stages back in the meseta.
After Astorga, the village of Rabanal del Camino is quite charming with its stone architecture and could be a good point for having a breakfast of “brunch”. After Rabanal one realizes that mountains are everywhere and Camino de Santiago starts ascending. I loved this change of scenery. As I said before this leads to Cruz de Ferro, the highest point in Camino de Santiago. So following a lovely earth track pilgrims reach Foncebadon, what could be the end of a stage of 20 something km. Foncebadon was abandoned in the 60s and 70s due to strong immigration to big cities like Madrid. In the last decade of the past century the village has revived thanks to Camino de Santiago and now has services for the pilgrims such as hostel and restaurant. It’s very picturesque and feels like time travelling.
Leaving Foncebadon behind the ascension to Cruz de Ferro continues always along a nice path. There is a beautiful ritual about the Cruz de Ferro: pilgrims carry in their backpack from home or pick up along the pilgrimage some little stone or something “heavy” (well let’s say dense, let it be small, no need to bring a brick!) which symbolizes “something” they want to leave behind, forget, or move forward from… These small stones are left around the Cruz de Ferro and the backpacks become lighter and hopefully something else would become lighter within the pilgrim… I didn’t do it, mostly because I didn’t know about this ritual until I got to the very Cruz de Ferro but I just think it is a beautiful one and maybe some of you would like to try it.
After Cruz de Ferro there is a prolonged descend until Molinaseca in a nice valley and on the shore of a nice river. However, still high on the mountain and not too far from Cruz de Ferro, el Camino goes through El Acebo which can be seen from above the slope like a dream with its black slate roofs and stone cute houses. In El Acebo there is also pilgrim’s hostel open in summer so it is another possibility of shortening the stage.
Finally Molinaseca, already in the Bierzo area, is also a nice stone village with a fluvial beach on the cold water river which can be very enjoyable for the tired pilgrims’ bodies and a couple of pilgrim’s hostels and wide range of restaurants and bars. In overall Molinaseca is a very nice place for spending the night.
“I split this stage of El Camino de Santiago in two:
- The first day I walked from Astorga to Foncebadón, a little village but where you can find three albergues. There’s a charming parish albergue where you’ll sleep in a chapel.
- Then the second day from Foncebadón to Ponferrada (7 km afterMolinaseca).
During this day you’ll be able to admire the sun rising from la Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross), where you can leave your stone, and leave your problems go with it… then you’ll pass by Manjarín, where you’ll see one of the peculiarities of el Camino de Santiago: the albergue of Manjarín, ruled by the ‘Last Templar’ –that’s how he calls himself–.
And then, after a steep downhill strech you’ll find a natural swimming pool at the river in Molinaseca! I really thought than I deserved to spend the afternoon there. Who is in a rush? After a rest and a swim in that cool water, 7 km to Ponferrada are nothing.”
Contribution of Helen