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Norte Primitivo routes

Links with comments

Devices we carried

  • * iPad mini with cell service sim card – mostly used airplane mode, but sometimes the T-Mobile data/cell service was useful.
  • * LGG4 smartphones – T-Mobile service. Useful as we didn’t have to change number for callers from home, but a local sim card that had a Spanish phone number would be better if you wanted a local person, i.e. albergue host, to call you back. They will call back a Spanish number, but not necessarily your T-Mobile number, which would be an international call to them.
  • * Compass
  • * Canon digital SLR

Mandatory Websites (must reads if you are going to walk one of these routes)

  • * To find albergues, alternate routes, elevation profiles: as an example, drill down to To see the elevation profile of the route, click on ver perfil de la etapa link under the map
  • * a very useful site for estimating ways, time and costs for getting from point to point.

Useful Websites


  • * The Northern Caminos: The Norte, Primitivo and Inglés routes a Cicerone Guide by Whitson and Perazzoli (the one we used, available in both hardcopy and on Kindle) isbn 978-1852847944. See on Amazon 320 pages (We also had the Kindle reader on our devices.)
  • * The Wise Pilgrim Guide to the Camino del Norte 978-8469756980 180 pages See on Amazon
  • * The Wise Pilgrim Guide to the Camino Primitivo 978-8469798706 See on Amazon
  • * Camino Primitivo Guidebook: Pilgrim Guides: Villaviciosa-Oviedo-Melide - Stacey Wittig and Johnny Walker's Confraternity of St. James sponsered guide. See on Amazon
  • * Camino del Norte: Irún to Santiago along Spain's Northern Coast 978-1947474031 96 pages See on Amazon. This is an excellent little book with good maps and brief accommodation lists. Its biggest value for me is the trail elevation profiles, both summarized inside the cover, and with each stage. Examining the area where we got lost, just before Ribadeo, near Tol, the information is comperable to the Whitson guide, but the additional text in the Whitson guide makes things a little more clear. I would get Whitson on Kindle and carry this book in paperback form.
  • * Susan’s new book, Healing Miles. Gifts from the Caminos Norte and Primitivo 978-093603406. See on Amazon A day to day account packed with facts and a personal memoir with an overall theme about long distance hiking while dealing with parental care and our own aging bodies. 310 pages

Supplemental Books – try to look at a sample of all of these before buying

  • * Ray Jardine’s Trail Life –The foundation of lightweight backpacking 978-0963235978 See on Amazon
  • * Laurence Gonzales - Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why 978-039335371 See on Amazon good book on unintended risks.
  • We always include the two above books in any presentation on long distance hiking. The risks are less on a long European trek, but they are still there. These classic books are worth reading.


  • * Wise Pilgrim has apps for many pilgrim routes. Search on Wise Pilgrim in your App Store or your Google Play Store and they will pop up. The price will vary by route, but no more than $5 and worth it. You need Norte and the Primitivo apps.
  • * is an app that lets you preload maps when you have wifi access. Once the maps are loaded you can use the app in airplane mode, a huge battery saver, and in locations you do not have cell service or data access the app will still work. It has similar functions to Google Maps – shows current location and surroundings on a map.
  • * – there is also a website, but the app is more convenient while walking. This will find the middle range accommodations – not the albergues or agriturismos or the high end b and bs, but all the hotels and similar places. We would usually book a day ahead if we were not staying in an albergue. (in private albergues we would reserve if we could). This is most important for weekends. Telephoning the location directly might get a better rate.


Some of you have asked about the big map we have at the presentations that has all the routes in Europe. This is a French map and is available from Amazon France

Another source of maps is Ivar who does the main camino forum. His store page for map related items is

When to go

We walked in both April – May – June and Sept – Oct. Colder in the spring, but beautiful. Days were long. Many overcast. Some rain in both seasons, so carry full rain gear. July Aug will be hot, and the Norte beaches are popular, and accommodations scarce, so I would avoid that season.

Some things we thought were important

How to get there

Irún, the start of the Norte is on the Atlantic at the border of France and Spain. You can get there easily from Paris, Madrid, Barcelona or intermediate points, usually by train, but you can fly into San Sebastian, just a few miles from Irún. Use to check your options.

Oviedo, the start of the Primitivo, or Villaviciosa, the point on the Norte where the route splits off to the Primitivo, about 3 walking days before Oviedo. Oviedo is inland, but the airport that serves both Oviedo and Villaviciosa is the Austurias airport, on the coast. From here you can taxi to Villaviciosa, or take public transport to Oviedo. This is a little more complicated access than to the Norte start. Use to look at your choices.


Town stops - food and hotel rooms are a big variable. For two of us, we averaged about 100 to 150 euros per day. A minimum would be about 35 euros per person per day. If you stay in private albergues, you will be paying about 20 euros per person and you still need food for the day.

Daily lunch and snack cost per day 20 euros + per person.

Travel to and from the start and end of the route to your entry/exit airport – 1 or 2 days at each end. Use to view the choices and costs. For example Paris to Irun, start of the Norte - $100 to $180 by train, 6 hours; rideshare $67, 9 hours, etc.

Lessons Learned

Do a detailed plan, but be prepared for change. If you are using a camera that doesn't automatically adjust for timezone change, be sure to set it to local time when you arrive at your destination.

Contact Susan and Ralph - Backpack45 at – email to ask Susan for her monthly backpacking and hiking tales and tips newsletter Susan’s books: Healing Miles: Gifts from the Caminos Norte and Primitivo, Patagonia Chronicle, Camino Chronicle, We’re in the Mountains, Not Over the Hill on Amazon

Emma Gatewood first hiked the entire 2160 mile Appalachian Trail at the age of 67.  She last hiked it at the age of 76.

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