The Winter Way can be understood as an itinerary in itself or as a southern variation of the French Way, an alternative route between Ponferrada and Santiago. Therefore, the Winter Road allows the pilgrim several options:
1 To walk it as part of a long-haul itinerary, starting the French Way in Navarra or Aragon and travelling about 800km over approximately one month.
2 / To travel only that part or alternative route, a shorter option that requires fewer days: a complete route that can be traveled from Ponferrada over 210km.
3 / And for those who have little time at their disposal or wish to have a first pilgrimage experience, brief but that allows them to obtain the Compostela, there is the option of walking the last 100km of their route, for which the pilgrim must start in Chantada.
The complete itinerary or variation known as the Winter Way, begins in the territory of El Bierzo (province of León), in the small town of Ponferrada, from where the itinerary practically follows the Sil River bank, running through lowlands, which becomes a way and means of natural communication between León and Galicia.
The route is approximately 210 km long and it crosses the four Galician provinces. It arrives in Galicia from León through El Bierzo, making its entrance through Ourense, crossing the Valdeorras region, continuing through the south of the province of Lugo, crossing the Deza region, in the territory of the province of Pontevedra -mediations of Mount Faro- and reaches Santiago through Lalín, from where it meets up with the itinerary of the Mozárabe Way.
One of the most constant features of the Winter Road is the Miño River. A large part of the route runs beside the river, but it also crosses two other natural spaces of great importance and beauty : the archaeological park of Las Médulas, a magnificent natural area declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and the Ribeira Sacra, located in the south of the province of Lugo, a privileged natural heritage area, where amongst stunning valleys and vineyards, can be found fine examples of churches and monasteries that date back from the Baroque and Romanesque periods.
As regards its stages. The associations of pilgrims and the guides published to date, usually divide the Camino between Ponferrada and Santiago in a number of stages ranging from 7 to 10.
The main nuclei that appear as the beginning and / or end of the stage are: Ponferrada, Las Médulas, O Barco, A Rúa, Quiroga, Monforte de Lemos, Chantada, Rodeiro, A Laxe and, just before reaching Compostela, Outeiro.
Photo: We have taken this image of the Commons Wikipedia project, its author is Nieves Caridad Gómez.