From El Acebo to Ponferrada via the Valle de Silencio (Peñalba de Santiago) is more than 40km. It's a quiet alternative from the main route, through a beautiful valley. If you stay in El Acebo and start off early in the morning you can arrive in Ponferrada late in the day. You may also be able to stay in Compludo (4km after El Acebo) or Espinoso de Compludo (9 km after El Acebo) but you need to book ahead. A good place to stop for the day is Peñalba de Santiago; again, you should book ahead. See the text below for phone numbers of places to stay. Josefina who runs the store (Casa Josefina) in El Acebo is very knowledgeable about the route by foot to the Valle de Silencio. From the park just past her store, you can look west across the valley and see Espinoso de Compludo, one of the towns you will pass through on your way to Peñalba de Santiago.
El Acebo to Ponferrada (42km)
Leave El Acebo on the road/camino and at the end of town just after the Hermita and the statue to a fallen cyclist, turn left to walk down the paved minor road that is signed Compludo. Continue all the way down to the valley bottom ignoring the left-hand road to Carascedo de Compludo. Pass Herrerias and 1km later enter the village of Compludo (café, restaurant, rooms).
Casa Rural La Herreria phone 649 390 550 or 660 215 701
Casa del Ermitaño phone 987 695 511
Turn right at the church to walk up the main street passing the first of 2 fountains, the bar, the meson and the casa rural. At the top of town, at the second fountain, take the track to the right which is signed Espinoso de Compludo. This gravel road takes you up and out of the valley to a ridge and a tv/electrical tower. Once at the top you can see Espinoso de Compludo in the distance. Continue on the track and enter Espinoso de Compludo (restaurant, rooms) at a fountain with non-potable water. At the church turn left down the paved road signed Ponferrada.
Posada del Amanecer phone 987 695 439; double 60 euros
Los Cuatro Estaciones phone 987 970 092; double 65 euros, single 50 euros; bed & breakfast
Before heading down the road, look across to the west and to the town that is on the ridge two valleys over. This is San Cristobal and it is where you are heading. Walk 200m on the road signed Ponferrada. At the first bend in this road, take the dirt track that goes up to the left between the car park and the road. You are now entering the least well-marked 5km of the route. Stay to the right at a "Y" when a smaller track veers off to the left. You are walking with cherry trees on your right and the highway is down below you. Stay on this track, crawling under animal fences if need be. The track veers left and down to the valley below. From the valley bottom climb up the hill on the obvious but narrow trail. You are walking around a hill by first going to the right and then to left. Then head back down into the next valley. These two valleys are not huge but you do go up, down, up and down again before you arrive on the plateau and see San Cristobal. Walk for 2km alongside of the ridge passing huertas (small gardens) and fruit trees. Enter San Cristobal de Valdueza (café, rooms) and at the main street turn left. (A right turn on this road takes you down to Ponferrada, 14km away).
Casa de Abril phone 619 284 550; complete 4 bed house, 80 euros
Walk up the main street passing two bars and a fountain before you leave town on the main road. (This road heads to Bouzas and on to the local ski hill, El Morredero.) On the mountain ahead you can see the cuts made by two roads. You will be taking the lower one. Pass a picnic area and 400m after the last house in town, turn right onto a well-maintained smooth surfaced but unpaved road walking under the power lines to do so. Look for the yellow arrow and the words "2hr" written on one of the power line support poles. Follow this road for about 5.5 km heading west and then south and then east along the edge of the mountain. You will finally see the valley that heads up to Peñalba de Santiago and you will see the town of San Pedro de Montes far below you. After a few more bends in this road you will see Peñalba de Santiago far below. Continue on this road another 2 km heading down until you reach the Peñalba-Ponferrada road. Turn left onto this road and walk into Peñalba de Santiago (café, restaurant, rooms).
Bar/Meson La Cantina phone 987 695 370, has rooms. Paco and Charo may be able to help you with a place to stay if they don’t have a room
CR Turpesa phone 987 425 566 or 615 454 589; 3 bedroom house
Casa Elba phone 988 322 037; 3 bedroom house
If you want to visit Cuerva de San Genadio, a cave that was once home to a tenth-century monk who founded the monastery at Peñalba dedicated to St James, it is another 2km up the valley from Peñalba. There is a map posted in the village and the path to the cave is signed.
Leave Peñalba on the road that you entered on. Pass the car park and keep walking down the narrow road that goes to Ponferrada. After about 1km, follow the sign to the right indicating the trail to Herreria de Montes (PR LE-14). This is a narrow trail that travels down the valley above and parallel to the road. After 5km or so, walk steeply down to join the road at Herreria de Montes (no actual town) which you reach at a lock/dam on the river. Cross the river on the lower of the two steel bridges and push open the big gate to the right to walk up to the road.
(If you want to visit Montes de Valdueza there is a marked trail from Peñalba, the Sendero Circular de la Tebaida Bercian PR LE-14.This trail takes you to the cave and hermitage of San Genadio and then up to the Chano Collado mountain (1305m) and then back down to Montes de Valdueza (bar) where there are the ruins of the Benedictine Monastery of San Pedro de Montes. From Montes de Valdueza the trail continues on the far side of the town down to Herreria de Montes. There is no place to stay in Montes de Valdueza).
For more information on the Sendero Circular de la Tebaida Berciana, see www.revistaiberica.com/rutas_y_destinos/cl/penalba/senderismo.htm.
For more information on La Senda de los Monjes from Montes de Valdueza to Ponferrada, see www.revistaiberica.com/rutas_y_destinos/cl/penalba/sendadelosmonjes.htm.)
From Herreria de Montes walk carefully down the narrow road to San Clemente de Valdueza, (Alternatively, after the sign to Manzanedo and before crossing the river on the road bridge, take the track to the left to follow the south side of the Rio Oza and walk into San Clemente de Valdueza). After San Clemente continue on the road walking through Valdefrancos (café), and finally meet up with highway LE 1584 just before entering San Esteban de Valdueza.
Turn right to walk along this highway the 6km to Ponferrada or continue across the highway and walk into San Esteban de Valdueza (café, restaurant). From San Esteban it is possible to walk along the Senda de los Monjes and avoid walking on the LE 1584 highway. Walk through San Esteban and head to the church. Walk past the main door of the church and take the track that veers up to the right 50m later. This track takes you up and out of the valley heading towards the highway and Ponferrada. You are on the PR LE-14 but signage is hard to see as it is signed in the opposite direction. Reach the highway (LE 1584), walk 50m on it and then take the gravel road to the left. This takes you up to the Alto de Valdecañada with views down to Ponferrada and the town of San Lorenzo in the foreground. Again, you could stay on the highway and walk down to San Lorenzo. From San Lorenzo there is a bus to Ponferrada as well as a sidewalk along the highway all the way to the junction with the camino from Campo.
Walk through fields, vineyards and scrub. Before heading down to Ponferrada, enter Otero. Take the first left as you enter the village then take the second right to head to the Romanesque Iglesia de Santa Maria de Vizbayo. You will join up with the camino route that passes through Campo just before crossing the bridge over the Rio Boeza and entering Ponferrada. If you are going to the albergue in Ponferrada keep straight on to cross over the railway tracks on the road bridge. At the intersection with a cross in the centre, turn right and walk to the albergue, a large building with a giant pilgrim image on it. If you are heading into Ponferrada or continuing on the camino, turn left after the bridge over the Rio Boeza following the camino signs.
researched and written by Daphne Hnatiuk