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This is Part 2 of my series on albergues I stayed at and where I wish I stayed on the Camino. You can read Part 1 here.
Being a city, Ponferrada had lots of hotel choices but only one albergue, as I noted before. Walking from Ponferrada, you’ll find fields, some scenic and some not so much, and a couple of villages…till you meet the village of Cacabelos.
Albergue: Locals call the Albergue de Peregrinos de la Augustina de Cacabelos (Pl. de Santuario) the Old Church, since the albergue was built around the church. Yes, around: the rooms form a ring around the church, with a courtyard in between. As you walk through Cacabelos, you’ll spot the New Church in the centre; follow the road that passes the New Church on the left till you reach a river, where you’ll see the Old Church on the other side.
No. of Beds: There are 2 beds per room, for a total of 70 beds, or 35 rooms. Yay! No bunkbeds or dorms!!!
Caveat: The rooms’ dividing walls don’t extend to the ceiling, so they’re open to one another at the roofline. If a fellow pilgrim is snoring 3 rooms down, it’ll sound like he (invariably the snorers were men) is in your room.
Note: I got the VERY LAST BED! A gent came in a minute after me, and he was given a mattress, which he placed on a stone bench beside the picnic area. That’s what happens when albergues are full – you get a mattress instead of a bed!
Blankets: Yes. A must, as those walls were thin and the nights were cold.
Washrooms: Modern facilities, with stainless steel sinks and lots of light, 3 shower stalls and 3 toilets (for the women; not sure what the men’s washroom looks like). Maybe it’s because I got there late, went to bed late and woke up late, but I never saw anyone else in the women’s washroom.
Kitchen: No, but there’s an outdoor shelter you can picnic under. And Cacabelos has lots of restaurants, bars, cafés and bakeries on various streets, so there’s plenty of food to be found.
Patio: Yes! It’s all patio! Check out the picture below.
Vibe: Old world, green. Loved, loved, loved this albergue. From the outside, you can admire the church’s façade and the charming stone wall encircling it (the wall is the exterior wall for a ring of hostel rooms). Inside, it’s one big courtyard, where you can sit on your doorstep, listening to the rustling leaves, or you can picnic under the outdoor shelter, or you can dry your laundry on the racks.
Curfew: 11 p.m.!
Cost: 5 €.
Bonus: Cacabelos has tons of restaurants and bakeries, plus a pharmacy. This was exciting news for me, as my feet were painfully blistered and in need of some Compeed blister bandages and Cristalmina antiseptic spray.
Albergue: Painted a sunny yellow, the Albergue Crispeta (tel. 620 329 386; 987 566 529) is across the lumber yard and right on the Camino.
No. of beds: 20 (3 dorms, with 3 to 4 bunkbeds in each). The bunkbeds were sturdy and comfy, and the room actually felt warm at night, which was a first for me! None of the albergues are insulated, and the stone walls can make them quite cold overnight, but this one was warm and cosy. Yay!
Blankets: Yes! Always a plus.
Washrooms: Only 1 for everyone, so y’all gotta take turns!
Kitchen: Yes. The kitchen/dining area is big and cosy, with a dining table in the middle. We hung out in the kitchen, eating cherries till the wee hours. OK, OK, we only stayed up chatting until 11 p.m. But to a pilgrim, 11 p.m. is like 3 a.m.!
Patio: I’d have enjoyed lounging on the upstairs patio if it hadn’t rained upon us arriving on the doorstep; the street-level patio would make a nice breakfast spot.
Vibe: Like home. The small dorms are upstairs while the restaurant is downstairs. The resto was closed by the time we got there (around 5 p.m.). There’s a computer, and the owner kindly installed Skype on it so my friend could make a long-distance call.
Curfew: 10 p.m.
Cost: 5 €.
Bonus: There’s a little grocery store a short walk up the road, and according to my guidebook, there’s a pharmacy. We found a charming vegetarian restaurant/pension that had a large communal table, which had us swapping stories with strangers all night long. Such is the Camino!
There are only 2 places to stay in the restored Celtic village of La Faba: The hippie 7-bed Vegetarian Refugio and the 66-bed German-run Albergue de La Faba. This popular albergue is located on picturesque leafy grounds and is a scenic rest stop if you don’t want to continue the 5.5 kilometre climb up to O’Cebreiro. La Faba is much quainter than O’Cebrerio – you won’t regret staying here.
Albergue: The Albergue de La Faba is one of my favourite albergues, simply because the grounds are so scenic. Surrounded by lush trees and offering both sun and shade, this albergue is the perfect place to take an outdoor nap. If you’d rather enjoy the view, you can do that too, as the grounds overlook the footpath. If you’re arriving on foot, the albergue will be one of the first things you see when you reach La Faba (it will be on your right); if you’re arriving on bike, you’ll have taken the road, in which case you will enter the village on the far side and will have to walk your bike here.
No. of beds: 66 (spread out over 3 dorms). The main dorm is shown here. There’s a semblance of privacy, as pairs of bunkbeds are divided by half walls. The wood beams and roof add rustic charm.
Camping: Yes, camping is possible if you have your own tent. I had lots of fun helping an American set up his Big Agnes Seedhouse 1-person tent next to the church (I used to have the same tent and got a kick out of setting it up in 5 minutes!).
Cyclists: Yes, there’s bike storage here.
Washrooms: Only 3 showers and 3 toilets (each for men and women). This is the only hostel I stayed in where there was always a line for the facilities.
Laundry: There’s a washer, dryer, washbasins and plenty of clotheslines.
Kitchen: The kitchen/lounge is spacious and well stocked.
Patio: Lots of green space here! I had a relaxing time picnicking on the stone ledge that overlooks the Camino, and could have napped there all day if it hadn’t poured. A few of us waited out the rain outside, sitting on the benches and stone floor under the church’s porch (see below).
Vibe: Idyllic. This albergue, originally a 15th-century rectory, is surrounded by trees and overlooks the walking trail. It also has its own little stone church, San Andrés, which dates to 1180. The day I was in La Faba, monks drove down from O’Cebrerio to hold a service where they wash the pilgrims’ feet. Chatting with one of the monks, I learned he’d visited their order in Toronto!
Curfew: 10 p.m.
Cost: 5 €.
Bonus: For a little village, La Faba has enough amenities to satiate hungry pilgrims: 2 restaurants (you have to make a reservation at the Vegetarian Refugio if you want to eat there) and a small grocery store.
If there hadn’t been room in La Faba, I’d have continued hiking up the mountain to La Laguna (which ended up being a not-so-pretty village with lots of cows) or O’Cebrerio. The Albergue O’Cebrerio (tel. 660 396 809), which has a whopping 80 beds, has a reputation from the yellow German Camino guidebook as always being full, which might be why so many people stopped in La Faba instead. The view from the popular albergue of the famous fog hanging over the nearby villages is shown above. I preferred La Faba over O’Cebrerio, though O’Cebrerio offers more accommodation (the albergue and pensions), a bigger restaurant, and a gift shop. (I think the gift shop was what turned me off, even though I was able to buy stamps and postcards.)
HOSPITAL DE LA CONDESA
OK, so I’m cheating with this photo. It’s a pic of the bar, not the 18-bed Albergue de Hospital de la Condesa (tel. 660 396 810; 982 161 336). I stopped at Hospital for a drink, but I figure that a quaint mountain village with a public water trough and a bar with an antique loom in back must have a nice albergue too.
Another village I didn’t stay in, Filloval was just the refugio in the middle of fields galore…and these cows beside the picnic tables next to the refugio. If I’d been on my own, I would have stayed here to enjoy the surrounding countryside. It’s one of those accommodations that weren’t in any of our guidebooks.
Albergue: The municipal albergue, Albergue de Triacastela (669 396 811; 982 548 087), is the first thing you see on your left when you exit the woods and approach Triacastela. Two buildings in a grassy field overlooking the mountains, the albergue is just outside the village, so you’ve only a short walk to restaurants and grocery stores.
No. of beds: 56. There are 2 bunkbeds per room, with the rooms closed off from the hallway by saloon-style swinging half-doors. It’s just enough privacy that you might not hear snoring from the room next door!
Washrooms: I don’t know about the men’s washroom, but the women’s had only 2 toilets and 2 showers. As with all the municipal albergues, the showers are Euro style, i.e., they’re open to one another. If you’re modest, these showers aren’t for you.
Vibe: Much like the albergue in Riego de Ambros, I found the Triacastela albergue to be rather empty, with a handful of people hanging around out front, line-drying laundry or sitting on the grass. I really liked being surrounded by fields. The view isn’t all that (see photo at right), but I’d rather be amidst fields than be in the centre of town, even a pretty town.
Curfew: 11 p.m.
Cost: 5 €.
Bonus: Triacastela has a pharmacy, so you know I stocked up on more Compeed blister patches. It also has 2 large grocery stores, a bakery, lots of albergues and refugios, plus a few restaurants on the main road and in the Old Town.
This is the Part 2 of a 5-part series on albergues between León and Santiago. Part 3 is coming up soon!
For more on my Camino, check out:
Camino Albergues: Where to Stay Between León and Ponferrada
León, Spain: My First Steps on the Camino de Santiago
Walking the Camino, Day 2: León, Spain
The Way of the Lightweight Backpacker