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Camino de Santiago. Vía de la Plata

Ruta de la Plata is the name given to the area between the Gulf of Cádiz and the coast of Cantabria which links the authonomous regions of Andalucía, Extremadura, Castilla y León and Asturias. This area of immense natural beauty and numerous historical cities has become a tourist attraction for many due to communication links.

From Protohistory, the Ruta de la Plata has linked man and region throughout different periods in history from the arrival of the first settlers to contemporary times and extended culture and architecture to cities and villages.

The route enters Castilla y León via the Sierra de Béjar and continues through the meadowlands of Salamanca, through the city of Salamanca and Zamora until arriving in Maragatería where the route proceeds to the Cantabrian coast via the mountains of the Puerto de Pajares.

The itinerary XXII of Antonino Caracalla

The origin of this route was the Roman Vía de la Plata route which, according to the itinerario XXII de Antonino, joined Emérita Augusta more commonly known as Mérida and Astúrica Augusta the present day Astorga.

The Calzada Romana or Roman Causeway was constructed for military purposes between 2B.C. and 1B.C. The original paving of some sections and numerous milestones preserve the Roman identity of this 313mile or 463km-long track.

The milestones - stone posts measuring approximately 2m in height - bore imperial inscriptions and measured the distance along the route.

Remains of small forts, bridges and cities with Roman origin, mark out the old Ruta de la Plata which records the largest number of milestones having kept their original position, in Castilla y León between the Puerto de Béjar mountains and Pedrosillo de los Aires on passing through Salamanca. These stones which outnumber any other remains of the Romans have lasted until present day.

The Ruta de la Plata takes 2 different courses and offers pilgrims the choice between a geographic area which takes in cities and their monuments or the old Calzada Romana (Roman Road) which is the ideal choice for hikers and pilgrims. This route meets the N-630, the ravine and roads situated along the Sierra de Béjar mountains and the railway line which is no longer in operation, in many sections.

It often meets sections of the Camino de Santiago del Sur. This explains the masses of pilgrims coming from Andalucía and other southern parts who start the Camino de Santiago in Mérida and continue to Astorga where they join the Camino Francés.

Less effort is required when doing the Vía de la Plata by car. It also means that getting to know this historic route, its landscape, the Roman roads and milestones can be done in comfort. There is no doubt that the N-630 highway, which practically runs alongside the original route, enables drivers to reach important points along the route as the villages, custodians of the Camino and also helps them understand what is involved in the so-called Camino de Santiago del Sur.

Although those who do the route by car are not eligible for the Compostela, their experience of this route, which attracts so many tourists from all over Europe, will be the same. Time is a very important factor for many people who are interested in exploring this route, leaving them with the only alternative of doing it by car. Drivers, however, are asked to take special care along certain parts of the route with pilgrims travelling on foot or by bike. By driving slowly, unfortunate accidents and unpleasant dust clouds will be avoided.

It should be highlighted that the use of a car may, along some sections of the route, spoil the charm that the mountain roads and meadowlands have for some of the pilgrims who, by walking, wish to be close to nature.

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