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Back to the French Way by the Way of the Monasteries

The valley of the river Cárdenas, at the foot of the Mountain range of La Demanda, in San Millán de la Cogolla begins this route of the Way of Saint James that from the Monasteries of Yuso and Suso returns us to the French Way allowing us to visit, if we wish it, another of the jewels of La Rioja. A return to the valley marked by the contrast that from the privileged balcony that runs the itinerary allows us to enjoy the transition between the vine and the cereal, between the mountain and the valley, where a great variety of different colors paint each season of the year leaving us well clear the diversity of this land Riojana.

Stage 8c Way of the Monasteries

The stage 08c Camino de los Monasterios with 14.1 Km or 12.7 Km depending on whether we choose one or the other route, takes us from the esplanade of the Monastery of Yuso, the Escorial of La Rioja, the town of San Millán de la Cogolla, bidding us farewell to a true treasure of history such as the Monastery of Suso, hidden in the foothills of the mountain. The rounded San Lorenzo observes us as we approach Berceo, the birthplace of the Saint who, after being a disciple of San Felices en los Riscos de Bilibio, returned to these lands to live as a hermit for forty years.

The wide valley

The cereal, the rounded hills and the immense extension of the valley of the Ebro, delimited by the line that mark the mountains of Sierra Cantabria amenizan us the route that passes by road. If we take the decision to continue towards Cañas, we will find ourselves getting to know another of the magnificent places we can find in La Rioja, the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Salvador, better known as the Monastery of the Light, abbey of Cistercian nuns of the order of Saint Bernard, one of the first to be found on the peninsula.

Cereal imposes its presence

In order to continue from here to the encounter of the French Way not before passing through Alesanco, cradle of an illustrious character of the history of Spain D. Zenón de Somadevilla and Bengoechea, the Marquis of the Ensenada. The parish of Santa María de la Asunción from the 16th century bid us farewell to this locality, which precedes our reunion with the route of the French Way, in Azofra, from where we will continue together again towards Santiago. The other option takes us quickly to Villar de Torre, making us cross from side to side this locality for, in an incessant soft and low to go towards the other point of union with the French Way that we will find it in Cirueña, small locality from where we will take again the course towards Santo Domingo de la Calzada, after crossing the population.

The Trick

In the same Cañas we can find the road that after our visit to the monastery allows us to return to the variant that leads directly to Cirueña, so pilgrims who want to return to the French Way in this town can avoid missing the visit to this interesting place.

Pet area, the Way of St. James with my dog

A complicated route not because of its physical demands, nothing out of the ordinary, but rather because of the conditions that the asphalt can provide due to the absence of shade, which added to the always dangerous progression by road make this a difficult stage for our companion.

The absence of water points, except in the localities, added to the high temperatures that in summer we can find forces us not to get lost with the water. There are very few places where we can make our friend enjoy the coolness that brings the shade.

Except for the mascots that to the passage by the localities we will be able to find us it is not very habitual to cross with more company that the one of the vehicles that cross the highway for the one that we go.

Sendigrino Ico_Hotel Ico_Albergue Ico_Hostal Ico_Restaurante IcoCafeteria Ico_Supermercado Ico_Farmacia Ico_Cajeroautomatico Ico_Veterinario Ico_Taller_de_BTT
San Millán de la Cogolla Ico_Ok   Ico_Ok Ico_Ok Ico_Ok Ico_Ok        
Berceo     Ico_Ok Ico_Ok Ico_Ok          
Cañas       Ico_Ok Ico_Ok          
Alesanco     Ico_Ok Ico_Ok Ico_Ok Ico_Ok        
Azofra Ico_Ok Ico_Ok     Ico_Ok Ico_Ok        
Villar de Torre         Ico_Ok          
Cirueña   Ico_Ok                

Description of stage 8c Way of the Monasteries of the French Way

From San Millán de la Cogolla to Berceo 1,9 Km

We begin the tour in the Monastery of Yuso, in San Millán de la Cogolla (0h 00min), crossing the street that brought us here and bordering the walls of the monastery leaving it to our back.

Main Street

We follow the long main street that crosses the whole town, leaving behind us all the streets that come out in our way.

Seguimos la calle principal que está adoquinada

Just at the exit of the town and in the middle of the crossroads with the road that arrives from Berceo entering in San Millán by the Mayor street, with the one that arrives from Estollo, we will see in front of us a way that to the other side of this one continues in direction to Berceo parallel to the road.

Crossroads with the road

The route continues, along this asphalted road, between orchards and estates following the course of the nearby river hidden behind the grove of its banks.

Beginning of the path from Santa María to Berceo

The path soon reaches the vicinity of the next village, coinciding with this section of the Route of Gonzalo de Berceo, which is part of The Steps of the Saint, a set of routes that connect the monasteries with nearby towns.

The way turns to the left and ascends towards Berceo

After a while, the track turns to the left, leaving to our right another one that goes towards the river, where the Way arrives from Nájera and Badarán. Beginning a gentle ascent that takes us to another crossroads where we return to follow the street on the left that enters between the buildings to exit the town hall square of Berceo (0h 25min), but not before forcing us to turn a couple of times to reach it.

We continue on the left

From Berceo to the Bifurcation 4,3 Km

The road that arrives from San Millán is in charge of leading us through Berceo, making us leave its church on our left.

We have to go through the locality

From now on, the road will be the one that sets the course for us without giving us even a small respite during the whole stage. The route takes us to the outskirts of the town, where we will find the first of the many crosses that we will have to pass.

At almost all junctions we have to go straight ahead

As in the vast majority of them we will not have to divert as the journey continues straight without major complications. There is a section waiting for us that, in addition to the practically absence of hard shoulders, we have to add the drawings that the road traces in order to cross the hills that stand in our route and that force us to keep going up and down.

The road with almost no hard shoulder guides us at all times

The road that we don't have to abandon at any moment advances until the roundabout where we will have to decide which Way we choose.

We reach the fork in the road.

When you reach its height, the route meets its bifurcation (1h 40min), where there are two options, the first is to continue straight ahead directing our steps towards Cañas and its monastery, the second diverts us to the left towards the nearby Villar de Torre.

From the bifurcation to Azofra 7,9 Km

We continue towards Cañas

If we have decided to continue towards Cañas, the time has come for us to undertake a gentle descent that accompanies us until the end of the route. Long straight lines await us, and the road will mark the straight line to follow at all the crossroads we pass through.

We must cross Cañas following the road

With hardly any time to assimilate the change of landscape that without realizing it is taking place around us, the route introduces us to Cañas (2h 20min).​

We leave Cañas

The locality extends around the road that does not separate from us making us pass through the locality taking us to the doors of the Monastery of Light, or Monastery of Santa Maria del Salvador.

We continue along the road

The itinerary leaves behind him Cañas and his monastery to continue with the progressive and straight descent that allows us to contemplate in the horizon the silhouette of the Toloño that delimits for that side the valley of the Ebro. There are several localities that, near the road, invite us to visit them by taking one of the crossroads that we pass on the roads that lead to them.

We continue straight on at all crossroads

Canillas de Río Tuerto presents itself to us shortly after leaving Cañas, but the route goes by dodging it maintaining the rigorous course marked by the main road. The next one is Torrecilla Sobre Alesanco, a little more separated from the road but through whose municipal district we will have to pass through the course of our way.

We arrived at Alesanco

Little by little, the straight line of the road brings us closer to the next town that we now have to cross. Alesanco (3h 00min), takes us out of the monotonous route making us cross part of its streets following our road that now makes the main street.

The same road leads us to our passage through the town

The church and the town hall, mark our arrival at the town square, where as could not be otherwise we must follow the course that our companion tells us to find the continuation of the route.

We are going to the outskirts of Alesanco

Without having taken any detour, the itinerary leads us to the outside of Alesanco from where we can already sense the near end of the stage. The locality is now behind us while Azofra is gradually approaching us.

We approach Azofra

Again without paying any attention to how many crossings we find, the Way takes us to the outskirts of the locality in search of the crossroads where we will meet again with the French Way.

The last few metres before we rejoin the French Way

To our right, in the same crossing where both itineraries are unified, there is the street that would introduce us to Azofra (3h 30min) if we followed it. While the Way continues straight on following the route that will take us towards Cirueña and Santo Domingo de la Calzada.

From the bifurcation to Cirueña 6,5 Km

Villar de Torre awaits us

If our choice is to go directly to Cirueña without visiting the monastery of Cañas, the road on the left leads us to the nearby Villar de Torre (1h 55min).​

We cross Villar de Torre

This new road makes us cross the town not allowing us to deviate at any time. Villar de Torre remains behind us while we head towards a long stretch that maintains the irregular unevenness that accompanied us here, combining long straight lines until the end with undulating stretches that make us recover and lose height again.

The road sets the course for us

Once again we advance ignoring all the crosses that come our way, the relative closeness of the rounded mountains that escort us amuse our walk on the grey asphalt. Without too many complications that those that the own road raises us we are approaching until Cirueña.

Atravesamos la población

The road to our arrival at the town again serves as a reference to continue making us cross Cirueña (3h 20min) without major problems.

On the outskirts of Cirueña we find the French Way

Already in the outskirts of the locality when it seems that we should say goodbye to it, on our right we are joined by the layout of the French Way, and together we continue descending towards a roundabout where we will take the track that will take us to Santo Domingo de la Calzada.​


Technical details of stage 8c Way of the Monasteries

ico-distancia-totalDistance. 14.1Km o 12.7Km

Please note that the distance to the point where you decide to end your journey must be added to these figures.

ico-tiempo-totalTime. 3:30h o 3:20h

Without a great difference of distance between bot:possibilities it is the difference of the profile that we must assume the one that practically equals the time that we have to spend in crossing them. If it is convenient to count wit:the continuity that already in the route of the Frenc:Way we are going to give to our stage, not to find us wit:surprises.

ico-calendarioTime of year

When traveling by road we avoid the inconveniences that dirt roads can have. The landscape is one more incentive in this stage since its great variety offers us during the whole year a nourished presence of diverse colors that paint the valley and the mountains wit:the special characteristics of eac:epoch.

ico-materialRequired equipment

The asphalt that dominates the whole route and the absence of great difficulties allows us to face the two slopes wit:trekking shoes. It is not superfluous to wear some reflective garment or bracelet that facilitates being seen by the drivers. Canes, water and food are good travel companions that we cannot leave behind. For the rest, to condition our equipment to the climatic conditions and to take, of course, the protection against the sun is in principle all that the stage asks us. Consult our list of material and equipment to make the Way. Read more

ico-dificultadDifficulty. Medium


Neither of the two possibilities alone have a great physical demand, rather they are relatively simple routes for someone accustomed to the style imposed by the Way. It is when we add them to the rest of the route that we must travel to get to where we have set out, when there can be great differences. While the variant that goes throug:Cirueña normally extends to Santo Domingo without increasing the effort too muc:for it, if we go throug:Azofra and we also want to finis:in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, we will have to make an important effort not only to travel more kilometers but also to have to recover part of the lost height following a profile wit:some ramp of entity.


The route, almost entirely by road, constantly exposes us to traffic, as there is hardly any hard shoulder that separates us in part from it. The large straight lines partly improve our safety as they can be seen more easily, but there are several winding sections or those wit:changes in gradient where visibility is almost non-existent. Even so, it is more or less common to see the locals walking along the road, taking advantage of the relatively little traffic on certain dates.


As soon as we set foot on the asphalt we will find a route that is practically unmarked, due in part to the fact that it coincides wit:the road, the signposting of whic:leaves no doubt as to the right pat:to follow. It is in our passage throug:Berceo where the most turns will make us follow the twisted streets that lead to the town hall square, nothing that should cause us greater problems to follow the correct route that leads to the road.

Important places to pass through
1-San Millán de la Cogolla 0:00h 735m 0Km 30T 511062 4686031
2-Berceo 0:25h 725m 1.9Km 30T 512150 4687338
3-Bifurcation 1:40h 747m 6.2Km 30T 511954 4690842
4-Cañas 2:20h 643m 8.8Km 30T 512688 4693342
5-Alesanco 3:00h 565m 12.2Km 30T 515058 4695784
6-Azofra 3:30h 540m 14.1Km 30T 516226 4696963
4-b-Villar de Torre 1:55h 759m 7.2Km 30T 511142 4691069
5-b-Cirueña 3:20h 741m 12.7Km 30T 508526 4695659

Coordinates UTM Datum WGS84

Stage Profile

Profile of Stage 8c Way of the Monasteries of the Frenc:Way

ico-desnivel-acumuladoSlope: 384m

ico-desnivel-positivoSlope +: 96m

ico-desnivel-negativoSlope -: 288m

ico-altitud-maximaMaximum altitude: 747m

ico-altitud-minimaMinimum altitude: 540m

Cartography, maps and tracks

Map of Stage 8c Way of the Monasteries of the Frenc:Way

This sketc:of the route is not made to scale nor does it contain all the information relating to the area, it is merely indicative.

Topographical Map Stage 8c Way of the Monasteries Frenc:Way


This schematic wit:the pat:is approximate and has been created from the derived cartographic base © Instituto Geográfico Nacional "Cuadrante 203, 202, 241 y 240 1:50.000".

Senditur has manipulated the tracks to correct the aberrant points that may exist, caused by problems wit:the reception of the GPS signal. In any case the tracks are always approximate. SENDITUR encourages you to use the new technologies within your reach, using them as support and consultation in your activity, not basing the realization and orientation of the same only and exclusively on them, since they may see their functioning altered by very diverse causes, not functioning correctly and their indications may not be precise.

A green oasis
Monastery of Light
Monastery of Suso
Monastery of Yuso
Mount Toloño
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Monastery of Yuso
San Millán de la Cogolla, La Rioja
Monastery of Yuso
Monastery of Suso
San Millán de la Cogolla, La Rioja
Monastery of Suso

Cradle of the Castilian and pantheon of the seven Castilian heroes

Monastery of Santa María del Salvador
Cañas, La Rioja
Monastery of Santa María del Salvador

Also known as the Monastery of Light

Monastery of Valvanera
Anguiano, La Rioja
Monastery of Valvanera

Location of the Virgin of Valvanera, Patron Saint of La Rioja

Monastery of Santa María la Real
Nájera, La Rioja
Monastery of Santa María la Real

Emblematic place that reflects the stages of history, art and culture of the area


¿Did you know that...

The Monastery of San Santa Maria de San Salvador of Cañas is known by the nickname of the Monastery of the Light, receives this nickname thanks to the special light it has inside, due to the replacement of the stained glass windows of its windows by pieces of alabaster that added to the orientation of the building make its interior a unique place for its lighting.

Don't miss out...

The monotonous asphalt can make us fall into the mistake of missing the magnificent landscapes that surround us throughout the route, from this apparently inexpressive route we will have the opportunity to contemplate the variety of landscapes that this area of La Rioja has and discover how gradually vary from one area to another.


Where the Primitive Way passes through

Go to Material and equipment to make the Way of St. James What to bring?

5 Reasons why you should do the Primitive Way


Respect the Way Keep it clean

From the commitment of SENDITUR with Nature and the respect to the balance of the environment, SENDITUR urges you to travel in a responsible way, with low environmental impact and respecting at all times the Natural, Cultural and Social environment wherever you go.



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This route has been carried out in the field by SENDITUR on 28-09-2018. The route may vary greatly depending on the time of year, weather conditions and terrain, as well as the actions of third parties and the evolution suffered in the natural environment where it is located. All opinions, advice and/or assessments made by SENDITUR in their descriptions are for guidance only and are subject to and/or refer to the specific conditions of the specific day of the route, referring to that specific day, taken from trained people, with the appropriate experience and with a high level of physical and technical preparation as a reference, as well as correctly equipped.

All the times are approximate and take an orientative character, the stops have not been taken into account, no matter how small they are. All the information related to the route, texts, images, videos, maps, diagrams, tracks, towns, and places of tourist interest are published as a guide, and may not coincide with the current state of each place. Before undertaking any activity, assess your technical knowledge, your physical condition, find out about the weather and the variations that the route may undergo, equip yourself correctly, be prudent and responsible at all times, and do not exceed your capabilities. SENDITUR is not responsible for any misuse or inappropriate use of the comprehensive guides of its routes and/or publications as well as its electronic guides, nor for any variations in their descriptions for the aforementioned reasons, and recommends that everyone be responsible and prudent in carrying out the activity. We also encourage you to read books and specialised guides to complement the information described above.

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