A journey for your soul
The Camino de Santiago isn’t just popular; it’s a treasure cherished by the world. Don’t just take my word for it—since 1993, it’s been officially recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site! How’s that for a seal of approval? With an array of routes to choose from, each with its own unique allure, the Camino routes continue to be a magnet for seekers, adventurers, and pilgrims alike
Over many, many centuries, this remarkable pilgrimage has acted as a vibrant hub for cultural exchange, bringing together folks from all over Europe and, indeed, the entire world! It’s a melting pot of traditions, languages, and experiences—a living tapestry of human connection and discovery!
In the second part of the series, NMTBP explores the different ways you can walk the Camino
What are the Camino de Santiago routes?
The Camino de Santiago routes are a network of many different paths, all leading pilgrims to the city of Santiago de Compostela. Each route has its own history, heritage and charm and there is a route for every interest and ability
Choosing the most suitable Camino walk for you is essential in order for you to make the most of this memorable experience. To help you decide, here’s a guide to choosing your perfect Camino and you can also discover the experiences of previous pilgrims
Here are the most popular routes
The Camino Frances is the most famous Camino de Santiago trail, featured in books and movies about the Camino, such as ‘The Way’ with Martin Sheen and ‘The Pilgrimage’ by Paulo Coelho. While it’s not the oldest of the routes, it has been the most popular and well-known route ever since the Middle Ages. Its popularity is so great that 55% of pilgrims walking the Camino do so on the Camino Frances
This route is 800km long and takes about 5 weeks to walk if you choose to start the journey from St Jean Pied de Port Camino Frances, but you also can start at any point along the route.
Many pilgrims begin their Camino in the Galician town of Sarria and walk the last 100 km of the Camino Frances in about a week
This route was the traditional trail to Santiago de Compostela taken by Portuguese pilgrims, and today the Camino Portugues is the second most popular trail for pilgrims. This stunning walk weaves along the coastline north of Porto in Portugal and into Spain, taking in some beautiful fishing towns and scenery. The seafood along the route is gorgeous, with fresh produce served in most restaurants
The Camino Portuguese Coastal starts in the colourful UNESCO city of Porto and follows the Atlantic Ocean before crossing by ferry to A Guarda, in Galicia, and the heart of the Rías Baixas wine region. A popular starting point is Vigo, which is at the beginning of the last 100km of the Camino Portugues to Santiago de Compostela
Spend time on the white sandy beaches of Northern Portugal and Southern Galicia and soak in the laid-back atmosphere of maritime culture on this peaceful Camino route
The total distance of the Camino from Porto to Santiago depends on the route you choose; the Coastal Route is 280 km/173 mi, and the Central Route is 260 km/161 mi. Another option is to start walking from Lisbon then the total distance to Santiago is about 630 km/391 mi
Camino del Norte
The Camino del Norte (Northern Way) begins in the stylish city of San Sebastian in Spain’s Basque Country. San Sebastian is a seaside city that is world-renowned for its culinary excellence. This paradise for food lovers is one of the top 10 cities in Europe for Michelin-star restaurants; the only food problem you’ll encounter here is choosing where to eat!
The Camino del Norte takes pilgrims along the coastal villages and towns of ‘Green Spain’, crossing the Basque Country, Cantabria and Asturias before heading inland towards Santiago, carrying pilgrims on a more off-the-beaten-track trail to Santiago
You can take a dip in the sea to cool off on one of the multitudes of gorgeous beaches and enjoy the atmosphere of the many great towns along the way
The favourite route of the Spaniards, the Camino Primitivo is the oldest of the Camino routes. Also known as the ‘Original Way’, it is the route that has been in use since at least the 9th Century, when much of Spain was under Moorish control. This challenging route starts in Oviedo in North-Eastern Spain and takes pilgrims on a 311 KM journey from Oviedo to Santiago. There is also the option to do the last 100 KM of the Camino Primitivo into Santiago.
Pilgrims walking the Camino Primitivo will have the chance to experience the UNESCO city of Lugo, considered the best place to eat in Galicia
The Camino Ingles was the preferred route for pilgrims from Britain and Ireland, who used to take the boat to one of these two coastal cities. This Camino route has two starting points: Ferrol and A Coruña, and it’s the shortest Camino route
If you start your Camino in Ferrol, you will be able to get your Compostela Certificate in Santiago as you will be walking 100km. If you start in A Coruna however, you will need to combine this route with a 25km pilgrimage in Ireland as the route from A Coruna to Santiago is only 75km
Other Camino Routes
The Camino de Santiago is not limited to the routes mentioned above. Pilgrims from all over Europe were walking to Santiago de Compostela to experience the unique nature of the trails
Other Camino Routes include:
- The Camino Finisterreis a spectacular Camino walk to the world’s end, with cliffs, lighthouses and old monasteries. This Camino has been highlighted in many Camino movies and books over the years
- The Camino Espiritual Coastalis a variant of the Portugues way, through the inlet of the “Sea of Arousa”. It’s a stunning Camino for lovers of coastal walks
- Le Chemin du Puyis a beautiful hike in rural France, taking pilgrims through some of the most magical villages and national parks on any of the Camino routes
- On the Via de la Plata, you will experience the beauty of Galicia as the charming countryside from Ourense to Santiago has remained mostly untouched
- The Camino de Invierno is the real hidden gem of the routes. It’s a variant of the Via de la Plata and starts in medieval Monforte and crosses the much-loved Ribeira Sacra wine region
There are many companies, such as Macs Adventures who offer a whole variety of routes including accommodation. They’ll even carry your bags for you between the days’ start and end points!
Who walks the Camino de Santiago?
People of all ages and backgrounds walk the Camino Routes each year. In 2019, people from 190 different countries arrived in Santiago de Compostela
Camino Statistics released from the pilgrim’s office for 2020 showed that almost 54,000 pilgrims received their Compostela, with the majority of pilgrims coming from European countries and 76% doing it for spiritual reasons
Many pilgrims do the Camino for religious or spiritual reasons, but many others experience it for its culture, heritage, or as a fitness challenge
How far do I need to walk?
The beauty of the Camino routes is that you can walk as much or as little as you want; you could spend weeks walking from Le Puy to Santiago, one month walking from St Jean Pied de Port, a week or just a few days
There is a Camino route for everyone but the one thing to keep in mind is that in order to receive your Compostela pilgrim certificate, you will need to walk at least the last 100km into Santiago de Compostela
In addition, you should stamp your Pilgrim Passport, also known as the ‘Credential’, along the way to prove that you have indeed walked the distance.
However you do it, enjoy this life-changing journey!