Before setting off on your pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, make sure you know about all the routes available.
Although extremely challenging, the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage in northwest Spain is the most rewarding experience you may ever experience in your life.
Camino de Santiago Pigrimage
Translating to “The Way of St James”, the Camino is a pilgrimage of medieval origin, which leads to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, in the northwest of Spain. As the legend goes, Saint James was buried here, to be discovered by a shepherd in the 9th century.
The route itself has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage for its crucial role in promoting significant cultural exchanges between pilgrims from all over the world for many centuries.
Today, the Camino has become to be considered much more than a pilgrimage, representing a truly unique experience for thousands of people.
What is Camino de Santiago?
The pilgrimage has many different routes, ranging from a short 120km walk to a long and challenging 800km or even 100km route. Your choice depends on how much time you have and how far you’re willing to walk.
The tradition of walking the Camino goes back to the 9th century when the Spanish King Alonso II completed the first-ever pilgrimage from Santiago de Compostela from Oviedo. The Camino is really more of a network of routes rather than a single route, mainly in Spain. There are even some starting from Portugal and France, finishing in Santiago.
What Are the Different Routes?
There are many different starting points to complete the pilgrimage. Traditionally, pilgrims would start their journey from their own homes, however other ways have emerged over the centuries. Here are six of the most popular and common routes:
1. Camino Frances
“The French Way” is the most popular route, with about 55% of all pilgrims choosing this path. This way starts in Saint Jean Pied de Port, which borders Spain. The total walking distance is 790km. About half of the pilgrims who choose this route only complete the last 100km walking from Sarria, as this is the minimum walking distance required to receive the Compostela, the certificate of the Camino de Santiago.
2. Camino Portugues
“The Portuguese Way” starts in Lisbon, with many people choosing to walk it from Porto. The total walking distance is 616km. There are two different routes from Porto: the coastal route, which is only walked by 4% or the central route. The coastal route goes along the coast from Porto to Vigo, the central route goes inland all the way to Santiago.
3. Camino del Norte
“The Northern Way” is considered a great alternative route to the French way. It begins in Irún, a small Spanish town on the border with France. The total distance of the Camino is 825km, and many people prefer the scenery on this route to the French way.
4. Camino Primitivo
“The Original Way” is one of the less walked routes, making up for about 5% of all pilgrims. The walk starts in Oviedo, Spain and is considered to be one of the most difficult of routes for its steep ascents and descents. The total walking distance is 321km.
5. Via de la Plata
“The Silver Way” is the longest route of the Camino, with a total length of 1000km. Not for the faint-hearted, only about 3% of pilgrims take this way. Starting in Sevilla, this route has less infrastructure and longer stages.
6. Camino Inglés
“The English Way” is a pleasant, shorter route of about 120km. It begins in Coruña/Ferrol and is one of the least walked routes, with 3.5% of pilgrims opting for this path. This is a recommended route for those who want to get a taste of the Camino before trying their hand at a longer route.
Why Take Part?
Completing the pilgrimage is a massive fulfilment. Anyone relatively fit can walk the Camino, however many people may find it challenging in the first week or so. It’s found to be a lot easier for those who regularly go out to walk or hike.
The Camino is also safe, as it doesn’t take you through any uninhabited areas, and you’ll get to experience country towns and villages along the way. The route is easy to plan, and whatever route you take will be marked. There’s no need to book any kind of guides or permits in advance. You just show up and begin the route.
Walking the Camino gives many people a profound sense of peace, as well as a new perspective on our hectic, busy world. Regardless of which route you take, you’ll feel at one with nature as you travel slowly for a couple of weeks, travelling at a walking pace.
Pilgrims usually stay in hostels known as albergues, with prices varying from €6 to €7 euro for public albergues, and €10 to €12 for private ones.
Depending on the peak months, some public albergues can be already full by the time you arrive, so you’ll have to adapt as you go.
There’s also the option of getting a hotel for the night, with prices depending on the area and season. On average, a hotel could be between €25 and 50€ for a private double room.