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How to choose the right Camino de Santiago route?

santiago-de-compostela-camino-de-santiago-caminowaysWhich one is the best Camino de Santiago route for you? Our Camino travel specialists have compiled a list of useful tips to help you choose the right Camino de Santiago route:

-It is my first Camino and I’m looking for a social experience

If the social element of the Camino de Santiago experience and meeting fellow pilgrims along the way is important for you, the French Way is your best option. The French Way, or Camino Francés, is the most popular route, starting in Saint Jean Pied de Port, so it is also the best Camino for those looking for that special Camino social experience or who have never walked the Camino before. It takes approximately 30 days to walk from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela but you can walk shorter stretches.

According to statistics from the Pilgrims Office in Santiago, over 70% of those receiving the Compostela certificate walk the Camino Francés. The second most popular would be the Portuguese Camino (nearly 14%) and the Northern Way (over 6%).

portuguese-coastal-camino-caminowaysBut I don’t have much time

You don’t have to start your Camino walk in Saint Jean Pied de Port, you can start at any stage of the way and create an itinerary adapted to the time you have available. At CaminoWays.com we have divided the French Way in 8 sections, for example, the last section, from Sarria to Santiago can be done in 7 days. If you have two weeks you could start your walk further away in Ponferrada, for example, and so on. Sarria is actually the most popular starting point of the Camino, followed by Saint Jean Pied de Port. Tui and Porto, on the Portuguese Way, follow next in the list of top Camino starting pointsLeón and O Cebreiro are also very popular starting points on the Camino Frances.

I’d prefer a quieter route

There are thousands of kilometres of Camino trails across Spain, Portugal and France so there are many options for those looking for a quieter route. If you are looking to finish in Santiago, you could walk the Via de la Plata from Ourense; or the English Way from Ferrol in a week. You will still meet pilgrims but far less than on the French Way. And if you’d like to have the best of both worlds you could start in Lugo city: walking a couple of days along the Original Way and then joining the French Way half way to Santiago. This will allow you two quiet days and three days of socialising as you approach Santiago. For a truly off the beaten track experience, our new Camino de Invierno is the ideal route.

-I’ve done the French Way before, what could I do next?

If you are already familiar with the ‘classic Camino’, the French Way, you have plenty of other routes to explore. Our suggestions: you could go for the Portuguese Way, the second most popular; you could walk the Finisterre and Muxía Way, starting in Santiago de Compostela and heading to the Atlantic Ocean; or you could try any of the fantastic Camino routes in France such as Le Puy, Chemin d’Arles or Vézelay Way.

Or, if you would like to try something different, you could walk another heritage trail: the Via Francigena in Italy.

-I love cycling

You can cycle most of the Camino routes. In general, our Camino cycling packages cover an average of 50 to 60km per day, depending on the terrain; double the amount of kms you would cover walking. We recommend cycling the Camino only for those familiar with cycling and basic bike maintenance. *You might also want to read our blog post: Cycling the Camino, how it works. We recommend avoiding cycling the French Way in the busiest months (so there will be less walkers on the trail) and opting instead for routes that are less busy such as the Camino del Norte or Portuguese Coastal Way. In addition, these are two fantastic Summer routes, stopping in wonderful coastal towns and cities.

lugo-original-camino-de-santiago-caminowaysI am a very experienced walker, I’d love a challenge

If you feel you’d like to walk more kilometres than those we have allocated to each section, let the travel team know. However, we feel they offer a good balance, are challenging enough and give you the chance to wind down in the evenings. The Original Camino from Oviedo, across the mountains, could be a good option for you, as it is one of the most challenging sections. However this is a quite a quiet, off the beaten track route.

The Northern Way from San Sebastian to Bilbao might also be a suitable section for you.

I’d like to walk a coastal route but also see Santiago

If you are looking for a Summer Camino with coastal tracks, there are a couple of fantastic options: the Portuguese Coastal Way, starting in Porto, follows the Atlantic coastline to Baiona in the first week, then continues along the seaside villages and towns of the Rías Baixas until Pontevedra. You could also choose the Finisterre and Muxía Way, the only route starting in Santiago, to discover the fabulous Costa da Morte with its pristine villages. Or you could start in Ferrol and walk the English Way: the first couple of days follow the bay before heading inland towards Santiago de Compostela.

Summer is the best time to travel these routes.

-I’d like to walk a Camino along the coast but don’t need to finish in Santiago

Then the Northern Way is perfect for you, particularly sections 2 and 3: between the cities of Bilbao and Santander; and further on the green Northern coast to the seaside town of Ribadesella.

I’m travelling on my own but I’d like to have a social experience

If you are travelling on your own but are looking to meet people and make friends, we would recommend you choose the French Way. You can either book a self-guided Camino tour or join one of our Camino guided tours.

Do you have any more Camino de Santiago questions we can help with? Let us know.

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Claire
Writer at CaminoWays.com
Senior travel consultant Claire is from Athlone in the centre of Ireland but lived in France for many years. She is fluent in French as well as Irish. She loves travelling, food and used to be a keen Gaelic player!
More by Claire

32 Responses to “How to choose the right Camino de Santiago route?”

Lisa

Hi Christopher, it is great to hear that you are planning to walk the Camino. If you have 2 weeks and it is your first time on the Camino then you could either opt to do the French Way from Ponferrada to Santiago de Compostela (find the full itinerary here: http://caminoways.com/ways/french-way-camino-frances/french-way-full-way). This would give you a nice social walk. You will meet many other pilgrims on this route and enjoy walking through the small villages in Northern Galicia. The other option would be to complete the Portuguese Coastal Way from (See the full itinerary here: http://caminoways.com/ways/portuguese-coastal-way-caminho-da-costa/portuguese-coastal-way-full-walk). This route is quieter until you get to Baiona and then you will start meeting more pilgrims. It is a beautiful route that starts by the coast and only takes 13 nights to complete. You will work your way in land. To discuss the best options and get some tips you can reach our to our travel team anytime on info@caminoways.com. I hope that this is helpful as a starting point. Buen Camino!


Christopher

My girlfriend and I are planning to do a part of the Santiago de Compostela walk upcoming August.

We will have aprox. 2 weeks for it, starting on the 12th of August and finishing at the end of the month.

We are interested in both having a social experience and in seeing the most beautiful part of the trail. To keep it short, people and socializing will be important, but far more important will be the nature itself (hoping for some stunning views to take some awesome shots), as it will be a somehow romantic adventure for us two, in contact with mother nature in all its beauty. We love to walk and are physically fit.

Which part of the trail would you recommend us most?
What other important recommendations can you give us? (With or better without a tent? Any precautions? Anything we should definitely do or avoid?).


Lisa

Hi Rosa, thank you for your email. The Portuguese Coastal route is a stunning trail. The route will be more social in summer time and September with more walkers along the way but the section from Porto until after Vigo is much quieter than the French Way. If you are hoping to meet pilgrims everyday and looking for the most social route than the French Way would be the best option. For more details about the route you can contact our travel team at info@caminoways.com Kindest regards, Lisa.


Lisa

Hi Julie, thank you for your comment. April is a lovely walking month. The Porto to Santiago stretch is very beautiful and you will meet other walkers along the way. As you get closer to Santiago you will begin to meet more people as you walk each day. The trail from Porto up to Vigo will be quieter. If you want to speak with our travel team they will best advise you on times, dates and give you more information about the route itself. You can reach out to them at info@caminoways.com Enjoy your journey. Buen Camino, Lisa.


Rosa

Hello,

Would you recommend a woman travelling alone to walk the Portuguese Coastal Way? I’m looking for a quiet but social 2 week journey.


Julie

I am thinking to do the Portuguese way from next week and don’t want to be walking alone/sleeping alone at albergues. Should I take the Porto-Santiago stretch or will it be alright to start in Lisboa?
Any other concerns about taking this route in April?


Lisa

Hi Dan, the Northern Way is a beautiful route and you will enjoy all of the stunning towns along the way. It is a long trail at 808 kms and we usually suggest doing it in 36 nights or just over 5 weeks which means you will walk between 16 – 23 kms per day but our travel team can tailor any of the itineraries for you if you only have a month available and if you are thinking of walking the whole route I would suggest reaching out to them at info@caminoways.com Kindest regards, Lisa.


Dan

Hi there,

I’m thinking of walking the northern route. Is a month enough time? Your video also implies it’s more for experienced walkers, what does that mean?


Lisa

Hi Annette, the Portuguese Way is a beautiful route and this will be a lovely time of the year to walk. From Lisbon to Porto you might only meet a few pilgrims along the way but once you walk the trail past Porto up towards Tui you will start to meet more and more pilgrims. To get a more accurate picture of the route I would suggest talking to one of our travel team. You can reach out to them at info@camioways.com Kindest regards, Lisa.


Annette

Hi I am planning on walking the Portugese was in July and August from Lisbon is this a good idea? Many Pilgrims to walk with?


Joe

appreciate the quick response. would you recommend any of the less busy routes that is feasible to do during 10 days? This is my first time doing the camino, but I am not dead set on doing the most popular route.


Lisa

Hi Joe, thank you for your comment. If you have 10 days you could do the last week of the French Way from Sarria to Santiago and spend an extra night or two in Santiago at the end. It is a beautiful city with lots to do. Here is the link for more information on this route – http://caminoways.com/ways/french-way-camino-frances/french-way-section-8 Be mindful that Easter can be a busy time on the Camino so please get in touch with our travel team to check availability on info@caminoways.com Kindest regards, Lisa.


Joe

This is really well presented. I was hoping to do a portion of Camino in April over Easter break. I have about 10 days off between 7 and 17. Any suggestions based on weather?


Lisa

Hi Ravi, thank you for your comment. In this case we would recommend the Northern Way. This route offers a fantastic mix of coastal scenery from San Sebastian to Ribadeo and forest and farmland in rural Galicia before arriving into Santiago. While this route is popular, there are not the same numbers of people walking this route, as such you would have company without the trail being too busy. Kindest regards, Lisa.


Ravi

Hi, thank you for the great info
I am looking to walk in July/August of this year, and am worried the Camino frances will be too busy. I want to have company but not be overrun with pilgrims. Which route do you recommend?


Lisa

Hi Charlotte, it is true that the Portuguese Coastal Way is not as well known as the French Way which is the most popular route and featured in the most films but it is a beautiful trail and very well marked. I personally did Baiona to Santiago last May and we loved every minute of the experience. On this trail you get a wide mixture of terrains: coastal paths, forest tracks and quiet country roads. I plan on doing the second section from Porto to Baiona soon. Here is the link to the full way – http://caminoways.com/ways/portuguese-coastal-way-caminho-da-costa/portuguese-coastal-way-full-walk Kindest regards, Lisa.


charlotte nøddeboe

I wonder why there is so little dokumentary from the coastal rute? Is it not good?


Maria

Hi Rebecca, it will depend on the kind of walking problems. We have ‘easy’ options on the last section, walking 10kms per day on average; but the trail will be the same (only covering less distance per day). The trail will be challenging but it is doable, to give you an idea, 71 people travelled to Santiago using a wheelchair in 2015. Let us know if you need any additional information. Kindest regards.


Rebecca

Is the Way accessible to those with walking problems?


Maria

Hi Orla, thank you for getting in touch. For October (but particularly for November when numbers decline) we would definitely recommend the last stretch of the Camino Frances (the most famous route) as it is where you will be able to meet other fellow pilgrims. As a second option, we would suggest walking from Tui to Santiago, the last 100kms of the Portuguese route (http://caminoways.com/ways/portuguese-way-camino-portugues/portuguese-way-section-5), which is the second most popular Camino route and also very social. If you are looking for the social experience, definitely the Camino Frances: http://caminoways.com/ways/french-way-camino-frances/french-way-section-8. We hope this helps, let us know if you need any additional information, quote, etc… Kind regards


Sully

Hello, I have a week at the beginning of October/ start of November and am wondering which part of the Camino you would advise. i would like to finish in Santiago. Thank you


Eileenmullane

First time.


Suzanne Overdorf

We are a long married couple in our early 70’s, both of us in pretty good shape. We are interested in a week long walk of a portion of the Camino, probably in Fall 2016.. Which portion would you recommend that is scenic yet not very challenging terrain? Hiking hills might flare up old injuries or challenge our well worn joints! Thank you, this site is very helpful.


Maria

Hi Mary, what about the last section of the Portuguese Way from Tui? that could be a good option as the walking days are not too long and is close to the coast so elevation shouldn’t be an issue, see here: http://caminoways.com/ways/portuguese-way-camino-portugues/portuguese-way-section-5. Let us know if you need any additional information. Kind regards


Mary Owens

I am recovering from a back/hip injury but can manage walking cross-country for 3 – 4 hours a day if the terrain is mostly on flat ground. I’d love to organise a week’s trip in early September for myself and two sisters. We are not fussy where we start or end – just somewhere that’s reasonably accessible to get to and from.


Maria

Hi Libby, as far as we know, the books available for the Chemin d’Arles are all in French. The Society of St James in the UK has the only document published in English: http://www.csj.org.uk/planning-your-pilgrimage/routes-to-santiago/the-routes-today/the-arles-route/. We hope this helps!


Libby Ong

2011 we took French way,2012 Portugal way. this June we arer going to try Le Chemin d’Arles. we are look for the English Edition for this book. can you help us?


[…] way to celebrate. Here's a site you may not have come across, which will give you some options: http://caminoways.com/how-to-choose-…k#.VSP5FvnF-XE Happy […]


Maria

Hi Carlos, the most popular route is the French Way: http://caminoways.com/ways/french-way-camino-frances, and you can start at any stage, depending on the time available. The Portuguese route is the second most popular with pilgrims: http://caminoways.com/ways/portuguese-way-camino-portugues. July is a great time to reach Santiago as 25th July is St James Day and Galicia’s Day. Let us know if you need an itinerary and quote. Kind regards. Maria


CARLOS VEGA

will li to know morw about camino a santiag by july 2015


Maria

Hi! October is a good time to walk or cycle the Camino. Which section are you looking to cover? Kind regards


cookie

Can the trail be done in october. It is my first time n cando 10_15 miles at a time. M a hiker.


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