What is the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain?
The Camino de Santiago or Way of St. James, is the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in north-western Spain. Here, legend has it that the remains of the apostle, Saint James the Great, are buried (more camino history). It is difficult to define where exactly the Camino starts, as pilgrims used to start their journey from their own home and over the years, different Camino ways have emerged, but the most popular is the Last 100km of the French Way.
What are the most popular Camino routes?
The Camino is divided into many different routes, all of which have their own unique characteristics and advantages. Choosing the right Camino for you is essential if you want to make the most of your trip. Our travel specialists have identified the top 5 Caminos and reasons why they are so special:
1.The Camino Frances (Last 100km)
The last 100 km of the Camino Frances (French Way) is the most popular Camino route, and offers a truly authentic Camino experience. The journey begins in Sarria and travels through quaint and charming medieval towns, along a famous trail, finally finishing in the sacred city of Santiago de Compostela. The French Way is known as the most social Camino, and you are sure to meet fellow pilgrims while experiencing local culture along the way.
After a long day walking through the spectacular Galician countryside you can reward yourself with traditional Spanish cuisine and perhaps a glass of local wine from one of the vineyards in the region. When you arrive in Santiago you can claim your Compostela certificate and explore the magic of Santiago’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
2. The Portuguese Coastal Camino
The Portuguese Coastal Camino is another extremely popular Camino route and is and excellent alternative to the French Way. This stunning walk weaves along the coastline of Portugal 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 Portuguese Coastal Camino starts in the colourful UNESCO-listed city Porto and follows the Atlantic Ocean before crossing by ferry to A Guarda, in Galicia, and the heart of the Rías Baixas. 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 way.
3. The Camino del Norte
The Camino del Norte (Northern Way) begins in the Basque Country, in the stylish city of San Sebastián. San Sebastián is a sea side 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 traverses along the coastline for the majority of your Camino so this is another route for those who enjoy visiting fishing villages. You can take a dip in the sea to cool off on one of the multitude of gorgeous beaches. The famous Guggenheim Museum is a highlight of the trip, it’s located in the vibrant city of Bilbao. You’ll admire the natural beauty of the northern coast of ‘Green Spain’ on this unforgettable journey.
4. The Camino to Rome
The Camino to Rome (Via Francigena) is unique in that it finishes in the spectacular Italian city of Rome. The trail actually begins in Canterbury, England and crosses the channel to France before continuing across Switzerland and on to Italy. As with all of our Camino ways, if you don’t have the time to complete the full walk you can do a portion of it, visiting the places of most interest to you!
In medieval times, the Via Francigena was an important road for pilgrims heading south to Rome, and like the Camino de Santiago, this trail is a European Cultural Route verified by the Council of Europe. The journey takes pilgrims to some of the most incredible areas of Europe such as the Champagne region in France, Lake Geneva and the mighty Alps in Switzerland, and the picturesque hills of Tuscany in Italy. Finishing in the eternal city of Rome, this is an absolute powerhouse of culture.
5. The Camino Frances Cycling
Cycling the Camino gives you an opportunity to see twice the amount of sites in the same length of time. You’ll need to cycle 200kim in order to receive your Compostela in Santiago, and our French Way last 200km is the perfect way to do it. Hitting the trail on a mountain bike is a thrilling experience. Your journey begins in Ponferrada and travels through lovely towns such as O Cebreiro before you embark on the last 100km from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela.
Why should I walk the Camino?
Over the years The Camino has developed into a vibrant hub of Spanish culture that attracts pilgrims from all over the world. Nearly 300,000 Compostela certificates were issued in 2016 alone, which will give you some idea of how popular it’s become. The reason that modern pilgrims walk the ancient trail have evolved over time, and it’s now a rewarding experience for anyone who enjoys walking or cycling. There are many ways to embark on this unique challenge. You will meet some wonderful people along the route and take in the beautiful Spanish sites. Here are just a few things to enjoy along the way when you are out on the trails:
- Visit historic sites and monuments. With every route being different you can sample a vast array of cultures.
- Enjoy the lush Galician countryside or have a swim in the Atlantic on the coastal Camino routes.
- Albarino wine is famous worldwide so be sure to sample this native grape when you are on the trails.
- Taste delicious tapas at every stopping point. In Galicia they also have the wonderful pinxos that accompany your favourite evening drink.
- Converse with other walkers from around the world. Learn about their reasons for taking on this long loved adventure.
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We recently surveyed our enthusiastic Camino community to discover what inspired them to take on the journey Check out this handy info-graphic based on the results of our research.
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