The Camino del Norte
The Camino del Norte, also known as the Northern Way, is the Camino de Santiago route taking pilgrims along the wonderful northern coast of ‘Green Spain’, from the Basque Country across Cantabria, Asturias, and on to Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia. Along this coastal Camino, you will discover fascinating cities and fishing villages, swim in beautiful sandy beaches, and taste delicious seafood.
A great place to begin your Camino del Norte is the town of Irun or the chic seaside city of San Sebastian (known as Donostia in Basque), which is a real foodie haven. San Sebastian is actually one of the top ten cities in Europe for Michelin-star restaurants.
Other highlights along the Northern Way include the inspiring Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the royal palace in Santander, Asturias’ famous cider, Cathedrals Beach in Ribadeo and medieval Mondoñedo.
It takes just over 5 weeks to walk the full Northern Way from San Sebastian to Santiago. The Camino del Norte last 100kms of the trail will take you all the way from the market town of Vilalba to historic Santiago de Compostela. You can also choose to start walking or cycling from different points along the way.
Highlights Of The Camino del Norte
The Northern Way has some of the best cities in Spain, from San Sebastian and its sea-front promenade to Bilbao and its vibrant art scene. Other highlights include Santander and its beaches, Gijon’s working harbour, the quaint fishing village of Ribadesella and the medieval feel of Vilalba.
The basque countryside has a distinct language and identity. The coastal walk between the sea and mountains into Galicia is so refreshing and the food is scrumptious.
Camino Ways Route Planner
For over 1000 years, pilgrims from all over the world have walked the Camino Ways across Europe in their quest for spirituality. Making the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, they encountered a variety of people, cultures and beliefs, leading to friendship and new experiences. This continues today with the Camino de Santiago being the most well known and well-loved walk in the world. More than just a walk, the Camino de Santiago is an unforgettable and unique journey for the body, mind and soul.
When to go on the Camino del Norte
The Northern Way has a mild climate, moderated by the Atlantic Ocean:
- Spring and autumn are the best times to travel, with an average of 20 degrees celsius.
- Unlike the hot summers of the centre and south of Spain, summer on this route rarely goes above 30 degrees celsius on average.
- Winters are mild but could be wet, and there are not many pilgrims on the routes during this period.
Compostela Certificate on the Camino del Norte
In order to get your Compostela pilgrim certificate in Santiago, remember you will need to walk a minimum of 100km into Santiago (we suggest you start your Camino in Vilalba) or cycle at least the last 200kms of the route (we suggest you start your Camino in Navia).
What To Bring On The Camino del Norte?
Our Camino packing guide ebook is free to download. This will help you decide what to bring on your Camino.
The Sections of the Camino del Norte
San Sebastian to Bilbao
The first section of the Camino del Norte (the Northern Way route of the St James Way) begins in the beautiful and sophisticated coastal city of San Sebastian, a gastronomic mecca home to several Michelin-star restaurants. From San Sebastian (or Donosti in Basque), the Northern Way travels west along the green hills of the Basque coastline. The trail passes the historic town of Gernika, made famous by Picasso’s masterpiece and finishes in Bilbao, where you should visit the impressive Guggenheim Museum. The Basque Country is renowned for its cuisine, its ‘pintxos’ and some of the country’s best chefs so this Camino walk will be an unforgettable gastronomic experience.
Bilbao to Santander
The Camino del norte from Bilbao to Santander, the Northern route of the Camino de Santiago, starts in the Basque city of Bilbao and finishes in the pretty coastal city of Santander, in Cantabria. Explore the old town in Bilbao and its magnificent Guggenheim Museum before you head west along the coast towards Santander. Along this section, you will walk by seaside towns, lovely beaches and rocky bays. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty and you will be able to admire the contrast between modernity and tradition, in the many towns and historic stops along the way. The north coast in Spain is renowned for its cuisine so prepare for an unforgettable gastronomic experience on the Camino.
Santander to Ribadesella
This Camino trip will see you travel along the third section of the Northern Way. This section of the Camino de Santiago will see you begin in Santander and finish in the pleasant seaside resort of Ribadesella. The mountains of the north provide a spectacular contrast to the charming and picturesque coastline. This region is renowned for its cuisine and the walk will see you enjoy a high level of comfort and an unforgettable gastronomic experience.
Ribadesella to Oviedo
The third section starts in the pretty seaside town of Ribadesella at the foot of the Picos de Europa, by the Cantabrian Sea. The trail takes pilgrims to the tranquil villages of rural Asturias where you can taste the delicious local food and famous cider, before finally arriving in the medieval city of Oviedo, the capital of the region. Asturias has excellent cuisine and is also famous for its cider. Oviedo marks the beginning of the Camino Primitivo, the original way to Santiago de Compostela, the most popular route until the 10th century.
Oviedo to Vilalba
This stretch along the coast is a true Gem. It is very quiet and there are not so many pilgrims visiting this section.
Villalba to Santiago
The last 100km of the Camino del Norte from Vilalba to Santiago de Compostela. This last stretch to Santiago de Compostela along the quiet lanes and dirt tracks into the heartland of Galicia.
A Brief History Of The Camino del Norte
Along with the Camino Primitivo (Original Camino), the Camino del Norte became a prominent pilgrimage route in the early history of the Camino, in the 9th and 10th centuries. While the Camino Frances then became the most travelled of all routes, the Camino del Norte still maintained a regular flow of pilgrims until the 18th century.
This Camino de Santiago route attracted not only pilgrims from the north of the Iberian Peninsula but also from overseas from faraway lands such as Scandinavia, England, Flanders, and Germany: many pilgrims would make the journey by sea to some of the ports of Northern Spain before continuing on foot to Santiago de Compostela. Many of them would also stop in Oviedo to visit the relics of San Salvador.
From Oviedo, you can actually continue your trip by joining the Camino Primitivo. The Northern Way joins the Camino Frances in Arzúa, a couple of days away from Santiago. Read more articles on our blog.