Welcome to our dedicated Camino Culture page. Below you will find everything you need to know about the culture along the roads to Santiago de Compostela.
We’ll teach you about the different routes and their history, so you can chose the one that is of most interest to you. Our Interactive must-see map will guide you on your journey toward the best attractions on the Camino.
Read all about the stories behind the Camino markings and the fantastic local cuisine. There’s also a host of amazing festivals along the way, make sure you don’t miss out by checking our festival calendar at the bottom of the page.
Click below to learn more:
20 CAMINO FACTS
Here are 20 interesting Camino de Santiago facts you should know before you set off:
1 -Camino de Santiago means Way of St James and refers to the different routes leading to Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia.
2 -Santiago de Compostela means St James of the field of stars.
3 -There are many Camino de Santiago routes, starting in France, Portugal and Spain.
4 -Traditionally pilgrims used to start their ‘Camino’ from their own homes.
6 -The Camino Primitivo from Oviedo is the oldest Camino de Santiago route.
7 -However, the most famous Camino route is the Camino Francés or French Way starting in St Jean Pied de Port, in the French Pyrenees.
8 -The trail from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago is 800kms long and takes approximately five weeks to complete but you can start your Camino at any point.
9 -You need to walk at least 100kms into Santiago to receive your Compostela certificate.
10 -This makes Sarria (111kms away from Santiago) the most popular starting point for walkers.
11 -You will need to cycle at least 200kms to Santiago to receive yourCompostela certificate. Cyclists on the Camino are known as ‘bici-grinos’ (bike-pilgrims).
12 -Over 200,000 pilgrims arrive in Santiago each year and receive their Compostela certificate. Many more walk different sections of the routes. You have to travel for religious/spiritual reasons in order to receive the Compostela.
13 -If you walk the Camino for cultural or non-religious/spiritual reasons, you can receive a certificate of welcome.
14 -The pilgrim passport (credencial) needs to be stamped at least once a day; or twice a day if you are starting your Camino in Galicia.
15 -The stamped pilgrim passport is required to stay in first-come first -served ‘albergues’ (public hostels), and walkers take priority over cyclists. Public albergues can not be booked in advance. At CaminoWays.com we book accommodation with local guest houses and hotels so you don’t have to worry!
16 -The 12th century Codex Calixtinus is the oldest Camino de Santiago ‘guidebook’.
17 -The Camino is a long-distance trail with thousands of kms across Europe. The ways will combine off-road tracks with country trails, small roads and pavement, particularly getting in and out of bigger towns and cities.
18 -KM 0 of the Camino is actually not in Santiago but in Cape Fisterra, by the Atlantic Ocean, considered to be the ‘end of the world’ and a place of magical powers for pre-Christian communities.
19 -25th July is St James Day, a holiday in Santiago and Galicia. If 25th July falls on a Sunday, it will be considered to be a ‘Holy Year’ or Ano Xacobeo.
20 -Santiago de Compostela old town is a UNESCO-listed heritage site since 1985 and its University dates back to 1495. The Council of Europe named the Camino de Santiago as the first European Cultural itinerary in 1987 for its important role encouraging cultural exchanges since the Middle Ages.
You might also want to download our free Camino de Santiago Beginners Guide.
There are many Camino de Santiago routes coming from different points across Europe; the most popular come from France, Portugal and different parts of Spain. Each Camino route has its own history and uniqueness:
The last 100km of the Camino de Santiago along the French Way is the classic 7-day Camino experience. You will walk from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela across the green Galician countryside, meeting many pilgrims along the way.
The French Way is the most famous route of the Camino, featuring in movies such as Martin Sheen’s The Way and books such as Paulo Coelho The Pilgrimage. The French Way, Camino Frances, starts in the French Pyrenees and crosses the Rioja wine region, passing fantastic cities such as Pamplona and Burgos, before reaching the stunning mountains of León and finally Galicia.
This is the second most popular Camino route. Starting in beautiful Lisbon, the Camino Portugues takes walkers across beautiful villages, unspoilt rural landscapes and UNESCO sites in Portugal such as Porto before reaching the South of Galicia.
The Northern Way is a stunning coastal Camino: it starts in chic San Sebastian, in the Basque Country, and follows the lush Northern coast of Spain into Cantabria and Asturias. You will get the chance to sample the region’s delicious cuisine and go for a swim in one of the many beaches along the way.
The Original Way is the oldest and first Camino route. This is a mountainous and more challenging Camino route, starting in the city of Oviedo and crossing the mountains of Asturias into Galicia. You will get rewarded with peaceful and magnificent views. Highlights also include city of Lugo with its spectacular UNESCO Roman wall.
The English Way is the route traditionally taken by pilgrims from Britain and Ireland who would have arrived by boat to the Northern shores of Galicia and continued on foot towards Santiago de Compostela. This is a short Camino, starting in the port cities of Ferrol or A Coruña. Along the way, you will stop in lovely historic towns such as Pontedeume and Betanzos.
The Camino to Fisterra or Finisterre Way is the only route starting in Santiago and takes pilgrims to the ‘end of the world’, Cape Fisterra, on the rugged and beautiful Atlantic Coast. The Cape, on the Costa da Morte, has a mystical allure for pilgrims.
Via de la Plata is the Camino for adventurers, the road less travelled. The trail starts in the fascinating Andalucian city of Seville and heads North across rural landscapes but also passing beautiful historic cities or wonderful culture and rich Roman heritage such as Merida, Salamanca and Ourense.
The Catalan Way, also known in Catalan as Cami de St Jaume, crosses the Iberian Peninsula all the way from Catalonia on the Mediterranean to Galicia, by the Atlantic Coast. The Camino takes pilgrims to Montserrat’s Sacred Mountain and Natural Park, the city Girona, Zaragoza and La Rioja wine region. You will be joining the French Way in the city of Logroño.
Our Arles Way route starts from Montpellier, in the South of France. This trail takes walkers along one of France’s most remote and unspoilt beautiful landscapes, the Larzac Plateau; as well as stunning villages such as St-Guilhem-le-Désert and wonderful Toulouse, the pink city.
The Le Puy Camino is a truly spectacular trail, starting in Le Puy-en-Velay in the heart of France with its imposing cathedral and volcanic landscapes. Le Puy Way is the most popular Camino route in France and a classic trail, passing some of France’s most beautiful towns such as Conques, Cahors and the Lot Valley.
This was the route traditionally followed by pilgrims coming from the north of France and Europe and the trail has been an important road since Roman times. This Camino takes you through the famous Loire Valley and Bordeaux wine region, as well as the city of Tours, a popular pilgrimage destination since the Middle Ages.
Starting in Burgundy, the Vézelay Way to Santiago starts in the shrine of Mary Madgalene and a magnificent abbey of Vézelay. This trail joins the Camino routes coming from Paris and Le Puy near Ostabat where pilgrims can continue all the way to the Pyrenees and join the French Way.
The Geneva Way is one of the most recent Camino routes, starting in the Swiss city of Geneva at the foot of the Saleve Mountain. This is a route of beautiful mountain views, passing gorgeous countryside, dotted with lovely villages where you can sample the local cuisine. It joins the Le Puy Way.
The Cluny Camino starts in the French town of Cluny, by its medieval abbey, and crosses the Beaujolais hills towards Le Puy-en-Velay to join the Le Puy Way to Santiago.
*You might also like to read our blog posts:
The Scallop Shell
The scallop shell is one of the most iconic symbols of the Camino de Santiago and today it is used to guide those pilgrims walking to Santiago de Compostela along the many different routes. Painted on tiles, walls, sidewalks, etc… the scallop shell (or ‘vieira’ in Galician and Spanish) will help travellers find their way. Read the story of the scallop shell and the Camino.
Following The Yellow Arrow
The name of Don Elías Valiña Sampedro might not ring any bells but you will certainly recognise his most ‘famous’ creation: the yellow arrow pointing the way along the Camino de Santiago. Read the story behind the Yellow Arrow on the Camino de Santiago.
Pilgrim passport, certificates and Compostela
Before you start your Camino de Santiago, make sure you get your pilgrim passport so you can get your Compostela pilgrim certificate once you reach Santiago de Compostela.Your pilgrim passport must be stamped along the way and presented at the Pilgrims Office in Santiago to apply for your Compostela (since May 2014 there is only one Compostela certificate for all pilgrims, regardless of their pilgrimage motivation). You must walk at least the last 100km to Santiago de Compostela or 200km if you are travelling by bike or horse. Compostela certificates are issued free of charge by the Pilgrims Office in Santiago but donations are welcome.
Since March 2014 it is also possible to receive a Certificate of Distance from the Pilgrims Office (€3) in Santiago. It can also be requested by emailing the Pilgrims Office if you walked the Camino before that date and would like to obtain this certificate. There are also other Camino certificates, if you walk to Galicia’s Costa da Morte, along the Finisterre Way.
*Read about the Fisterra and Muxía certificates.
Food is an essential part of the Camino experience: you will be crossing many different regions, all with their unique flavours and specialities.
Our advice? try to sample as much as possible! From the mountain cheeses of the Pyrenees to the seafood of Galicia or sweet treats in Portugal…
It is also important to bear in mind the difference in customs before your travel: meal times for instance can differ quite a lot from country to country. While the French like having their lunch break at 12pm, Spaniards rarely have dinner before 9pm… However, you will be treated to free ‘pinchos’ or affordable ‘tapas’ in many towns. This is all part of the Camino experience and worth taking into account.
As part of your CaminoWays.com trip, you will have breakfast included and dinner on walking days with your standard package; read this useful blog posts to check what’s included and how it works: FAQ: Food on the Camino
You can find all our latest Camino food blog posts, recipes and other tasty articles here: Camino Food & Wine.
SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
All Camino de Santiago routes take you to Santiago de Compostela, St James of the Field of Stars, the capital of Galicia and a pilgrimage destination for many centuries. Pilgrims from all over the world have travelled to the city since the 10th century to atone for their sins and visit the tomb of St James, allegedly buried in Santiago’s magnificent cathedral.
Santiago is a pocket-size city full of charm and character. Its stunning UNESCO-listed Old Town has a lively atmosphere, both by day and at night! Santiago is also an important University town, with many students settling in the city for the school year. It is one of the oldest universities in Europe (established in 1495) and you will find some of the University buildings in the Old Town.
There is plenty to do, see and taste in Santiago de Compostela; after visiting the cathedral and getting your Compostela certificate at the Pilgrims Office, take time to explore this wonderful historic city.
A stroll in the Alameda Park, the popular Abastos food market, relaxing Bonaval Park, pinchos along the Rua do Franco, the Museum of Galician People, Museum of Modern Art… are some of the activities not to be missed while in Santiago!
You might also want to read our blog posts:
Click on our interactive Camino Francés map to find out about the highlights along the way.
CAMINO FESTIVALS CALENDAR
Celebrate like a local!
Check out the monthly calendar of festivals along the different Camino routes to help you plan your trip.
From traditional celebrations honouring local patron saints to seasonal food festivals, there are many events that will bring you closer to local customs and culture, making your Camino journey even more special:
– Entroido – Carnival in Laza, one of the most unique and traditional in the country. February/March (depending on the year). Via de la Plata.
– Cheese Festival in Arzúa, celebrating the town’s cheese-making tradition. February/March. Camino Frances – French Way.
– Arribada festival in Baiona, commemorating the discovery of the Americas and the fact that Baiona was the first town in Europe to receive the news. Portuguese Coastal Way.
– Reconquista festival in Vigo, marks the victory over Napoleon’s army on 28th March. Portuguese Coastal Way.
– Oyster Festival in Arcade; the best place to taste the village’s most delicious produce. Early April. Camino Portugues – Portuguese Way.
– Easter celebrations – Holy Week in Ferrol. Camino Ingles – English Way.
– Easter celebrations – Holy Week in Sevilla. Via de la Plata.
– Easter celebrations – Holy Week in Santiago de Compostela.
– San Telmo festival in Tui. Camino Portugues – Portuguese Way.
– Feria de Abril in Seville (sometimes takes place in May). Via de la Plata.
– Freedom Day – Día da Liberdade across Portugal. 25th April.
– Cheese Festival in O Cebreiro. Camino Frances – French Way.
– Diada de Saint Jordi or St George’s Day across Catalonia. 23rd April. Camino Catalan – Catalan Way.
– Os Maios – May celebrations in Ourense. 1st May. Via de la Plata.
– Festa do Maio – May celebrations in Villafranca del Bierzo. 1st May. Camino Frances – French Way.
– Festes de la Santa Creu in Figueres, home town of painter Salvador Dalí. 3rd May. Camino Catalán – Catalan Way.
– La Folía marine festival in San Vicente de la Barquera. Early May. Camino del Norte – Northern Way.
– 17th May Galician Literature Day. Holiday and celebrations across Galicia, dedicated to a different Galician language writer each year.
– Festas da Ascensión in Santiago de Compostela. Late May.
– Flower season – Temps de Flors in Girona. Camino Catalan – Catalan Way.
– Sant Anastasi Festival in Lleida. Last two weeks in May. Camino Catalan – Catalan Way.
– Sao Joao in Porto. Midsummer celebrations on the 23rd June take locals and visitors to the streets of Porto, to eat sardines, dance and welcome the Summer. Camino Portugues and Portuguese Coastal Way.
Saint John and Midsummer celebrations take place in many other seaside towns such as San Sebastian, A Coruña, Fisterra but also Santiago de Compostela.
– Justas Medievales Medieval Festival in Hospital the Orbigo – First weekend in June – Camino Frances – French Way.
– Fiestas de San Bernabé in Logroño. 11th June. Camino Frances – French Way.
– Festas de Lisboa or Santo Antonio, celebrating St Anthony on 12th June. Camino Portugues – Portuguese Way.
– Medieval Fair at Andrade Castle in Pontedeume. First week in July. Camino Ingles – English Way.
– Fiestas de la Virgen Peregrina (the Pilgrim Virgin) in Sahagún. 2nd July. Camino Francés – French Way.
– Fiestas de la Virgen de la Guía in Ribadesella. First week in July. Camino del Norte – Northern Way.
– Bread festival in Cea. Early July. Via de la Plata.
– Lobster festival in A Guarda. Early July. Portuguese Coastal Way.
– San Cristobo Festival in honour of Palas de Rei. Week of 10th July. Camino Frances – French Way.
– San Fermin – The famous running of the bulls in Pamplona – Camino Frances – French Way.
The festival starts at midnight on 6th July and lasts for a week.
– Ribadeo Indiano, mid-July, in Ribadeo. A period-inspired festival, taking Ribadeo back to the late 18th century. Expect locals to be dressed as ‘Indianos’ (those who emigrated to the Americas). Camino del Norte – Northern Way.
– St James Day, 25th July, Festas do Apostolo in Santiago de Compostela. The city’s biggest festival takes place the last two weeks in July.
– San Sebastian Jazz Festival. End of July. Camino del Norte – Northern Way.
– Beach Party in Fisterra. Last weekend in July. Finisterre Way.
– Fêtes de Genève – Geneva’s month-long festival. Geneva Way.
– San Mateo in Oviedo. End of September. Camino Primitivo – Original Way.
– Traditional dance festival – Festival Folclórico Internacional in Pontedeume. 1st-2nd August. Camino Ingles – English Way.
– San Fiz Festival – Patron saint festivities in Nigran. 1st August. Portuguese Coastal Way.
– Estella Festival in Estella – Lizarra. First 10 days in August. Camino Frances – French Way.
– Semana Grande de Gijón (Gijón Big Week festival). Second week in August. Camino del Norte – Northern Way.
– Padrón Pepper gastronomic festival in Padrón, home of the famous green peppers. Camino Portugues – Portuguese Way.
– San Roque festivals (15th August) take place in many towns across Galicia, including Melide on the Camino Frances – French Way.
– Fin do Camiño (end of the Camino) folk festival in Fisterra. Third weekend in August. Finisterre Way.
– Festas da Peregrina in Pontevedra. Second week in August. Camino Portugues – Portuguese Way.
– Fiesta del Veraneante in Sahagún. 15th August. Camino Frances – French Way.
– Romaria da Nossa Senhora da Agonia in Viana do Castelo. End of August (20th-23rd). Portuguese Coastal Way.
– Fiestas de San Zoilo in Carrión de los Condes. 22nd August. Camino Frances – French Way.
– Santa Marta Festival in Astorga. Week of 25th August. Camino Frances – French Way.
– Batalla de las Flores – Battle of the Flowers in Laredo. 30th-31st August. Camino del Norte – Northern Way.
– Santa Maria de la Vega festival in Salamanca. Early September. Via de la Plata.
– Marine festival in honour of the people of the sea in Fisterra. 8th-10th September. Finisterre Way.
– Muxía, also on the Finisterre Way, hosts its biggest festival dedicated to Nosa Señora da Barca in mid September.
– Diada or Catalonia’s National Day on 11th September. Camino Catalan – Catalan Way.
– Feira Franca period-inspired festival in Pontevedra. First weekend in September. Camino Portugues – Portuguese Way.
– La Rioja wine harvest festival – Fiesta de la Vendimia Riojana in Logroño. Late September. Camino Frances – French Way.
– 11th September is the Diada, Catalonia’s National Day, celebrated along the Catalan Way or Cami de Sant Jaume.
– Romaria Virxe do Cebreiro dedicated to the patron saint of O Cebreiro. Early September. Camino Frances – French Way.
– Roi de l’Oiseau medieval festival in Le Puy en Velay. End of September. Le Puy Way.
– Fiestas de la Encina in Ponferrada. Camino Frances – French Way.
– El Pilar Festival in Zaragoza. From 4th October for a week. Camino Catalan – Catalan Way.
– Fete de St Foy in Conques, on the Le Puy Camino, in France. Around 10th and 11th October.
– San Lucas horse and country fair in Mondoñedo with origins dating back to the 12th century. Mid-October. Camino del Norte – Northern Way.
– Saint Narcís in Girona with its famous Catalan human towers. End of October. Camino Catalan – Catalan Way.
– Apple Fest takes place in Redondela, on the Portuguese Way, in early October.
– O Magosto, the sweet chestnut festival, in Ourense. 11th November, Saint Martin’s Day. Also celebrated across Galicia. Via de la Plata.
– Santiago é Tapas, tapas restaurant competition across Santiago de Compostela.
NOTE: Accommodation availability during festival periods can be limited so contact the CaminoWays.com well in advance if you’d like to travel on those specific dates. Please note, hotel rates may also change.