Which 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 Camino Frances 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 unique social experience or who have never walked the Camino before. It takes 36 days to walk from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela but you can walk shorter stretches and also add rest days. We recommend you add at least one day every week to rest.
According to statistics from the Pilgrims Office in Santiago, approximately 64% of those receiving the Compostela certificate walk the Camino Francés. The second most popular would be the Portuguese Camino (nearly 19%) and the Northern Camino (over 6%).
“Wonderful guide, great hotels, excellent food and drink. No hassle walking tour.” Christina Hayward, Walking the Camino Frances
–But 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. In fact, many pilgrims start their trip from Sarria, in Galicia, to walk the last stretch (111kms) of the route; this can be done in under a week. If you rather cover this distance at a more relaxed pace, at CaminoWays.com we can organise an ‘easy walking’ itinerary so you can cover the distance over 10 days.
If you have two weeks you could start your walk further away in Ponferrada, for example, and so on. Sarria is the most popular starting point of the Camino, followed by Saint Jean Pied de Port, Porto and Tui on the Portuguese Camino, follow next in the list of top Camino starting points. León and O Cebreiro are also very popular starting points on the Camino Frances.
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 Camino from Ferrol in a week. You will still meet pilgrims but far less than on the Camino Frances.
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 Camino and then joining the Camino Frances 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.
“Trip of a lifetime” Paula Tinsley, Camino Frances from Sarria
-I’ve done the Camino Frances 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 Camino, the second most popular; you could walk the Camino to Finisterre and Muxía, 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 Camino.
Or, if you would like to try something different, you could walk another ancient trail, the Via Francigena or St Francis Way in Italy for instance. The Via Francigena across Tuscany is one of the most spectacular sections of this epic trail.
“Route great. The locals were very helpful and friendly even though they had no english and we had no portuguese…One lady who was picking fruit in her garden gave us a supply of fantastic fresh fruit.” Padraig Lynch, Portuguese Coastal Way
-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; that means 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 Camino Frances 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.
“The bicycles were nicer than we anticipated and they lodging was fantastic. Luggage transfers were executed on time and without issue. It was just a fantastic journey with Camino Ways taking care of the details.” Douglas Herr, Cycling the Camino from Leon
–I 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 our travel specialists know. However, we feel the itineraries are well balanced, 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 Camino from San Sebastian to Bilbao might also be a suitable section for you. The St Francis Way in Italy is a stunning but challenging trail. You can also check out our adventurous challenges such as Tour du Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro at TrekkingBug.com.
–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 you reach 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 Camino: 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 Camino is perfect for you, particularly between the cities of San Sebastian, Bilbao and Santander; and further on the green Northern coast to the seaside town of Ribadesella.
“Worked like a well-oiled machine. Approachable, professional and friendly.” Nicholas Osbourne, Northen Camino in the Basque Country
-Do you have any other coastal walks?
We do. We have stunning non-Camino coastal walks such as the Lighthouse Way (challenging) and Cantabrian Coast Way in Galicia; as well as the Rota Vicentina Fishermen’s Trail, in the South of Portugal. The Rota Vicentina is ideal for Autumn and Spring months, while the trails in Galicia are best discovered from May to September.
-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 Camino Frances. You can either book a self-guided tour on any of our Camino routes or join one of our Camino guided tours departing from March until October.
–I’d prefer a quieter route
To give yourself time to reflect and be mindful you could opt for one of the quieter trails. The Via de la Plata and the Camino de Invierno are two great alternative routes that will give you plenty of time to walk and get away from the noise of everyday life. Walking the last section of the Via de la Plata your Camino journey will take you from the peaceful City of Ourende through forest tracks all the way to Santiago de Compostela.
Many of the most popular Camino routes will be quiet at different times of the year but you need to be mindful that there will be less services and accommodation available in quieter months. Ask our travel specialists.
-I would love to walk with family or friends
Walking with a group can be a great bonding experience. The Camino Frances is the perfect route for your group Camino trip and will have all of the services you need in order to stay together on this wonderful trip. You could opt to cycle the last 200km from Ponferrada to Santiago. Our groups travel team are here to help you plan the perfect Camino itinerary for your family and friends.
“Walking with friends and relatives on an ancient religious pathway through Spanish villages was a lifetime experience.” Virgilio Go
Do you have any more Camino de Santiago questions we can help with? Let us know.