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 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%).
“Wonderful guide, great hotels , excellent food and drink . No hassle walking tour.” Christina Hayward, Walking the French Way
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 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 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.
“Trip of a lifetime” Paula Tinsley, French Way from Sarria
-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.
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; 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.
“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
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.
“Worked like a well-oiled machine. Approachable, professional and friendly.” Nicholas Osbourne, Northen Way from Bilbao
–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.
–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 Ourence 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.
-I would love to walk with family or friends
Walking with a group can be a great bonding experience. The French Way 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.