Top Camino Starting Points

St Jean Pied de Port

Choosing where to begin your Camino de Santiago is an important step in your planning process. Where to start your Camino can be a big question and can sometimes reflect how long your journey will be, especially if you are hoping to reach Santiago and receive your Compostela certificate.

Over 446,000 pilgrims received their Compostela certificate in Santiago in 2023, according to statistics from the American Pilgrims on the Camino Office. This reflects the number of pilgrims walking at least the last 100km of any of the Camino routes or cycling at least the last 200km of any Camino route.

We’ve outlined the top Camino starting points for the diverse Camino de Santiago routes below, aimed at assisting you in selecting the section you wish to embark on. Whether your journey involves walking the Camino or cycling the Camino, we have highlighted the most popular routes for your consideration.

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*Our Camino de Santiago Planner is an essential resource for tailoring your Camino experience to your preferences, allowing you to start your journey from any location on any route.

Starting on the Camino Francés

The Camino Francés, also known as the French Way, is the most famous of all the Camino de Santiago routes. It is an ancient pilgrim path across the north of the Iberian Peninsula, the full Camino Francés begins near the gorgeous red and white town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and finishes in the holy city of Santiago de Compostela. The Last 100km of the Camino Francés is the most popular section of this route, which begins in Sarria and finishes in Santiago de Compostela. Below are the most popular starting locations for the Camino Francés, listed from those nearest to Santiago.

Starting from Sarria

Sarria is a lovely town along the Camino Frances and serves as the starting point for the last 100km of the French way into Santiago de Compostela. There are many cafes and restaurants in Sarria so it’s a great place to socialize before your walk. There is beautiful street art dotted along the town and the narrow streets are decorated with flags and full of beautiful historic buildings. It’s a wonderful place to begin your Camino adventure.

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Starting from Ponferrada

Home to the impressive medieval Templars Castle, Ponferrada is a popular starting point on the Camino Francés. It’s located 200km away from Santiago so is also a common starting point for those hoping to cycle the last 200km and receive their Compostela certificate in Santiago. While in Ponferrada, make sure to visit the Templars Castle. The 12th-century castle was constructed by Ferdinand II to protect pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago.

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Starting from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

This town at the foot of the Pyrenees in the French Basque Country marks the very beginning of the Camino Francés, 800km/ 500 miles from Santiago! The town itself was founded in the 12th century after the original nearby town of Saint-Jean-le-Vieux was razed to the ground by Richard I of England. St Jean Pied de Port might be small in size but has great charm. The medieval cobbled streets are lined with beautiful and unique red and white buildings inside the old town walls.

St Jean Pied de Port

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Check out our blog for a comprehensive guide to the best starting points for the Camino Francés.

Starting on the Camino del Norte

The Camino del Norte, often called the Northern Way, is a mesmerising route part of the larger Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. This trail takes travellers along the breathtaking northern shoreline of Spain, often called ‘Green Spain.’ The route begins in the Basque Country and crosses through regions like Cantabria and Asturias, ultimately leading to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Here are the most popular starting locations for the Camino del Norte, listed from those nearest to Santiago.

Starting from Vilalba

Vilalba, situated on the Camino del Norte, serves as an enchanting starting point for the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. This quaint town is celebrated for its rich history and cultural heritage, offering pilgrims a peaceful and reflective commencement to their journey. Renowned for its traditional Galician cuisine, Vilalba invites travellers to savour the local delicacies, particularly its famous cheese, before setting off. The town is also home to a distinctive tower from the old castle of the Andrade family, adding a touch of medieval allure to its landscape. Surrounded by the serene Galician countryside, Vilalba offers a blend of culinary delights, historical intrigue, and natural beauty, making it a memorable place to begin the Camino adventure. It is a popular starting point for pilgrims walking the last 100km of the Camino del Norte.

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Starting from Bilbao

Bilbao, a vibrant city on the Camino del Norte, marks an enriching starting point for pilgrims heading towards Santiago de Compostela. This Basque city is alive with a mix of modern and traditional eateries, perfect for gathering energy before the journey. Renowned for its innovative Guggenheim Museum and picturesque riverfront, Bilbao’s streets are a canvas of contemporary art and historic architecture. The city’s lively ambience and rich cultural tapestry make it an ideal launchpad for your Camino experience.

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

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Starting from San Sebastián

San Sebastián known locally as Donostia is nestled along the Camino del Norte and offers a picturesque beginning for the Camino de Santiago journey. This coastal gem is famed for its culinary scene, boasting an array of pintxos bars where pilgrims can indulge in local flavours before embarking on their walk. The city’s stunning Concha Beach, framed by lush hillsides, and the elegant architecture lining its old town, create a serene backdrop. With its vibrant cultural atmosphere and beautiful beachfront, San Sebastián provides a unique and memorable starting point for the Camino adventure.


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Check out our blog for a comprehensive guide to the best starting points for the Camino Francés.

Starting on the Camino Portugués

The Camino Portugués, or Portuguese Camino, is a stunning alternative to the Camino Frances, for pilgrims looking for a more rural experience on the Camino de Santiago. Here are the most popular starting locations for the Camino Portugués, listed from those nearest to Santiago.

Starting from Vigo

Vigo, nestled in the heart of the Rías Baixas, is celebrated for its exquisite Albariño white wine and succulent shellfish. A leisurely stroll along Vigo’s seafront unveils breathtaking views of the splendid Cíes Islands, enhancing the city’s maritime charm. As a bustling fishing city, Vigo is adorned with an array of fine Romanesque buildings and a plethora of museums, offering a treasure trove for history enthusiasts. A visit to the historic Casco Vello (Old Town) is highly recommended, where the essence of Vigo’s rich past is palpable. Moreover, taking the time to unwind on one of the many serene beaches provides a perfect balance of relaxation and cultural immersion in this vibrant city.

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Starting from Baiona

Baiona on the Camino Portugués is a postcard-perfect village with narrow cobblestone streets inviting you to explore. While in Baiona, visit one of the town’s attractions such as the Museo de la Carabela Pinta and the Monumento Encuentro entre dos Mundos. A great way to finish a day in Baiona is to wander down to the harbour and watch the sunset.

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Starting from Porto

The city of Porto is a popular Camino de Santiago starting point for pilgrims walking or cycling the Camino Portugues. Porto is a pocket-sized city, full of charm and colour. With both sides of the Douro River stacked with buildings of all sizes and colours, Porto is a visual wonder. Some highlights include the Cathedral Se do Porto, the Ribeira, Avenida dos Aliados, Clerigos Tower and sipping the famous port wine.

Porto is one of the popular Camino Starting Points

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Check out our blog for a comprehensive guide to the best starting points for the Camino Portugués.

Starting on the Camino Inglés

The Camino Inglés, or “English Way,” is a lesser-known but deeply rewarding route of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Originating in either Ferrol or A Coruña in North-Western Spain, this path offers a condensed Camino experience rich in history and culture. The route was traditionally used by pilgrims from Northern Europe, particularly England and Ireland. Here are the most popular starting locations for the Camino Inglés, listed from those nearest to Santiago.

Starting from Ferrol

The port city of Ferrol in Northern Galicia is a classic starting point for Camino pilgrims from Britain and Ireland walking the Camino Ingles to Santiago. Ferrol, one of the most critical shipyards in Europe, started life as a small fishing village. Its strategic location at the end of an estuary led it to grow into the city it is today. Ferrol is also home to one of Spain’s most elaborate Easter processions, so it’s a great time of the year to experience the Camino Ingles.

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Starting from A Coruña

A city known for its beauty and rich cultural heritage, A Coruña serves as one of the starting points for the Camino Inglés. The last 75km of the Camino from A Coruña is a blend of coastal beauty and historical intrigue. Despite its shorter distance, this route offers a rich experience, weaving through picturesque landscapes and past historical landmarks, providing a profound spiritual journey for those who choose this path.

Even though A Coruña is the larger and more attractive Camino starting point, only a few pilgrims start from there because it’s situated less than 100km (62 miles) from Santiago de Compostela. If you start from A Coruña, you won’t qualify for a Pilgrim Certificate unless you have already completed the Celtic Camino in Ireland.  For this reason, Ferrol is the more popular of the two Camino Ingles starting points.

Check out our blog for a comprehensive guide to the best starting points for the Camino Inglés.

Starting on the Camino Primitivo

The Camino Primitivo or Original Camino is the oldest Camino de Santiago Route. King Alfonso II the Chaste was the first-ever pilgrim on this route. He walked the Camino from the city of Oviedo, in Asturias, to Santiago in the 9th century with a mission: to confirm the remains found in Santiago were indeed those of St James the Apostle.

Starting from Lugo

Lugo, a pivotal starting point for the Camino Primitivo, stands out with its remarkable Roman walls, a UNESCO World Heritage site encircling the old town. This ancient city, steeped in history, offers pilgrims a profound sense of connection to the past as they commence their journey. Renowned for its well-preserved Roman heritage, including the majestic Roman baths and bridge, Lugo provides a unique backdrop for the initial steps of the Camino. The city’s culinary scene, particularly its famous octopus dishes, invites travellers to indulge in local gastronomy before embarking on their pilgrimage. Lugo’s blend of historical grandeur and culinary richness makes it an unforgettable starting point for those venturing on the Camino Primitivo, promising a journey that begins with cultural and historical immersion.

Lugo, Camino Primitivo
Lugo, Camino Primitivo

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Starting from Oviedo

King Alfonso II was the first pilgrim to make the journey from Oviedo, the capital of Asturias, to Santiago, on what is known as the  Camino Primitivo. The Camino Primitivo is the original way of the Camino de Santiago. Oviedo is a beautiful and historic city, with the Holy Chamber in the city’s cathedral serving as an important destination for Christian pilgrims. Oviedo is also the cider capital of Spain so be sure and sample a glass while exploring the city.

Camino Starting Points include Oviedo

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Starting on the Via de la Plata

The Via de la Plata (also known as the Camino Mozarabe) crosses the whole of Spain from South to North. This is the longest Camino route by far (over 1000km/ 620 miles) and it was originally used as a trading route by the Romans to join the North and the South of Spain. 

Starting from Ourense

Ourense stands out as an enthralling starting location for the Via de la Plata, especially for the final 100km journey. This segment is celebrated as one of the most scenic parts en route to the esteemed Santiago de Compostela. This extraordinary trip begins in the captivating city of Ourense, known for its natural thermal springs. It ends in the splendid Santiago de Compostela, with its rich historic centre.

Pilgrims traversing this route enjoy lush Galician landscapes, adorned with quaint Romanesque churches. This journey through nature and history enriches the soul. This path offers breathtaking scenery, serving as a serene alternative for seekers of quieter routes. It ensures a truly memorable Camino experience, away from the crowd.

Outariz Hot Springs, Ourense
Outariz Hot Springs, Ourense

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Starting on the Via Francigena

The Via Francigena, also referred to as the Camino to Rome, offers an alternative to the popular Camino de Santiago routes. It is like stepping into a tapestry of European history and spirituality. For those looking to experience the Via Francigena, choosing the right starting point is crucial. Here, we explore some of the best cities to begin your pilgrimage, starting from those closest to Rome.

Starting from Siena

The enchanting city of Siena offers a splendid beginning to the Via Francigena journey. Known for its stunning medieval architecture, exemplified by the iconic Piazza del Campo and the majestic Siena Cathedral, this Tuscan city is a feast for the senses. The route from Siena to Rome (225km/ 140 miles) is dotted with rolling hills, vineyards, and quintessential Tuscan landscapes, providing a challenging yet incredibly rewarding experience for pilgrims. Siena can serve as either the beginning or the conclusion of your Via Francigena adventure.

Siena, Via Francigena
Siena, Via Francigena

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Starting from Lucca

With its tranquil ambience and exquisite Renaissance walls, Lucca offers a serene and picturesque start to the Via Francigena. The city’s charming streets, filled with ancient churches and elegant palazzos, provide a peaceful beginning to the pilgrimage. The route from Lucca to Rome (419km/ 260 miles) encompasses diverse terrains, from the Apennine Mountains to the fertile plains of Tuscany, presenting pilgrims with a harmonious blend of natural and historical wonders. Choosing to walk from Lucca to Siena, covering 133km (83 miles), offers an alternative path to qualify for your Testimonium, instead of continuing onto Rome.

Lucca, Via Francigena
Lucca, Via Francigena

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Finishing in Rome: The Eternal City

For some, the journey begins at the end. Starting in Rome and making the pilgrimage in reverse order provides a unique perspective on the Via Francigena. This approach allows travellers to experience the route as early pilgrims might have, journeying from the heart of Christianity outward into the diverse landscapes and cultures of Europe. Starting in Rome, although unconventional, opens doors to discover the route’s deep history and spirituality from a unique angle. It allows you to follow in the footsteps of myriad pilgrims, journeying backwards through time.

Vatican, Rome, Via Francigena
Vatican, Rome, Via Francigena

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Check out our blog for a comprehensive guide to the best starting points for the Via Francigena.

We hope you enjoyed this article about the top Camino starting points. For guidance on Camino de Santiago routes or planning assistance, please contact us for more information. You can also stay up-to-date with our latest events on our Instagram and Facebook pages.


  1. By Juozas A. Kazlas

    I would recommend San Sebastian (Basque Donostia) as a starting point. My wife and I flew into Barcelona, spent a couple of lovely days there, then took an express train to San Sebastian, a world-famous resort town with fine beaches and cuisine, from high-class Michelin restaurants to a lively tapas scene. This was a good farewell to the self-indulgent life before the start of our 800 km walk on the Camino del Norte and the Camino Primitivo.

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