Many consider it a way of cleansing the soul, others see it as a journey on which there is no other option but to be confronted with oneself. The Camino de Santiago or Way of Saint James has evolved from being a religious pilgrimage into a soul-searching hiking experience that many, devoted or not, have embraced in recent years.
The Camino is in fact a collection of paths that pilgrims followed to reach the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, in northwestern Spain. These routes were at some point in the Middle Ages one of the most important Christian pilgrimages in Western Europe. The legend holds that St. James’s remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain, where he was buried.
If at some point in your life you choose to embark on this hiking and spiritual retreat, the first thing you have to do is to choose which route you’d like to follow. Some of the factors to take into account are the weather conditions, the number of days available, the kind of landscape you prefer, how fit you are, among others. There are also some who choose to walk only a segment of the route without actually arriving in Santiago de Compostela.
There are thousands of kilometers of Camino across Spain, France and Portugal, and the options are endless. Travel Tomorrow has put together a handful of routes — the most pleasurable and popular ones — so that readers can evaluate which one would suit them best.
Which Camino route would you do next?👣— Follow the Camino (@followthecamino) January 25, 2021
➡️ #caminoprimitivo …..
🧭 #whichroute #followthecamino #caminodesantiago #camino2021 #xacobeo2021 pic.twitter.com/tmzObBA2EE
1. Primitive Way or Camino Primitivo
The Primitive Way or Camino Primitivo is considered the first Camino de Santiago. This was the itinerary used in the first pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostle, it was the route that King Alfonso II of Asturias used to follow in the 9th century. This is a somewhat challenging but gorgeous route.
The journey starts in the city of Oviedo, the capital of Asturias, and it’s usually divided into 14 sections that cover close to 330 kilometres (200 miles) all the way to Santiago de Compostela. The final stages join the French Camino in the village of Palas de Rei.
One this route, you will be able to enjoy some of the most astounding landscapes in Asturias and Galicia. It goes through few roads and for the most part there’s little traffic so it is a perfect option for those who want to avoid crowds and the constant noise of the city. Along the way, there will be many moments of peace and solitude standing the middle of nature.
This Camino is famous for its challenging stages, which some people relish. It alternates between strong climbs with significant descents, mountain and inland itineraries as well as muddy tracks and mountain paths. The route has good signage and an adequate and continuous network of hostels and accommodation along its course.
2. English Way or Camino Inglés
The English Way or Camino Inglés is the first historic maritime route to Santiago, dating back to the 11th Century. The name of this route comes from the increasing number of European pilgrims (particularly British and Irish) who sailed to the Galician shores and continued their Camino on foot from two main points: Ferrol and A Coruña. When Henry VIII ruled the separation of the Church of England from the Catholic church in the 16th century, the relevance of this route declined.
This journey can be started in A Coruña or on the coast of Ferrol. From A Coruña the walk is about 70 kilometers long (45 miles) divided in 3 sections, while from Ferrol, it has an extension of about 122 kilometers (76 miles), divided in 5 stages. Both paths cross in the town called Hospital de Bruma.
This is a route specially interesting for those who want to get a taste of both the coastal landscapes and inland paths. It has a medium level of difficulty, without significant level differences. Overall, it has relatively good signage and an acceptable network of accommodation, although in times of great affluence such as Easter, it might be necessary to find an alternative to the preferred choice.
O río que o atravesa, o Carboeiro, dá nome a este bonito parque situado nos arredores de Sigüeiro (municipio de Oroso) e polo que pasa tamén unha das rutas de peregrinación a Santiago de Compostela: o Camiño Inglés 🇬🇧 #Sentidiño #Xacobeo2021 #Oroso pic.twitter.com/VXjNkIVyUU— Turismo de Galicia (@Turgalicia) January 22, 2021
3. French Way or Camino Francés
The French Way is the most popular of all the different Caminos. It’s also recommended path for those pilgrims that embark on such a hike for the first time, or those who want to bring their kids along.
This route has been active since the tomb of the apostle was discovered in the 9th century, and the current course was established in the 11th century. It is a cultural, artistic and sociological landmark, becoming the first European Cultural itinerary. Most of the existing European routes come together in this Camino. It is one of the longest Caminos if you decide to start in the town of Saint Jean Pied de Port. The itinerary is usually split into 31 stages, for a total of 773 kilometers (480 miles).
The landscape will include mountains, fields and villages. Some of the cities you’ll cross are Pamplona, León, Burgos and the famous village of O Cebreiro. Because of its fame, this path has a more established infrastructure for pilgrims. It’s well-marked and it offers several lodging alternatives. Given the constant influx of walkers, the French Way is a good option for those who are not comfortable being alone for long stretches of time. If you seek a quiet Camino, you may want to avoid spring and autumn, or choose a different path.
4. Northern Way or Camino del Norte
The Camino del Norte runs along the Northern Coast of Spain. This 800-kilometer-long travel (497 miles) is the second longest Route to Santiago de Compostela after the Vía de la Plata. Its existence dates back to the ancient Kingdom of Asturias in the 9th Century. After the Spanish Reconquista, this route lost relevance and French Way became more popular.
Some of the main cities on this route are are San Sebastián, Bilbao, Santander, Gijón and Ribadeo. There are mountainous segments combined with roads and asphalted tracks. The topology presents some uphill stretches, which could be challenging at times.
This is considered the quietest Camino, with some breathtaking views of cliffs and beaches. The popularization of this route over recent years led to an improvement on the signage and the pilgrim support infrastructure is still growing. Even if it doesn’t offer as many hostels as the French Camino, there are various albergues and other accommodation options.
5. Portuguese Way or Camino Portugués
The Portuguese Way is the second most traveled behind the French one. In the past, this Camino was regularly supported by the Portuguese Crown and there are records of pilgrims walking it since the 11th century. From the original starting point in Lisbon, there are roughly 320 kilometers to Porto, and a further 280 kilometers on to Santiago.
This Camino is no overtly demanding, with relatively flat sections for the most part. This route doesn’t cross through any uninhabited areas, which means that pilgrims will find many alternatives for accommodation. Hikers can walk the Portuguese Central Camino, the Portuguese Coastal Camino or the Spiritual Variant, all of which combine sea and mountain landscapes that offer a balanced combination of scenery.
On this Camino, you will walk through Hikers will be able to see towns like Pontevedra and Padrón, the city of Vigo (on the Portuguese Coastal Camino), Tui and Redondela (on the Portuguese Central Camino) or the beautiful village of Combarro (on the Spiritual Variant). The last stop before Santiago de Compostela will be Padrón, where legend has it that the Apostle’s body first arrived by boat.
La historia de #Pontevedra no puede comprenderse sin el puente de O Burgo, símbolo de la ciudad del Lérez y pieza fundamental del Camino Portugués a Compostela.#BuenosDías y #FelizViernes pic.twitter.com/i2712QCiaO— Turismo Rías Baixas (@turisriasbaixas) January 22, 2021