Discover the Camino de Santiago Routes that Should be on Your Radar

Embarking on the Camino de Santiago is more than just a hike; it’s a journey through history, culture, and stunning landscapes. With several routes to choose from, each offering its unique allure, the Camino promises an unforgettable adventure.

Camino de Santiago Routes

Here’s a guide to the Camino de Santiago routes that should be on your radar. These routes are walked year in, and year out. They attract Christian pilgrims and hikers alike. Whichever one you choose, you’ll find spiritual enlightenment as you’ll have plenty of time for self-reflection, and you’ll make a bunch of new friends along the way.

The French Way (Camino Francés)

The French Way is the most popular and well-trodden Camino de Santiago route. Starting in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees, this 780-kilometer path winds through the heart of northern Spain. Pilgrims traverse diverse terrains, from the rugged mountains of Navarra to the vineyards of La Rioja, the vast Meseta plains, and the lush Galician countryside.

Saint Jean Pied de Port, Camino Frances
Saint Jean Pied de Port, Camino Frances, Author: Office de Tourisme, Source: Flickr

Highlights include the Gothic cathedrals of Burgos and León, the medieval bridge of Puente la Reina, and the lively city of Pamplona, known for its running of the bulls. For those seeking camaraderie, historical landmarks, and a taste of Spanish culture, the French Way is unparalleled.

The Portuguese Way (Camino Portugués)

The Portuguese Way offers a gentler alternative, starting in Lisbon or Porto. This route covers approximately 600 kilometers from Porto, passing through picturesque villages, historic cities, and verdant vineyards.

Pilgrims will enjoy the charming riverside towns of Tui and Pontevedra, the coastal beauty of Baiona, and the spiritual serenity of the Valença-Tui International Bridge, which marks the border between Portugal and Spain.

Tui, Camino Portugues
Tui, Author: Adolfo Enríquez, Source: Flickr

The Portuguese Way is known for its mild climate, friendly locals, and delectable cuisine, making it an excellent choice for those seeking a more relaxed pilgrimage experience.

The Northern Way (Camino del Norte)

For those who crave coastal views and rugged scenery, the Northern Way is a must. Starting in the vibrant city of San Sebastián, this 825-kilometer route hugs the northern coast of Spain, offering breathtaking ocean vistas and a refreshing Atlantic breeze. Pilgrims pass through the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia, encountering charming seaside villages, stunning beaches, and historic towns like Bilbao and Santander.

Basque Country
Basque Country, Author: Gadjo_Niglo, Source: Flickr

This route is less crowded than the French Way, providing a more solitary and introspective journey. The Northern Way is perfect for those who appreciate nature’s beauty and the allure of coastal life.

The English Way (Camino Inglés)

The English Way is steeped in history, as it was the route taken by pilgrims from England and northern Europe who sailed to the ports of Ferrol or A Coruña. This shorter route, spanning 120 kilometers from Ferrol, is ideal for those with limited time.

A Coruña, Camino Ingles
A Coruña, Camino Ingles, Author: Jose Luis Cernadas Iglesias, Source: Flickr

Despite its brevity, the English Way offers rich cultural experiences, including the bustling port cities, the ancient monastery of Sobrado dos Monxes, and the picturesque countryside of Galicia. This route is less physically demanding, making it suitable for beginners or those seeking a more leisurely pace.

The Primitive Way (Camino Primitivo)

The Primitive Way is the oldest Camino de Santiago route, dating back to the 9th century. This 320-kilometer path starts in Oviedo and takes pilgrims through the remote and mountainous regions of Asturias and Galicia.

The Primitive Way is revered for its rugged beauty, challenging terrain, and historical significance.

Picos de Europa, Camino Primitivo
Picos de Europa, Camino Primitivo,Author: Bruno Sanchez-Andrade, Source: Flickr

Highlights include the Romanesque churches, the dramatic landscapes of the Picos de Europa, and the vibrant city of Lugo, famous for its Roman walls. This route is ideal for seasoned hikers and history enthusiasts who relish a challenging and rewarding pilgrimage.

The Via de la Plata

The Via de la Plata is the longest Camino route, stretching over 1,000 kilometers from Seville in the south to Santiago de Compostela.

This ancient Roman road traverses the heart of Spain, passing through diverse landscapes, including the rolling hills of Extremadura, the fertile plains of Castile and León, and the mountainous regions of Galicia.

Via de la Plata
Via de la Plata, Author: Roger Ward, Source: Flickr

Pilgrims will encounter Roman ruins, Moorish architecture, and traditional Spanish villages along the way. The Via de la Plata offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, making it a fascinating and less crowded alternative to the more popular routes.

Via de la Plata
Via de la Plata, Author: José Antonio Gil Martínez, Source: Flickr

Hiking Tips for the Camino de Santiago

No matter what route you decide to hike, the following tips will help you get the best out of your Camino experience.

  • Plan Your Route: Research and choose the Camino route that best suits your interests, fitness level, and time constraints. Each route offers a unique experience, so consider what aspects are most important to you.
  • Pack Light: Carry only the essentials. A lightweight backpack with comfortable, moisture-wicking clothing, sturdy hiking boots, and necessary toiletries will make your journey more enjoyable. Don’t forget a good-quality sleeping bag and a first aid kit.
  • Stay Hydrated and Nourished: Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water and refilling your bottle at the numerous fountains along the way. Pack energy-boosting snacks like nuts, dried fruit, and energy bars.
  • Take Care of Your Feet: Blisters can be a common issue for pilgrims. Invest in high-quality, moisture-wicking socks and take time to care for your feet. Stop regularly to check for hot spots and treat blisters promptly.
  • Train Before You Go: Prepare physically by incorporating regular walking or hiking into your routine before embarking on the Camino. Building up your stamina and getting used to walking long distances will help you enjoy the journey more.
  • Embrace the Experience: The Camino de Santiago is not just about reaching the destination; it’s about the journey itself. Take time to enjoy the scenery, connect with fellow pilgrims, and immerse yourself in the local culture.

Embarking on the Camino de Santiago is a life changing experience that offers a unique blend of adventure, culture, and personal reflection. Whether you choose the popular French Way, the scenic Northern Way, or the historic Primitive Way, each route promises an unforgettable journey. So lace up your hiking boots, pack your backpack, and get ready to discover the magic of the Camino de Santiago routes.

Make sure you have everything you need

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