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An Introduction to the Camino de Santiago

The Camino Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela

The Way of St. James, commonly known as The Camino or El Camino de Santiago (in Spanish ) is the name of the pilgrimage routes to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain. Each year over 250,000 people walk to the Cathedral in Santiago, said to be the burial place of St. James. Pilgrims take many different routes, following in the footsteps of pilgrims of the Middle Ages. The most famous route is the Camino Francés a journey of 778 kilometres from the border of France and Spain to Santiago de Compostela.

Download our introduction booklet here for more information.

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The French Way (Camino Francés)

Historically, most pilgrims came from France, from Paris, Vézelay, Le Puy, Arles, and Saint Gilles. The Spanish consider the Pyrenees, on the border of France and Spain, to be a starting point for the Camino. Common starting points there are Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or Somport on the French side of the Pyrenees and Roncesvalles on the Spanish side.


The most popular starting point for modern day pilgrims is Sarria, 112km from Santiago on the Camino Francés and just above the requisite distance to be awarded a Compostela. Almost 50% of the pilgrims arriving in Santiago start in Sarria making it the busiest section of all the routes. 

 

Other Popular Routes

The second most popular route is the Camino Portugués, the Portuguese Way, which starts either at the Cathedral in Lisbon (for a total of about 613 km) or at the cathedral in Porto in the north of Portugal (for a total of about 241 km), crossing into Galicia at Valença/Tui. Another increasingly popular route is the Northern Route nearer the Spanish coast along the Bay of Biscay.


Some pilgrims start from even further away, though their routes will often pass through one of those four French towns.
Some Europeans begin their pilgrimage on foot from the very doorstep of their homes, just as their medieval counterparts did.

More Camino Routes

 

  • Camino Francés: 790km from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (France).

  • Camino Português: 241km from Oporto or from Lisbon 613km.

  • Camino del Norte: 830km from Irun (Basque Country) along the coast

  • Via de la Plata: 1000km from Sevilla (Andalucía).

  • Camino Primitivo: 320km from Oviedo (Asturias) via Lugo.

  • Camino Inglés: 110km from Ferrol (Galicia) & 75km from La Coruna (plus a certified 25km in your country of origin, eg. Ireland) to gain a Compostela.

  • Camino Mozarabe: 390km from Granada or Malaga to Merida.

  • Camino Sanabrés: 360km from Granja de Moreruela via Ourense.

  • Camino Madrid: 320km from Madrid to Sahagun (on the Camino Frances).

  • Camino de Levante (Camino del Cid): 900km from Valencia to Zamora.

  • Chemin de Le Puy: 740km from Le Puy in France to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

Routes Not Finishing in Santiago

  • Camino Finisterre & Muxia: 90km or 110km Santiago to Finisterre/Muxia

  • Camino Ignaciano: 640km from Loyola(Basque) to Manresa(Catalonia).

  • And there are many more marked routes starting in Europe, Germany, France, Switzerland etc.

Camino Routes Map

General Things To Know about Walking the Camino

  • Money: Small café-bars and village shops don’t accept credit cards. ATMs work well in most large towns and cities.

  • Make copies of all your documents and email them to yourself.

  • You will not be allowed to take your walking pole home as hand luggage.

  • Washing clothes: Take 8 plastic pegs and a 2m-nylon cord to use as a wash line. Useful when it rains and you can string it across the bars of the bunk beds. Take 8 large safety pins to pin damp clothing onto the backpack so that it can dry during the day whilst walking.

  • Post Offices in Spain: Most are open from 8:30 – 20:30 on working days and 09:30 – 14:00 on Saturdays. Parcels sent ahead will take 3 – 5  working days. Charges are ± €5 for up to 2kg to €12 for up to 20kgs.