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The Camino de Santiago
Everything you need to know, step by step
Why do the Camino de Santiago?
There are many reasons that might inspire you when it comes to going on a pilgrimage to Santiago. After several years working along the Camino we have found several reasons that keep pilgrims’ feet moving over every kilometre of the route to Santiago. We will fill you in on all of them, and we hope that you can identify with some of them. If you haven’t yet decided whether or not to do the Camino, this should be the definitive step:
Visit the Apostle’s tomb
The reasons why the Camino came about originally were to visit the Cathedral of Santiago and beg forgiveness for your sins, to bless yourself before a coming battle, to pray for miraculous cures or to visit the remains of the Apostle, which rest in the Cathedral. Nowadays, visiting the tomb is still one of the main reasons for the pilgrimage.
Live a new adventure
The Camino is the perfect place to get away from the monotony of everyday life and discover places off the beaten track : areas where the sea meets the green meadows, paths with such lush vegetation that the sunlight can hardly pass through, streams or waterfalls that give you a sense of peace and quiet that is otherwise difficult to find. All of this can be found in the adventure of the Camino.
Meet other pilgrims
Along the Camino, you can find people from all over the world. Many people are afraid of setting off on their own, however the journey to Santiago has the magic of bringing like-minded people together and creating unbreakable bonds. Even if you prefer to live this experience by yourself, you can always share your tales with other pilgrims. Make a friend on the Camino and it’s possibly a friend for life…
Not everyone has the ability to face the hardships of the Camino, whether due to a disability or advanced age. However, there are some brave people who, despite their issues, decide to take a chance on the Camino in order to outdo themselves and achieve the goal of arriving in Santiago de Compostela. The perfect example of a pilgrim with a desire to show their courage,if you are over 65 years old, or you think your body won’t allow you to face this challenge, don’t write yourself off! The Camino has a route for everyone. You can experience its magic!
Appreciate its Cultural Heritage
If there’s one thing the Camino can offer, it’s a wealth of historical and cultural heritage. Its routes have been travelled by pilgrims for many centuries and different civilisations have left their mark on each of its villages. From impressive cathedrals, iconic churches or castles that have formed part of the ancient history of the Camino.
Which Camino should I choose?
First time on the Camino? Maybe you didn’t know that the Camino de Santiago is made up of a network of interconnected routes all over Spain? Don’t worry if you are a little overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of information about the routes. We will break it down for you so you can know what is what, and decide which one is best for you.
If you are familiar with the routes, you can click on “Learn more” in each Camino to access more in-depth information. In our main section Caminos, we speak about all the stages that each Camino is made up of, its villages and the most relevant sights to see along each route.
11. Camino Francés
In medieval times, this became the main pilgrimage route of the Camino de Santiago and continues to be the most popular nowadays. There are many reasons why it is the most well-known route. Due to its connection with France, all pilgrims who came from mainland Europe had to journey along this route. Moreover, one of the chapters of the famous Codex Calixtinus contains a guide to the Camino Francés, making it the only documented route at that time. Later, due to the importance given to it by the monarchy, the church or distinguished visitors, it gained renown that was only marred by the Moorish conquest in the XI Century.
This route starts from Saint Jean Pied de Port and travels through northern inland Spain covering 764 km and 33 stages, passing through areas such as Roncesvalles, Pamplona, Burgos and León, among many others.
It is characterised as being one of the routes with the most cultural and historical heritage for the previously mentioned reasons. Along the route you can find magnificent cathedrals and famous churches. All this, together with the wide range of services aimed at pilgrims, make this one of the most highly-regarded routes.
22. Camino Portugués
It began as a more commercial route following the independence of Portuguese territory from Spain in the XII Century. Over time, due to the renown achieved by the Cathedral of Santiago and the remains of the apostle, this route began to be used by believers who wanted to reach Santiago de Compostela and make amends for their sins. Nowadays, it has become one of the most important routes of the Camino, being the second-most travelled by pilgrims after the French route.
The Camino starts in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, continuing along a 620km route divided into 24 stages to the Cathedral, entering Spanish territory in the Galician town of Tui, one of the most sought-after starting points among those pilgrims who are doing the Camino for the first time or who don’t have enough time to complete the whole route.
This route stands out due to the combination of cultures it features, as it crosses the two linked territories of Spain and Portugal. Considered one of the less challenging routes, this one is often chosen by pilgrims wishing to avoid big hills or hard terrain that can be found on other routes, such as the Camino Primitivo.
33. Camino del Norte
This was the main alternative route at the time when the Camino Francés was occupied by Muslim troops and therefore all pilgrims, whether from Spain or the rest of Europe, had to journey along this route, the only one which wasn’t occupied. After the liberation of Spanish territory from the Moors at the beginning of the XII Century, the French route began to gain importance over the Northern route, although it continues to be one of the most important to this day.
It begins in Basque territory, a community in the north of Spain, specifically in the town of Irún. It is the longest route (not including connections) given that it adds up to 820km divided into 32 stages, which travels along all northern Spanish territory, which is why it is sometimes also called the Camino de la Costa.
Its landscapes are without a doubt some of the most beautifulamong all the Camino routes, connecting the sea views and cliffs of the Cantabrian Sea beaches, with the green areas which charcterise the north of Spain. Although there are some steep climbs along the route, it is undeniably worth choosing this route.
44. Camino Primitivo
The first route in history. In the year 813, a rumour went around that the tomb of the Apostle St. James had been discovered in what was then known as Gallaecia territory (modern day Galicia). King Alonfso II, the Chaste, went there to see if the rumours were true. He set off from Asturias in the direction of Santiago de Compostela, and the journey he made was considered the first St. James pilgrimage, which still exists nowadays under the name Camino Primitivo.
It starts in the Asturian capital of Oviedo, crossing the autonomous community until it enters Galicia in the province of Lugo, and finishing in Santiago after a journey of 313km and 11 stages.
Its route is one of the most demanding among the Caminos de Santiago due to the fact that it crosses the mountainous region between Asturias and Galicia. However, due to this same fact, this route is considered a route of personal growth and moreover, is much less travelled. So if you wish to do a Camino without large numbers of other pilgrims, this is the route for you.
55. Camino Inglés
Its name is closely linked to its history, given that due to the importance of the maritime route between the British Isles and Galicia centuries ago, many English sailors completed the pilgrimage to pay their respects before the remains of the Apostle. Such was its fame that there are documented events whereby Crusaders and Templars stopped on Galician Coasts, before traveling on to Jerusalem, in order to do the pilgrimage to Santiago and ask the Apostle for protection in the Holy Land.The route adds up to 120 km in 6 stages, beginning in the port area of Ferrol. Curiously, this route also offers another starting point, the city of A Coruña. Due to its historic importance and its ties with the Galician capital, the council of Santiago granted it the honour of being included in the Camino, allowing pilgrims to obtain the much sought-after Compostela, despite only consisting of 75km to Santiago (100km is the minimum distance necessary to get the Compostela otherwise).
The greenery and the Galician culture take precedence in this route, which journeys through the depths of the autonomous community of Galicia. If you want to appreciate the magic of this land, this route is the option you should choose for your adventure on the Camino de Santiago.
One of the youngest routes within the Camino network. It is considered young as part of the itinerary within the Camino de Santiago. However, history can prove that it is a route as old as the classic Camino Portugués, given that many distinguished people have carried out their pilgrimmage along this route.
This itinerary stretches along the 280 kilometres that separate Porto from Santiago de Compostela, in 9 stages along the coast and 3 along the classic Camino. It is known as the Camino Monacal, or the Monastic Camino due to the large number of monasteries that can be found along the route.
In general, the route is flat and can be crossed all year round, running between cliffs, mountains and estuaries. It starts in the important city of Porto, and goes through towns such as Póvoa de Varzim, Viana do Castelo, Esposende, A Guarda, Baiona and so on.
77. Vía de la Plata
This started out as one of the most important roadways used by the Ancient Roman Empire to connect Mérida with Astorga. Over time, this roadway came to stretch from the south of Spain all the way to the Galician capital, representing the route which exists nowadays. Its connection with Santiago came about after the Cathedral of Santiago was looted by Muslim troops, when the bells of the temple were taken to Córdoba. After they were recovered, following the fall of Al-Andalus in the Spanish Reconquista, they were returned to their rightful place along this route.
Upon reaching a certain point along this route, you have the option of continuing and joining the Camino Francés, or detouring at Puebla de Sanabria and continuing along the Camino Sanabrés. Depending on which route you choose, the number of kilometres travelled varies, however, it consists of approximately 950km spread out over 27 stages, making it the longest route with connections.
In the summer season, this route suffers high temperatures due to the fact that it originates in the south of Spain, and there are few places to sit in the shade and relax. Despite this, every year it has more and more devotees due to its status as a camino with a grand history and cultural treasures.
During the winter season, the Camino Francés was hindered at certain points due to heavy snows, and so pilgrims needed to look for an alternative route that would expose them to less risks. Their solution was that upon leaving Ponferrada, they would detour to the southwest and avoid climbing to O Cebreiro, among other challenges, and enter Galicia through the region of Valdeorras, in the province of Ourense. Due to its origin in avoiding the harsh winter, the Camino de Invierno was given its name.
From the point of the detour in Ponferrada, this route continues along 260km split into 8 stages until reaching the Cathedral. This route offers an interesting curiousity, unique among the other routes, in that along the journey, you can cross all 4 provinces that make up the community of Galicia; A Coruña, Lugo, Ourense and Pontevedra.
Despite what the its name might indicate, this route is not only carried out in the winter months. Due to its landscapes and cultural treasures, this route is journeyed by pilgrims all year round.
Fisterra, from the Latin finis terrae,can trace its roots to long before the birth of the way to Santiago. Numerous studies indicate that in this area, it was possible to connect the ancient city of Dugium with the renowned Atlantis and the settlement of a Celtic tribe called the “Nerios”. This is how a multitude of settlements and cults began to proliferate in honour of the sun god, who came to life again every day from the depths of the waters of the Atlantic. The Apostle St. James considered these cults to be pagan and ordered their destruction. Faced with the villagers refusal to comply, it is said that a huge flood washed away the village. All of this, together with the miracles which occurred in Muxía, inspired many pilgrims to prolong their adventure a little further upon reaching Santiago.
This is the only route that doesn’t finish in Santiago de Compostela, but rather starts there. There are 5 stages made up of a total of 120km as far as Finisterre. This route is designed so that you can visit Muxía along with Finisterre. If you hadn’t considered it, you should think about it! Both regions posess a certain charm that shouldn’t be missed.
Along this route you will have the opportunity to visit places rooted in true Galician culture; it’s an opportunity to get to know the charm of the Galician community. Moreover, along the way, you can visit the Cascada del Ézaro, the only waterfall in Europe that falls directly into the sea.
When should you do the Camino?
One of the biggest worries when going on an adventure along the Camino is knowing when is the best time of year to do it. Within the four seasons that make up the year, we can group them into 3: summer, winter and autumn/spring. Doing the Camino in one season or another, can greatly affect your plans when it comes to packing your bag and even for booking/finding available accommodation between stages.
The Camino in Summer
This is the time of year when the largest number of pilgrims gather along the different routes that make up the Camino de Santiago. The main reason behind this phenomenon is the free time available to the pilgrims in order to be able to do it, given that it coincides with the holidays of the majority of workers. The climate also has its influence, although the elevated temperatures at the peak of summer can make walking stressful and even in some cases, dangerous.Learn more
The Camino in Winter
Seeing the routes of the Camino de Santiago with their landscapes covered in snow is an image worth witnessing. However, due to the aggressive climate with heavy snow in certain elevated areas, for example O Cebreiro, intense rain in other cases and the low temperatures in the majority of the accommodation, this can quickly turn into an authentic odyssey for the pilgrim. Although there are always some who prefer to see these factors as a challenge…Learn more
The Camino in Autumn/Spring
These two season are probably the ideal time of year to do the Camino. Why? The climate and the temperatures are usually more stable and less harsh than in other seasons. Moreover, few people can resist the idea of walking among the flowers blooming in spring or the leaves falling from the trees in autumn.Learn more
How Should I do the Camino?
Mainly on Foot. This is the way it has been done since its beginnings and nearly all the pilgrims do it this way. However, over time, other ways of doing it have come about and some have become quite important, as is the case of doing it by bike or on horseback. Such is their importance that they have been included as possible requirements in order to get the Compostela.
Other secondary ways of doing the camino that haven’t fully caught on yet include: doing the Camino with your dog, who can get its own credentials stamped and get its Compostela, thanks to the Association for the Protection of Animals of the Camino de Santiago; o doing the Camino in kayak , along the Rías Baixas, you can follow the same route as the remains of the Apostle before their arrival to Galiian land.
The Camino on Foot
As we have already mentioned, this is the main way of doing the Camino. Almost 8 out of 10 pilgrims complete their journey in this way, and the routes are mainly designed for walkers. If you want to get the Compostela on foot, you must fill in the Pilgrim’s Credential with two stamps per stage, and a minimum journey of 100km, highlighting the start and finishing point, and it should be stamped in chronological and geographical order.Learn more
The Camino by Bike
This is one of the increasingly popular ways of doing the Camino, that every year claims more and more devotees, with almost 2 out of every 10 pilgrims doing the Camino by bike this year. In this way, pilgrims can complete more kilometres in less time. There are those who believe that the Camino should be done slowly and deliberately, but doing the Camino more quickly and taking advantage of the opportunity to see more regions also has its appeal. Unlike doing it by foot, it is necessary to complete 200km in order to achieve the Compostela.Learn more
The Camino on Horseback
This is an especially attractive option, although not so common. The issue with doing the Camino in this way is that it is necessary to choose the horse well, so that it gets used to the rider quickly and doesn’t scare easily. Moreover, a more exhaustive search for accommodation with facilities to provide shelter for animals is needed. The exact same requisites are in place to achieve the Compostela as doing it on foot.Learn more
What to take on the Camino?
It’s more than likely that you have asked yourself this question, whether you are going to do the Camino or not, above all to prepare yourself and know how to face an adventure in the moment that you decide to go for it. To that end, we will provide with a short list of recommendations so that you can imagine what might be necessary to take with you on the Camino. There are different criteria regarding what is necessary or different utensils etc, however we will fill you in on what’s most important for us below.
- Backpack with between 35 and 45 litre capacity
- Sleeping Bag
- Water bottle
- Footwear: Hiking boots
- Comfortable trousers for walking
- 3 or 4 sets of underwear and socks
- Wash-bag with soap, toothbrush, comb, deodorant, tissues etc.
- Small first aid kit with Betadine, gauze and Vaseline
- ID Card
- Pilgrim’s Credential
- Cash and credit card
- Earplugs (for a good night’s rest!)
- Hat, baseball cap, visor or bandanna
- Your enthusiasm for adventure!
What is the Camino de Santiago?
The Camino de Santiago is a thousand-year-old route of pilgrimage that was born with the discovery of the remains of St. James the great.
The Apostle St. James was one of those placed in charge of continuing the Christian labour begun by the Messiah before his death.
One of the main territories in his evangelical work was Gallaecia, modern day Galicia, although it was in Jerusalem that he would be executed for spreading Christianity.
The Discovery of
After his death, his disciples Athanasius and Theodore set sail with his remains until reaching Iria Flavia, in Gallaecia, where they buried him in a forest next to Finisterre.
His grave was forgotten until the years 820-830, when a hermit rediscovered them. The Camino carried out in order order to show respect at his tomb created what is nowadays known as the Camino de Santiago.
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