There are many Camino trails but which Camino de Santiago route is best for you? Which path should you take? Today we share a bit of history and practical tips to help you find the right Camino for you.
Medieval pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela and other places of pilgrimage used to start their journeys from their own homes, towns and villages; making their way to Santiago taking the safest route they could find. As a result different Camino de Santiago routes developed over centuries, as pilgrims travelled from all corners of Europe and beyond, sharing journeys and experiences.
For 21st century pilgrims, the Camino de Santiago remains a great adventure and there are many different trails to choose from, each of them with their particular history, heritage, culture, food and traditions.
Camino Francés: the classic Camino route
While it is not the oldest route, the Camino Francés has definitely become synonymous with ‘The Camino’ and it is by far the best known and most transited of all the Camino routes; although the trail starts getting busier mainly on the last stages into Santiago.
As its name suggests, the Camino Francés was the path taken by pilgrims coming from France. It takes approximately five weeks to walk the whole route from the town of Saint Jean Pied de Port, at the foot of the Pyrenees, on the French side.
You will be crossing the Pyrenees into Roncesvalles, walking in the vineyards of La Rioja region, stopping in the medieval villages of La Meseta, and climbing the Mountains of Leon and Ponferrada before reaching Galicia.
While the route is approximately 800kms long, not all pilgrims tackle the full Camino Francés, with many starting their pilgrimage from cities or towns further along the trail, such as Burgos, Leon or Ponferrada. The town of Sarria, in Galicia, and just over 100kms away from Santiago de Compostela, is in fact the pilgrim’s favourite starting place and can be easily covered on foot in under a week.
This Camino de Santiago route is best for you... if you have watched the movie The Way and want to take the same route, experiencing the classic Camino most pilgrims talk about. If you are looking for a social experience, this is the Camino you are looking for.
The Camino from Portugal
Pilgrims from Portugal travelled North to Galicia in great numbers for many centuries, and many important Portuguese personalities and royalty undertook the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
There are a few different Camino de Santiago trails across Portugal but these two have become the pilgrims’ favourites. We love them because you get to experience two countries:
–Camino Portugues is the traditional pilgrimage route, starting in Lisbon and taking pilgrims mainly across central Portugal, stopping in country towns and villages as well as wonderful historic cities such as Coimbra. The most popular starting point for pilgrims is the picturesque city of Porto, by the Douro River. Wonderful woodland tracks, old towns and historic cities.
Just like the Camino Frances, you can go the whole way from Lisbon which will take about five weeks or start further along the trail, for instance Porto or Tui, on the border between Portugal and Galicia.
-The Coastal Camino Portugues, the Camino Portugues along the Coast, is exactly that, a scenic alternative trail following the Atlantic Coast from Porto and up the North of Portugal all the way to Galicia. It is a relatively new trail but its breezy seaside towns and Atlantic coastal beauty have made it a modern classic. A fantastic trail ideal for summer, the Coastal Camino Portugues can be walked in just over two weeks.
This Camino de Santiago route is best for you... if you are looking for coastal trails and to experience Portugal’s history, gastronomy and hospitality.
Camino del Norte: Spain’s North coast
Pilgrims on the Camino del Norte follow the shores of the Cantabrian Sea (Bay of Biscay) from the Spanish/French border town of Irun. This is a journey across Spain’s Northern Coast and its fascinating regions from the Basque Country to Cantabria, Asturias and finally Galicia.
Many pilgrims from Northern Europe would have followed this Camino path, as they landed on one of the northern sea ports along the Bay of Biscay.
There are some great cities and superb coastal towns on the Camino del Norte, from San Sebastian, Bilbao and Santander to the lesser known villages and towns such as Santillana del Mar, Cudillero and Ribadeo. All with their gastronomic delights ready to welcome hungry pilgrims, making this route a treat for foodies.
This Camino de Santiago route is best for you… to explore the coastal heritage and culture of the Northern Coast of Spain also known as ‘Green Spain’
Camino Ingles: the shortest route
If you are short of time and would still like to have a full Camino de Santiago route ticked off your list, the Camino Ingles is ideal. It is the shortest Camino de Santiago trail, at just over 100kms from Ferrol and 75kms from A Coruna.
There are two starting points: A Coruna and Ferrol, both official. Ferrol is more popular as it allows you to get your Compostela certificate in Santiago de Compostela (you need to walk at least 100kms) however Irish pilgrims who wish to start from A Coruna can request the Irish Compostela from the Camino Society in Dublin. All you need to do is complete one of their approved pilgrim routes in Ireland before continuing on to Santiago.
The Camino Ingles takes pilgrims along the Bay of Ferrol area and has lovely historic towns such as Pontedeume and Betanzos; with also a few opportunities to enjoy a dip in the sea if you are so inclined! After Betanzos, the trail becomes more rural with crops and pastures as your main companions. This is a great little Camino trail for those with limited time but still looking to experience the Camino in full.
This Camino de Santiago route is best for you… if you’d like to walk a whole Camino route in just one week. Compact in size but full of history and tradition.
Camino Primitivo: the oldest Camino
The Camino Primitivo translates as something like ‘the original’ as it is the oldest Camino de Santiago route, taken by King Alfonso of Asturias which was the first ever pilgrim to Santiago de Santiago, who had the task of making official the discovery of St James and ordered a chapel to be built in his honour.
For many experienced pilgrims, this is one of the most stunning Camino routes but also one of the most testing ones, as the first stretch from Oviedo takes pilgrims across the Cantabrian mountain range. The remoteness and scenery is worth the effort though, if you are up for a challenge.
The whole Camino Primitivo route takes just over two weeks to complete but you can also start from Lugo city and walk the last 100kms, which are very manageable for all walkers, as you will be avoiding the mountainous part of the trail.
This Camino de Santiago route is best for you... if you are up for a big adventure and ready to take on the challenge of its remote mountain sections. Unforgettable.
Via de la Plata: an epic trail
The Via de la Plata is another epic trail and the longest Camino, crossing the Iberian Peninsula from Seville in the South of Spain. It is quite off the beaten track and, at times, you will feel as if you are travelling back in time.
The sections across Andalucia and Extremadura can get very high temperatures in the Summer months so if you are looking to tackle the full trail, Spring or Autumn months are much better for walking.
Most pilgrims however pick Ourense city, 100kms from Santiago, as their starting point to experience the last stretch of the route, one of the most beautiful and lush.
This Camino de Santiago route is best for you… if you are in search of a quiet and rural trail.
Fisterra and Muxia: magical trail to the ocean
The Camino to Fisterra and Muxia is another classic route and the only Camino that starts in Santiago de Compostela, taking pilgrims to the cliffs, coves and strands of the Atlantic West Coast of Galicia, a land of fascinating traditions and spectacular rugged landscapes.
From the iconic Cape Fisterra and its lighthouse, the route continues along the rural coastal trails of a Costa da Morte to the fishing village of Muxia, home to legendary ‘rocking stones’ and a chapel dedicated to Our Lady, sitting grandly on the rocks by the Atlantic Ocean.
In fact, this Camino route can be walked in both directions and it is a manageable distance and terrain for walkers of all levels. It is often seen as the natural continuation of other trails finishing in Santiago but it is also a great option for those returning to the Camino or simply looking for a Camino with a coastal element.
This Camino de Santiago route is best for you… to continue your journey from Santiago and experience the magic of Galicia’s Atlantic coast.
These are some of the pilgrim’s favourite Camino routes but there are many others such as the Camino trails across France, the Camino de Invierno… and other routes that are gradually being recovered and marked for pilgrims to discover.
Which Camino de Santiago route is best for you? Contact our expert travel team for advice, information and to help you plan an unforgettable trip.Contact Us