The Many Ways to Santiago

For thousands of years, pilgrims have made the journey on foot to the sacred Cathedral of St. James in Santiago de Compostela via numerous trails coming from all over Europe and even as far away as Jerusalem. Once they reach Spain and Portugal, most pilgrims funnel into a few main trails, with the classic “Camino Frances” (French Way) being the most popular. This is the route that we have chosen, selecting the most beautiful hiking sections for our journey.

THE CAMINO FRANCES
  • This was the principal traditional route and thus has the most impressive churches and other significant pilgrimage stops along the route.
  • The scenery is exquisite, with a great variety of landscapes as we traverse historic regions of northern Spain, from the high plains of Castile to mystical Galicia.
  • The hiking is over easy to moderate terrain, with well-marked paths throughout.
  • There are more pilgrims here than on other routes, and this is what you want! One of the highlights of the Camino is the camaraderie, the sense of walking in the footsteps of history, and for many, the sense of a shared spiritual journey.
  • This route has the best selection of accommodations, including historic monasteries and inns. In Santiago, we will have two nights in the exquisite Parador de Santiago de Compostela, founded in 1499. From its terrace looking right over the square in front of the Cathedral, we’ll witness countless pilgrims reaching the emotional conclusion to their journey.
  • There are great options for dining along this route. We share a wonderful array of Spanish cuisine (and wine!), including renowned Galician seafood with you.
“Where to begin? It is such a spirited, friendly, communal experience—we have incredible camaraderie within our groups, and with other pilgrims along the trail. That is such a highlight—on one trip we met people from 60 different countries! We hike only the prettiest, most historic parts of the route from Burgos to Finisterre, and ending at the ocean is just incredible. Our days are full, but not too full—you also have personal time to journal or explore the towns and villages. The trails are in excellent condition—no uneven or tricky terrain. You get to just enjoy the walking, and all of the meaning of being part of a 1,100-year-old pilgrimage. One of the things our travelers love the most is collecting the stamps in their ‘Pilgrim’s Passport’ at churches and cafés along the way. It really shows your progress along the trail, and gives you such a sense of accomplishment when we reach Kilometer 0. Buen Camino!”
-Trip Leader, Rob Noonan

What About Other Camino Options?

CAMINO PORTUGUES

This is the second most popular route, which gained prominence in the 14th and 15th century as coastal towns grew in wealth from the sailing expeditions to Africa and the New World. The Camino Portugues starts in Lisbon or Porto and has two variations, one following the coast and the other heading inland. Many churches, chapels, and monasteries dedicated to St. James dot the inland route. Unfortunately, this route generally follows, or is not very far from the highway routes up the coast, and much of the traditional path now goes through highly urbanized areas.

CAMINO DEL NORTE

Also known as “The Coastal Route,” this option travels along the northern coast of Spain past Bilbao, Santander, and Gijon before turning southwest at Ribadeo. This route does enjoy scenic coastal and mountainous sections, and is considerably less traveled, but the hiking is much more difficult with a lot more up and down, and much of it is on pavement and passes through a number of touristy coastal towns. Rainy weather is much more common along this route.

CAMINO PRIMITIVO

Crossing the Cantabrian Mountains, this is the most difficult pilgrimage route, until the point where it joins the Camino Frances for the final stretch to Santiago. It begins at Oviedo, in Asturias, and was first walked by King Alfonso II in the 9th century. The mountain weather makes the hiking more challenging, with a fair amount of rain and muddy terrain to be expected on any departure.

Routes

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Pilgrims Ways 2018 itinerary

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