Pilgrims Walking the Camino

Camino routes

The many Ways to Santiago de Compostela

Each year, the Way of St. James draws thousands of people from all over the world, and everyone’s Camino is a unique, individual journey. But what is, actually, the Camino, and why are there so many of them?

For over 1000 years, people from all over Europe have been making pilgrimage to the tomb of Apostle James the Greater, or Saint James, which is located inside the Cathedral in the City Santiago de Compostela, in North-western Spain. In the Middle Ages, they would leave their home – in Spain, Portugal, France or farther beyond. As they would pass churches and monasteries in search of shelter, the monks and priests would make notes of having hosted these pilgrims. It is, in part, these accounts that have enabled us to know and reconstruct the many different Ways that European pilgrims embarked upon to reach the tomb of St James. The Spanish word for “Way” is “Camino,” St. James is Santiago and, today, the Way of St. James is known internationally under its Spanish name “Camino de Santiago.”

Read More about the History of the Camino de Santiago ⇒

The French Way, or Camino Francés, is the most popular of the many routes to Santiago de Compostela. Saint Jean Pied de Port – a charming town on the French side of the Pyrenees – is the beginning of this fascinating 800 km. (500 mi.) long journey across Northern Spain.

The French Way leads you across the majestic Pyrenees mountains into the charming hilly countryside of Navarra and on into the fertile wine region of La Rioja. Then, pilgrims enter the vastness of the wide-open Meseta: its endless grasslands and dramatic cloud movements in the sky allow for some epic, panoramic vistas. Having crossed the Meseta, the Camino now winds up the passes of another mountain range – the Montes de León, with the enchanting El Bierzo region lying in its valley. The last ascent summits at O Cebreiro and also demarcates the entry into Galicia – the land of strong Celtic tradition, mystical forests, foggy mornings and an absolutely unique, mysterious feel.

The French Way became the main route for pilgrims in medieval times and, to this day, its historical and cultural riches never seize to fascinate thousands of pilgrims from around the World. Picturesque villages and towns of medieval charm, vibrant, contemporary cites and countless tales and legends of miracles – all of these complement the natural landscape diversity along the Way. Blended with the superb infrastructure and – last but, most definitely, not least – the great comradery among Pilgrims, these make the Camino Francés an absolute highlight.

In the 11th century, the first waves of pilgrims reached their height, and King Sancho III of Navarra established a Way over the Pyrenees to Nájera – the ancient Capital of Navarra. The Royal Cities of Pamplona, Burgos and León became connected by the Camino Francés, and thousands of pilgrims contributed to these regions’ economy and left their lasting cultural imprint.

The medieval pilgrims impacted the regions of Northern Spain very strongly, and many traces of that time can still be found along the French Way. When foreign traders, craftsmen and artists settled along the Camino Frances, many Spaniards would simply refer to them collectively as “Franks”, although certainly not all settlers belonged to that ethnic group. But the term stuck – and that is how the Camino Francés got its name.

It is true, however, that especially the superior Frankish craftsmanship and architectural knowledge shaped many cities along the Camino. The movement of pilgrims also rendered a strong economic stimulus. Bridges and other aspects pf infrastructure were put in place, and numerous hospitals were founded along the way to treat pilgrims that had gotten ill. Cities like Logroño, Burgos and Santo Domingo de la Calzada owe their size and prestige partly to their location along the Camino Francés. Over time, many towns along the way acquired Christian relicts and constructed churches, while also more and more miracles were reported to have been witnessed in various locations.

The French Way has remained the most popular among the routes to Santiago to this day, with over 60% of all pilgrims to Santiago walking this trail. In 1993, the Camino Francés became inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage for its historic and cultural significance.

the different caminos

Camino Francés:
St. Jean Pied de Port ⇒ Santiago de Compostela

With over 60% of all Pilgrims walking this Way to Santiago, Camino Francés is, without any doubt, the most well-known, historically significant and iconic of all the Caminos. Its unparalleled diversity of landscapes, superb infrastructure and fantastic comradery of Pilgrims from allover the World make walking this Camino a truly unique and amazing experience.

Camino Portugués:
(Lisbon ⇒) Porto ⇒ Santiago de Compostela

The Portuguese Way (Caminho Português) is the second most popular after the Camino Francés. From Porto, there are two Routes to choose from, one more inviting than the other: the Coastal Route and the Traditional (Inland) Route. Along the coast, sandy beaches invite pilgrims for a swim, and ocean sunset views are simply epic. Inland, vineyards and fruit trees dominate the countryside, and picturesque villages abound with traditional food and the famous Vinho Verde.

Camino del Norte:
Irún ⇒ Santiago de Compostela

The Camino del Norte – the Northern or the Coastal Way – is the oldest European pilgrim route to Santiago. It is especially known for its scenic beauty, and the idyllic fishing villages and bustling towns invite pilgrims to experience their rich cultural heritage and amazing cuisine. And as this route along the coast is quieter than the Camino Francés or Portugués, many pilgrims appreciate the calmness and the pristine nature of this trail.

Camino Primitivo:
Oviedo ⇒ Santiago de Compostela

Camino Primitivo means “The Original Way.” It was the first route, along which the Spanish pilgrims walked to see the sepulcher of St. James. It is claimed that King Alfonso II, who proclaimed the discovery of the Apostle’s remains, was the first to walk to Santiago from Oviedo along the Camino Primitivo. Ranging only 316 kilometers, this is one of the shorter Caminos. It is a special highlight for mountain lovers and nature fans, and for those fit enough for a physical challenge.

Camino Inglés:
Ferrol ⇒ Santiago de Compostela

The Camino Inglés (the English Way) was the most popular pilgrim route to Santiago for people from England, Ireland and other Nordic countries in the middle ages. They crossed the sea by ship to anchor in the different harbours on the Galician coast, mainly A Guarda and Ferrol, and continued on foot to the tomb of Saint James. It covers just over 100 Ks of distance, traversing the picturesque countryside of Northern Galicia.

Camino Finisterre – Muxía:
Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre – Muxía

While many pilgrims end their journey in Santiago, some continue on to Finisterre – the End of the World, as it was believed to be in the Middle Ages – and / or to Muxía – a dreamy village home to a stunning shrine right on the edge of the Atlantic. For many, this short Camino is often a mystical experience: even in pre-Christian times, many people regarded this region as sacred and suspected the higher powers to be at work here.

POPULAR camino tours

What are Pilgino Tours? ⇒

Everyone’s Camino is a unique and individual experience, and we all have different needs and preferences. That is why we have designed a wide variety of different Camino Tours – in different parts of the different Caminos, different lengths and levels of intensity – so as to fit everyone’s particular ideas and wishes. And on top of that, our smartly-designed tours are easily and seamlessly combinable and extendable.

Explore our Tours below, and see, which ones spark your interest! Each tour lists a summary including total and daily average length and intensity, and the detailed itinerary provides a day-by-day overview and an outline of highlights.

Short Camino Tours (approx. 1 Week)

Camino Finisterre

Santiago de Compostela ⇒ Finisterre

Starting at € 280

Distance: 91 km. (56 mi.)

Duration: 6 Days Total / 4 Days Walking

Difficulty: easy

Camino Francés: Last 100 Ks

Sarria ⇒ Santiago de Compostela

Starting at € 360

Distance: 119 km. (74 mi.)

Duration: 8 Days Total / 5 Days Walking

Difficutlty: easy

Camino Finisterre / Muxía

Santiago de Compostela ⇒ Finisterre ⇒ Muxía

Starting at € 370

120 km. (75 mi.)

8 Days Total / 6 Days Walking

Difficulty: easy

mid-length Tours (approx. 2 Weeks)

Camino Portugués: Traditional

Porto ⇒ Santiago de Compostela

Starting at € 730

Distance: 242 km. (151 mi.)

Duration: 14 Days Total / 11 Walking

Difficulty: easy

Camino Portugués: Coastal

Porto ⇒ Santiago de Compostela

Starting at € 820

Distance: 269 km. (167 mi.)

Duration: 15 Days Total / 12 Days Walking

Difficutlty: easy

Full Camino Primitivo

Oviedo ⇒ Santiago de Compostela

Starting at € 760

Distance: 316 km. (197 mi.)

16 Days Total / 13 Walking

Difficutly: challenging

long camino Tours (up to 6 Weeks)

Full Camino Francés

St Jean Pied de Port ⇒ Santiago

Starting at € 2,380

Distance: 790 km. (491 mi.)

Duration: 40 Days Total / 37 Days Walking

Difficulty: moderate

Full Camino del Norte

Irún ⇒ Santiago de Compostela

Starting at € 2,880

Distance: 818 km. (508 mi.)

Duration: 42 Days Total / 39 Days Walking

Difficulty: moderate

Camino Francés: Fast Track

Saint Jean Pied de Port ⇒ Santiago

Starting at €1,795

Distance: 790 km. (491 mi.)

Duration: 33 Days Total / 30 Days Walking

Difficulty: moderate

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