It’s one of the world’s most famous, most popular and most rewarding long-distance hikes. The Camino de Santiago has been a religious and spiritual rite of passage for thousands upon thousands of pilgrims since the Middle Ages. Camino de Santiago is the Spanish name for the route, but it’s also known as the Way of St. James, St. James’s Path, Road to Santiago and many other names in English.
There is no “official” route or starting point. The ‘Camino’ is a rather dense networks of hiking trails or old pilgrim routes. Although you can start whenever you want in Europe, all pilgrimages do end in the city of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. More specific, they end in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, a hugely impressive church in which it’s said that St. James is buried.
During the Middle Ages, Santiago de Compostela was one of the three major Christian pilgrim destinations in the world – the other two were Jerusalem and Rome. A traditional pilgrimage started at the pilgrim’s own house, but nowadays it’s become more of a travel destination.
Although there are numerous routes that lead to the cathedral, there is one trail that’s by far the most popular one. In this post, we’re going to focus on that particular one.
The Camino de Santiago Walk
The most popular route runs from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port in the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela, a route of 780 kilometers long (about 500 miles). It’s so popular that, in summer, there’s an almost continuous line of hikers between the start and finish.
On the way, several other routes, which start at other points in France and Spain, join the “main” route, kind of like a river system.
This 780-kilometer (500-mile) route takes about 30 days to finish. Hiking is relatively easy, except for the fact that it does require you to hike every day. The terrain is fairly flat and the trails are in good condition. Accommodation en route is provided by so-called pilgrim hostels, cheap places that offer beds in dormitories. Staying in those hostels is an essential part of the Camino experience.
There are many reasons why people would “do” the Camino in these modern times, from spiritual healing and religious purposes to simple adventure and the history of the region. Whatever it is, the Camino de Santiago walk is bound to be a life-changing experience. No one arrives home afterwards and is still the exact same person.
It’s one of the greatest long-distance hikes in the world and one that my wife and I plan to do in the very near future…
Feel free to come along!