The Caminos are pilgrim routes leading to Santiago de Compostela, and the shrine of St. James the Great. Most people who walk the Camino de Santiago are Christians, but not exclusively so. In fact, you don’t need to be a believer in order to go on this adventure; you may simply want to leave your life behind for a while, want to experience something new, or are in fact on a soul searching mission. Whatever your reasons may be for heading out on this journey; there are several routes you can choose from, and here are the top 3 Camino de Santiago routes you can take when hiking the pilgrim way.
Top 3 Camino de Santiago Routes
Camino Francés – The French Way
The French way is definitely the most popular road to Santiago de Compostela. It is a part of an ancient Roman network of roads, and it has played a significant role in the past, as most pilgrims came from France in the Middle Ages, making this the most frequently used route. It is 790 kilometers long in total, starting out at St. Jean Pied de Port, and is lined with many picturesque sites. You will pass many a medieval town, countless vineyards, and will breathe in the beauty that is Galicia before you reach your goal.
It will take you about 4 weeks to walk the French way, including rest days. The infrastructure along it is the best you can hope for, and there are many hostels and cafes you can stop into for a rest. You will probably also have company on your walk, especially between June and September, as most pilgrims choose to travel during this part of the year. If you are looking for more peace however, you might want to opt for another route.
The last part of the journey passes through Sarria, which is the most populated starting point, 100 kilometers from Compostela, and this is where you are most likely to meet fellow travelers on the road.
Camino da Costa – the Portuguese Way
The Portuguese way to Santiago de Compostela is the second most popular route to Santiago. You will not run into as many travelers as you would on the French way; but the road does get busy, so tolerance is a must. The infrastructure is also not as great, and there will be less hostels on the road, sometimes with as much as 35 kilometers between them, so make sure you are in good shape before setting out.
You can choose to start at Lisbon (614 km), Porto (240 km) or Tui (115 km). The road from Tui to Compostela is naturally the busiest, and you can enjoy the company during this part of the journey. The Portuguese way is also not as hot as the French way, and you will take you by the sea. It is also not as mountainous, and is much easier on your legs; so this route is perfect for families or first-time pilgrims. It will take you through fishing villages with adorable markets and the breathtaking scenery that is the Atlantic coast of Portugal. However, you do need to count on the fact that this route will also cost you a bit more; though not drastically so. Bear in mind that the weather can also be fickle, and pack accordingly.
Camino Ingles – the English Way
The English way has been frequented by those traveling from the north of Europe, as well as Ireland and England. They were called the sea-faring pilgrims, as their journey naturally involved crossing water. With modern means of travel; the route is today about 110 kilometers long, making it one of the easier ones; much shorter than the French and Portuguese way.
The trail usual begins at the town of Ferrol, known as the safe harbor of the Spanish Armada, and a candidate for the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. It runs along the coast at first, and crosses lush mountains before trickling into Santiago de Compostela. The diversity it offers is the main charm of this route; as you will be able to see both the coast and the mountains, and enjoy the scenery along the road.
Make sure to do your research before you tackle the Camino; different routes are suited to different kinds of people, with different expectations from the experience, and with different levels of fitness. Pack accordingly, and open up your heart to the experience which is the Camino de Santiago.