If you have decided to walk the Camino de Santiago, you may have heard that there are many different routes you can take that have very uniquely different experiences. Some are more rural, some more social, and some routes start in different countries besides Spain. This short article will briefly expose you to the most common routes that are suggested due to them being marked and having enough resources along the path for pilgrims seeking shelter and food.
- Camino Frances (French Camino)
The French Way is the most popular of the Camino treks and has been for thousands of years. This path makes up potentially the best overall Camino experience combining the social aspect, the number of qualify Albergues, multiple stopping options, and plenty of cities to explore. This route starts just across the Spanish border on the other side of the Pyrenees mountains in St Jean Pied de Port. This beautiful little town has unique red and white themed buildings and is the ideal starting location for pilgrims to state that they have walked across the entire country of Spain. The first day is challenging and has just one stop 5 km (about 2 miles) up the mountains. The next stop is about 20 km further before getting to a monastery where there is plenty of housing for a large number of pilgrims. Pilgrims have the most energy with excitement on the first day and I have never met someone who wishes they didn’t start in St Jean. More people wish they had started in St Jean if they end up skipping the first few days to start in Pamplona. This trek will take you through historic cities like Pamplona, Burgos, Leon, and finally Santiago. There is also the famous wine fountain created by a monastery that provides free wine for all pilgrims.
- Portuguese Route
This route is commonly the second or third most popular route and starts in Portugal creating a similar experience to the French Way. Most pilgrims love this journey and soon want to also experience the French Way. There are many beautiful segments to this route and is a solid option to consider if you want to experience the Camino in a slightly less popular solution.
- Primitive Northern Way
There is another option along the French route that many experienced backpackers prefer to take because it allows for a more traditional backpacking experience in comparison to the popular French route. Even though there is plenty of “Arrow” signs marking the route, many pilgrims find that there are less than the traditional route and it requires more attention to a map. This is significantly less populated and as a result, there will be less “in-between” hostel options available and you may find yourself needing to camp out in rare circumstances. It breaks from the traditional French Way just a little bit into the route. You might even decide to continue walking the traditional route by the time you need to make the decision or you may decide to walk the Northern primitive route partway through the traditional Camino hike. It’s nice to have this as an option at the very least.
You can read more about how others have found themselves on the Camino by reading more books about the Camino de Santiago. You can find Camino books and the ideal backpacking gear or Camino packing list for the trip at different blogs that are specialized in the Camino de Santiago journey.
About the Author:
Caleb walked the Camino de Santiago in the fall of 2016 and is planning another trip with his family and newborn baby in the fall of 2021. He works as a NetSuite developer at a family business in Wisconsin providing IT services to mid-market organizations. This career field is perfect for the Camino because it allows him to occasionally take longer vacations and work remotely. He wrote his first book about the Camino de Santiago and publish The Way of the Cross and the Struggle for Holiness a year after he completed the Way of Saint James.