All ways lead to Santiago de Compostela. But, how do you decide which way to walk?
The Camino de Santiago holds a special place in the hearts of us here at Camino English. If you’re as astute as we think you are, then you will have realised that Camino English takes its name from the Camino de Santiago. Why? Because that is where our idea was born. Or rather, somewhere along the way, in an ‘albergue’, sharing information with other pilgrims and exchanging stories of who we were and where we had come from.
Deciding to walk the Camino de Santiago is a fantastic first step.
However, choosing which route to walk to Santiago de Compostela is often the more difficult decision to make, especially when you find out that there are multiple routes. All up, there are seven well-established routes to choose from as well as at least six lesser-known routes. But, deciding on which one to walk will depend on you and what you want to experience and achieve.
So, what is it that you want to experience? Keep reading and we’ll help narrow down your options.
I want the full experience. Everything and more.
Whether you complete the minimum 100 kilometres to obtain the Compostela accreditation or walk one of the long-distance routes, either experience is going to be eye-opening. However, these moments of awe and wonder are likely to be more awesome and more wonderous the longer you walk and the more time you are out on the road.
Of the well-established Camino routes, the long-distance walks are considered to be more than 500 kilometres in length. Of these, there are four and they are the Camino Portugués (616km), the Camino Francés (790km), the Camino del Norte (825km), and the Vía de la Plata (1oookm).
To complete any of these four routes in their entirety, you will need time, perseverance and dedication.
I want to meet and talk to people.
If meeting others, talking to people, and sharing experiences is your desire, then the best choice of way to Santiago for you is the Camino Francés. It isn’t the oldest of the Caminos, that belongs to the Camino Primitivo, but it is the most historical and, by far, the most popular. Every year, more than half of the pilgrims that arrive in Santiago de Compostela arrive via the Camino Francés route.
Although most pilgrims will not have begun the walk in Saint Jean Pied de Port, France, this route is historic for the number of religious orders–monks, sisters, brothers–who have made this pilgrimage and erected monasteries and temples along the way. As a result, the way is well-marked and there are plenty of ‘albergues’ where you can meet others, share experiences and stories, and get a good rest before continuing your walk.
On the other hand, if you want a quieter and more peaceful journey, then the Vía de la Plata is probably more suitable for you. Also, the Camino de Invierno is a much less populated route, and much shorter in length.
I want to see stuff.
The best part of a walking holiday is that you get to see stuff. You rarely miss anything because it’s easy to stop, look up and around, and take in the views. But what views interest you the most?
Beaches and coast: Camino del Norte; the coastal section of the Camino Portugués; the beginning of the Camino Inglés; and the Camino Finisterre.
Hills and mountains: Camino Primitivo; the beginning of the Camino Francés; sections of the Camino del Norte in Asturias and Cantabria.
Fields and plains: Camino Francés; Vía de la Plata; Camino Portugués via central route
Forests: Camino Finisterre; Camino Inglés; all routes through Galicia
Historical sites: Camino Francés, Camino del Norte and Camino Portugués have more historical sites, towns and cities to see than the other routes.
I only have one week to walk.
The most popular section of the Camino Francés is the route between Sarria and Santiago de Compostela, which is just over 100km making it just long enough to receive the Compostela accreditation when you arrive in Santiago de Compostela.
However, nobody is forcing you to finish in Santiago de Compostela. In fact, you can choose to walk whatever section you wish to walk and then say you have walked part of the Camino. When you have more time, you can always come back and continue the walk from where you left off. Or, start another section just because you can.
Besides, you have to remember: it’s not the destination that is important, it’s the journey.
Have you ever walked the Camino de Santiago?
If yes, which route did you walk and what do you remember from your journey?
If not, is walking the Camino de Santiago something you would do? How hard do you think it would be?
(Featured image: Raul Villalon)