Today we want to talk about the 10 main Camino de Santiago routes. Do you remember the saying “All roads lead to Rome”? In fact, we can also state, in a sense, that all roads lead to Santiago de Compostela. With many years of tradition, the Camino de Santiago is one of the most popular pilgrimage routes in the world. If you want to walk the Camino, but you are not sure what route to follow, keep reading! Let’s discover the 10 main Camino de Santiago routes.
The main Camino de Santiago routes
Below, we will go through our list of the 10 main Camino de Santiago routes. There are many other paths that are part of the network of Jacobean Camino, but we have selected these 10 routes for several reasons. Their importance, popularity among pilgrims, history and origins, and other particularities. Remember that you can live the magic of the Camino during the Xacobean Holy Year , extended until 2022 for the first time. Let’s start!
1. The French Way or Camino Francés
Let’s start with the most popular one, the French Way. This route links the French village of St Jean de Pied de Port with Santiago de Compostela in more than 30 stages (a total of 760 km). Since this is the most popular route, you will find the biggest offer in terms of services, such hoteles and restaurants, along the Camino Francés (especially from Sarria).
In 2019, 189.937 peregrinos (54,65%) decided to walk the French Way . Thousands of pilgrims decide to walk the Last 100 km on the French Way from Sarria to Santiago. With Galiwonders, you can decide if you want to walk the Luxury French Way or the Standard one.
As mentioned, this route starts in St Jean de Pied de Port. To know more about the 10 main cities along this Way don’t miss our post. Here a list of the main stops: Roncesvalles, Zubiri, Pamplona, Puente La Reina, Estella, Los Arcos, Logroño, Najera, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Belorado, San Juan de Ortega, Burgos, Hornillos del Camino, Castrojeriz, Fromista, Carrión de los Condes, Calzadilla de la Cueza, Sahagún, El Burgo Ranero, Mansilla de las Mullas, León, Mazarife, Astorga, Rabanal del Camino, Ponferrada, Villafranca del Bierzo, O Cebreiro, Triacastela, Sarria, Portomarín, Palas de Rei, Arzúa, y Pedrouzo (about 20 km far from Santiago).
All villages and cities on this route have something special, but surely you shouldn’t miss these 10 essential places to visit along the French Way.
2. The Portuguese Way (or Camino Portugués)
The Portuguese Way starts in the capital city of Portugal, Lisbon, which is about 600 km far from Santiago de Compostela (but most of the Pilgrims start in Porto the last 200 km of the Camino Portugués or directly in Tui, the town that marks the boarder with Portugal). From Tui (or Valença) you can walk the last 100 km of this route. It is the second most popular route in terms of number of Pilgrims, just after the French Way. 72,357 pilgrims (20.82%) walked this way in 2019, according to the Pilgrims’ Office in Santiago.
The origins of this route are, for some historians, as old as the French ones. Check here the history of the Portuguese Way. Also, you might be interested in discovering the meaning of the Spiritual Variant of the Portuguese Way and the meaning of the Translatio.
The main stops, starting in Lisbon, are: Santa Iria, Vila Franca de Xira, Azambuja, Santarem, Golega, Tomar, Alvaiazere, Ansiao, Condeixa a Nova, Coimbra, Mealhada, Agueda, Albergaria a Velha, Sao Joao de Madeira, Grijo, Porto, Fajozes, Arcos, Barcelos, Ponte Lima, Rubias, Tui, O Porriño, Arcade, Pontevedra, Caldas de Reis, Padrón and Santiago.
This last stop before our destination, Padrón, is the place from where the remains of St James the Apostle were transported to Santiago.
3. The Portuguese Coastal Way (or Camino Portugués de la Costa)
This is one of the most recent routes (it was made “oficial” only a couple of year ago). But, at the same time, it is one with the fastest growth. The Portuguese Coastal Way, was the 3rd most walked Camino in 2019, with 22,292 (6.41%) according to the numbers given by the Pilgrims’ office. The Camino Portugués de la Costa runs in parallel to the traditional Portuguese Way, from Porto to Santiago de Compostela. However, as we can understand from the denomination of this route, it is a coastal walk. From to Porto to Pontevedra, the trail passes all along the sea (almost all the time). Check more differences between the two routes at this link.
A great number of pilgrims, decide to start their Portuguese Coastal Way from the city of Baiona, famous for being the first place to receive the announcement of the Discovery of America. This route is 100 km long, the minimum required to obtain the “Compostela” at the end of the Camino. From Redondela to Santiago de Compostela, the Portuguese Coastal Camino meets the traditional Portuguese Camino. They both merge together, on the same route. For this reason, the number of pilgrims is higher from this point up to Santiago de Compostela.
4. The Northern Way (or Camino del Norte)
Another popular route is the Northern Way, that has been recently declared Unesco heritage site. In 2019, it was 4th in the ranking of the most walked caminos, with a total of 19,019 pilgrims (5.47%) asking for their certificate once they reached Santiago de Compostela. The starting point of the route can be Bayonne (France), Irún (Spain), but most of the pilgrims really start in San Sebastian. There are more than 800 km to Santiago, and more than 30 stages. This route is one of the most spectacular, since it is mainly coastal and offers incredible views on the ocean. Also, if you walk the entire Northern Way, you will be able to cross 4 different autonomous regions (Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia) and admire a great variety of landscapes in these territories.
Some of the main towns on the way are Bilbao, Santander, Gijón, Avilés and many more. In case you only have a week at your disposal, and want to walk the last 100 km of the Northern Way, you can start your route in Vilalba. During the first stages, you can enjoy a more quiet and solitary walk, since usually only few people choose this way (less than 3.000 in 2019). Although, from Arzúa, the path is the same as the French Way, up to Santiago, so there will be a strong increase in the number of pilgrims.
8. The English Way or Camino Inglés
The English Way is one of the shortest routes of the Camino de Santiago and it has two different starting points: Ferrol and A Coruña. Nowadays, Ferrol is the most popular starting point of the Camino Inglés, because from there it is possible to walk 100 km (the minimum needed to get the Compostela certificate). If you want to depart from A Coruña but you would like to get the Compostela (Pilgrim Certificate), you should know that you have the option to walk the 25 km stretch in your own country, or place of origin, until completing the 100 kms. In neither case, you can get the certificate if you ride the way with your bike (in this case the minimum required is 200km).
Both cities used to be the main entrance doors for travelers coming to Galicia region. Those pilgrims coming from England or Ireland (that is why it is called the English Way) used to arrive to these ports. From there, they continued walking towards Santiago de Compostela. The English Way was the 5th most walked camino in 2019 with 15,780 pilgrims (4.54%). Along this route, you can find some incredible places and it’s a good option if you want to walk a quiet route but not too isolated. Moreover, if you start in A Coruña, you can visit the oldest working lighthouse in Spain, the Tower of Hercules, declared World Heritage Site by the Unesco.
6. The Primitive Way (also known as Camino Primitivo or Original Way)
In 6th position of the 10 main Camino routes, we find the Primitive Way (Camino Primitivo in Spanish), that can be done in 13 walking days (about 250 kilometres). Very closed to the English Way numbers, it registered 15,715 pilgrims (4.52%) in 2019. This was the original route of all the caminos, from here its name, and it dates back to more than a thousand years ago, when the King Alfonso II visited the grave of St. James the Apostle.
This route starts in Oviedo, and the stops are: Grado, Salas, Tineo, Pola Allende, Berducedo, Grandas de Salime, A Fonsagrada, O Cádavo, Lugo, Ferreira, Melide, Arzúa, Rúa and finally Santiago. Nonetheless, as all the other routes you can decide to walk only the last 100 km of the Camino de Santiago. In this case, you would start your route in Lugo and you’ll need a week to complete this Way. From Melide, the path is the same as the French Way, and pilgrims using both routes will walk together until Obradoiro Square, in Santiago.
It’s recommended to choose the Primitive Way, only if you are an experienced pilgrim. Even if you are an expert hiker, we strongly suggest you to not undertake the path in the coldest months. The Primitive Route in winter can be dangerous for the rain, the snow and the wind of the Asturian mountains. In addition, the number of accommodations is very limited in winter.
7. The Silver Way or Via de la Plata
The Vía de la Plata is another way of getting to Santiago and 9,201 pilgrims walked it in 2019 (2.65%). This route starts in Seville, the capital city of Andalusia, and some of the main stops are: Zafra, Mérida, Cáceres, Carcaboso, Salamanca, Zamora, Puebla de Sanabria, A Gudiña, Ourense and finally Santiago. As always you can decide to walk only the last 100 km, in this case starting from Ourense. Let’s find out all the information about this last section of the Silver Way from Ourense.
The original trail, that was a Roman road, stretched from modern-day Mérida to Astorga. Though, in Zamora we can follow the Camino Sanabrés or Mozárabe to Santiago de Compostela. There are more than 40 stages, almost 1,000 km approximately, which make this route the longest of all the caminos to Santiago. This is, undoubtedly, a unique way to discover Spain from south to north and admire the great difference in their culture and architecture. For instance, you can get to know the Islamic past of Spain. This path will allow you to visit wonderful cities, some of them World Heritage Sites, as the old town of Cáceres, the Archaeological Site of Merida, The Catedral and Alcazar de Sevilla, and the old town of Salamanca.
8. The Finisterre Camino (or Camino de Finisterre)
It is the only Camino de Santiago route that does not finish in Santiago de Compostela. It starts there!
The Finisterre Way is part of the Jacobean routes, but it has many particularities that make it different. On the one side, it is the shortest Camino de Santiago route (less than 100 km!). On the other side, the route has a pagan origin, even before Christianity itself! Both the Celts and the Romans found Finisterre as a mystical place, and many cultures considered it as an altar to the God of the sun. Also, the Finisterre Camino has its own credential and its own Pilgrim Certificate: the Finisterrana.
There are many pilgrims who after finishing the Camino de Santiago, decide to continue towards Finisterre. Both to see the sea, and to contemplate the sunset from its popular lighthouse. There, we will see the milestone that marks the KM 0 of the Camino de Santiago. The Finisterre Way is still one fo the main routes of the Camino de Santiago. Remember that after arriving to Finisterre, you can continue the Camino until Muxía.
9. The Winter Way (or Camino de Invierno)
With regards to the Winter Way or Camino de Invierno, don’t get wrong! It can be walked all year long. The Winter Way is the alternative to those pilgrims who want to walk the French Way during winter time, since the stretches around O Cebreiro can be closed because of the snow. In general, the number of pilgrims is low, around 1.000 in 2019, also because the path is very demanding. Also, this is the only route that crosses all the Galician provinces ( Ourense, Pontevedra, Lugo, A Coruña).
You can either walk the Full Winter Way from Ponferrada or just the last 100 km from Monforte de Lemos. In both cases, you will be able to enjoy wonderful landscapes, such as Ribeira Sacra, and discover another wonderful part of Galicia.In this region, you could taste some of the most famous wines of all Spain and enjoy the incredible views of the Canyon on the Sil River.
10. The Aragonese Way (or Camino Aragonés)
The Aragonese Way is one of the less known routes, but at the same time one of the oldest. It is about 140 km long, divided on 6 stages: Somport, Jaca, Arrés, Ruesta, Sangüesa, Monreal y Puente la Reina. The end of this route is considered to be Plaza de Obanos, in Puente de la Reina, where it joins together with the French Way up to Santiago de Compostela. Because of this, the Aragonese Way is also known as the French-Aragonese Way.
In case you need some help to decide what route you should walk, you can do our Camino de Santiago test and figure it out. Remember there are as many caminos routes as pilgrims walking them. Live the perfect experience along the Way of Saint James!
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