The Camino de Santiago is one of the most famous pilgrimages in the world. It is formed of several ways throughout Europe all leading to the tomb of St James, Santiago in Spanish, located in Santiago de Compostela in Spain’s northwest in the Autonomous Community of Galicia.
The Beautiful Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia Spain
Individually or with a group
Hundreds of thousands of people do this route, either on tours, or on private pilgrimage. There are many recognized routes all leading to Santiago, being the most crowded, the Camino Frances which stretches for 780 km and is fed by three important routes within France: Voie de Tours, the Voie de Vezelay, and the Voie du Puy; it is also fed by other routes within Spain. It is similar to a river network, joining together to make the Camino Frances.
Map of the many routes of Camino de Santiago
Origins of the pilgrimage
It goes back to the beginning of the 9th century, when the tomb of the evangelical apostle was discovered in Santiago. Since then this amazingly beautiful city has become the target of this pilgrimage.
With time due to the flow of people towards Galicia, brought the birth of monasteries, hospitals, towns and abbeys on the way.
It came back to life at the beginning of the 20th century when this resurging of the peregrination took place until today.
Camino Frances with its different branches within France
The French Way is the most popular of all routes. It starts in St Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees and finishes about 780 km later in Santiago.
It usually takes a month to walk and about two weeks to cycle. The walking guide is broken into 23 stages stopping in many lodges, towns and villages along the way.
More than 100,000 pilgrims do this route on a yearly basis and has the support of the Spanish government as well as the support of the communities and provinces along the way, especially Leon.
Vía de la Plata
The Silver Route is the longest of all routes, originating in the South of Spain, through ancient Roman roads through many towns such as Merida and Astorga.
The origin of the name has nothing to do with the metal, but on the contrary it comes from the Arabic Word Balata, meaning paved road.
Camino del Norte
It is less known but this probably the oldest route of all. This northern route. It comes from the time the Muslim dominated some of the northern towns, so it was easy for pilgrims to Santiago to circumvent their territories.
Once the Spanish regained their lands, it was substituted by the easiest Camino Frances.
El Camino Inglés
The English Way originates in A Coruña in the very north of Galicia. It traces its history to the 12th century when it was the easiest way for English pilgrims coming from England, Scotland, Ireland and other Nordic countries.
It is a shorter route of only 118 km, but it doesn’t qualify you for the certificate if you walk less than 100 km. A Coruña to Santiago is just 74 km.
The Portuguese Way is actually three routes within Portugal all crossing into Galicia and reaching Santiago de Compostela.
From Lisbon 612 km, from Porto 240 km and prom Tui 119 km. It is the second most popular route after Camino Frances and together with Camino del Norte, it is a route alongside the coast at various stages.
Camino de Madrid
The Camino de Madrid has been used for many centuries, as stated by the remains found in Puerto de la Fuenfria in the Sierra de Gualdarrama. It takes you along many churches and historic signs and relics dedicated to St James.
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