For many pilgrims, the route to Santiago starts at their door, walking from all over Europe to arrive at Santiago de Compostela, a city in the north western part of Spain. In addition to having a myriad of routes within Spain, there are variant Caminos in Portugal and France. For those coming to Spain from various continents, getting to Santiago requires international travel as well as travel from the airport or port to the starting location.
Caminos in France
St-Jean-Pied-de-Port (SJPDP) is the city at which three of the four major French pilgrimage routes converge: the Caminos (“Voies” or “Chemin”) from Tours, Vézelay, and Le Puy-en-Velay.
- The Voie de Tours starts at the tower of Saint-Jacques in Paris, France, and is about 960 km (600 mi) to SJPDP. Many pilgrims walking from more northern countries use the Voie de Tours
- The Voie de Vézelay starts near Vézelay, Burgandy is about 1087 km (675 mi) to SJPDP
- The Voie de Le Puy-en-Velay continues paths from Cluny and Geneva and is about 720 (450 mi) to SJPDP
The fourth major route in France is the Voie d’Arles, which starts near Marseilles, France, and meets up with the Camino Francés in Puente La Reina 860 km (535 mi) later. This route is tranditionally used by pilgrims coming from Italy and the south of France.
In Portugal, the Camino Portugués (Caminho Português) starts at the cathedral in Lisbon and follows the Atlantic Coast in Portugal to Spain, and then to Santiago. It is 625 km (388 mi). There is a side trip to Fatima. There are also variant routes for the coast, the north of Portugal, etc.
Caminos in Spain
Within Spain, the most famous route is the Camino Francés starting in Roncesvales and heading west for 790 km (490 mi). Many pilgrims start this pilgrimage in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a small town in France. From there, they climb over the Pyrenees or take the less difficult route through the Valcarlos Valley to Roncesvalles. The Camino Francés takes a little over four weeks to walk. Those with limited time, may start at points closer to Santiago.
The following routes connect with the Camino Francés. Note: The distances called out below are from the point of original to the Camino Francés.
- Camino del Norte – Irún, France to Arzúa 825 km (512 mi)
- Camino Aragonés – Somport to Puente la Reina
- Camino Primitivo — Oviedo to Melide
- Camino de Madrid – Madrid to Sahagúnamino del Salvador – León to Oviedo, where it connects with the Camino Primitivo
- Camino de la Lana – Alicante to Burgos
- Camino Vasco del Interior – Camino from Irún to Santo Domingo de la Calzada
- Camino de Invierno – an alternate route on Camino Francés from Ponferrada to Santiago
- Camino Vadiniense – Potes via Riaño and Cistierna to Mansilla de las Mulas 135 km (83 mk)
- Camino Baztan – Bayonne, France, to Pamplona 103 km (64 mi)
- Viejo Camino de Santiago – Bilbao to Villafranca del Bierzo 450 km (280 mk)
- Camino Mozárabe – Granada to Mérida 406 km (252 mi)
- Ruta del Ebro – Tortosa though Zaragoza to Logrono 350 km (217 mi)
- Via de la Plata – Seville to Astorga 1000 km (620 mi)
- Camino de Levante – Valencia to Zamora, where it connects with Via de la Plata
- The Camino Del Sureste is from Alicante to Medina del Campo, where it connects with Via de la Plata
From my experience on the Camino Francés, the are many alternate routes offering choices for a more scenic view, a side trip to a point of interest, or a shorter, more-direct—but noisier—near-the-road experience.
As you can see, there are many ways to get to Santiago. For more information on the individual routes, visit the Camino de Santiago, The Confraternity of Saint James, American Pilgrims on the Camino, or the Camino de Santiago Forum. For books on the Camino, visit Camino Books
Which route will you take? Leave a comment.
Jane V. Blanchard