Over 260,000 pilgrims completed the Camino de Santiago in 2015. Pilgrims have been making their way to Santiago de Compostela in the northwest region of Galicia in Spain since the remains of St. James the Apostle were brought back to Galicia after he was beheaded in Jerusalem. The Camino is the 3rd most important Christian pilgrimage, after Jerusalem and Rome. While Spaniards account for nearly 50% of the pilgrims who walk (or bike) the route, people from 130 countries make the journey each year.
There is an extensive network of routes from a number of cities in Spain and major cities in Europe that will lead pilgrims to their final destination of Santiago de Compostela. The oldest route is the Original Way (Camino Primitivo), which begins in Oviedo. The most popular route is the French Way (Camino Francés), which has good facilities and accommodations for pilgrims. The 780 km. route begins in the Pyrenees in the town of St. Jean Pied de Port in France. Nature lovers who are looking for a more physically challenging experience can take the Northern Way (Camino del Norte). The Northern Way follows the northern coastline of Spain, starting in Irûn near the French border and passing through the beautiful and rugged landscapes of the Basque region, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia. Pilgrims interested in a more rural experience can opt for the Portuguese Way (Camino Portugués), which starts in Lisbon and traverses the beautiful villages and countryside of the Portugal before crossing the border into Spain at Tui in Galicia for the last 100 kms. to Santiago.
There is plenty of information available online to help you decide which is the best route for you, based on your motivation for making the pilgrimage and how much time you have available for the journey. For more information from the Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the Way of St. James, click here.
For more information on what to see when you make it to Santiago de Compostela, click here.
Photo credit: © 2005 Ferdinand Soler
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