Choosing the best Camino de Santiago route for you
Dating back to Mediaeval times, Camino de Santiago is a world-renowned route network used by pilgrims. While the oldest and most established routes are primarily located in Spain, there are also many across other European countries, including Norway, Italy, the UK and so on. With an increased popularity in walking holidays among travellers, the most loved Camino de Santiago routes are easy to name - but how do you choose which one is the best for you? Here’s what you need to know.
Perhaps the most popular route out of the lot is Camino Francés, also known as the French Way. This is due not only to the lower level of difficulty on this route (i.e. how many hilly roads there are) but also a very good infrastructure, meaning that finding hotels, restaurants and other services along the way is not a problem during your walk. Additionally, the route has a great variety of landscapes and scenery, including mountainous areas, charming villages and fields.
In terms of the length, the French Way is one of the longer routes - 790km in total. However, most pilgrims choose to only walk a part of it (a common choice is to start at the town of Sarria, only walking the last 100km of the route).
Camino Portuguese is the second most popular Camino de Santiago trail. It is around 616km long and officially starts in Lisbon, however, it is often cut dramatically to only certain parts of the route. Many people will choose to start in Porto, making the trail 260km.
There is also a choice of whether you want to walk the coastal way or the central way - both choices are very similar in difficulty levels but the scenery will be different. The coastal route will, of course, have more views of the sea and beaches, while the central one will include more fields as well as historical towns.
Camino del Norte
Camino del Norte is often deemed the most challenging route by the pilgrimage enthusiasts. It is also one of the longest Camino ways at around 825km, with not the best infrastructure compared to some of the other routes. Therefore, it’s often recommended to more advanced walkers, who are looking for a bit of a challenge.
However, Camino del Norte is an incredibly beautiful route with highly varying scenery along the way. It has a bit of everything, from coastal and sea views, to hills and mountains as well as historical cities. The route starts in Irún and takes around 30-35 days to complete, if you decide to do it in its entirety. It can also be combined with the oldest route known - Camino Primitivo, from Gijon.
Camino Inglés or the English Way is the shortest Camino route out of the list and takes around 4 to 6 days to complete, making it a popular choice among visitors seeking a week-long walking holiday. If started at A Coruña, the route is only around 75km long, while starting at Ferrol takes it to around 113km. As it is less than 100km, the former will not give you a Compostela certificate, therefore, many pilgrims choose the former for that reason.
While considerably short, Camino Inglés is by no means the easiest due to several ascents and descents on the route. Nevertheless, it is considered a good route for first-timers who are not afraid of a slight challenge, as it provides a good idea of what Camino de Santiago is all about. The English Way is praised for its beauty due to lush forest walks, coastal views and charming towns.