All paths lead to Santiago.
Nowadays, there are more than a dozen marked routes in Santiago de Compostela: shells can be seen not only in Spain, but also in Portugal, France, Germany, Switzerland, Holland and even in the countries of Eastern Europe. But the most found and equipped, of course, primarily Spanish versions of the route, only the Portuguese route from Porto can compare with them.
1. Camino Francés (French Way).
The most popular route, very diverse in terms of both culture and natural surroundings. The popularity is a plus for those who go for the first time and are afraid of being alone on the road, but also a serious disadvantage for those who want to be in solitude. The length of the Santiago Way from St. Jean Pied de Por to Santiago de Compostela is about 780 km.
2. Camino Portugués (Portuguese Way)
The Porto-Santiago segment of the Portuguese Way is the second most popular. Its beautiful nature, good infrastructure and short length make it very popular with first-time and time-poor travelers. It is about 240 km from Porto to Santiago and 115 km from Tui.
The Lisbon to Porto section is much less navigable, poorly marked in places, with few shelters and long distances between them. From Lisbon to Porto it is about 400 km.
3. the Camino a Fisterra (Way to Fisterra)
Traditionally, the pilgrimage does not end in Santiago, but at the “ends of the earth” on the Atlantic coast (Fisterra literally means “ends of the earth” in Galician). The pilgrims visit two villages near the ocean: Fisterra proper and Mushia, for which they have to walk about 110 km.
4. Camino del Norte (Northern Path)
This route goes along the northern coast of Spain (you can also start in the French territory of Bayonne). The scenery on this route is very beautiful and the north winds bring down the heat, but it has few shelters in not the most comfortable places to stay overnight. This makes it not very comfortable or pleasant to walk in the summer. The distance from Bayonne to Santiago is about 860 km.
5. Camino Primitivo (Primitive Way)
The word “primitivo” in Spanish means not only primitiveness, but also a reference to the beginnings. Today, the Camino Primitivo is limited to a section of the ancient route from Oviedo to Santiago. The route goes mostly through the mountains and is considered physically the most difficult of the main versions of the Santiago Way, but the difficulty is more than compensated by the abundance of gorgeous views from the mountains and over the mountains. The length of the route is about 315 km.
6. Via de la Plata (Silver Route).
The longest among the main variants of the Route: it begins in the very south of Spain, in Seville. In contrast to the routes already described above, it runs from south to north and passes through very different historical and natural areas: the ancient Roman amphitheaters and the heritage of the Caliphate of Cordoba; the vast plains, changing into beautiful highlands – all this is the Silver Way. However, the route is not very popular, because it is characterized by long stages and intolerable heat in the summer, and do not forget about its length: almost 1050 km.
7. Camino Sanabrés
The word “Sanabrés” comes from the name of the region of Sanabria, where this path begins. In fact, it is a continuation of the Via de la Plata from Zamora to Santiago, and many guidebooks do not distinguish it separately, although historically it is more correct to think that La Plata after Zamora goes further north and joins the French Way in Astorga. The route is beautiful and interesting, but not the easiest. Those wishing to take it usually start a little earlier, on the Silver Route from Salamanca: it is an old and interesting town, and also easier to reach from Madrid. The distance from Zamora to Santiago is a little over 400 km, from Salamanca it is about 470 km.
8. Camino Inglés (English Way)
A route established in the 12th century thanks to the English crusaders who went to Portugal or the Holy Land to fight the Moors and visited the tomb of St. James on their way. Today it is the shortest marked route: from the beginning in Ferrol to Santiago it is just under 120 km. It is a beautiful, varied and secluded trail: it has only recently been marked and has not yet become very popular. Thanks to the new shelters that have broken up the long (more than 30 km) stages, the English Trail is now a great choice for your first camino outing.
In addition to those listed above, there are quite a few other marked out routes: the Camino Mozárabe (9) from Granada via Cordoba, joining the Silver Way before Cáceres; the Camino de Levante (10), also coming from southern Spain and even longer than the Silver Way; routes from Madrid (11) and Barcelona (12) to the French Way; roads from France and Holland to Saint Jean Pied-de-Pore. They are all interesting in their own way, but the infrastructure around them is mostly poorly developed (no shelters, often poor markings), which greatly reduces their appeal to inexperienced pilgrims. On the map, we have marked these paths with an orange dotted line. Only the most famous is the Via Podiensis, which begins in the French town of Le Puy.
The most interesting of the non-main roads are: Camino del Salvador (13), connecting Leon and Oviedo and allowing to cross from one track to the other; Camino Lebaniego-Vadiniense (14), connecting the Northern Track to the French Track (here the crossing is preferable only in this direction, as the track goes from north-east to south-west), Camino Vasco del Interior (15) from Irun to Burgos. They are decently marked, with a fair number of shelters open during the season, but the first two are extremely difficult physically, as they cross the Cantabrian mountains at almost their highest part. If you love mountains, you can do all three trails in one bunch: Vadiniense – Salvador – Primitivo, the easiest place to start is Santander, as it is easy to get there from Madrid.
On the map, these paths (as well as the aforementioned difficult section of the Portuguese route from Lisbon) are marked with a yellow dotted line.
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