Where to Start the Camino De Santiago

The Camino, known in English as ‘the Way of St James’, transforms any modern 21st century man into a pilgrim. The journey takes you on a trek (or cycle) across the European plains to the end destination, the city of Santiago de Compostela in the Spanish province of Galicia.  This is believed to be the resting place of Saint James the Apostle.Traditionally the pilgrimage started from one’s own home and therefore many different routes have been establishedacross Europe leading to the shrine of St James.

As the walk in itself is really the main attraction, your available time, level of fitness and region of interest may all influence the starting point you choose.  The most popular route is the Camino Francés, which is the French Way.  Eight hundred kilometres away from Santiago, the Camino Francés has gained its popularity due to the varied scenery and good infrastructure.St Jean Pied-du-Port is where the Camino Francés officially starts and also where most of the routes from other parts of Europe join.

The journey can take up to two months on foot, and therefore many walkers do a shorter section. Tour operators do offer services transporting your gear from one overnight stop to the next.  Highlights of the Camino Francés include the vineyards of the Rioja region, spectacular mountains of Leon and the green hills of Galicia just before reaching Santiago.

If you only have a week to spare, you might consider just the final section of the walk from Sarria, however this is not particularly scenic. Being just over 100km away from Santiago, Sarria is the minimum distance required to receive the compostela.

The trail from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port is far more gratifying and pleasurable; however you would need a month to complete the journey.

Another trail which will take you around 35 days is the Northern Way across the northern coast of Spain.  The Camino del Nortestarts in Irún on the border with France and travels west. Should you opt for this route you will have to plan your itinerary carefully as the accommodation is scattered.

A shorter route is the Camino Portugués starting in Lisbon andpassing through Porto and Pontevedra.Picturesque Porto is a UNESCO world heritage city, and home to Port wine.  In contrast to the other routes it is a fairly flat trek.

Via de la Platais the longest route through Spain with a distance of 998km.  This route is highly recommended for anyone who has an interest in Roman history.The last 100km of this route, from the city of Ourense, is one of the most scenic final walking sections to Santiago.

The English Wayis a great option should you have time constraints as the route can be started in either La Coruña or Ferrol for a walk under 6 days.  The 75km from La Coruña can be walked in three days, however you won’t earn a Compostela.  The compostela is a certificate of accomplishment given to pilgrims on completion of their journey. To earn the compostela you would need to walk at least 100 km or cycle at least 200 km. From Ferrol, the 113km walk will take five days.

The Camino Primitivo, also known as the Original Route,is a290kmtrek and is challenging as it includes a fair amount of steep climbs.  This route includes a detour to Oveido to visit the city’s cathedral and rejoins the Camino Francés about 65km from Santiago.

Should you wish to extend your journey you can continue your trek after reaching Santiago for another 89km to Finisterre – one of the westernmost points of Europe.Organizations in Finisterre offer compostelas to those that complete this route.

After exploring the diverse routes of the Camino, you may decide this is a journey worth taking more than once in your life.  Each time a different routeand a promised sense of soul satisfaction in reaching your end destination.  One thing is for sure, the Camino is adaptable to each individuals journey requirements and promises to be an unforgettable experience whether you are a novice, or a well traversed pilgrim.

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