Did you know that there is more than one Camino or Way of St. James. The route that is often mistaken for the Camino de Santiago is the Camino Frances. This is by far the most popular Camino route to walk. However, the Camino de Santiago is actually a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and finishing at the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela. This is where the remains, or relics, of St. James (Santiago in Spanish), are said to be buried. But how many Camino routes are there? In this post, we investigate.
The Camino Primitivo
The Camino Primitivo is the oldest and most challenging Camino de Santiago. With a total length of 320 km (199 miles), it begins in Oviedo and connects with the Camino Frances two days before Santiago de Compostela.
One of the first pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, King Alfonso the Second of Asturias, walked this route in the 9th century. The first sections take place in the mountains of Asturias and allow spectacular views of the surrounding peaks. However, this is also known as one of the most difficult Camino routes.
The Camino Frances
The Camino Frances (French Way) is the most popular Camino route. As per its name, this route starts in Saint-Pied-de-Port and crosses the French-Spanish border in the Pyrenees.
According to the pilgrims’ office, over 60% of pilgrims walked this route in 2017. With a total length of about 800km (nearly 500 miles), you can expect 4-5 weeks of hiking time to be required for the entire Camino Frances.
However, you will receive the pilgrimage certificate if you can demonstrate on your pilgrim passport that you have walked at least 100km (62 miles). Due to this, Sarria, located just over 100km from Santiago, is the most popular starting location for pilgrims.
The Camino del Norte
The Camino del Norte runs along the northern Spanish coast. It starts in Irun and takes you to small fishing villages, picturesque bays and larger cities such as San Sebastian, Bilbao and Santander.
With a total length of over 800km (500 miles), the Camino del Norte is the second longest Way of St. James in Spain.
The Camino Ingles
The Camino Ingles begins in the port city of Ferrol, north of Santiago de Compostela. The ships of English and Irish pilgrims used to arrive there and began their pilgrimage through picturesque Galician villages and eucalyptus forests to Santiago.
At only 75km (47 miles) in length, the Camino Ingles is significantly shorter. Unfortunately, that’s not enough for a pilgrimage certificate. However, there is an option called the Celtic Camino which involves walking at least 25km on an official Camino trail in Ireland (such as the Kerry Camino). If the certification from this can be shown in conjunction with the stamps from the Camino Ingles, then you will qualify for a official pilgrimage certificate.
The Via de la Plata
The Via de la Plata begins in Seville and ends in Zamora. At almost 1,000km (621 miles), this is the longest Camino de Santiago route in Spain. This variant takes you into vast landscapes and to the traces of the ancient Romans.
Due to the high temperatures, it is advisable not to walk this route in mid-summer. The months from March to May and September to November are the most pleasant periods for a pilgrimage on the Via de la Plata.
The Camino Sanabres
The Camino Sanabres leads from Zamora to Santiago de Compostela. This route is only 370km (230 miles) long and can be used as a connection between the Via de la Plata and Santiago.
This route takes you through the enchanting Galician landscape. Ourense, the capital of Galicia, is also on the Camino Sanabres.
The Camino de Finisterre
The Camino de Finisterre will take you to “the end of the world”. Or the place people used to think it was. A continuation of all routes that end in Santiago, it takes you 80km (50 miles) west to the coast.
There you not only expect the fresh breeze of the Atlantic, but also the opportunity to look for your own scallop shell.
So how many Camino routes are there?
The honest answer is: countless. In Spain they say, “The Camino begins at home.” As soon as a pilgrim sets out to Santiago de Compostela, he or she is on the Camino de Santiago. In the past, this often meant that the entire route was hiked, today the Way of St. James therefore also runs through airports and bus stops!
The routes that we have presented to you here are named and signposted. But they too only form part of the Europe-wide network of trails. This consists of many other connecting routes and sections such as the Camino Aragones, the Camino Vasco Interior or the Camino del Salvador.
You could also combine these routes and stay on the various Camino de Santiago paths for a very long time. One of the most magical experiences on the Camino is hearing where people have started walking and their reasons why. No matter where you have started, there is a common bond on the Camino and often lifelong new friends can be made.