One of the most important Christian pilgrimages during the late Middle Ages, El Camino is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its important role in encouraging cultural exchanges between people from all over.
Whether you are inspired by its past religious meaning, you read about it in books, you need a spiritual trip, or you want to test your physical limits, El Camino de Santiago can be your life-changing adventure. To start planning properly, continue reading this article.
Choose Your Companion
While many pilgrims recommend having the El Camino experience solo, some prefer walking it together with best friends or close family members. Your choice will depend on your reason to walk el Camino, but keep in mind that, even if you begin the pilgrimage with someone, you might feel the need to split up at some point. The explanation is simple. Everyone needs a different pace or to rest at different times; some might have injuries or need moments of complete solitude.
Find Your Way
El Camino de Santiago leads travelers to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where, according to tradition, the remains of the apostle Saint James the Great are buried.
And, depending on your preferences and physical level, you can choose between numerous routes through Europe, Spain, and Portugal, that take you to Santiago de Compostela. Also, within every route, there is more than one starting point, the shortest walk that gives you the Compostela certificate having 100 kilometers.
The most popular is, without a doubt, El Camino Frances, starting from Saint Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees. The whole walk has 790 kilometers, and its shortest official route starts in Sarria and has 116 kilometers. Well-marked, filled with many young adventurous pilgrims, and offering public transport as well as the chance to switch from walking to cycling, The French Way is a fantastic choice.
Also popular and as beautiful as the French one, El Camino Portugues offers pilgrims the chance to begin in Lisbon and walk around 600 kilometers until Santiago de Compostela, or in Porto, and enjoy 227 kilometers through picturesque villages and vineyards. If you don’t feel fit enough for these two options, you can always choose the shortest official route, from Tui, at 110 kilometers.
El Camino Portugues is not as popular as the French one, but there are many other pilgrims on the way, and there’s always a possibility to meet new, cool people. If, however, you are looking for more solo moments, breathtaking views, and memorable culinary experiences, this might be the best option for you.
If you want to walk the route used in historic times to avoid the Moorish influences further south, plan your El Camino Norte adventure.
This route along the northern coast of Spain is 825 kilometers long, and it begins at the French border in Irun, passing through San Sebastian, Bilbao, Santander, and Oviedo. This is a fantastic choice for introverts and people who want a less crowded path. This also means there are not as many albergues and eateries on the Northern Way and the trail is not as well-marked. But the tranquility and variety of scenery are incredible and might just make up for those added challenges.
These are three of the most popular paths, but there are many other El Camino de Santiago routes, and plenty of information available online.
Pack Your Bags and Go
When you feel fit and ready for your life-changing adventure, pack your bags and go. Make sure your backpack is not too heavy, but you have all you need with you. There are many helpful lists and advice about how to pack for El Camino de Santiago, as well as info on the best gear available. Make sure you are well informed, and then head towards your starting point, with an open heart and mind. Buen Camino!
I’m Rebecca, a translator and avid traveler, a book worm and horror flick enthusiast. My job has given me the amazing opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing on Rough Draft gives me a chance to try to showcase some of them.