There’s not only a single Camino but thousands, as much as pilgrims, causes, experiences and there are hundreds of starting points for a millenary route that only has o goal: the tomb of the Apostle Saint James.
Every Camino is different but none of these could be understood without Galicia, the place where they all come together like arteries in a river carrying culture, art, tendencies, solidarity and religious convictions for thousands of years.
There are eight itineraries, eight ways to walk and feel.
The French Way
It’s the cornerstone of the Camino, the path with greater historical tradition. Its layout was set since the 11th century, according to the Codex Calixtinus, a medieval pilgrimage guide of inestimable value, you’ll surely remember it from a famous incident when it was robbed from the Cathedral of Santiago two years ago by an electrician working in the temple.
This route arises in France, hence its name, and is the continuity of the path entering in Spain through Roncesvalles that crosses the plains of Castilla till standing in front of the mountains that have isolated Galicia for millennia. At this point starts the hard climb to O Cebreiro, certainly one of the most emblematic spots on the Camino and, according to some writers, the sanctuary of the Holy Grail.
From O Cebreiro the path will take you through native forests of the province of Lugo and meadows from the Coruña valleys. The route has an outstanding natural and artistic beauty where you’ll find some of the Galician Romanesque jewels.
O Cebreiro – Triacastela (21,7 kms / 13,5 mi)
Triacastela – Sarria (por Samos) (21,3 kms / 13,2 mi)
Sarria – Portomarín (21,6 kms / 13,5 mi)
Portomarín – Palas de Rei (25,4 kms / 15,8 mi)
Palas de Rei – Arzúa (29,4 kms / 18,2 mi)
Arzúa – Pedrouzo (18 kms 11,2 mi)
Pedrouzo – Santiago (21,1 kms / 13,1 mi)
The number of pilgrims arriving to Santiago through this path grows year after year, this can be a problem if you prefer calm to overcrowding. More than 70% of the 215.000 pilgrims reaching the Praza do Obradoiro in 2013 walked on the stones of this path.
The Portuguese Way
This medieval path that passes towards the north of the Portuguese country is also one of the favourite amongst pilgrims. It’s the second behind the French Way.
Unlike other itineraries where the route is unique here there are many variations. After crossing the natural border of River Miño and arriving to the Galician city of Tui, which is together with Porto the preferred staring point, you’ll find more continuity in the path and the signs.
The Portuguese Way crosses many villages ensuring all kind of services for the pilgrim. As a counterpart you’ll most frequently walk through the motorway than the way itself. However we can assure you that the views to the Vigo estuary or the passage over Ponte Sampaio, where Galician defeated Napoleonic troops, will by far outbalance this fact.
Tui – Mos (22,4 kms / 14 mi)
Mos – Pontevedra (29,5 kms / 18,3 mi)
Pontevedra – Caldas de Reis (21,9 kms / 13,6 mi)
Caldas de Reis – Padrón (18,6 kms / 11,5 mi)
Padrón – Santiago (24,6 kms / 15,3 mi)
If you arrive to Santiago through the Portuguese Way don’t miss a stroll along Rúa da Raíña (Calle de la Reina), which owes its name to Santa Isabel from Portugal, wife of king Don Dinís. According to popular legend, this famous walker completed the route twice and stayed in a humble pilgrims hospital located in this street. It was in 1.325 but perhaps you can still hear the echo of her footsteps on the stone.
The English Way
It’s been the preferred alternative for northern and western Europe inhabitants during centuries. English, Scottish, Irish and Flemish arrived by boat to Coruña coasts so as to start a journey that began to fall into oblivion with Protestantism progress. Maybe for this reason it’s now the less travelled itinerary.
This path goes through 18 towns, many of these living back to it, and has been recovered thanks to documents, registers and scriptures regarding the crossing and stay of travellers. The English Way will take you through two locations that played a key role in the story and art of Galicia; Pontedeume and Betanzos, where you’ll find important noble homes remains and the best examples of Galician Gothic style.
This route has six stages and two starting points, the estuary of Ferrol and the estuary of Coruña. Both options merge in Bruma, a small town of Mesía region where, according to chronicles, there was a pilgrim’s hospital.
Ferrol – Pontedeume (27 kms / 16,7 mi)
Pontedeume – Betanzos (19 kms / 11,8 mi)
Betanzos – Bruma (30 kms / 18,6 mi)
A Coruña – Bruma (32 kms / 19,8 mi)
Bruma – Sigüeiro (26 kms / 16,1 mi)
Sigüeiro – Santiago (16 km / 10 mi)
If you decide to walk this path, that equally combines coastline and countryside, you must know Ferrol is the only valid starting point to obtain the Compostela certificate.
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