Routes of the Camino de Santiago
Routes in Spain
The French Way (Spanish: Camino Francés) is the most popular of the routes. It runs from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles on the Spanish side before making its way through to Santiago de Compostela through the major cities of Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos and León.
The Aragonese Way (Spanish: Camino Aragonés) comes down from the Somport pass in the Pyrenees and makes its way down through the old kingdom of Aragon. It follows the River Aragón passing through towns such as Jaca. It then crosses into the province of Navarre to Puente La Reina where it joins the Camino Francés.
The Northern Way (Spanish: Camino del Norte) runs from France at Irún and follows the northern coastline of Spain to Galicia where it heads inland towards Santiago joining the Camino Francés at Arzúa. This route follows the old Roman road, the Via Agrippa, for some of its way and is part of the Coastal Route (Spanish: Ruta de la Costa).
The route passes through San Sebastian, Gernika, Bilbao, and Oviedo. It is less populated, lesser known and generally more difficult hiking. Shelters are 20 to 35 kilometers apart, rather than there being hostels (Spanish: albergues) or monasteries every four to ten kilometers as on the Camino Francés.
The Tunnel Way is also known as the Tunnel Route, the Basque Inland Route and the San Adrian Route. In the Early Middle Ages, when the Northern (Coastal) Way was subject to the Vikings’ skirmishes and Muslim presence and forays threatened pilgrims and trade routes in the borderlands, the Tunnel Way provided a safe road north of the frontier area, i.e. Gipuzkoa and Alava. This may be the oldest and most important stretch of the Way of St. James up to its heyday in the 13th century. From the starting point in Irún, the road heads south-west up the Oria valley (Villabona, Ordizia, Zegama), reaches its highest point at the San Adrian tunnel and runs through the Alavan plains (Zalduondo, Salvatierra/Agurain, Vitoria-Gasteiz and Miranda de Ebro). Yet previous to the latter, nowadays pilgrims usually take a detour south towards Haro and on to Santo Domingo de la Calzada on account of its better provision.
The English Way (Spanish: Camino Inglés) is traditionally for pilgrims who traveled to Spain by sea and disembarked in Ferrol or A Coruña. These pilgrims then made their way to Santiago overland. It is so called because most of these pilgrims were English though some come from all points in northern Europe.
The Portuguese Way (Spanish: Camino Portugués, Portuguese: Caminho Português) begins at Lisbon or Porto in Portugal. From Porto, pilgrims travel north crossing the Lima and Minho rivers before entering Spain and then passing through Padron before arriving at Santiago. It is the second most popular way, after the French one. The route is 610 km long starting in Lisbon or 227 km long starting in Porto. There are two traditional routes from Porto, one inland (the Central Way) and the Coastal Way (Caminho da Costa).
Rates in 1669 by Pier Maria Baldi, drawn during the pilgrimage of future Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici.
Rates is considered a central site of the Portuguese Way on the inland route. The way has been used since the Middle Ages and the ancient monastery of Rates gained importance due to the legend of Saint Peter of Rates. The legend holds that Saint James ordained Peter as the first bishop of Braga in the year AD 44. One of the most tiring parts of the Portuguese Way is in the Labruja hills in Ponte de Lima, which are hard to cross. The Camino winds its way inland until it reaches the Spanish border through Valença, which is also a popular starting point for a 108 km walk to Santiago, passing through Tui. The Portuguese late Gothic Matriz Church of Vila do Conde built during the pilgrimage of Manuel I of Portugal.
The Coastal Way gained importance since the 15th century due to the growing importance of the coastal towns. The route splits from the central way in the countryside of Vila do Conde and enters the town through the Monastery of Santa Clara and the Matriz Church of Vila do Conde was built by king Manuel I of Portugal while in pilgrimage. The rising importance of Póvoa de Varzim imposed this new direction, In Póvoa de Varzim’s coastal way, the small Saint James Chapel in Praça da República is the central site , it hold a 15th century icon of Saint James found at the beach, the way follows west to the beach by Rua da Junqueira, heading to Esposende, Viana do Castelo and Caminha before reaching the Spanish border.
A contemporary version of the Coastal Way, pushed by German pilgrims, goes through Northern Portugal along the sea, using beach walkways. This version of the Coastal Way is gaining importance, as the traditional route is increasingly urbanized and the new version is considered by some pilgrims to be more pleasant. It follows a trend which started with Hape Kerkeling’s book I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino De Santiago.
The Via de La Plata (once a Roman causeway joining Italica and Asturica Augusta) starts in Seville from where it goes north to Zamora via Zafra, Cáceres and Salamanca. It is much less frequented than the French Way or even the Northern Way – in 2013, of the 215,000 pilgrims being granted the compostela in Santiago, 4.2% traveled on the Via de la Plata, compared to 70.3% on the Camino Francés. After Zamora there are three options. The first route, or Camino Sanabrés heads west and reaches Santiago via Ourense. Another route continues north to Astorga, from where pilgrims can continue west along the Camino Francés to Santiago. A third, seldom traveled route, crosses into Portugal and passes through Bragança, rejoining the Camino Sanabrés near Ourense.
The Camino Mozárabe route, from Almeria, Granada or Málaga, passes through Córdoba and later joins up with the Via de La Plata at Mérida.
The Camino de Madrid goes northwards from Madrid, through Segovia and near Valladoid, joining the Camino Francés at Sahagún.
The Camino del Ebro starts in Catalonia at Sant Jaume d’Enveja near Deltebre, where Saint James is traditionally supposed to have left Spain on his way home to martyrdom in Palestine, and follows the River Ebro past Tortosa and Zaragoza, joining the Camino Francés at Logroño.
The Camino de Santiago de Soria – Sometimes known as the Camino Castellano-Aragonés, this camino leaves the Camino del Ebro at Gallur and goes past Soria to Santo Domingo de Silos, where it joins the Camino de la Lana.
The Camino de la Lana (sometimes Ruta de la Lana), or wool road, leaves Alicante and heads mainly northwards for 670 km, joining the Camino Francés at Burgos.
The Camino de Levante
The Camino de Levante starts at Valencia and crosses Castille-La Mancha, passing through towns and cities including Toledo, El Toboso, Ávila and Medina del Campo, joining the Via de la Plata at Zamora.
The Camino del Sureste starts at Alicante and follows a broadly similar route as the Camino del Levante from Albacete until Medina del Campo, where the routes bifurcate, with the Sureste heading northwards to Tordesillas, joining the Via de la Plata at Benavente, while the Levante goes westwards to Toro and Zamora.
The Camino de Torres starts in Salamanca, goes past Ciudad Rodrigo, crosses the Potuguese border near Almeida, continues past Braga and joins the Camino Portugués at Ponte de Lima.
The routes in France
The Way of St. James is said to have originated in France, where it is called Le Chemin de St. Jacques de Compostelle. This is the reason that the Spanish themselves refer to the Way of St. James as “the French road”, since most of the pilgrims they saw were French. The origin of the pilgrimage is most often cited as the Codex Calixtinus, which is decidedly a French document. Though in the Codex everyone was called upon to join the pilgrimage, there were four main starting points in the Cathedral cities of Tours, Vézelay, Le Puy-en-Velay and Arles. They are today all routes of the Grande Randonnée network.
The Paris and Tours route (Latin: Via Turonensis) used to be the pilgrimage of choice for inhabitants of the Low Countries and those of northern and western France. As other routes are becoming overcrowded, that route is gaining favor, owing to the religious and touristic aspects of the monuments on the way.
One starting point is at the Tour St Jacques in Paris and then on to Orléans-Tours or Chartres-Tours. From Tours, the route passes through Poitiers and Bordeaux, the forest at Les Landes before connecting to the Camino Francés, the national trail GR 65, near Ostabat, shortly before Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or to the Camino de la Costa in Irún.
The Vézelay route passes through Limoges and joins the GR 65 near Ostabat.
The Le Puy route (Latin: Via Podiensis, French: route du Puy) is traveled by pilgrims starting in or passing through Le Puy-en-Velay. It passes through Conques, Cahors and Moissac before coming to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. It is part of GR 65.
The Arles Way (French: La voie d’Arles or Chemin d’Arles) in southern France, named after that principal cathedral city goes through Montpellier, Toulouse and Oloron-Sainte-Marie before reaching the Spanish border at Col de Somport in the high Pyrenees. It is also called the Via Tolosana, a name that follows the Latin convention of the other French routes, because it passes through Toulouse, a notable pilgrimage destination in its own right. After passing the Pyrenees it is referred to as the Aragonese Way. It is the only French route not to connect to the Camino Francés at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. After taking its Aragonese name, it joins the Camino Francés at Puente la Reina.