amino de Santiago Pilgrimage: Everything You Need to Know

The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James, is one of the most famous pilgrimage routes in the world and has attracted millions of pilgrims from around the globe for centuries. Although there are multiple departure points, all of them lead to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, where the Apostle James’s bones are believed to be buried. For up-to-date information on weather conditions, accommodation, dining options, health and safety, and all things Camino-related, check out the Camino forums at the following link:

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Historical Background

The origins of the Camino de Santiago trace back to the 9th century when locals in a small town in northwest Spain discovered what they believed to be the tomb of St. James. That town eventually became known as Santiago de Compostela. Soon after the discovery, the Camino began to grow in popularity, evolving into a major pilgrimage route during the Middle Ages before declining in popularity during the 16th century due to the Protestant Reformation and other historical events. Over the last 20 years, due in part to the Martin Sheen / Emilio Esteves movie The Way being made about it, the Camino has once again become a major pilgrimage route and now attracts over 300,000 pilgrims each year.

Popular Routes and Distances

While there are numerous routes to Santiago de Compostela, some have gained more popularity due to their historical significance, scenic beauty, and accessibility.

Camino Frances | Camino Portugues | Camino del Norte | Camino Primitivo | Via de La Plata


Camino Francés (French Way)

  • Distance: Approximately 780 kilometers (485 miles)
  • Starting Point: St. Jean Pied de Port, France
  • Average Time to Complete: 30-35 days

Major Towns & Cities Along the Camino Francés


Roncesvalles, a picturesque village in the Pyrenees of Spain, is the traditional starting point of the Camino Francés. The Collegiate Church of Santa María, an impressive Gothic structure, and the Chapel of the Holy Spirit are must-sees. Famous for its medieval hospital, Roncesvalles provides rich historical context for pilgrims. Try local dishes like “menestra” (a vegetable stew) and local cheeses.


Pamplona, in the Navarre region of Spain, is best known for the San Fermín festival and its exhilarating Running of the Bulls. Explore the Gothic Pamplona Cathedral and the bustling Plaza del Castillo. Famous for its pintxos, a regional version of Spanish tapas, the city offers culinary delights such as “chistorra” sausage and Navarre wine.


Logroño, the capital of La Rioja, is a wine lover’s paradise. The city boasts historic sites like the Concatedral de Santa María de la Redonda and the Puente de Piedra. Stroll down Calle Laurel for a tapa and wine experience. Sample local specialties like “patatas a la riojana” and exquisite Rioja wines.


Burgos, in Castile and León, is famed for its stunning Gothic cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Explore the Monasterio de las Huelgas and the Cartuja de Miraflores. Burgos is the birthplace of El Cid, a national hero. Don’t miss “morcilla de Burgos” (black pudding) and the local “ribera del Duero” wines.


León, also in Castile and León, features the magnificent León Cathedral, known for its beautiful stained glass windows, and the Basílica de San Isidoro. Famous events include Holy Week processions. Enjoy regional dishes like “cocido maragato” and “cecina” (cured beef), paired with local Bierzo wines.


Sarria, a major starting point for the Camino de Santiago, offers historical sites such as the Church of Saint Marina and the Fortress of Sarria. The town is a gateway to the scenic Galician countryside. Enjoy “empanada gallega” (Galician pie) and the refreshing Albariño wine.

Camino Portugués (Portuguese Way)

  • Distance: Approximately 610 kilometers (379 miles) from Lisbon, or 240 kilometers (149 miles) from Porto
  • Starting Points: Lisbon or Porto, Portugal
  • Average Time to Complete: 25-30 days from Lisbon, 10-14 days from Porto

Major Towns & Cities Along the Camino Portugués


Santarém, in Portugal, is known for its Gothic architecture, including the Church of Saint John of Alporão and the Convent of Saint Clare. The National Gastronomy Festival celebrates local cuisine. Must-try dishes include “sopa da pedra” (stone soup) and local wines from the Tejo region.


Coimbra, home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, is rich in history and culture. The Joanina Library and the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha are must-sees. Coimbra’s Fado music is legendary. Indulge in “leitão à Bairrada” (roast suckling pig) and local Bairrada wines.


Porto, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is famous for its port wine and the scenic Ribeira district. Explore the Livraria Lello, Clérigos Tower, and the Palácio da Bolsa. Savor “francesinha” (a hearty sandwich) and tour the local port wine cellars.

Ponte de Lima

Ponte de Lima, the oldest village in Portugal, boasts the beautiful Roman bridge and the Festival of Gardens. The International Garden Festival is a must-see event. Try “arroz de sarrabulho” (a rich rice dish) and Vinho Verde, the local wine.


Tui, on the border with Spain, features the impressive Tui Cathedral and the Camino Portugués route. The town’s rich history includes the Jewish Quarter. Enjoy “lampreia” (lamprey eel) dishes and Albariño wines.


Padrón, in Galicia, is known for its connections to St. James and its famous Padrón peppers. Visit the Church of Santiago and the Rosalía de Castro Museum. The Padrón pepper festival is a culinary highlight.

Camino del Norte (Northern Way)

  • Distance: Approximately 825 kilometers (513 miles)
  • Starting Point: Irún, Spain
  • Average Time to Complete: 35-40 days

Major Towns & Cities Along the Camino del Norte

San Sebastián

San Sebastián, in the Basque Country, is famed for its beaches, such as La Concha, and its world-renowned culinary scene. The city hosts the San Sebastián International Film Festival. Enjoy pintxos in the Old Town and visit the Peine del Viento sculptures.


Bilbao, also in the Basque Country, is home to the iconic Guggenheim Museum and the vibrant Casco Viejo (Old Town). The city is famous for its festivals and culinary delights. Try “bacalao a la vizcaína” and enjoy the local Txakoli wine.


Santander, the capital of Cantabria, offers beautiful beaches like El Sardinero and the historic Magdalena Palace. The city is known for its summer festivals. Savor seafood dishes such as “rabas” (fried calamari) and the regional “quesada pasiega” dessert.


Gijón, in Asturias, is known for its maritime heritage and the Cimavilla district. Visit the Laboral City of Culture and the Elogio del Horizonte sculpture. Enjoy Asturian cider and traditional dishes like “fabada asturiana” (bean stew).


Ribadeo, in Galicia, is famous for the stunning As Catedrais Beach, with its natural rock arches. The town offers a charming harbor and historic sites like the Torre dos Moreno. Enjoy Galician seafood and Albariño wine.

Camino Primitivo (Original Way)

  • Distance: Approximately 321 kilometers (199 miles)
  • Starting Point: Oviedo, Spain
  • Average Time to Complete: 14-16 days

Major Towns & Cities Along the Camino Primitivo


Grado, in Asturias, is known for its traditional markets and beautiful landscapes. Visit the Palace of Valdecarzana and the Monastery of San Juan de Villapañada. Try local dishes like “potaje de berzas” (cabbage stew) and Asturian cheeses.


Salas, also in Asturias, features the medieval Salas Castle and the Collegiate Church of Santa María la Mayor. The town’s historical charm is complemented by its local cuisine. Enjoy “carbayones” (almond pastries) and Asturian cider.


Tineo, in Asturias, offers picturesque landscapes and historical sites like the Monastery of Santa María la Real. The town is known for its traditional festivals. Savor “cachopo” (stuffed meat dish) and local cheeses.

Grandas de Salime

Grandas de Salime, in Asturias, is known for its scenic reservoir and the Ethnographic Museum. The town offers beautiful hiking routes and historical churches. Enjoy “borona” (cornbread) and Asturian apple cider.


Lugo, in Galicia, is renowned for its Roman walls, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the Cathedral of Santa María. The city hosts the famous Arde Lucus festival. Try “pulpo a la gallega” (Galician octopus) and Ribeiro wine.

Via de La Plata (Silver Route)

  • Distance: Approximately 1,000 kilometers (621 miles)
  • Starting Point: Seville, Spain
  • Average Time to Complete: 40-50 days

Major Towns & Cities Along the Via de La Plata


Mérida, in Extremadura, boasts a wealth of Roman ruins, including the Roman Theatre and Amphitheatre. The city hosts the annual Mérida Classical Theatre Festival. Enjoy “migas extremeñas” (breadcrumbs dish) and local wines.


Cáceres, also in Extremadura, features a stunning medieval old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is known for its cultural festivals. Savor “torta del Casar” cheese and Iberian ham.


Salamanca, in Castile and León, is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe. The Plaza Mayor and the New Cathedral are must-sees. Enjoy “hornazo” (meat pie) and local wines from the Arribes region.


Zamora, in Castile and León, is famous for its Romanesque architecture and the Semana Santa processions. Visit the Zamora Cathedral and the Castle of Zamora. Enjoy “dos y pingada” (eggs and ham) and Toro wine.


Ourense, in Galicia, is known for its hot springs and the stunning Roman Bridge. The city’s Cathedral of Saint Martin is a must-visit. Enjoy “pulpo a feira” (octopus) and Ribeiro wine.

Best Times to Start

The best times to start the Camino de Santiago are typically in the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October). During these periods, the weather is generally mild and pleasant, avoiding the extreme heat of summer and the cold, rainy conditions of winter. These seasons also see fewer crowds compared to the peak summer months, providing a more enjoyable and serene experience.


While walking the Camino de Santiago, pilgrims can choose between several accommodation options to suit their budgets and preferences. The most common are albergues, which are specifically designed for pilgrims. These range from municipal albergues, managed by local authorities and often very affordable at around 8 to 12 euros per night. Private albergues are a step up offering more amenities and comfort and can run from 12 to 20 euros a night. Albergues typically provide dormitory-style sleeping arrangements, shared bathrooms, and communal kitchens. Another popular choice is hostels (hostales) and guesthouses (pensiones), which offer private rooms and more privacy and can range from 10 to 45 euros a night, depending on location and amenities. Hotels and boutique inns (posadas) cater to those seeking more luxury and comfort, with the Parador de Santiago De Compostela ranking #1 on TripAdvisor. Located beside the Cathedral, a mid-week night there in July will set you back around 250 euros. For those looking to celebrate the end of their pilgrimage in grand style, it might well be worth it.

Additionally, some pilgrims stay in historic monasteries and convents, providing a unique and serene experience. Farm stays (casas rurales) are also available, offering a chance to experience local culture and hospitality. Each type of accommodation allows pilgrims to rest and recharge, ensuring they are ready for the next day’s journey along the Camino.


The Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage route, attracts over 300,000 walkers annually. The most popular path, the Camino Francés, spans 780 km (485 miles) from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela, passing through major waypoints like Pamplona, Burgos, and León. Other notable routes include the Camino Portugués, Camino del Norte, and Camino Primitivo. Pilgrims typically complete their journey in 4-6 weeks, starting in spring or fall. Along the way, they enjoy varied landscapes, historical landmarks, and local cuisine. Numerous hostels and hotels offer rest and sustenance, providing a mix of traditional and modern accommodations for weary travelers.