To walk the entire Christian pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain, you’ll be on the road for a month and walk hundreds of kilometres. Despite the distance, thousands of pilgrims and holiday hikers take on the endeavour every year. However, as most people can’t take a month off work, and indeed life, to complete the endeavour, there are a number of shorter routes you can undertake. These normally range from 7 to 14 days, covering the last 100 kilometres of the Camino de Santiago, which is required to receive the Compostela Certificate.
Here are a few other useful things to know about hiking the Camino de Santiago.
Origins of the Camino de Santiago
The Camino de Santiago dates back to the time of King Alfonso II the Chaste in 814AD. He walked from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwest Spain. His journey was intended to verify that remains of St. James. This great walk inspired other pilgrims to make the journey, which gained popularity throughout the 11th century especially.
Two centuries after that, the pilgrimage was highlighted as one of the three great pilgrimages by Pope Alexander VI.
Today, the Camino de Santiago is known as “The Way of St. James”.
The Way of St. James is Not Only for Religious Pilgrims
Today it is not just Christian pilgrims who make the journey but hikers and cyclists too. Regardless of how much of the route you walk, or whether you start in Portugal, Spain, or France, you’ll experience beautiful rolling landscapes, ocean walks, historic towns and villages dating back before medieval times, and Roman ruins and I’m only scratching the surface.
Rural Routes by Land and Sea
The routes are mostly rural with many taking you along the Atlantic Coast where possible. Many trails lead you off the beaten track so you see things few tourists see like Roman archaeological sites. Given how you are away from built-up areas you can’t help but fall in love with the land.
Tour Operators Can Help You
There are a few tour operators that cater to the Camino de Santiago. The better ones arrange a place for you to stay and eat overnight – places that will stamp your Camino passport, which is required as proof in order for you to get your Compostela Certificate at the end.
Always go with a reputable tour operator who is patient and happy to answer your questions, especially if it is your first Camino de Santiago.
Choose the distance and time that fits in with your life and meets your walking ability. As you become more accustomed to hiking you can take on more challenging routes year on year.
Remember that this is your Camino de Santiago and you should use it to see as much of your surroundings as possible.
It’s All About Camaraderie
Along the way you’ll meet other pilgrims and hikers and this is a good opportunity to discuss the journey and make new friends. Like minded people sharing the same experience create camaraderie and beautiful friendships have been formed in this way.
It is also highly useful for picking up little nuggets of information such as what you can expect to see, and how to cure blisters!