There are some trails worth walking and experiences worth talking about, the Camino de Santiago is just this kind of trail. Every year thousands of walkers choose to walk this famous trail for many reasons. Last year over 300,000 people from all walks of life choose to take a break from their busy schedules and enjoy the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other.
Whether you are looking for a new challenge, would like to connect with other cultures or need time out to reflect on life, the Camino is the perfect way to escape. The beauty of a walking holiday is that you can be any age, any nationality and any level of walker to enjoy the towns along the Camino in Northern Spain. Here are a few facts that you should know about the ancient Camino de Santiago pilgrimage before you plan your journey:
How long does it take to walk the Camino?
This is completely up to you. You must walk at least 100km to receive your Compostela certificate at the end of your walk. Many choose to walk this over the course of one week, others opt to complete the full route of the Camino Frances from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela: 800 km (497 miles). The average time taken to walk this route is 30 days.
What route is the most popular?
The Camino Frances is the most popular Camino trail. Over 300,000 walkers collected their pilgrim certificate in 2017. The Primitive Way, or Camino Primitivo is the most ancient trail, dating back to the 9th century is the oldest trail. The French Way is the most popular today and it is the route you will find featured in films, such as, the Way.
Following the arrows
As you walk through rural villages and coastal paths of the Camino de Santiago you will see yellow arrows around every corner pointing you in the right direction. Be mindful that the arrows should follow the trail and consult your walking notes and maps for guidance if you are unclear.
Where did the scallop shell symbol come from?
The scallop shell, often found on the beaches of Galicia in Northern Spain, have long been the symbol of the Camino. The shell is frequently seen along the trail to help guide pilgrims. In addition, pilgrims often wear shells or attach them to backpacks to denote that they are travellers on the famous trail. According to the legend, the son of the Count of Pontevedra on the day of his wedding, decided to jump into the sea with his horse, to grab his wife’s attention. But sadly, they disappeared under the water. When everyone thought he was dead, he emerged in the shore, with his clothes covered by scallop shells. A couple of days after, the boat carrying the remains of Saint James the Apostle arrived in Galicia region. The son of the Count decided to walk to Santiago de Compostela, carrying a scallop shell with him. Today the scallop shell is the symbol of the Camino de Santiago and often known as a sign of protection along the way.
Most popular starting point for the Camino de Santiago
During the Middle Ages, traditional pilgrims used to start their walk towards Santiago de Compostela from their houses. Pilgrims coming from continental Europe used to take the French Way in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, or the Northern Camino in Irún. Those pilgrims coming from overseas, landed at the various ports of Spain or Portugal, and continued from there to Santiago (the origin of routes like the Portuguese Way or the English Way). Today these routes are well marked and guide walkers on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The most popular starting town on the French Way is St-Jean-Pied de Port for those doing the full route and Sarria for those who would like to walk a week. The Portuguese Way starts in Lisbon, and the Portuguese Coastal Way in Porto. These are also popular starting points.
It is important to remember that you must walk at least 100km to receive your Compostela certificate when you reach Santiago de Compostela at the end of your trip. We would always advise spending an extra night or two in the beautiful city of Santiago de Compostela. With cobbled streets, a vibrant atmosphere and tapas everywhere this is a fantastic place to finish an epic trail.
Camino experts CaminoWays.com have designed detailed Camino travel tips that will provide you with everything you need to get started on this amazing experience on one of the worlds most famous long-distance trails.