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You're probably reading this because you're thinking of walking the Camino and I can really understand that. There's something almost magical about walking the route that pilgrims have walked for centuries and it's a seductive thought that here, right here, another adventurous pilgrim has walked, seen the same thing, thought the same thing and had the same sore feet at night.
The Camino is many things. There are the many different routes, which I describe in more detail below, but there is also the inner Camino - that is, the inner journey you go through as you walk day after day with the goal of reaching Santiago de Compostela.
Most pilgrims who walk the Camino walk the last 100km of "The French Way", which is from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela. The route offers easy walking where most people can join in. Almost as many choose to walk the Portuguese Way, which goes from Porto to Santiago de Compostela. The latter is a two-week hike, so more people choose to do only the last part of the walk from Baiona to Santiago de Compostela. Both versions are a fantastic experience.
The Camino Frances is without doubt the most famous of the Camino routes and is described in countless documentaries and books. The Camino is an ancient pilgrimage route along the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula. It starts in the red and white city of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and ends in the holy city of Santiago de Compostela.
The Camino Francés passes through stunning cities and beautiful landscapes, such as the city of Pamplona, famous for the Bull Run, the famous wine region of La Rioja with the city of Legroño, the city of Burgos with its beautiful cathedral, elegant Leon and Ponferrada with the ancient Templar Castle. From Ponferrada, the Camino enters Galicia through the mountains and the picturesque town of O Cebreiro.
Internationally recognised as a historic symbol of European cohesion, the Camino was chosen by the Council of Europe in 1987 as the first "European Cultural Route". The Camino and the buildings along the route are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Although the route from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is very popular, most pilgrims settle for the last part of the route from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela. This is mainly because you need to have walked at least 100km on the Camion (and have got stamps in your pilgrim passport along the way!) to get your pilgrimage certificate in Santiago. This is also one of the most social things on the Camion, because you often meet other pilgrims at the tourist offices in the towns and chat. There is simply a special camaraderie among pilgrims on the Camino.
If you're taking the route by bike, you'll need to have cycled at least 200km to get your pilgrimage certificate, and you'll need to start your journey from Ponferrada.
The coastal version of the Portuguese Camino is an incredibly beautiful alternative to the traditional Camino Frances. With the Atlantic Ocean as your companion, this route starts in Porto (itself a UNESCO-listed city) and takes you through charming little fishing villages in northern Portugal such as Viana do Castello and Vila Praia de Ancora before crossing the Minho River to A Guarda in Spanish Galicia.
After entering Galicia, you'll wander into the heart of Rías Baixas, where the famous Albariñho white wines are made. From Baiona to Vigo you can enjoy views over the bay and if you want a rest day on the route we recommend you take this in Vigo, so you can visit the beautiful Cies Islands if you wish.
You finally reach Redondela, from where you enter the country and join the original Camino Portugues and from here you start to meet more and more pilgrims on the same route towards Santiago de Compostela.
It takes about two weeks to get the Portuguese Camino from Porto to Santiago or one week if you cycle the Portuguese Camino. If you only have one week to walk, you can take the shortened route, walking the last 100km of the Portuguese Camino from Baiona to Santiago.
Along the route, you will discover the beautiful Atlantic seas, the beautiful beaches of northern Portugal and Galicia, taste amazing fish dishes and wine, stay overnight in small fishing villages and fall in love with the beautiful countryside.
This tour goes from San Sebastian to Santiago. The route runs along the northern coast of Spain from the Basque Country, through Cantabria, Asturias and finally to Ribadeo in Galicia. From Ribadeo, the route heads inland through forests and across fields to Santiago de Compostela. It is possible to take an alternative route, leaving the coast at Oviedo, where the Camino del Norte meets the Camino Primitivo, which then follows the rest of the way.
The Camino del Norte starts in the delightful town of San Sabastián, where there's a lot to discover - especially if you want to explore Spanish gastronomy - there are many Michelin-starred restaurants dotted around the town. As most of the route runs along the coast, you'll discover charming little fishing villages, swim at beautiful beaches and enjoy all kinds of fish dishes.
Get inspired at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, stroll past the Royal Palace in Santander, taste Asturias' famous apple cider and travel back in time to Mondoñedo - Galicia's ancient royal seat.
The Camino del Norte is one of the more challenging Camino routes and we recommend it for experienced walkers in good health.
This is in fact the oldest Camino route. King Alfonso II the Chaste was the first pilgrim ever to walk this route. He walked from Oviedo in Asturias to Santiago in the 800s. He had a single mission, which was to confirm that it was indeed the remains of St James that lay in Santiago de Compostela.
At the time, Oviedo was the capital of the Kingdom of Asturias and the king's pilgrimage inspired many others to make the same journey to Santiago de Compostela.
Pilgrims on the Camino Primitivo came not only from Asturias and other parts of northern Spain. Pilgrims also came from other parts of the world.
When the capital of the kingdom changed from Oviedo to Leon, the Camino Frances became the main route to Santiago for the pilgrims of the 11th century. That said, many pilgrims still choose to visit the Cathedral of San Salvador in Oviedo, which is its own sanctuary and is said to house the cloth that was wrapped around Christ's head after his death.
Less than five percent of today's pilgrims choose to walk the Camino Primitivo, but that doesn't change the fact that the route is tough and incredibly beautiful.
Finisterre (Fisterra in Galician) is located on the Atlantic coast about 100km from Santiago de Compostela. Cape Finisterre and the lighthouse, have been the final destination for pilgrims for centuries.
It was the Romans who named the town 'Finis Terrae', meaning the end of the world, and they considered the site to be the westernmost point of the Roman Empire. After the discovery of the tomb of St James in the Middle Ages, pilgrims began to flock to Finisterre, to worship the image of the Sacred Christ and to see the end of the world.
Since then, many pilgrims have taken the route there after reaching Santiago and it is still common for pilgrims to burn their clothes or hiking boots at Cape Finisterre while enjoying the view of the Atlantic Ocean. It is almost a purification ritual or perhaps just a symbolic end to their journey.
Either way, the sunset is stunning from the lighthouse.
The end of the world on the mythical Costa da Morte (Coast of Death) is also thought by some to house the Ara Solis, which was/is an ancient altar used to worship the sun. Some say it was treasured by the Phoenicians, others say it was Celtic tribes. It is also at this place that ancient societies (before Christianity) believed that the world of the living and the world of the dead met.
There are plenty of myths and legends to explore on the Camino Finisterre.
Although the Camino Finisterre is one of the more dangerous parts of the Camino (it is called the "Coast of Death", after all), it is also a stunningly beautiful walk.
In addition to the routes mentioned above, there are also the following other routes:
In the old days, it was common to stay in hostels when walking the Camino. Of course, a lot of people still do, but it's becoming more common to stay in small hotels instead.
On our journeys we only use small, specially selected hotels, where every room has its own bathroom and toilet. We think the experience of walking the Camino is best this way.
Packing list for the Camino
The Camino is no different from many other walking holidays. That's why you can get a good overview of what you should bring on our "13 tips for the walk". Remember that the absolute most important thing is to have some good trekking shoes or hiking boots that you make sure to wear before the trip.
A Holy Year is something very special on the Camino. You can read a lot about it on this page "Holy Years in Santiago de Compostela".
Included in all our tours on the Camino is of course the Pilgrim's Pass. The passport is stamped in all the towns where you stay overnight and once you have enough stamps, you can get the pilgrim's certificate in Santiago de Compostela. Remember that you need to have walked at least 100km on the Camino to get your camino certificate.
Feel free to contact Bering Travel if you have any questions about the Camino.
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