Every time I think about the routes to Camino de Santiago, I think about the Scallop shell, the inextricable symbol of this pilgrimage. Ever notice how the grooves of the shell meet at one point? That’s how this pilgrimage is like, after all. Be it for spiritual reasons or to find yourself or for a dare, all the routes eventually lead you to the tomb of James in Santiago de Compostela.
But we still need to plan a bit, right? So, here you have it.
The French Way
At 769 kms, this is the most popular route so far, starting at St Jean-Pied-du-Port at the foot of Pyrenees. More than 60% of the pilgrims take this route. The route is the best waymarked of all the routes, and there are a lot of facilities on the way to help the pilgrims. Typically, it would take more than a month to complete it.
But, you can always start from Sarria which is a little more than 100 kms far from Santiago de Campostela, and still rack up the 100 kms mark needed to claim a compostela, a certificate of accomplishment.
The Northern Way
Starting from Irun, at the border of Spain and France, close to 800 kms, this route trails the bay of Biscay. One of the reasons why it’s so panoramic, especially the first half. You will pass through the Basque Country, Asturias and Galicia. It’s a route less taken. It’s not that commercialized yet and you wouldn’t meet people everywhere. But, you will have a lot of solitude coming your way and the same can be said about a lot of rain as well. Except for the summer time, it’s wet and cold.
The Portuguese Way
Out of the three routes starting from Portugal, the longest one, at 610 kms, is from the capital, Lisbon. From Lisbon to Porto it’s not that crowded, definitely less than the French way. However, quite a lot of people start from Porto, which is 240 kms from Santiago de Compostela. This busy route is full of restaurants, and is waymarked well.
And, like on the French way, there is still the option of claiming a compostela by starting from Tui, at the border of Spain and Portugal. It’s only 110 kms away to your destination.
The Original Way
This route is 300 kms by itself, until it joins the French way, at 50 kms from Santiago de Compostela. Starting from Oveida to Lugo, the rocky part of the route consists of mountainous terrains. It can be pretty more challenging than the other routes. No doubt that, it would need a good deal of physical strength, preparation as well as good gear. The good part? The route will be much less occupied, and you would savor the solitude and the nature. And, there are a lot of albergues on the way. So, you can make stops if it gets tiring.
The English Way
This is one of the shortest routes to reach Santiago de Compostela. You can either start from A Coruña or the port of Ferrol. The catch is, if you start from Ferrol, you can claim a compostela as it’s 110 kms from your destination. But if you get going from A Coruña, then you wouldn’t get it because it’s only 96 kms from Santiago de Compostela.
Apart from these, the longest route is the Silver Way at 1000 kms, starting from Seville in Spain. The Madrid Way at 320 kms, is quite beautiful and waymarked really well.
So, now pack your bags and choose the route that you want to take. As I mentioned in the beginning, like the grooves of the scallop shell meeting at one point, all the routes take you to one destination. But, hey, sometimes the journey is what matters more than the destination.