Caminos of Spain & Portugal

Camino de Santiago Routes in Spain and Portugal

This is our route map of the Caminos that run through Spain and Portugal!

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The French Way – Camino Frances

The French Way, which can both be considered as starting in Saint Jean Pied de Port (a small town in the French Basque Country) and in Roncesvalles (a small town in the Navarrese Pyrenees), is the best known and most popular Way of all the Caminos de Santiago, with a big difference in the number of pilgrims (more than 85% of the total) compared to the other Ways. It owes its origin to three of the four main historical pilgrimage routes that come from the interior of Europe, which converge in the small town of Ostabat, a few kilometers from Saint Jean Pied de Port.

The Portuguese Way

It is known as the Portuguese Way , or more specifically the Central Portuguese Way (for a better distinction from the others), the Jacobean way that connects Lisbon with Santiago de Compostela. Its route draws a line from south to north, which from the Portuguese capital would pass through Santarém, Coimbra, Porto, Barcelos, Ponte de Lima, Valença do Minho, Tui, Pontevedra and Padrón. Used since the Middle Ages, it has always been one of the most important routes to Santiago and today it is the second route in number of pilgrims , only surpassed by the French Way.

Although this is the best known and most used, there are many other roads to Santiago in Portugal. For years old routes have been recovering, although most would be tributaries or variants of the Central Way: the most frequented is the Portuguese Coast Way , which starts in Porto and follows an itinerary close to the sea; from the same city an alternative – for now a minority – can also be taken, such as the Braga variant ; Another branch would start in the south, from Faro and the Algarve region , although it still has sections that are still not marked, and which we hope will soon allow us to travel the country from one end to the other.

To learn more about the Jacobean options starting from Porto we can read the interesting article by Antón Pombo: The Portuguese Way from Porto: Where to continue?

To these Jacobean routes it is necessary to add others through the interior of Portugal, such as the interesting Inland Portuguese Way (which starts from Farminhão-Viseu and continues through Lamego and Chaves towards Verín, where it joins the Sanabresa variant of the Vía de la Plata) , the Zamorano-Portuguese or Soutochao Way (which leaves Zamora and continues through Bragança towards Chaves) or the Torres Way (from Salamanca to Braga).

Northern Way – Camino del Norte

The Camino del Norte (or Camino de la Costa ) is the Camino de Santiago that begins in Irún and runs along the Cantabrian coast. Until Ribadeo, the first Galician town, the route follows the coastline (not always near the coast), and it is from the aforementioned town that the route moves away from the coast to go to the Galician capital. The Northern Way is one of the historical paths that medieval pilgrims followed to visit the apostle’s tomb, although historians agree that it was never very frequented due to the intricate orography and the smaller number of towns that offered hospitality.

Today the Camino del Norte, along with the Vía de la Plata and the Camino Portugues, has become a good alternative to the French Way for all those walkers who want to escape from the overcrowding and trivialization that this road has suffered in recent years. . Or they want a more committed or spiritual pilgrimage. Or they are looking for landscapes that in the popular imagination are more spectacular than on other routes, as this is a coastal path.

Every year the number of pilgrims increases strongly on the Cantabrian route. In 2009 there were 9,183 pilgrims, and in 2017 there were 17,836. A large part of them have already traveled the French Way and are looking for new experiences. It is also true that if on the French Way, in the overall year, there is a certain balance between the number of Spanish pilgrims and foreign pilgrims, on the Cantabrian route the balance is clearly broken in favor of the latter (with the month of August as the only exception).

As we have already mentioned, in Galicia the path runs through the interior. But also in the other autonomous communities there are long stretches in which we walk without seeing the sea , with whole stages far from the coast. Those who believe that the Camino del Norte is a bucolic walk always near the sea are wrong. It is true that there are sections that follow the same line of the coast, and very beautiful, with fantastic beaches and steep cliffs, but they are the least. In any case, after hours walking inland, when we no longer remember that the sea is there next door, the sudden appearance of the Cantabrian Sea is a splendid gift.

Another characteristic of the Camino del Norte is the fact that it crosses a territory with high urban density , with many large and medium-sized cities, and with numerous urbanizations. The devastating consequences that urban pressure has caused on the Spanish coast in recent decades are evident for walkers.

The road in the Basque Country it is extraordinary, both in terms of the roads and the landscapes and towns. And besides, the signage is excellent. The road is mountainous for almost the entire route, more in the province of Guipúzcoa than in that of Vizcaya, and we must overcome up to 10 mountain ranges between 300 and 500 meters of altitude. The landscape is basically made up of green and humid valleys, large wooded areas, numerous streams, farmhouses dedicated to cattle ranching, the rough profile of the coast, and compact towns. In Guipúzcoa, we pass through charming fishing villages, such as Pasajes de San Juan, through cozy tourist towns, such as Zarautz, and, of course, through one of the most beautiful cities in the State: San Sebastián. In Vizcaya it is worth highlighting the city of Gernika and, of course, the city of Bilbao

Via de la Plata – The Silver Way from Seville

ATTENTION: In recent years several pilgrims have died of heat stroke on the Via de la Plata. We do not recommend doing this route between June and September, since temperatures, especially in Andalusia and Extremadura, easily exceed 35 ° C and, increasingly, 40 ° C, reaching 43 or 44 ° C in some areas.

This road is known by various names: Vía de la Plata (the most used, but which not only refers to the pilgrimage route), Ruta de la Plata (more current and usually refers to its tourist side), and Camino Mozárabe to Santiago (in this case it refers exclusively to the pilgrimage route). The road that from Granja de Moreruela, a town located 40 kilometers north of Zamora, goes to Santiago through Puebla de Sanabria and Orense, is also known as the Camino Sanabrés. And, as if that weren’t enough, the road between Salamanca and Santiago through Puebla de Sanabria and Orense is also known as Camino Fonseca.

The Vía de la Plata owes its origin to a set of Roman roads that linked the southwest with the northwest of the peninsula. In its central section the Roman road presents the current technical name of Iter Ab Emerita Asturicam ; it united two Roman towns of great importance: Emerita Augusta (Mérida), capital of the Roman province of Lusitania, and Asturica Augusta (Astorga). Centuries later, these magnificent stone-paved roads were used by the Arabs in their conquest of the peninsular territories, and later, once the Christian reconquest was completed, it was the devotees of Santiago who followed these roads on their pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostle. The denomination “Silver” it has nothing to do with silver metal. Its origin is not known for sure, but the most likely hypothesis seems to be that of a phonetic evolution of the Arabic word Balata , which means paved road.

The Primitive Way – Camino Primotivo

The Camino de Santiago is known by the name of the Primitive Way, which has its origin in Oviedo and connects with the French Way in Melide. The name “primitive” is due to the fact that this is the first path of which there are historical references; King Alfonso II of Asturias and his entourage left Oviedo in the 9th century to visit the tomb of the Apostle Santiago, discovered a few years ago. The documented itinerary of that first pilgrimage and the current one are quite coincident.

One of the main characteristics of this path, compared to the other Caminos de Santiago, is the hardness of the route. From Oviedo to Lugo it is a typical medium mountain route. Except for the descent to the Salime reservoir and the ascent to Puerto del Palo, there are no major slopes to overcome in one go. However, the road is a continuous up and down, with a succession of all kinds of roads: trails, trails, dirt tracks (it is easy to find muddy sections), stony or loose stone roads, and asphalt tracks. Therefore, a minimum of physical preparation is necessary to face the challenge with guarantees. Fortunately, the distribution of the shelters along the route allows, for those somewhat slower or less prepared, to go all the way without having to do any excessively long stage. In winter it must be really difficult to do this path.

Way of Fisterra and Muxía

It is known as the Camino de Fisterra y Muxía the extension of the Camino de Santiago that connects the Galician capital with Cape Finisterre and with Muxía, both located on the legendary Costa da Morte . It is a different and unique route, since it is the only one that does not lead to Compostela, but starts from there , and for that reason it is used as a continuation or epilogue of the path followed by each pilgrim, walking the few days that remain until the end of the world. .

It is estimated that between 10 and 15% of the pilgrims who arrive in Compostela continue their journey to Fisterra , and many of them also take the opportunity to get closer to Muxía (the link stage is signposted in both directions , Fisterra-Muxía or Muxía- Fisterra, by means of markers and double arrows). There are even those who, after visiting both final destinations of the Jacobean route, continue walking back to Santiago, making an almost circular route.

The Camino de Santiago through France

The Camino de Santiago was born with an international vocation; In the Middle Ages the vast majority of pilgrims came from beyond the Pyrenees, from the interior of Europe, and their passage through France established four main routes , now recovered as Long Distance routes. France has always felt linked to the pilgrimage to Compostela; It is no coincidence that the first modern pilgrim association, founded in 1950, was the Society of Friends of the Paris Way. We present here the four medieval routes, adding the Camino del Piedmont.

Le Puy path
The Camino de Le Puy (or Via Podiensis ) is the main route through France and the most important medieval European pilgrimage route. The first documented pilgrimage is that of Bishop Godescalc between the years 950 and 951.

Arles road
The Camino de Arles , also known as the Via Tolosana because it crosses Toulouse, the capital of Occitania, is one of the four great Jacobean itineraries in France. Mentioned already in the Calixtino Codex (12th century),