There are many ways to an end
There are many ways to reach Santiago de Compostela, 5 of them are generally recognized as main pilgrimage routes:
- El Camino Portugués (The Portuguese Road) that oficially starts in Porto but is usually connected with many other points south of the Cidade Invicta (Undefeated City). From Porto to Santiago it is about 230Km long, has plenty of signposts and pilgrim’s hostels.
- El Camino Inglés (The English Road) has 2 usual starting ports on northern Spain: Coruña and Ferrol. These are two short to grant you a Compostela (Old latin certificate of the pilgrimage) at about 75Km and 110Km long. It currently features very few pilgrim’s hostels and aggressive road building has made it a poor choice if you want to really experience the Camino.
- Camino del Norte (The Northern Road) is probably the most spectacular but hardest route you can take to Santiago de Compostela. It follows the northern Spanish coastline presenting you with amazing views and swiming oportunities but the terrain is considered one of the most challenging and dangerous due to it’s mountains, sometimes unclear signing and winding roads with very little visibility. It stretches for about 825Km from Irún and is told to have very few pilgrim’s hostels on the earlier stages these days.
- La Via de La Plata (The Silver Road) is one of the longest routes to Santiago and starts all the way south in Sevilla (or even Granada) spanning through an incredible 1000Km and about 6/7 weeks of pilgrimage. It follows an old original roman road until Astorga where it merges with the eastbound Camino Francés. If you are aiming for longer distance on a fairly simple terrain, this is your best choice.
- Finally, the all famous Camino Francés. Currently the most treaded route to Santiago due to it’s better signing, moderate-high challenging terrain and distance (about 780Km) and generous amount of pilgrim’s hostels. It is the most recomended trail if you are walking to Santiago for the first time and committed to challenge yourself. Beware of the extremely high amount of pilgrims during the summer months and holy years as you may end up having to find alternate lodging. This route, considered the most traditional of all is usually started in St. Jean Pied de Port, a gorgeous little french town. The first stage on the Camino Francés - from St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles is by many considered the most challenging start from all the routes.
Besides these famous routes there are a few more that have been gaining pilgrims mostly due to the extremely high amount of people on the Camino Francés. The Camino Aragonés is a common alternative and the Camino de Madrid, starting in the spanish capital has been gaining many pilgrims for the past few years.
How to choose your Camino? Well, it usually depends on how long you have to spare, how hard you want to test yourself and feel you can endure and the time of year you are planning on going. In case of doubt, take about 1 month and walk the Camino Francés. The next time you walk to Santiago de Compostela the choice will come naturally.