If you have already walked a Camino, you know which one you are most likely to take next.
However, if you are planning on going on your first pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, you might be a bit unsure which path to take, literally.
With so many choices available, no wonder you are. Spain, France and Portugal all offer their fair share of amazing, scenic routes, but the beauty of the landscape is not all you need to consider. Other important factors to think about are time, money and stamina.
In order to try and help you out a bit, we are listing three of the major routes here, along with some pros and cons for each. Hopefully you will be able to make your choice by the time you reach the conclusion.
Three Major Routes to Santiago de Compostela:
The French Way
If you want to be completely safe that you are taking the best route possible for a first-timer, the French Way is the way to go. This is by far the most popular road to Santiago. Traditionally, most pilgrims came from France, which is why this road has the best infrastructure even today. In turn, this is partly why it is so crowded.
If you are unsure about the amount of walking you can do in a day, the French Way offers public transportation, in case you need it.
Even if you are not in the best shape of your life, you will not be left stranded without a roof over your head. There are also information booths available along the way, and someone will always be able to point you in the right direction.
Needless to say, there is always plenty of company on the French Way. This can be either a huge plus, or the reason you avoid going this way. If you are looking to do some soul searching on your own, best choose another path.
The full length of the French Way is 790 kilometers. Depending on your fitness levels, it will take you about four weeks from start to finish.
The Portuguese Way
The Portuguese Way offers several options. You can choose to take the longest route, which starts out at Lisbon, and totals 620 kilometers. The shortest Portuguese Camino is the one from Tui, 115 kilometers in total. There is also a third option, the one from Porto, which is quite popular, and which is 240-kilometers long.
There is less traffic here than in France, but you will certainly not be all alone. You should also know that there are sometimes as much as 30 kilometers between hostels, so bear that in mind if you are to choose this route. You will certainly need some stamina and endurance. Another fact to consider is that the Portuguese Way is a bit more expensive than the French one, which might also make up your mind for you.
On the other hand, it is easier walking in Portugal, which makes it a perfect choice for families who wish to experience the Camino together. The food along the coast is magnificent, as are the local wines, so if you are a foodie, the Portuguese Way might just be the perfect choice.
The Northern Way
The Northern Way is actually the third most popular route, running along the Northern coast of Spain. It will take you about five weeks to complete its entire length, starting out from the town of San Sebastian.
If you do choose this route, you will want to make a pit stop at the very beginning of your journey. The town of San Sebastian has the world’s largest collection of restaurants with Michelin stars, so you definitely want to stop in at a few of them.
The walk itself is magnificent, taking you by the coast through many a fishing village and by many a beach. You can choose to dip your feet in the Atlantic, if the mood so takes you.
It can be difficult to determine which Camino might suit you best, if you have never been on a walking tour before. Don’t let that discourage you!
There is a route for everyone on the Camino, you just have to do your research, and find one you like.
Remember to pack well and to break in your shoes, and to prepare yourself for an experience like no other.