The Road to Santiago, or, more eloquently, El Camino de Santiago, traverses Spain, leading those who walk its routes to the city of Santiago de Compostela. Popularly known as pilgrims, travelers from all over the world walk the path. Since being made famous by a number of books based on authors’ experiences, the Road to Santiago has achieved near mythical status.
Hiking by Way of France
This route begins in the French town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, located in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. Because of this, the start of the French Way is nearly 485 miles (780 kilometers) away from Santiago. For anyone who wants to make the pilgrimage, for religious reasons or other, they must be prepared physically and mentally for the journey ahead.
There are several other routes that pilgrims can take to Santiago de Compostela. Routes begin in countries all over Europe and snake their way to the final destination. Some of the trails that lead to the UNESCO World Heritage city connect to others. But in the end, all roads lead to the northwestern Spanish destination.
Food and Accommodation
Beginning in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, travelers will walk through a number of small Spanish towns that provide food and accommodation. These towns tend to focus much of their efforts on supporting the Camino de Santiago. Though simple meals can be found here, pilgrims can eat traditional, more elaborate Spanish offerings in the bigger cities.
The Pilgrim’s Menu
The great thing about any route a walker takes is the pilgrim’s menu. Typically served in the early afternoon, passersby can get a reasonably priced meal to keep them going. Typically, the meal provides pilgrims with three courses for about €10.
On the Road
According to expert travelers who have walked the French Way, it takes around four weeks to complete. For many of the walkers, the day begins early, around 6 am. However, there are many who prefer to begin walking before sunrise.
Starting early allows walkers to finish equally early, and to check into a hostel or setup camp. The upside of stopping early means pilgrims won’t be left out in the cold if they arrive late. Get started an hour two past sunrise, an you may find yourself without a bed.
Finishing the Camino de Santiago
The Pilgrims Office in Santiago does its best to keep track of those who complete the walk. This is accomplished by giving pilgrims the compostelas(certificate of completion) when they arrive. In 2016, more than 277,000 received the compostelas as Camino de Santiago finishers. However, the number of individuals who attempt the route are unknown. Commonly, many walk with no interest in ever finishing.
The Road to Santiago is one of the great long walking holidays available to travelers interested in an experience like no other. There are no 5-star hotels and extravagant nights out. It is miles of trails, paths and scenic views of Spain’s beautiful countryside.
If you’re interested in learning more, Amazon carries a fantastic book, entitled A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago: St. Jean – Roncesvalles – Santiago. A must read for those whose curiousity extends beyond a blog!