Walking the Camino de Santiago is one of the most highly-sought pilgrimages in the history of humanity. Today, nearly 350,000 trekkers from around the world continue to complete the Camino each year—and for good reason.
El Camino de Santiago, or The Way of Saint James, invites countless pilgrims from all over Europe and the world to arrive in Santiago de Compostela, a city of nearly 100,000 residents in northwest Spain, 22 miles east of the Atlantic Ocean.
The voyage—commonly known as El Camino, The Way, or the Camino—concludes at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, which houses the tomb of Saint James, one of the twelve apostles and the first martyr of Jesus Christ.
The Camino dates back to 800 AD. Technically, you can start your Camino anywhere on the European continent! However, the seven traditional Camino routes originate all over Spain and range from 71 to 621 miles. They’re each well-marked for pilgrims with gold-toned scallop shells set into blue-colored milestone markers and painted yellow arrows.
One myth says that bygone pilgrims used seashells to drink water from the springs as they walked. The clergy would also give a shell to pilgrims upon their arrival at the Cathedral and completion of the Camino.
The English Way launches from the port city of Ferrol and is the shortest traditional itinerary at 75 miles. (A second option leaves from A Coruña but is not long enough to earn your Compostela.) Not many distance-walkers choose this Camino, so you’re bound to have more solitude. Walkers cover this distance in six days.
Boasting a total of 621 miles, the Silver Way is the most extensive distance of the Camino itineraries. This southernmost passage starts in Seville, and links up historic cities, art, and architecture. The stages—meaning, the suggested segment that pilgrims should cover each day—are longer, so it’s not usually an attractive choice for first-timers. It’s also the least-walked route of all. Reserve at least 40 days to check-off these miles.
This leg is garnish for all of the Camino routes. Many travelers extend their walk from Santiago de Compostela westward to the seaside town Finisterre—which means end of the earth— against the Atlantic coast. The 71-mile iteration takes pilgrims north to the fishing village of Muxía then veers south to Finisterre and takes 3-5 days. At your endpoint, you can stroll 2 miles from town to the tip of the peninsula. There, the 1853 Faro de Fisterra (faro means lighthouse) stands over the rocky shore known as Costa de la Muerte, coast of death. If you go, be sure to take a portrait with the Camino mile-marker zero.