Camino de Santiago different pilgrimage routes
Camino de Santiago HIKING hiking hiking Portugal Spain

Many routes of the Camino de Santiago – choose the right one

The Camino de Santiago is not a single route like many people think referring to the popular  Camino Frances, but a network of routes that start in different places across Spain, Portugal, and France and finish in Santiago de Compostela. In fact, you can start walking to Santiago from anywhere in Europe but if you walk a non-established route there will be less or no infrastructure for pilgrims (route marking, albergues, etc.), it will be more difficult and challenging to walk. The established routes are well marked, have enough infrastructure for pilgrims and don’t require very thorough planning; just choose the route and follow yellow arrows all the way to Santiago. Walking one of the well-established routes doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be many people, you can choose one of the less-popular Caminos and enjoy the tranquility of the walk. 

In this post, we discuss seven main Camino de Santiago routes and five lesser-known routes (there are more routes, but these 5 are more established and have more infrastructure). Out of these we’ve walked six Caminos by now; Camino Portugues, Camino Primitivo, Camino del NorteCamino Finisterre-Muxía, Via de la Plata (214 km from Seville to Mérida), Camino Inglés and Camino Francés. We’re planning to continue our Camino adventure and complete more routes.

Detailed packing list for the Camino de Santiago

There are seven well-established routes of St.James; Camino Frances (the French Way), Camino Portugués (the Portuguese Way), Camino del Norte (the Northern Way), Camino Primitivo (the Original Way), Via de la Plata (the Silver Way), Camino Inglés (the English Way) and Camino Finisterre-Muxía. 

Main Camino routes arranged by popularity*

*According to the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago

    • Camino Francés  walked by 60% of the pilgrims
    • Camino Portuguese  (both Coastal and Central routes) – 22%
  • Camino del Norte  – 6%
  • Camino Primitivo  – 4,5%
  • Camino Inglés  – 3,5%
  • Via de la Plata  – 3%
  • Other Caminos – 1%

Note! There is no exact data for the Camino Finisterre-Muxía, according to the Pilgrim’s office it’s walked by 0,22% of pilgrims but this number might be so low because many people who walk this route don’t report to the Office, they walk this route after completing one of the other (longer) Camino routes. We walked this Camino in November and there were still some people on the route I can imagine in season (June-August) there are many pilgrims walking it. Many people that walked the Northern Way with us walked to Finisterre, some had already done it after completing their previous Camino.

Camino routes arranged by distance

    • Via de la Plata – 1000km
    • Camino del Norte – 825km
    • Camino Francés – 800km
    • Camino Portugués from Lisbon – 616km
    • Camino Primitivo – 321km
    • Camino Portugues from Porto* – 260km (Central Route), 280km (Coastal Route)
    • Camino Inglés – 120km
  • Camino Finisterre-Muxía – 115km

*We decided to add the route from Porto as a separate Camino because the majority of pilgrims start walking the Portuguese Way from Porto.

Camino routes and scenery

Sea, beaches, coast; Camino del Norte, Coastal Route of the Portuguese Camino, Camino Finisterre-Muxía (at the end), Camino Inglés (in the beginning).

Mountains, hills; Camino Primitivo, some parts of Camino del Norte (Asturia, Cantabria).

Fields, plains; Camino Portuguese Lisbon to Porto part and the Central Route, Via de la Plata, Camino Francés.

Forest; Camino Finisterre-Muxía, Camino Inglés, Galician part of the most Caminos.

Historical cities and towns; all the routes go past several cities/towns but some go through more urban areas e.g. Camino Frances, Portuguese Camino from Porto, Camino del Norte.

Muxía, the end of all Camino de Santiago routes
Stingy Nomads enjoying the view at Muxía after completing about 1000km on the different routes of the Camino de Santiago

How to choose the best route for you?

    1. Decide how far you want to walk – short, middle or long-distance route. You always can start a route not from its official beginning but from the point on the route that suits you the best.
    1. Choose the best route for the month you want to walk – not too hot, not too much rain.
    1. Determine what you want to see; coast, beach, forest, mountains, historical cities.
  1. Decide if you want to walk a busy and very social Camino route or rather have a solitary walk.

Why is it good to walk a different (alternative) Camino route?

Doing any outdoor activity with thousands of other people takes away a big adventurous part of it (at least for us). 

The more off the beaten path the Camino people walk the better it’s for the local community. It helps to distribute income from tourism and encourages people who live in these areas to become entrepreneurs; open an albergue, hostel, restaurant, shop, laundry, etc. As a result, it gives people an opportunity to earn money in the place they live instead of moving to a bigger city in search of a job. It’s quite a big problem in Spain, many villages and small towns are basically abandoned because people are forced to move to bigger places due to lack of work. 

You get to know places that you would never think of going to or you didn’t even know they existed, sometimes these places are amazing.  

Well-established Camino routes

As I already mentioned by the time of writing this post we’ve walked six out of seven “popular” routes; Camino Portugués from Lisbon, Camino Primitivo, Camino del Norte, Camino Finisterre-Muxía, Camino Inglés and a part of Via de la Plata (214 km from Seville to Merida), for these six Caminos we give our personal opinion. For the routes that we haven’t completed yet, we give mainly facts. We’re planning to walk Camino Francés and to finish Via de la Plata sometime next year. For now, the description of the French route is based on the information we read in guidebooks or online and got from other pilgrims.  

Main routes of the Camino de Santiago
Map of the main routes of the Camino de Santiago; Camino Frances, Portuguese Camino, Camino del Norte, Camino Primitivo, Via de la Plata, Camino Ingles, and Camino Finisterre

Camino Francés (the French Way)

    • Distance; 800km
    • Days required; 30-34
    • Starting point; Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
  • Regions;  Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla y León, Galicia.

Main cities and towns; Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos, León, Astorga, Ponferrada, Melide, Santiago de Compostela.

Best walking months; this route can be walked all year around, there are many albergues that are open all year and enough infrastructure, a good thing about walking this route offseason is that there will be not many people. As for the weather, May-July and September-October are probably the best. It gets very hot in August and very busy, literally thousands of pilgrims on the route. It’s better to walk the Camino before the peak season, in spring, many albergues do complete cleaning before the new season starts which means they’ll be clean and chances to get bed bugs are small. 

Camino Frances route map
French Camino de Santiago from St.Jean Pied de Port, plus connection route to Oviedo (to join the Camino Primitivo)

The French Way was established as a pilgrimage route in the 11th century, the route was described in details in Codex Calixtinus – a 12th-century “guidebook” dedicated to the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Later the route lost its popularity till the second half of the 19th century when it was rediscovered and used as the main pilgrimage way to Santiago but only in the second half of the 20th century the Camino Francés gained its real popularity, nowadays about 200 000 pilgrims walk this route every year, many don’t walk the whole route, only the last 100km from Sarria.

The Camino Francés is the busiest Camino route, for many people the Camino de Santiago = Camino Francés. To be honest for us it was a good enough reason not to walk it but now we’re thinking of doing it next year. There are several interesting cities and towns on the route that we’d really like to visit like Pamplona, Burgos, León. The French Camino out of all routes has the best infrastructure and the most albergues, some of them are open all year round which means this route can be completed offseason, in winter months. Some people think that this route is the best to walk as a first Camino de Santiago but in our opinion, several other routes are suitable for the beginners as well, e.g. Camino Portugues from Porto, Camino Inglés, Camino Primitivo. 

It’s possible to combine the French Camino with the Camino Primitivo, from León the route goes north following the Camino de San Salvador till Oviedo where the Original Way starts. The Camino de San Salvador is about 130km and it says to be quite challenging due to several steep ascends and descends on the route, nowadays very few pilgrims take this route.

El Cid festival, Burgos, Camino Frances, the most popular route of Camino de Santiago
Festival in honor of El Cid, Burgos, French route of Camino de Santiago

Camino Portugués (the Portuguese Way)

    • Distance; from Lisbon – 616km, from Porto (Coastal Route) – 280km, from Porto (Central Route) – 260km.
    • Days required; from Lisbon – 25-27, Coastal Route from Porto – 12-14, Central Route from Porto – 11-13.
    • Starting point; Lisbon or Porto.
  • Regions; Portugal;  Estremadura, Ribatejo, Beira, Douro Litoral and Minho. Spain; Galicia.  

Main cities and towns; Portugal – Lisbon, Santarém, Fátima (alternative route through Fatima), Coimbra, Porto, Barcelos (Central Route), Ponte de Lima (Central Route), Viana do Castelo (Coastal Route), Caminha (Coastal Route). Spain – Vigo (Coastal Route), Tui (Central Route), Pontevedra, Santiago de Compostela.

Best walking months; end of April-July, September-October though in July and September it can be quite hot on Lisbon-Porto stretch. August might be fine if you start walking from Porto, if you start from Lisbon it’ll be very hot, most part of the route is through opened fields and plains with no shadow. We walked the Portuguese Camino from Lisbon in May and had very good weather; warm, even hot some days, no rain, the scenery was beautiful with many flowers and trees in blossom. 

Portuguese Camino de Santiago route map
Portuguese Camino de Santiago route map from Lisbon. Coastal and Central routes from Porto

The route was established between the 10th and the 11th centuries following the old Roman roads from Portugal to Northern Spain. Between the 12th and the 14th centuries, St.James was a patron saint of Portugal which resulted in building many churches in his honor and many pilgrims from Portugal walking to Santiago de Compostela. Nowadays it’s the second more popular Camino.   

Camino Portugués starts from Sé cathedral in Lisbon but as I already mentioned most people start walking from Porto. We walked from Lisbon and that part of the Camino definitely has less infrastructure; the route is marked very well but there are not many albergues (especially public) on the stretch between Lisbon and Porto which means you end up paying more for accommodation. It’s possible to combine the Portuguese Camino from Lisbon with Camino de Fátima, both routes go the same way till Santarem where they split. From Fátima it’s another two days to get back to the main Camino route, the walk past Fátima is it’s about 20km longer. In total if you walk through Fátima you walk only 4 days, not on the main Portuguese Camino route.

From Porto there are two routes; the Central (original) route and the Coastal (new) route, both routes join in Pontevedra, both have albergues and route markers. The Coastal Route is 280km, the Central Route – 260km. Most pilgrims walk the Central Route, only about 20% follow the Coastal Way, though it grows in popularity every year. After Porto on the Central Route you won’t see the sea, the Coastal Route goes along the coast all the way till Pontevedra.

There is another route option on the Portuguese Camino – Sendero Litoral (the Literal Way), from Pontevedra it goes towards the sea and joins again with the main Camino route in Padrón. This way is 1 day longer than the original route, it involves two walking days and one day on a boat.

Portuguese Camino de Santiago, Central Route
Small towns with narrow cobblestone streets – typical scenery on the Central Route of the Portuguese Camino de Santiago

Likes

    • We walked in spring the fields were covered in flowers
    • Beautiful sea scenery on the Coastal Route
    • Interesting historical towns on the Central Route
  • Not too many people (very few from Lisbon to Porto)

Dislikes

  • Our main dislike is for the Lisbon-Porto part; not enough albergues on the route, long distances between them.

Difficulty level 

4 out of 5 for the route from Lisbon to Porto due to long stretches through nothing and long distances between albergues. 3 out of 5 for the part from Porto to Santiago, easy walk with no hills or mountains to conquer, many albergues and facilities on the way, relatively short distance – 260-280km. The main challenge for us here was the walking surface, walking on asphalt and cobblestones, both are hard on your feet if it wasn’t for that we’d rate is as an easy 2 out of 5.

Scenery overview

Countryside with many crop fields and vineyards and a couple of historical cities on the part between Lisbon and Porto, the Central Route from Porto has a similar scenery. The Coastal Route from Porto is all about the sea; beaches, coast, fishermen villages etc.

Beach on the Coastal Route of the Portuguese Camino de Santiago
A lot of walking along the beach on the Coastal Route of the Portuguese Camino de Santiago

Camino del Norte (the Northern Way)

    • Distance; 825km
    • Days required; 30-35
    • Starting point; Irún
  • Regions; the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, Galicia

Main cities and towns; San Sebastián, Guernica, Bilbao, Portugalete, Castro Urdiales, Santander, Santillana del Mar, Comillas, Llanes, Gijón, Avilés, Ribadeo (Coastal Route), Santiago de Compostela.

Best walking months; June to September is a good time for this route, July and August is the busiest time, many tourists in beach towns and the most pilgrims on the Camino but a good thing about walking during these two months is that all public albergues are open for that period. We walked this route in October and most of the time had very good weather; warm and dry.

Camino del Norte route map
Camino del Norte route map from Irun to Santiago de Compostela. Plus split to Oviedo where it joins with the Primitive Way

Camino del Norte is one of the oldest Camino routes, it was a popular route in the Middle centuries during the Moorish invasion as other routes, located more to the south, were not safe due to the Moorish troops progressing to the north of Spain. Nowadays this route is gaining popularity as a good alternative to the overcrowded Camino Francés.

The Northern Way is the second longest route in this group and our longest Camino so far. We’re big fans of the ocean and really enjoyed the walk, especially the first half of it through the Basque Country and Cantabria. The route offers spectacular coastal scenery, we found it is a great alternative to the French Way; the distance is about the same, 800km vs 825km, the route is less crowded, it follows the coast (the French Way goes all the way inland), goes through historical cities and towns with many interesting sights. Camino del Norte is considered to be tougher than Camino Frances because of multiple ascents and descents on the way but it doesn’t have any mountain passes like the French route. The route is well-marked all the way and has several alternative route splits.

It’s possible to combine Camino del Norte with Camino Primitivo, the route splits just before Gijón, it’s two walking days to Oviedo where the Primitive Camino starts. The route to Oviedo is well-marked and has albergues for pilgrims like any other Camino. 

Cantabria, Camino del Norte, Camino de Santiago routes
Beautiful coastal scenery in Cantabria, Camino del Norte

Likes

    • Beautiful sea scenery
    • Great food (especially in the Basque Country)
    • Several interesting historical cities and towns
  • Not too many pilgrims

Dislikes

  • Many public albergues in the Basque Country are opened only in July and August, outside this period pilgrims have to pay more and stay in private albergues.

Difficulty level

4,5 out of 5; long route, many ascends and descends on the way, a couple of stages with long distances between towns, albergues, places to stop for food etc.

Scenery overview

About 60% (not 90% like some sources claim) of the time the route goes along the coast; beautiful sea scenery, beaches, green hills, cozy towns and a little bit of forest, mostly in Galicia. Walking this route we often regretted not having enough time to explore some parts of the Camino, we’d like to stay longer than just one night in several places on the way, many of them are now on our bucket list to visit.

Guggenheim museum, Bilbao, Camino de Santiago
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao. One of the highlights of the Northern Way.

Camino Primitivo (the Original Way)

    • Distance; 321km
    • Days required; 12-15
    • Starting point; Oviedo
  • Regions; Asturias, Galicia

Main cities and towns; Oviedo, Lugo, Melide, Santiago de Compostela

Best walking months; June – August are the warmest months with the least rainfalls but because most of the route goes over the mountains the weather there is quite unpredictable, we walked this Camino in June and got a lot of rain. 

Camino Primitivo or the Original Way was the first Camino ever walked, according to the historical manuscripts Spanish king Alfonso II walked from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela in the 9th century.

Camino Primitivo de Santiago route map
The Primitive Way of Camino de Santiago route map.

It’s often named the toughest Camino due to the fact that the route goes through the mountains in Asturias. It’s partly true the Original Way does have many ascends and descends (some are quite long and steep) but the total distance of the route is quite short, for us, the Northern Way was more challenging. The Primitive Way is probably the closest to the wild hike Camino, most of the time you walk on the walking path through the forest or over the mountains, past small villages and town (but not as many as on the other routes). There is not much walking on the road or on the asphalt which is great because the asphalt is very hard on your feet but if you have any knee issues it might be difficult to complete this route due to many ups and downs.

Camino Primitivo can be walked as a part of Camino Francés or Camino del Norte both have connecting routes to Oviedo to the start of the Original Way.

The Original Route of the Camino de Santiago
Salime Reservoir, one of the most beautiful walking days on the Camino Primitivo

Likes

    • “Wild Camino” with a lot of walking on the footpath, trails, through remote areas, very few cities, no industrial areas and busy roads on the way.
    • Public albergues that can be found at the end of every walking stage, you can easily complete the whole route staying only in public albergues, which makes the walk cheaper.
    • The Camino goes through off the beaten track areas with few tourists besides the pilgrims.
  • Locals are very friendly and hospitable they’re not sick of thousands of tourists passing by every day.

Dislikes

  • We were very unlucky with the weather despite the fact that we walked the Camino in summer (June), we had a lot of rain and mud on the trails it was our only dislike. Otherwise, it’s a great Camino to walk with good facilities and stunning scenery.  

Difficulty level 

4 out of 5, many steep ascends and descends but the route is relatively short as well as the walking stages.

Scenery overview

Beautiful mountain and forest scenery, the trail goes through some remote areas of Asturias, no cities or big towns on the way.

Asturias, Camino Primitivo rotue
The beautiful mountain scenery on the Original Way of Camino de Santiago

Camino Inglés (the English Way)

    • Distance; 116 km from Ferrol, 74 km from A Coruña
    • Days required; 4-6
    • Starting point; Ferrol or A Coruña
  • Regions; Galicia

Main cities and towns; A Coruña/Ferrol, Santiago de Compostela  

Best walking months; June – September, the beginning of October, the second half of May, though in our experience it can rain any time in Galicia.

English Way of Camino de Santiago route map
The English Camino de Santiago route map from A Coruna/Ferrol.

The history of this route goes back to the 12th century when pilgrims from England and some Northern European countries arrived in A Coruña by boats and continued on foot to Santiago de Compostela. Nowadays most pilgrims start in Ferrol, the main reason is the distance, from A Coruña to Santiago is only 74 km (compared to 116 km from Ferrol) which is 26 km too short to be able to get the Compostela – a certificate that a pilgrim can get in Santiago after walking more than 100 km to Santiago de Compostela on any Camino route.

Camino Inglés is probably the best Camino for those who just want to get a taste of the walk without embracing into a long journey. It’s easy to combine this route with a normal (non-walking) beach or sightseeing holiday and find out if the Camino is your cup of tea or not, after completing the English Way you can decide if you want to spend your next holiday walking. There are no big cities or towns on the way more of countryside scenery and forest – traditional Galician landscape.

We haven’t walked from A Coruña but some sources say the route from there is not marked very well. Note! If you start walking from A Coruña you won’t be able to get the Compostela for this Camino because the total distance is under 100 km. The Camino from Ferrol has proper marking and good infrastructure. 

A Coruña, Camino Inglés, Camino de Santiago
A Coruña, one of the starting points of the English Way of Camino de Santiago

Likes

    • A short Camino route, it can be done as a part of a holiday or over a long weekend.
    • The English Way is a perfect option for first-time pilgrims, it gives a good idea about walking the Camino. After completing it you can decide whether you like it or not before planning to walk one of the longer routes.
    • It’s a quiet route with not too many people.
  • There are no big cities or industrial areas on the way more of the countryside scenery and forest.

Dislikes

  • The main dislike was the walking surface on this route, a lot of walking on asphalt.

Difficulty level

Though the Camino Inglés is a short route I’d give it 3 out of 5 due to multiple ascents and descents on the way.

Scenery overview

A typical Galician scenery, a mixture of pasture fields and lush green forest with a little bit of sea scenery and a couple of beaches in the beginning. Some parts e.g. on the last day to Santiago were truly beautiful.

Enchanted forest, Camino Ingles, Galicia, Spain
The Enchanted forest on the English Way, just before Santiago de Compostela

Via de la Plata

    • Distance; 1000 km
    • Days required; 40-50
    • Starting point; Seville
  • Regions; Andalucía, Extremadura, Castilla y León, Galicia

Main cities and towns; Seville, Mérida, Cáceres, Salamanca, Zamora, Ourense, Santiago de Compostela.

Best walking months; April-May, when it’s warm but not too hot yet. In autumn it really cools down only in October. Walking Via de la Plata between July and September is not a good idea, the temperature in Andalucía and Extremadura in August reaches 40C°-45C°, it’s very dry and hot.

Via de la Plata, the longest Camino de Santiago route
Via de la Plata route map. The longest well-established Camino de Santiago route

Via de la Plata or the Silver Way follows on old Roman road that headed to the mines in Northern Spain. Later the route was used for many other purposes e.g. moving stock from south to north in summer, trading, migratory, etc. It was used as a pilgrimage route to Santiago between the 10th and the 12th centuries, later very few pilgrims walked it. Nowadays the route has good facilities and enough infrastructure though it’s still walked by only 3% of pilgrims every year.

This route is not recommended to walk as the first Camino due to long distance, fewer facilities on the way, long stages. For planning this walk it’s important to keep in mind seasons. It’s very crucial to carry enough water and use sun protection (sunscreen and hat) on Via de la Plata. By now we’ve walked only 214 km on this route from Seville to Mérida, we’re planning to finish this Camino in 2020.  

The route splits after Zamora; one goes to Astorga where it joins with the French Camino another continues to Santiago through Ourense (this part is also known as Camino Sanabrés).

Seville, the beginning of the Via de la Plata route
Seville, the beginning of Via de la Plata, the longest well-established route of the Camino de Santiago

Likes

    • Walking surface, compared to some other routes, on the Via de la Plata there is not much asphalt or road walking.
    • Some impressive Roman ruins on the route, e.g. Italica, Mérida, etc.
    • Though the towns on the route are far apart in every place we stopped we could find an ATM and a shop/supermarket.
  • No walking through industrial or urban areas of big cities, most of the time very peaceful countryside and fields.

Dislikes

    • Long stages with nothing in between, no towns or villages, no even places to refill water, you walk average 20-25 km through the fields with nowhere to stop.
  • Public albergues are more expensive on the Silver Route compared to the other Caminos, average price 10€ per person vs usual 6€-7€.

Difficulty level

I’d say 5 out of 5, a very long route combined with long stages and little infrastructure in between, plus weather conditions if you walk this Camino in summer it’s incredibly hot.

Scenery overview

A lot of walking through the fields, past vineyards and olive tree plantations with some interesting Roman ruins on the way. In spring the area is covered in wildflowers.

Acueducto de los Milagros in Mérida, Via de la Plata, Camino de Santiago routes
Acueducto de los Milagros in Mérida, Via de la Plata

Camino Finisterre-Muxía

    • Distance; Santiago-Finisterre – 89km, Santiago-Muxía – 86km, Santiago-Muxía-Finisterre – 115km.
    • Days required; 3-5
    • Starting point; Santiago de Compostela.
    • Finishing point; Finisterre or Muxía
  • Regions; Galicia

Main cities and towns – Santiago de Compostela, Finisterre, Muxía

Best walking months; June to September. We walked this Camino in November and got a lot of rain and stormy wind on the way to Finisterre.

Camino Finisterre from Santiago de Compostela
Camino Finisterre-Muxia route map.

The name Finisterre comes from the Latin “finis terrae” which means “end of the earth”, the origin of pilgrimage to Cape Finisterre goes back to pre-Christian times when people believed it was the edge of the world.

Camino Finisterre is usually walked as an extension after completing one of the other Camino routes but it can be walked as a separate Camino as well. It can be a good option for those who are not sure if they want/will be able to walk a longer route of the Camino de Santiago, some sort of Camino test-drive. The Camino Finisterre-Muxía is the only Camino de Santiago route that starts and not ends in Santiago de Compostela. There are two finishing points; Finisterre and Muxía, both are small sea towns at two capes. It’s possible to walk to both of them the Camino route connects two towns, it’s the most scenic part of the route by the way. After completing this Camino you can get the Finisterrana and Muxiana certificates. There are many albergues, restaurants, and cafes on the route, even in peak season you won’t have a problem finding a place to sleep.  

One of the shortest routes of Camino de Santiago - Camino Finisterre-Muxía
The scenery on the way from Finisterre to Muxía, one of the shortest Camino de Santiago routes

Likes

    • Beautiful sea scenery at Finisterre and Muxía
  • Relaxed vibe maybe it feels that way because most people who walk this route have already finished one Camino and are pretty chilled.

Dislikes

    • Our main dislike was too much rain and strong wind we got on the route but I must say we walked it in November, not the best time of the year.
  • Very few supermarkets and shops on the way which makes it difficult to make your own food.

Difficulty level

3 out of 5 – short route, frequent places to stop for food, many albergues, well-marked, some ups and downs on the way, one quite steep and long ascend on the first day (if it wasn’t for that we’d give it 2 out of 5).

Scenery overview

Forest and fields most of the way, beautiful sea views on the stretch between Finisterre and Muxía and at both capes.

Lesser-known Camino de Santiago routes

We haven’t walked any of the following four routes but considering to walk them in the future.

Camino de Santiago lesser-known routes
Lesser-known Camino de Santiago Routes; Camino de Madrid, Camino Catalán, Camino Mozárabe, Camino de Levante, Camino de Invierno, Camino de Gran Canaria. Plus Camino Francés and Via de la Plata.

Camino de Madrid

    • Distance; 685km; from Madrid to Sahagún (where it joins with the Camino Francés) – 321km, from Sahagún to Santiago de Compostela (on the French Camino) – 364km
    • Days required; 26-30 days; 12-14 days from Madrid to Sahagún and 14-16 days from Sahagún to Santiago de Compostela.
    • Starting point; Madrid
  • Regions; Comunidad Madrid, Castilla y León, Galicia

Main cities and towns; Madrid, Segovia, Valladolid (short detour from the Camino), León, Astorga, Ponferrada, Melide, Santiago de Compostela.

Best walking months; second half of April – beginning of June and September-October, though in September it can be still quite hot around Madrid. Summer months July and August are not the best time to walk this Camino, it gets hot, between 35C° and 40C°.

Camino de Madrid is a relatively new Camino route, it starts in Madrid and goes up north to Sahagún where it joins with Camino Francés. According to the guidebooks and websites on this route, there is very little walking on the road or on the asphalt, mostly walking trails. Very few pilgrims walk this Camino, on the part Madrid – Sahagún you won’t see many people but from Sahagún where it joins with the French Way there will be many pilgrims. Despite the small number of pilgrims on this route, there are several municipal and private albergues and hostels on the way, the route is well-marked. 

The Aqueduct of Segovia, Camino de Madrid route of Camino de Santiago
Impressive Aqueduct of Segovia, one of the highlights of Camino de Madrid.

Camino Catalán

    • Distance; about 1147km (there are several route options from Montserrat, all more or less the same distance); 471km from Montserrat to Puente la Reina (joins with Camino Frances), from Puente la Reina to Santiago de Compostela (on the French Way) – 676km.
    • Days required; 45-47 days; 17-20 days from Montserrat to Puente la Reina, 26-29 days from Puente la Reina to Santiago de Compostela. 
    • Starting point; Montserrat monastery (one of the starting points)
  • Regions; Catalonia, Aragon, Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla y León, Galicia.

Main cities and towns; Zaragoza (Camino del Ebro), Huesca, Logroño, Burgos, León, Astorga, Ponferrada, Melide, Santiago de Compostela.

Best walking months; second half of April – June, and September-October – warm but not too hot, not much rain.

Camino Catalán like Camino de Madrid joins the French Camino after about two weeks and continues to Santiago following the most popular Camino route. On the part from Barcelona, you will see very few people but once you are on the Camino Frances there will be many pilgrims. The route has several options, the main split is at Tarrega (before Lleida); one route goes through Huesca to Santa Cilia de Jaca where it joins the Camino Aragonés – an alternative route of the French Camino which goes to Puente la Reina where it merges with the main Camino Francés route. Another route goes past Lleida to Fuentes de Ebro where it joins the Camino del Ebro, the route continues past Zaragoza to Logroño where it joins the French Way. Both routes have markers, there are no/very few traditional albergues on the Camino Catalán part of the route but there are several accommodation options on the way that offer discounts for pilgrims. 

Montserrat monastery, Camino Catalán of Santiago
Montserrat monastery – the beginning of the Camino Catalán, off the beaten route of Camino de Santiago

Camino Mozárabe

    • Distance; 1200km from Granada to Santiago, 1400km from Almería to Santiago, 406km from Granada to Mérida (where it joins with Via de la Plata), 600km from Almería to Mérida, 800km from Mérida to Santiago de Compostela.
    • Days required; from Granada to Mérida – 15-17 days (plus 30-33 days to Santiago), from Almería to Mérida – 23-25 days (plus 30-33 days to Santiago).
    • Starting point; Almería or Granada
  • Regions; Andalucía, Extremadura, Castilla y León, Galicia

Main cities and towns; Almería, Granadana, Córdoba, Mérida, Cáceres, Salamanca, Zamora, Ourense, Santiago de Compostela.

Best walking months; spring (April-June) and fall (end of September-October).

This route was established (marked) as an official Camino route only in 1999, it’s a new Camino with almost no infrastructure for pilgrims, no albergues, only pensions and hotels, pilgrims can overnight in sports complexes, schools, churches etc. like in the old-times. It’s not an easy route with long stretches between towns, very few people, sleeping arrangement varies from day to day from a hotel room to a mattress in a sports hall. The route is well-marked. Camino Mozárabe is not recommended to walk for a first-time pilgrim. 

The Alhambra palace, Granada, Camino Mozárabe de Santiago
The Alhambra palace, Granada, Camino Mozárabe de Santiago

Camino de Levante

    • Distance; 1300km from Valencia to Santiago, 900km from Valencia to Zamora (where it joins with Via de la Plata), 400km from Zamora to Santiago.
    • Days required; 50-55 days; 35-38 days from Valencia to Zamora, 15-17 days from Zamora to Santiago.
    • Starting point; Valencia or Alicante
  • Regions; Comunidad Valencia, Castilla La Mancha, Comunidad Madrid, Castilla y León, Galicia

Main cities and towns; Valencia/Alicante, Albacete, Toledo, Ávila, Zamora, Ourense, Santiago de Compostela.

Best walking months; second half of April-June and mid-September-October, like with Via de la Plata and Camino Mozárabe it’s not recommended to walk it during July, August and beginning of September.

Camino de Levante is another very off the beaten path Camino with a handful of pilgrims every year, long solitary stretches through nothing, little infrastructure, and no albergues, only pensions and hostels. It’s marked not as good as the other Caminos but the route is indicated most of the time. Not recommended to walk as a first Camino. For this Camino, it’s quite important to speak and understand some Spanish most of the route goes through non-touristy parts of Spain.

City of Arts and Science, Valencia, Camino de Levante, Camino de Santiago routes
City of Arts and Science, Valencia, the beginning of the Camino de Levante

Camino de Invierno (the Winter Way)

    • Distance; 275km
    • Days required; 10-13
    • Starting point; Ponferrada
  • Regions; Galicia

Main cities and towns; Ponferrada, Chantada, Santiago de Compostela.

Best walking months; it used to be a winter route but the best time to walk it is actually spring – April-June and autumn – September-October. In July and August, it gets quite hot in the areas.

Camino de Invierno was used by pilgrims who walked the French Way in winter to escape snow areas in O Cebreiro. The route was recognized as the official Camino route only in 2015. Now it’s possible to get the Compostela certificate after completing this route like any other Camino. The route is marked but not as good as other Camino routes, there are many accommodation options like hostels and hotels but no albergues (only one private albergue on the route). This Camino can be walked as a separate route or combined with the Camino Francés as an alternative and less crowded route to Santiago.

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela at sunset. The end of all Camino routes

Camino de Gran Canaria

    • Distance; 73km
    • Days required; 3-4 days
    • Starting point; Playa del Inglés, Maspalomas, Gran Canaria
  • Regions; the Canary Islands

Best walking months; the climate of the Canary Islands is very mild, even in winter it’s not cold and it doesn’t rain a lot, this route can be walked all year round but the best months are April-June and September-October, during peak season July and August some part of the route might be quite busy.

Camino de Gran Canaria is the only Camino that doesn’t finish in Santiago de Compostela (except Camino Finisterre that starts in Santiago). In 1965 Pope John XXIII gave to the city of Galdar (the end of the route) a papal bull to celebrate the Jacobean Holy Year. The bull gives to Galdar the same privileges as Santiago de Compostela for this reason despite the Camino de Gran Canaria doesn’t start or end in Santiago it’s considered to be one of the Camino de Santiago routes. It runs across the island and connects two island’s major churches dedicated to Saint James. This Camino is a great way to diverse beach holiday on the Canary Islands with some hiking. 

Camino de Gran Canaria, Camino de Santiago routes
The scenery on the Camino de Gran Canaria – the shortest route of the Camino de Santiago

Other Camino de Santiago routes in Spain

Camino Aragonés (the Aragonese Way) – starts at the pass of Somport in the Pyrenees, at the Spanish-French border, goes through Aragón for 170km till where it joins Camino Francés at Puente la Reina. Total distance to Santiago 853km.

Camino del Ébro – starts in Tortosa, Catalonia, 15km away from the Mediterranean coast, goes for 338km past Zaragoza and several other towns till Logroño where it joins the French Way. The route is similar to Camino Catalán.

Camino de la Lana (the Wool Route) – it starts in Alicante, goes through Central Spain for 700km till Burgos where it joins the French Route. Total distance to Santiago – 1200km. After the first 100km, the route intersects with Camino de Levante.

There are more routes from different places in Spain, France, and other European countries but they have little to no infrastructure. Spanish routes usually after a couple of days or a week merge with other well-established Camino routes. There are several Camino de Santiago routes in France; the Paris and Tours Way, the Vézelay Route, the Le Puy Route, the Arles Way. 

FAQ

How many Camino de Santiago routes are?

There are many routes from different cities and towns in Europe (Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Italy etc.). There are seven well-established Camino routes with good infrastructure and route marking and many routes that are more or less marked but don’t have many albergues for pilgrims you might have to stay in a hotel, hostels etc.

Which Camino is the best for a first-time pilgrim?

Any established Camino route with good infrastructure. I wouldn’t recommend walking Via de la Plata as the first Camino but any other route is fine. If you just want to try it go for shorter routes e.g. Camino Inglés, Camino Finisterre, Camino Portugues from Porto.

Which Camino is the best to walk with a child?

Out of four we’ve walked I’d say the Portuguese Camino from Porto is the best for a family walk; it’s relatively short, has good infrastructure, doesn’t involve a lot of walking on the road, distances between towns are not long, has good transport system (you always can catch a bus or train if needed). If we ever decide to walk the Camino with a child it’ll be Camino Portugues.

Camino de Santiago books and guidebooks

    • The Northern Caminos (Camino del Norte, Camino Primitivo, Camino Ingles and Finisterre) by Dave Whitson. Paperback and Kindle.
  • Ordinary MagicPromises I Kept to My Mother Through Life, Illness, and a Very Long Walk on the Camino de Santiago by Cameron Powell.  Paperback. 

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8 Comments

  1. Very informative, especially for those who are trying to weave their way through the maze of Caminos and decide which one to select. I tend to go with the long and quiet Caminos, having completed the Via de la Plata in 2018, I began the Levante in June and go back next month to cintinue.
    The one thing, of course, that all Caminos have in common is safety. People should give this top priority, be aware of the risks and your surroundings. Even this year, there have been several deaths, heat exhaustion, pedestrian road accidents and, this past Thursday, an Irish man who went for a swim after his walk and drowned.

  2. Hi!
    Really helpfull article.
    You read that it is not very comfortable walking on asphalt. So I was just wondering what is the most comfy subsurface to walk on?
    I find it difficult to choose.. I wanted to go in October/November but now I am doing it in September because of the weather. I had set my mind on the Camino Frances, but because of lack of time and the distance I think the route from Porto would be a good start, only I was wondering if there will be other people walking? I would like to meet some other pilgrims 🙂

    Adíos!

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Lorena! Thank you for the comment! The Portuguese Camino is the second popular Camin route, September is still season I believe there will be many pilgrims walking from Porto, you definitely won’t be alone.
      Buen Camino!

  3. ??

  4. wonderfreewalker

    Great article and informative, lots of interesting and usefull information.
    I am planning on walking another Camino soon after already walking most of the more popular ones overv the last eight years and this has been very helpful to me.
    Thank you for taking time and effort to publish it ,I am sure will be of benifit to lots of future Pilgrims.

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Wonderfreewalker! Cool name by the way) Thank you very much for the feedback! We just finished our sixth Camino de Santiago that we walked over the last year, since May 2018. We’re planning to continue our Camino adventures and explore some off the beaten path routes.
      Buen Camino!

  5. Great article and great resources for my Camino research but the disabled right click (which means I can’t easily Google various words is a major pain. I cant even select a single word and bring over to Google). Please reconsider this and if it is worth to destroy the experience for your readers for what ever the benefit would be.
    Thanks for your effort in putting this together.

    • Stingy Nomads

      Thanks for reading and we are glad you enjoyed this free resource that we spent a lot of time and money creating. We do link to many related sites to explain related terms and content to improve the user experience. You can not right click on our site to protect our content from being copied. Buen Camino!

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