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Camino de Santiago routes – which one to choose?

The Camino de Santiago is not a single route like many people think referring to the popular Camino Frances. It’s a network of pilgrimage routes that start in different places across Europe and finish in Santiago de Compostela. In fact, you can start walking to Santiago from anywhere in Europe. The main drawback of walking a non-established route is that there will be less or no infrastructure for pilgrims (route marking, albergues, etc.). It will be more difficult and challenging to walk.

The popular routes are well-marked, have enough infrastructure for pilgrims, and don’t require very thorough planning – you just choose a 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 Camino de Santiago routes and enjoy the tranquility of the walk. 

As of September 2022, we’ve completed 8 Camino routes: Camino Frances, Camino Portuguese, Camino del Norte, Camino Primitivo, Camino Ingles, Camino Finisterre-Muxia, Via de la Plata, and Camino de San Salvador. We’re planning to walk more Camino routes in 2022. We are going to walk the Portuguese Camino with our daughter in September-October.

A map showing different Camino routes in Spain
Different pilgrimage routes of the Camino de Santiago

In this post, we discuss seven main Camino de Santiago routes and five lesser-known routes (there are far more routes, but these 5 are well-marked and have more infrastructure). Out of these 12 routes up to now we’ve walked seven; Camino Portugues (from Lisbon), Camino Primitivo, Camino del Norte,  Camino 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.

Different routes of the Camino de Santiago

Well-established Camino routesLesser-known Camino routes
Camino FrancésCamino de Madrid
Camino PortugueseCamino Catalán
Camino del NorteCamino Mozárabe
Camino PrimitivoCamino de Levante
Camino InglésCamino de Invierno
Camino Finisterre-MuxíaCamino de Gran Canaria
Vía de la Plata
Well-established and lesser-known Camino de Santiago routes

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. 

The well-established Camino routes

Long-distance routesMiddle-distance routesShort-distance routes
Camino Portuguese from Lisbon – 616 kmCamino Portuguese from Porto – 260 kmCamino Inglés – 110 km
Camino Francés – 790 kmCamino Primitivo – 321 kmCamino Finisterre – 118 km
Camino del Norte – 825 km
Vía de la Plata – 1000 km
Well-known Camino de Santiago routes arranged according to their distances

The main Camino routes according to their popularity*

The number of pilgrims on different Camino routes according to the information from the Pilgrim’s Receptions Office in Santiago de Compostela. The numbers are not 100% accurate because they register only pilgrims who received their Compostelas at the Pilgim’s Office. There are always people who don’t get for their Compostelas e.g. we got our first Compostelas only after completing our 6th Camino.

I provide the numbers for two different years 2019 and 2021 to give you an idea about how busy the Ccamino routes were before the pandemic. In 2019 in total 347 578 pilgrims arrived in Santiago de Compostela after completing one of the Camino routes. In 2021 the total number of 178 912 pilgrims arrived in Santiago which is half of the pre-pandemic years. The popularity of the Camino routes was a little bit affected by the restrictions as well.

Camino route In 2019In 2021
Camino Francés54,5% – 189 937 pilgrims54,8% – 98 090 pilgrims
Camino Portuguese (Central + Coastal routes)27% – 94 649 pilgrims
Central route: 20,5 % – 72 357
Coastal route: 5,6% – 22 929
23,5% – 42 189 pilgrims
Central route: 19,1 % – 34 247
Coastal route: 4,4% – 7 942
Camino del Norte5,5% – 19 019 pilgrims5,3% – 9 595 pilgrims
Camino Ingles4,5% – 15 780 pilgrims6,1% – 10 980 pilgrims
Camino Primitivo4,5% – 15 715 pilgrims5,6% – 10 143 pilgrims
Via de la Plata2,6% – 9 201 pilgrims2,2% – 4 046 pilgrims
Numbers of pilgrims on different Camino de Santiago routes in 2019 and 2021

The Pilgrim’s Reception Office in Santiago doesn’t have exact numbers for the Camino Finisterre-Muxía. People usually walk this route after finishing one of the other (longer) Camino routes. After completing the Camino Finisterre they don’t go to the Pilgrim’s office to get their Compostela.

Camino routes arranged by distances

  • Via de la Plata – 1000km
  • Camino del Norte – 825km
  • Camino Francés – 790km
  • 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

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

If you don’t have enough time to complete one of the routes you can walk the last 100 km to Santiago on any Camino. 100 km is the required minimum for getting the Compostela.

Camino routes and scenery

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

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

Fields, plains; Camino Portuguese from Lisbon, the Central Route of the Camino Portuguese from Porto, Vía de la Plata, Camino Francés.

Forest; Camino Finisterre-Muxía, Camino Inglés, the Galician part of all Camino routes.

Historical cities and towns; pilgrims can see cultural attractions and monuments on all Camin routes. Camino Francés, Camino Portuguese from Porto, and Camino del Norte have more historical cities and towns.

How to choose the best route for you?

Which Camino route is the best? is one of the most frequently asked Camino questions we get. It depends on several aspects.

  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.
  2. Choose the best route for the month you want to walk – not too hot, not too much rain.
  3. Determine what you want to see; coast, beach, forest, mountains, historical cities.
  4. Decide if you want to walk a busy and very social Camino route or rather have a solitary walk.

Camino de Santiago routes map

A map with different Camino de Santiago routes through Portugal and Spain
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

Seven well-established Camino routes

As I already mentioned we’ve walked all seven “popular” routes; Camino Portugués from Lisbon, Camino Primitivo, Camino del Norte, Camino Finisterre-Muxía, Camino Inglés, Camino Francés and a part of Via de la Plata (214 km from Seville to Merida). We give our personal opinion on these seven Camino routes. We haven’t finished the Vía de la Plata our thoughts on that route are based on the first part of it from Seville to Mérida.

Camino Francés (the French Way)

  • Distance – 790km
  • Days required – 28-35
  • Starting point – Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (France)
  • Regions –  Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla y León, Galicia.
  • It can be combined with – Camino Primitivo (from León), Camino Finisterre-Muxia (from Santiago de Compostela)

Main cities and towns on the route

There are many historical cities and towns on this route; Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos, León, Astorga, Ponferrada, Melide, Santiago de Compostela . If you have enough time I’d definitely recommend spending a couple of days in some of them there is so much to see there.

Best walking months

This route can be walked all year round, there are many albergues that stay open all year. A good thing about walking the Camino Francés offseason is that there will be not many people. As for the weather, May-June and September-October are probably the best walking months. It gets very hot and very busy in July and August. In the last years, September (especially the beginning of the month) has become a very popular month for walking the French Way.

We prefer walking any Camino before the peak season, in spring. Many albergues do the complete cleaning and sanitization before the beginning of the new season which means your chances of getting bed bugs are much smaller than at the end of the season.

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. This Camino route was described in detail in Codex Calixtinus – a 12th-century “guidebook” dedicated to the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Later the route lost its popularity until the 19th century when it was rediscovered and used as the main pilgrimage way to Santiago. In the second half of the 20th century, the Camino Francés reached its popularity. Nowadays about 186 000 pilgrims walk this route every year. Many people don’t walk the complete route but the last 100km from Sarria.

The Camino Francés is the busiest Camino route. For many people the Camino de Santiago = Camino Francés. The popularity of this route was the main reason we didn’t want to walk it but in the end, I decided to do the French Way to be able to compare it with other Camino routes. I walked it in September and there were many people. For 90% of all pilgrims I met, it was their first Camino de Santiago. For me, it was my seventh Camino route and overcrowdedness did bother me a bit in the beginning. It might be a good Camino to walk for those who don’t want to walk alone but couldn’t find anybody to walk with. There are many people who do the French Camino alone it’ll be easy to find a company.

The French Camino out of all routes has the best infrastructure and the most albergues. Some of the albergues 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 and it’s true but other routes such as Camino Portuguese from Porto or Camino Ingles are suitable for first-time pilgrims as well. 

It’s possible to combine the French Camino with the Camino Primitivo. There is a split in León; one route continues west towards Santiago, the second route goes north to Oviedo (the beginning of the Camino Primitivo) following the Camino de San Salvador. The Camino de San Salvador is about 130 km. It is known to be quite challenging due to several steep ascents and descents on the route. There are very few pilgrims who take this route.

Our video on the first part of the Camino Frances

Things we liked about the Camino Frances

  • It’s cheap to walk the French Camino. There are many public albergues and albergues for donation along the route you can find one for every night.
  • This route goes through some amazing Spanish cities such as Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos, León, and Astorga.
  • It’s a very social Camino every day you get to know new people by the end of the walk you know pretty much everybody on the route.

What we didn’t like

It’s a very busy route in the peak season people start chasing for beds to make sure they get one when they arrive. It’s not a big problem if you end your day in a big city there are plenty of hostels and hotels but if you’re walking to a small place I’d recommend booking a bed in advance.

The scenery, the part of walking through the famous Meseta (plains and fields with nothing) was not my favorite. It’s just not my kind of scenery, I prefer mountains, forests or the coast. I know some people really enjoy this part.

Difficulty level

Knowing that for many people it’ll be their first Camino de Santiago I’d say 4 out of 5. It’s a long route, the distance of 790km is already a big challenge. If you walk in summer it gets very hot in the Meseta and there is no shade to hide you have to start your day really early at 5.30-6.00 am. There are some days with steep and long ascents and descents which can be a problem for some pilgrims.

Scenery overview

The middle section of the Camino from Burgos to Astorga is through the Meseta with wheat fields dominating the landscape. For days you walk through plains with occasional trees and villages. There are very few rivers, lakes, or big water bodies on this route. My favorite part was the beginning of the Camino from St.Jean Pied de Port to Pamplona (over the Pyrenees) with beautiful mountain views and lush green forest. I really liked the part of the route from Astorga to O Cebreiro for the same reason; mountains, forest, small villages. Overall I’ve found the scenery on this route a bit monotonous.

The pilgrims monument on the French Route of the Camino de Santiago
The pilgrims’ monument on the most popular Camino de Santiago route – Camino Frances

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.  
  • It can be combined with – Camino Finisterre-Muxia (from Santiago).

Main cities and towns on the route

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

The best time for walking this Camino route is between the end of April and July and September-October. In July and September, it can be quite hot on the Lisbon-Porto stretch. August is fine if you start walking from Porto. If you walk from Lisbon it’ll be very hot, the route goes through the fields and plains with no shade. 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 wildflowers 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. It follows the old Roman roads from Portugal to Northern Spain. Between the 12th and the 14th centuries, St.James was a patron saint of Portugal. Those times many churches were built in his name and many pilgrims from Portugal walked to Santiago de Compostela. Nowadays the Portuguese Way is the second most popular Camino de Santiago route.   

The Camino Portuguese starts from the Sé Cathedral in Lisbon but as I already mentioned most people walk from Porto. We walked from Lisbon and that part of the Camino definitely has less infrastructure; the route is marked 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 the Camino de Fátima. Both routes go the same way from Lisbon till Santarem where they split. From Fátima it’s another two days to get back to the main Camino route. The Fatima route is about 20km longer. If you decide to walk through Fátima you’ll walk for 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 merge in Redondela, both have albergues and route markers. The Coastal Route is 280km, the Central Route – 260km. Most pilgrims walk the Central Route, only about 20% of people who walk the Portuguese Camino follow the Coastal Way. Its popularity grows 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 Redondela.

There is another route option on the Portuguese Camino – the Spiritual Way (Variante Espiritual). From Pontevedra, it goes towards the coast and joins again with the main Portuguese route in Padrón. This way is 1 day longer than the standard route, it involves two walking days and one day on a boat.

Things we liked about the Portuguese Camino

  • 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)

What we didn’t like

  • 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 it 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’s villages, etc.

Scenery on the Coastal Portuguese Camino route
The scenery on the first day of the Portuguese Camino from Porto following the Senda Litoral

Camino del Norte (the Northern Way)

  • Distance – 825km
  • Days required – 30-35
  • Starting point – Irún
  • Regions; the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, Galicia
  • It can be combined with – Camino Primitivo (from Gijon) and Camino Finisterre-Muxia from Santiago.

Main cities and towns on the route

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

The 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. It’s our favorite route. 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. The Camino del Norte merges with the Camino Frances in Arzua, 40km before Santiago de Compostela.

Things we like about the Camino del Norte

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

What we disliked

  • 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 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% of the walk is 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.

A beautiful coastal scenery in Asturias on the Camino del Norte route
The stunning scenery on the Camino del Norte, one of the most beautiful Camino de Santiago routes

Camino Primitivo (the Original Way)

  • Distance – 321km
  • Days required – 12-15
  • Starting point – Oviedo
  • Regions – Asturias, Galicia
  • It can be combined with – Camino Finisterre-Muxia (from Santiago)

Main cities and towns on the route

There are very few cities and big towns on this Camino; 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. 

The history of the Camino de Santiago dates back to the 9th century when the first pilgrims walked to Santiago de Compostela to commemorate the discovery of the tomb of Apostle St.James. The Camino Primitivo or the Original Way is believed to be 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 towns (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. This route merges with the Camino Frances in Melide, 52km before Santiago.

Things we liked about the Camino Primitivo

  • “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.

What we disliked

  • 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, with no cities or big towns on the way.

Embalse de Salime, a stunning emerald lake on the Camino Primitivo
Embalse de Salime, one of the highlights of the Camino Primitivo, the first Camino de Santiago route

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
  • It can be combined with – Camino Finisterre-Muxia (from Santiago)

Main cities and towns on the route

A Coruña or Ferrol (depending on where you start) and 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 boat 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.

The Camino Inglés is probably the best Camino for those who just want to get a taste of the walk without embracing 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. 

Things we liked about the Camino Ingles

  • 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.

What we disliked

  • 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.

Pontedeume, a beach town on the English Way of Santiago
Pontedeume, a small town on the Camino Ingles, the shortest Camino de Santiago route

Via de la Plata (the Silver Route)

  • Distance – 1000 km
  • Days required – 40-50
  • Starting point – Seville
  • Regions – Andalucía, Extremadura, Castilla y León, Galicia
  • It can be combined with – the Camino Frances (from Astorga)

Main cities and towns on the route

Despite the length there are not many big cities and towns on this route; Seville, Itálica, 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

The Via de la Plata or the Silver Way follows an 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 the 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 2021.  

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

Things we liked about the Via de la Plata

  • 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.

What we disliked

  • 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.

A typical scenery on the Via de la Plata; fields, gravel road, wildflowers
Spring is the best time for walking the Via de la Plata, one of the longest Camino routes

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
  • It can be walked as an extension after completing any other Camin route

Main cities and towns on the Camino route

There are no cities between the beginning and the end of the Camino; Santiago de Compostela, Finisterre and/or 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.

The 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 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.  

Things we liked about the Camino Finisterre

  • 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.

What we disliked

  • 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

2 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 ascent on the first day (if it wasn’t for that I’d give it 1 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.

The Muxia lighthouse, the end of the Camino route
A lighthouse at Muxia, one of the finishing points of the Camino Finisterre-Muxia, a pilgrimage to the end of the world

Lesser-known Camino de Santiago routes

We haven’t walked any of the following routes but considering walking them in the future. On the Camino Frances, I met a couple of pilgrims that рфв started their Camino in Le Puy, France. Now the Camino de Le Puy is high on my list.

Camino de Le Puy

  • Distance – 730km
  • Days required – 28-32
  • Starting point – Le Puy, France
  • Finishing point – St.Jean Pied de Port from where the route continues on the Camino Frances.

Main cities and towns

To be honest I’m not a big expert on France. Unlike Spain that I’ve traveled extensively in France, I’ve been only to Paris. It’s difficult to judge which towns on this route are important but I’ll try. The Camino goes through Le Puy, Figeac, Moissac  Conques, Cahors.

Best walking months

Summer months, June to August is the best time for walking this Camino though it can get busy it’s better to book accommodation in advance. May and September are good months for walking; the weather is nice and there are fewer people on the route.

This Camino is the most popular pilgrimage route in France. The route is well-marked all the way from Le Puy to St.Jean Pied de Port. From what I’ve heard from other pilgrims there are fewer public albergues and accommodation is overall more expensive than on the Camino routes in Spain. The beginning and the end of the route offer beautiful mountainous scenery. The middle part is through the fields and hills. Most of the pilgrims who walk this route are French-speaking. It’ll help a lot if you can speak some basic French. The language barrier is one of the reasons I haven’t walked in France that much. I try to steak to Spain and Portugal where I can understand locals and talk to them.

Off the beaten track Camino routes in Spain

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

The 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. 

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

The second half of April – June, and September-October – warm but not too hot, not much rain.

The Camino Catalán like the 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.

This Camino 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. 

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

The 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 the beginning of September.

Camino de Levante is another very off-the-beaten-path Camino route 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.

Plaza Obradoiro and the Cathedral at sunset
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the end of all Camino de Santiago 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 which 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/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 holidays on the Canary Islands with some hiking. 

Other Camino de Santiago routes

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 about Camino routes

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

Camino de Santiago planning resources

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Betti

Sunday 17th of July 2022

Hi guys! Could you please tell me if it is possible to build my route from Navia to Lugo. I mean are there alberges and road marking on that part of the road? Would appreciate hearing your answer

Stingy Nomads

Monday 18th of July 2022

Hello Betti. I know of no direct Camino route from Navia to Lugo. It means there are no albergues or route marking. You can walk from Navia to Baamonde following the Camino del Norte and from there try walking to Lugo, it's around 30 km. I don't think that part will be marked. If you want to switch from the Camino del Norte to the Primitivo you can do it before Gijon, there is a connection route to Oviedo, the starting point of the Camino Primitivo. Buen Camino

Dave

Tuesday 31st of May 2022

Great information in one place... I am thinking seriously about doing one of the routes.. One question I do have is the travel logistics on getting there from the US and also returning. I have heard of "open jaw" trips, about going to Paris first and start there or maybe Madrid, or maybe London.. Do you have any advice in this area? thanks so much, Dave ( I am thinking about the Norte or the Primitivo)

Dave

Friday 3rd of June 2022

@Stingy Nomads, thank you so much for you help!!

Stingy Nomads

Friday 3rd of June 2022

Hello, Dave. Thank you for the comment. From my experience, it usually works out cheaper to buy a return flight for long-distance trips. A return flight from the US to Madrid will be cheaper than two one-way flights. Before booking a flight I'd suggest deciding on the Camino route. If you decide to walk the Camino Frances from St.Jean you can fly either to Paris or Madrid and from there get to St.Jean. Overall Madrid is probably the best city to fly to from the US it's easy to get to the starting point of any Camino route and it's easy to get back from Santiago de Compostela. For the Camino Primitivo, I'd definitely recommend flying to and from Madrid. For del Norte you can fly to Barcelona though getting from Santiago to Barcelona after completing the Camino is not as easy as to Madrid. Buen Camino

Alice

Tuesday 12th of April 2022

Absolutely superb website! Just the right amount of information to give a general overview. Great for helping with making a decision re which route to take; what to pack, etc., and, pennies required. Am saving from now. Plan on🚶‍♀️to celebrate my upcoming retirement for the next chapter on my life’s pilgrimage…

Stingy Nomads

Tuesday 12th of April 2022

Hello, Alice. Thank you very much for the comment. It's great to know that our website is helpful. If you have any questions regarding the Camino de Santiago we'll be happy to answer them. Buen Camino

Jaana Lorch

Sunday 6th of March 2022

Hi there, I'm much enjoying your expertise, thank you!

My sister, mother and I want to make a one week long hike in memory of our brother who didn't make it through Covid.

Our mom is 83 years old but she is very sporty. We love sea scenery and even swim in cold water, so I thought The Northern Way might be our choice. We could start from Bilbao and walk just slightly over 10 km a day, for 6-7 days. We would do that either in the end of April or then in May. Does this sound sound?

We would like to make bookings in private guesthouses, sharing a room, and we would also use the service to get the luggage to the next place. Do you think I need to take some company to assist in all this?

thanks, Jaana

Jaana Lorch

Monday 7th of March 2022

@Stingy Nomads, That is wonderful help, thank you!

Stingy Nomads

Monday 7th of March 2022

Hello, Jaana. Thank you for the comment. I'm very sorry to hear about your brother. If you like sea scenery the Northern Camino is a good option. May is our favorite month for walking the Camino de Santiago. We have a detailed post with the walking stages for the Camino del Norte where you can find downloadable PDF files with accommodation along the route and walking stages https://stingynomads.com/camino-del-norte-stages/ You can use these files to plan your itinerary and book accommodation. You can do it yourself. Correos, a Spanish post service offers luggage delivery on the Camino del Norte you can easily book it on their website. First, you book your accommodation along the route and then luggage delivery. Buen Camino

Margarita Roberts

Monday 28th of February 2022

We are three old sisters (who are not fit) and want to walk El Camino from Vigo or Tui but, we want to only walk 7-8 kilometers per day. Is there anybody out there who can accommodate our requirements?

Looking forward to your response.

MR

Stingy Nomads

Tuesday 1st of March 2022

Hello, Margarita. We have two detailed posts on both Camino Portuguese routes the Central route through Tui https://stingynomads.com/camino-portugues-stages/ and the Coastal route through Vigo https://stingynomads.com/portuguese-coastal-camino-stages/. In these posts, you can find PDF files with distances between towns, facilities, and accommodation options. You can download these files and use them to plan your itinerary. On both routes, the first stage from Vigo to Redondella (16 km) is a bit difficult to break down into shorter days because there are no places to stay in between. You can split it into two, walk 8 km a day and take a taxi to the nearest accommodation and back to the trail. From Redondella to Santiago there are many places to stay along the route you'll be able to walk only 7 km per day. Buen Camino

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