Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St James, is an ancient Catholic pilgrimage route that runs across northern Spain to the shrine of the Apostle St James in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

18 Dec 19 · 4 mins read

Highlights of Spain | Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St James, is an ancient Catholic pilgrimage route that runs across northern Spain to the shrine of the Apostle St James in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

History of the Camino de Santiago

St. James (Santiago in Spanish) was one of the Twelve Apostles and is the national patron of Spain. He was said to have returned to Judea after preaching the Gospel in the Iberian Peninsula, and was consequently put to death by Herod for blasphemy. Legend has it that the apostle’s remains were brought by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain. The boat encountered a storm, but the apostle’s body was found undamaged, covered in scallop shells, and he was subsequently buried under the site of what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrimages to his sepulchre began, following the discovery of his tomb in the ninth century.

Symbol of the Way of Saint James
Pilgrim’s Shell (scallop), symbol of the Way of Saint James in Tui, Galicia, Spain.

You’ll find the iconic scallop shell symbol nearly everywhere on the routes related to St. James, on walls and distance markers. The scallop shell is often found on the coast of Galicia and has taken on religious, mythical and metaphorical meanings. Wearing a shell denotes that one is “walking the Camino”, and may well attract a friendly greeting “Buen Camino!” from the locals as pilgrims pass through their villages. Many pilgrims receive (or buy) a shell at the beginning of their journey and either sew it onto their clothes or wear it around their neck.

In its heyday in medieval times, from the tenth to twelfth centuries, Santiago de Compostela was second only to Rome and Jerusalem as a magnificent pilgrim destination. After a period of decline and neglect, the Camino de Santiago was revived by the Council of Europe in the 1980s. This route was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites in 1993, highlighting its historical significance and leading to a record number of pilgrims—rising from 3,500 official compostela certificate holders in 1988 to over 300,000 certificate holders in 2018.

Walking the Camino

Reservoir in the mountains of Picos de Europa. Camino de Santiago, ruta Vadiniense. Cantabrian, Riano, province of Leon. Castile and Leon, northern Spain

There are many routes on the Camino de Santiago, starting from a variety of points, from as far away as Belgium to as close as 100 km from Santiago. The Camino del Norte or Northern Way, starts from the town of Irun near the French border. Travellers may choose to begin their journey to Santiago de Compostela at the traditional starting point of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a bustling French market town at the foot of the French Pyrenees, or start farther back in Le Puy-en-Velay.

Walking the Camino
Travellers walking through endless green fields on the Camino.

Wherever travellers may wish to begin, the long distance journey to the shrine of St. James the Apostle promises a path weaving through medieval towns and churches, awe-inspiring Romanesque and Gothic art and architecture, and picturesque landscapes. Pilgrims travel with the Camino passport (Credencial del Peregrino) which they can present to be stamped by churches and other official establishments along the way. The stamped passport serves as proof that they have walked the 100 kilometres necessary to receive the certificate, a tangible proof of their long journey to the shrine.

Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, Spain
Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, Spain

Many others do not have the time or the strength to hike the Pyrenees and walk more than 700 kilometres—and many do not feel any particular urge to do so. On Odyssey Traveller’s Camino de Santiago program, we experience amazing sections of the Way of Saint James, crossing some of Spain’s most beautiful landscapes. We follow the pilgrims on easy distances of The Way to the mythical destination, Santiago de Compostela. This means on our walking tour, there will be plenty of stops, and we will stay in comfortable accommodation and have excellent food while travelling through the spectacular scenery of Spain’s northern coast and Galician countryside, giving you a sense of achievement upon our arrival at St James’ shrine. We drive to Cape Finisterre, a place that was once seen as the “end of the world”, with views across the Atlantic.

Walk the Camino and also get to discover the artistic highlights and rich history of Northern Spain and Portugal, and enjoy the local wines and exquisite food.

Articles published by Odyssey Traveller for Walking and Hiking tours for seniors

Articles about Spain published by Odyssey Traveller.

The following list of articles published by Odyssey Traveller for mature aged and senior travellers to maximise their knowledge and enjoyment of Spain when visiting;

External articles to assist you on your visit to the Camino (St James Way)

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FAQs

Walking the Camino how do you begin?

The starting point of the Camino Frances is the French town of St Jean Pied de Port at the foot of the Pyrenees for instance, 800kms away from Santiago. This route is the Full Camino Frances and takes approximately 35 days to complete.

However, you can start walking the Camino at any point along the route. In fact, a large number of pilgrims start in Sarria (100kms away from Santiago). Starting the Camino Frances in Sarria takes just 1 week of walking to reach Santiago.

Lisbon is the starting point of the Camino Portugues, the second most popular route.

Who walks the Camino de Santiago?

You don’t have to be religious to walk the Camino. In fact, people from over 150 nationalities and many different backgrounds walk the Camino each year.

Many do so for religious or spiritual reasons but more and more are walking the Camino for a unique experience, as a personal challenge or simply to take a break from everyday life.

FAQs

Walking the Camino how do you begin?

The starting point of the Camino Frances is the French town of St Jean Pied de Port at the foot of the Pyrenees for instance, 800kms away from Santiago. This route is the Full Camino Frances and takes approximately 35 days to complete.

However, you can start walking the Camino at any point along the route. In fact, a large number of pilgrims start in Sarria (100kms away from Santiago). Starting the Camino Frances in Sarria takes just 1 week of walking to reach Santiago.

Lisbon is the starting point of the Camino Portugues, the second most popular route.

Who walks the Camino de Santiago?

You don’t have to be religious to walk the Camino. In fact, people from over 150 nationalities and many different backgrounds walk the Camino each year.

Many do so for religious or spiritual reasons but more and more are walking the Camino for a unique experience, as a personal challenge or simply to take a break from everyday life.

Why walk the Camino de Santiago?

The Camino de Santiago is also known as the Way of St James and was an important Christian pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. Pilgrims walked the route in order to reduce the punishment of their sins. The scallop shell has long been the symbol for the Camino de Santiago.

How long does walking the Camino take?

It takes approximately 5 weeks to walk the Camino Frances from St Jean Pied de Port; 5 weeks to walk the Camino del Norte from San Sebastian; 4 weeks to walk the Camino Portugues from Lisbon and 2 weeks to walk the Camino Portuguese from Porto for instance. The Camino Ingles from Ferrol takes only one week to complete.

What are the accommodation options for walking the Camino?

In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our long-stay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments. We have a night’s accommodation at a monastery in Leyre, where we get to experience a centuries-old tradition of choir singing.

Should i walk the Camino in the Holy Year?

Many people walk the Camino de Santiago for many reasons. For those who are walking with spirituality or religion in mind, Holy Years can hold special significance. During a holy year, the walk will be especially busy.

Are you fit enough to walk the Camino?

You don’t need a high degree of physical fitness, or years of walking experience, to have an enjoyable time on the trail. You can choose the degree of your walks and cut out difficult sections as per your wish. Make sure you read up on the difficulty levels of each walk and prepare yourself.

What distance is each Camino route?

Camino de Santiago has many different route options from a short 120 km walk to the long and challenging 800 km and even 1000 km routes depending on how much time you have, what you want to see, and how far you can walk you can choose any of the existing routes.

How much does it cost to walk the Camino?

Odyssey’s tour itinerary with prices in your selected currency, to the Camino can be found here.

How do you prepare for Camino de Santiago?

Being Travel fit for mature and senior travellers remains an important element of enjoying a small group tour. Odyssey recommends that you prepare yourself before a tour with moderate activities, including brisk walking and fast swimming. Read more about being travel fit in mind and body here.

What is the pilgrim's passport on the Camino de Santiago and how does it work?

The pilgrim passport is a folded card with your personal details written on the front, which you use to record your journey to Santiago de Compostela.

How do you book the way of Saint James trek?

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