Camino de Santiago – The Way of St. James

The Way of St. James, or in Spanish: Camino de Santiago, is one of the most important pilgrimage places in the world. Since the discovery of the remains of the apostle Saint James the Greater, there has started a never ending interest in following the route of the St. James Way until its final pilgrim place, Santiago de Compostela, which lies in the northwest of Spain, in the region of Galicia.
 
Source: TripSavvy
History
The beginning of the historic and important pilgrimage site started in the 9th century. In 814, when the tomb with the remains of the apostle James the Great was discovered for the first time. The king Alfonso II of Asturias and Galicia ordered the construction of a chapel on the site. Legend says that the king was the first pilgrim to this shrine. This was followed by the first church in 829 AD and then in 899 AD by a pre-Romanesque church, which caused the development and increasing interest of the major place of pilgrimage.

The construction of the Cathedral Santiago de Compostela started in 1075, it took more than 100 years, until the building was finished in 1211. The predominated material used is granite and its design was inspired by the French church of Saint Sernin, which is one of the most important Romanesque constructions of the country.
In the 1980’s there was an upcoming hype for pilgrimage and mainly for the routes with Santiago de Compostela as ultimate destination. Since back then, the number of travellers is increasing steadily and the attraction lures people from around the world.

The route was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in October 1987; it was also named one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1993.
Modern-day pilgrimage also includes non-Christian tourists. Nowadays, a combination of religious and non-religious wanderers are walking the Way of Saint James. There is currently a trend of people who go the route just for enjoyment, sightseeing in combination with nature, sports, as a new challenge or as a way of self-discovery.

Santiago de Compostela
The capital of the autonomous region Galicia, located in the northwest of Spain. One of the most important and most famous pilgrim places in Europe, receiving nowadays more than 300.000 pilgrims per year.

One of the most popular rituals of the pilgrims is getting inside the crypt to see the coffin or to pray to St. James. Due to the high number of people visiting the sight, it is hard to enter, and sometimes you have to wait for hours, because there is only space for a small, limited number of people in the interior.
 

Source: pbase

The routes of Camino de Santiago
There is not only one single way of Camino de Santiago, there are different routes, starting at various places whole over Spain, as well as from diverse countries of Europe. Even though no official way exist, there are some main routes, followed by pilgrims, but all ways have the same final destination – Santiago de Compostela. Below find the most popular ways starting in Spain and Portugal:

The French Way (Camino Francés)
It starts in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees and stretches over 780km until Santiago de Compostela. It is one of the oldest ones and has the deepest traditional roots. Due to its long history and the numerous pilgrim sights along the way it is the most popular one and over 60% of all pilgrims choose this route. It includes the major cities Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos and León.
 

Source: Schatz & Schatz
 
The Aragonese Way (Camino Aragonese)
This way is way less popular and crowded than the French way, since there are less sights, towns and accommodations. Beginning in the Pyrenees as well, from the Somport pass down to Jaca and then joining the French Way after 165km in Puente la Reina.

The Northern Route (Camino del Norte)
Part of the Coastal Route and stretching alone the North of Spain, the Northern Route begins in the Basque country in Irún. As well less popular as other routes, because of some parts where you have to hike, which makes it more difficult for some people. It follows the old Roman way and passes by some important cities like San Sebastian, Gernika, Bilbao, and Oviedo.
 

Source: Camino Ways
 
The Tunnel Way
One of the oldest routes, which used to be the main way between France and the plains of Alava in pre Roman times. The starting point is Irún, it reaches its highest point at the San Adrian tunnel and runs through the Alavan plains.

The English Way (Camino Inglés)
The English route received its name in the 12th century when mainly English people arrived at the Northern coast of Spain to make a pilgrim way to Santiago de Compostela. It has two starting points: either Ferrol or A Coruña. The route goes through rural Galicia and mainly passed landscapes and small villages.

The Portuguese Way (Camino Portugués)
It is the second most popular path after the French Way. This route has 3 possible starting points, beginning with the farthest one: Lisbon, followed by Porto and then by Tui, a city next to the Spanish – Portuguese border at the north.   

Proof of walking
Back in times, at the beginnings of Camino de Santiago, you walked the whole route and as proof, you were there, people took a scallop shell as sign with them, to show evidence. Nowadays, pilgrims can buy a special passport and afterwards a certificate, proofing you went by foot or by bike. The passport is used to show evidence of either walking at least 100 km or of the way or going by bike for at least 200 km. To proof the walk/ride with your passport, you have to get a stamp from churches, town halls or other official establishments on your way to Santiago. Arrived at the final destination, people can get their certificate at the Pilgrims Office. The Compostela certificate is an original religious certificate written in Latin.
 

Source: Keen on Asuncion
 
Going this way can give you enlightenment, a new adventure or life changing experiences. You can talk this new challenge and walk the way during the whole year. Either you take a route, really busy, like the French way, where you will get to know many different people along your path or you prefer to have a rather quiet atmosphere which you will find on the Northern Route. This sounds interesting and perfect for your next holiday plans? Do not hesitate and contact us for more information about our Camino de Santiago packages.