What Is the Camino de Santiago?

There are actually many Caminos de Santiago. They start in various places across Spain, France, and Portugal, but they all end in Santiago de Compostela, its cathedral a major site of Catholic pilgrimage since the Middle Ages.

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The many Caminos de Santiago, or Ways of St. James.

The most popular of the many Caminos de Santiago is the Camino Francés.  Over 175,000 people, around 65% of the pilgrims who reach Santiago, complete it every year.  Starting in St Jean Pied de Port, it covers 480 miles across Spain, through Pamplona and Léon to Santiago. 

About halfway through the Norte, I joined the Camino Primitivo, which cuts inland from Oviedo through tall mountains and remote villages, its rugged 220-mile trail even less popular (with 12,000, or 4%, of pilgrims hiking it).  

I’m very happy with my choice, which allowed me to enjoy Northern Spain’s breathtaking coastline before getting lost in mountain clouds, but I’m sure it would be an amazing experience to finish the full Camino del Norte, just run the Camino Primitivo, or even run the Camino Francés or another Camino, like the Camino Portugués (which I may try to tackle next year).

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