Guide, Routes and Tips for the Way of Saint James

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Before leaving... Which way to choose?

We have traveled all the routes of the Camino de Santiago to know exactly what are the conditions you will find . We can recommend the best way according to your conditions and requirements so that everything is perfect. You can also walk short routes to meet the minimum 100 kilometers to get the Compostela.

Remember you don't have to travel the Camino with an entire route. You can complete as many stages as you want, for instance starting from a intermediate point or walking just the final stages. Just keep in mind that you will be given the Compostela only if you have walked at least 100 km.

Choosing the right way is important to ensure you have a good experience. There are many factors that can help you decide on a route and it is important that you consider them all. Let's see some points that you should keep in mind before choosing the Way of Saint James.

The Way of Saint James is a pilgrimage, but also a touristic ad cultural route. As such, you must take into account the locations and points of interest you will visit. If you already know several points of the Bay of Biscay, you may be more interested in touring the south, for example. Take a look at the areas you will go through and the heritage of each one and consider which one attracts you the most.

Not all the ways to Santiago are the same. It is obvious that each one passes through different locations, but also their durations in days and miles are different. To give you an example, the Via de la Plata is the longest way to Santiago, with 596 miles (960 km). Before choosing a path, you must make sure that you have enough free days to dedicate yourself to the Camino. In addition to the total duration in miles or kilometers, each way has its own number of stages. To continue with the same example, although the Via de la Plata is the longest, it is also the one that consists of shorter stages. Analyze these data and think about how you prefer to travel your Jacobean route.

The starting place is an important factor when deciding which way to choose. Choosing a starting point close to where you live will save you time and money. If you live in Seville, it may be best for you to do Via de la Plata. If you live in Irún, the Camino del Norte. The same happens with the intermediate locations of each Way. Choosing a departure point with good connections will easy the planning and will make you trip more economic. Discover the locations of each route and choose the one that suits you best in this regard.

What are the differet routes in the Way of Saint James?

The Way of Saint James has always been a route that can start from different starting points, in different parts of Europe. Today, there are several different routes you can follow to get to Santiago. All of them have their own pros and cons and they are properly marked. You simply have to choose the one that suits you better, either by the points of, by the duration and difficulty of the stages or by the place from which you want to start.


The origin of this tradition: History of the Way of Saint James

WE KNOW that the Way of Saint James is a pilgrimage with many centuries of history. But where does it come from? Who were the first pilgrims? Why did they make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela?

When did the Camino de Santiago begin?

The history of the Camino de Santiago can be traced back to Roman times, more specifically around the 9th century. Many theories assure that the road to Santiago already existed in pre-Christian times, it is not until 812 when the Way becomes a way of devotion to the Apostle Saint James the Greater.

According to some theories and studies, the Way of Saint James already existed as a route for some pre-Christian peoples, such as the Celts. According to the archaeological remains and the studies that have been carried out of them, it is known that Santiago de Compostela was already a pre-Christian necropolis: that is to say, that in Santiago there were dolmens and other funerary elements of previous times before Christ. These funerary monuments typical of the Celtic culture, reveal that some Celtic peoples already visited Santiago for religious reasons, unconnected to the Christian religion.

Source: Unknown

The remains of Saint James are discovered in 812, so many people take this year as the starting date of the Way of Saint James as we know it nowadays. At the end of this century, Christian cultures in Europe echo this historical finding. This is how many devotees begin to show interest in the remains of Apostle James and, moved by religion, begin their pilgrimage to Santiago from different parts of the Christian Europe.

The date when these remains were found is pretty certain, but the history behind the finding is not so clear. At the time of the discovery, there was already a belief that the remains of Saint James the Greater were located in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. The most widespread legend about how the remains of the Apostle were discovered involves the hermit Pelayo and Iria Flavia as a location. According to this theory, a hermit named Pelayo would have seen a star over the forest of Libredón and communicated it to the bishop of Iria Flavia, Bishop Teodomiro. Both went to the place where Pelayo had seen the star and, upon arrival, discovered an old chapel where the remains were found.

The Way of Saint James became a crossroad of cultures, increasing the cultural contacts bwwteen different parts of Europe.

It is remarkable how in less than two centuries, the pilgrimage to Santiago increased considerably. Already in the 11th century, the number of pilgrims to Santiago is really high. It is an exceptional increase for the time, due to the precariousness of the communication routes in Europe in these years. In fact, the Way of Saint James itself became a way of crossing between cultures, increasing cultural contacts among different parts of Europe.

The Pilgrim's Credential
Your passport during the Way

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The Compostela
The certification of the Camino



What's the origin of the Cathedral of Santiago?

One of the key aspects of the Way of Saint James is, obviously, the Cathedral of Santiago - the final point of this long pilgrimage to Santiago. Like many other historical cathedrals, its construction process was very long - it took many centuries to build it and many changes in its architecture were mad during this time.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the case of the Cathedral of Santiago, its origin first dates back to the 11th century, around the same time that the remains of the Apostle Saint James are found. Alfonso II was the King of Asturias and he certified between 820 and 830 that the remains found were belonging to the Apostle James. In these years, it was considered that kings and queens were chosen by the God. Thus, the fact that Alfonso II certified that these remains were Saint James' meant that this truth was irrefutable.

Alfonso II, also known as Alfonso The Chaste, is considered the first Jacobean pilgrim to Santiago. He was the one who ordered the construction of a church in the place where the remains of the Apostle James were located. Thus, under his mandate, the first germ of the Cathedral of Santiago was originated. Throughout time and little by little, the church of Santiago became an important center of Christian pilgrimage throughout Europe./p>

Apart from the authority of the King of Asturias Alfonso II, the finding of the remains also had the confirmation and consent of Charlemagne, the great emperor of Europe during this time. During his government, Charlemagne faced the Arabs, who threaten to cross their borders. Thus, the discovery of the remains of Saint James was used as a Christian campaign against these religious conflicts in Europe. Thanks to Charlemagne's action, the Way to Santiago became even more popular and reached practically every corner of the Christian Europe.

DISCOVER SANTIAGO
World Heritage Site

USEFUL SERVICES
At your arrival

What is the Way of Saint James about?

SINCEthe beginning of the Way of Saint James, many things have changed. Over the centuries, the reasons for pilgrimage to Santiago have changed - the Camino has undergone changes, but also many aspects of the Jacobean are still intact.

The Way of Saint James is a route that runs from different points in Europe and in all cases ends at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This route is traveled by pilgrims from many parts of Europe. Although it has always had a strong religious component, the Way of St. James is a cultural way, a point of contact among different Europea cultures. Actually, it has been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

The Way of St. James is a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela from different parts of Europe and the reasons for doing it may lie in religion or cultural interest.


Walking the Way of Saint James for cultural reasons

Since its origin in the 11th century, the Way of Saint James has been a crossroad among different cultures. Already at that time, devotees from different parts of Europe walked to Santiago. Thanks to this multicultural movement, ideas, news and culture were exchanged between different countries. Did you know that the Camino contributed to the arrival of artistic styles from Europe into Spain?

Today, many things have changed, but the spirit of the Way of St James remains the same. Pilgrims from all over the world decide to start this journey from countless countries from all corners of the world: United States, France, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, China, Argentina, and many more. Embarking on this adventure is a cultural experience, where you can meet people of all kinds, discover the history of Santiago and Galicia and fall in love with all the culture you will find along the Way.

Walking the Way of Saint James for religious reasons

Although the religious side of the Camino has lost importance in comparison with its Christian origins, we must not forget that the origin of the Way of St. James falls in the devotion to the Apostle Saint James the Greater.

Religion is an important reason for making a pilgrimage. Both the historical origin of the Way and the importance of the Cathedral are important incentives to walk the Way of Saint James.

In addition, the Way has a strong spiritual factor. It is a long route to Compostela. We have time to think and to develop our own spirituality. Many people consider that the Way of Saint James is the best way to know oneself and develop a spiritual side.

Walking the Way of Saint James for touristic reasons

In case its rich history is not enough, the Jacobean route also has an immense touristic value. It does not matter what route you choose: in all of them you can go through the most fascinating points of the peninsular geography.

The Way of Saint James is positioned as the ideal way to get to know countless places in Spain: big cities, charming towns, nature areas, corners with almost forgotten legends and much more.

In addition to points of cultural interest, we must not forget the intangible cultural assets, such as gastronomy. In short, the Way of Saint James is a way of doing original tourism, since it is a mixture between tourism and experience.

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Starting your route: Useful Info

YOU should be fit before starting the Camino, although this depends on many factors, such as the route you choose, your age and physical condition, among others. The Way of Saint James is a long pilgrimage route that requires both physical and mental training.

The Way of Saint James is a route that can be long and tedious. There are really long routes, which go through corners of complex orography, for which you have to be prepared. If you are going to walk the Way of St. James, we strongly recommend that you prepare well in advance. In addition, you must bear in mind that you must prepare according to your own physical conditions and that it is a type of exercise with very specific needs. Even if you are an expert runner or a swimmer, for example, it is very likely that your body is not used to long walks and complex orographies. Try working out during the months prior to starting the Way and your experience will be the best possible. Given that training (of any kind) depends on many personal factors, we recommend that you opt for a professional trainer, so that your experience is the best it can be.

Walking the Way of Saint James also depends on mental energy. In order not to neglect the physical effort involved, it is important to plan the stages realistically and in accordance with our limitations. It is also important that you reserve time to relax and clear your mind. The Way of Saint James must not only be a physical effort, but you must also leave time to appreciate the environment, connect with nature, enjoy the culture and appreciate the cuisine. A good balance between body and mind will guarantee a good experience in your trip to Santiago.

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When to do the Camino? The best season to walk the Way of Saint James

We have already seen briefly which are the routes to reach Santiago, but what about the weather? The weather influences a lot when it comes to walking the Camino de Santiago. Being an outdoor walking trip, the weather can greatly affect your experience and the difficulty of each stage. So, what is the best time to walk the Camino? There are no seasons that are better than others. The important thing is that you take into account what factors influence when choosing the season. If you are well prepared and you know what you are going to encounter, you will enjoy the Camino both in summer and in winter.

The Way of Saint James has basically the same seasons as any other touristic trip in Spain:

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How to do the Way of Saint James?

Even though the majority of pilgrims travel the Jacobean route on foot, there are many other ways of doing the Camino de Santiago: on foot, by bike or even on horseback. The concept is the same, although some routes may vary slightly .

Doing the Camino de Santiago
on foot

Doing the Camino de Santiago
by bike

The Way of Saint James
on horseback

Walking the Camino the Santiago in a group

Never Walk Alone

The Way of Saint James can be enjoyed alone or as a group, depending on the type of trip you want to enjoy. Doing the pilgrimage to Santiago by yourself is a more spiritual experience, in which you will enjoy some time for yourself. Also, even if you walk by yourself, you will find lots of pilgrims along the way so you will never really be alone. If you want to find groups and join them during the Camino or if you want to hire an agency to organize the Camino, feel free to contact us.

Doing the Camino as a group is a great experience, but requires some organization. The best thing in these cases is to have the support of an agency, which would be responsible for booking the best dates and managing all the services that the group will need.

If you walk the Way of Saint James in a group, you have to consider a series of extra factors. Hiring some services, like backpack transportation or a support car can be really useful so that the experience is perfect for all the members of the group. Either if you go by yourself or as a group, you can count on a Official Guide of the Way of Saint James. The guides are qualified professionals who guide the pilgrims through the best routes, explaining the importance of each one. Thus, not only can you save time by going through the best roads, but you will also learn everything there is to know about them.

When going in a group, it is also useful to hire a support car. These vehicles ensure that pilgrims reach their destination even if they suffer a incident. If a member of the group twists his ankle or if he simply feels unwell, the support car will take him to the accommodation of that stage and the rest of the group can follow his path and meet at the end of the stage.

Doing the Camino as a group is a great experience, but it requires some organization. The best thing is to have the support of an agency, which is responsible for booking the best dates and managing all the services that the group will need.

If you want to have an organized trip to do the Camino or if you want to get an estimate on the Camino de Santiago, just leave your data and our experts will contact you for free and without obligation.

Walking the Way of Saint James
with children

What is the recommended age for children to walk the Camino?
This depends on many personal factors. In general, children from 3 years-old on can start walking thw Way, according to the experts from El Camino de Santiago en Familia.

The Way of Saint James
with your dog

The Camino
for solo travellers

What clothing and footwear to wear to the Camino?

Wearing a suitable kit is essential to walk the Way of Saint James.

Clothes for the Way of Saint James

  • Sneakers, boots or hiking sandals
    They must be breathable, waterproof and already worn. Choose the most appropriate type according to the season in which you are going to travel. If you think the weather can be changing, choose two pairs.
  • Flip flops
    To be used in public showers or to go to he beach.
  • Two shirts
    Technical and breathable t-shirts are the best option for any type of climate and you can wash and dry them quickly.
  • Two trousers
    Choose one long and one short. If it is a convertable trouser, it is even more practical.
  • Three changes of clothes
    With 3 changes of underwear you will have enough, since you will be able to wash them in the hostels
  • Three pairs of socks
    Socks are as important (or more) than the footwear, since it is the garment with which foot is in direct contact with. Look for a seamless pair, sporty and breathable.
  • Rain coat
    Even if you do the Way of Saint James in summer, you can never be sure that it will not rain. Bring a good raincoat or a set of waterproof pants and jacket.
  • Swimsuit
    Almost every way passe through a beach or a river. Take a swimsuit with you to take a break and go for a swim.
  • A sweater
    In case it gets cold, especially at night, take a sweater with you.
  • A hat
    If it's winter, choose a winter thermal hat. If you go in summer, a cap or a summer hat will be useful.

Footwear for the Camino de Santiago

The most suitable shoes to walk the Way of Saint James are good high hiking shoes, to protect your ankles. If it's winter, you can opt for special hiking boots. If you already have sports shoes that you find very comfortable to walk with, they can also be useful, but they should be breathable and waterproof.

It is important that you have previously used the shoes you are going to wear. If you use the shoes on the Camino de Santiago for the first time, it is very likely that your feet will get blisters and wounds.

Bringing two different pairs of shoes will give your feet a break, although you have to bring the extra pair in your backpack. You should also consider bringing a pair of flip flops for showers or to go to the beach or the river.

If you are going to walk the Way in winter or fall, you will have to add the following items:

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What should you bring in your backpack?

Packing your bag for the Way of Saint James is crucial, because everything you have inside will be everything you use every day. Normally, pilgrims carry backpacks of at least 35 or 40 liters capacity. In addition to the clothes that we have already mentioned, you should include this:

  • Documents
    - Identity Card: official identity card or passport
    - Pilgrim's credential
    - Health card or a copy of your health insurance
    - Money, in cash or a creadit card
  • Hygiene
    - Soap, for showering (body and hair) and for washing your clothes
    - Toothbursh and toothpaste
    - Toilet paper and tissues
    - A fiber towel
  • Useful gear
    - Smartphone and charger
    - A Swiss knife
    - Plastic bags: for dirty clothes, to keep food or to use it as a waterproof layer
    - Tongs: to hang clothes when you wash them
  • Safety
    - First-aid kit: with band-aids and blister bands, disinfectant and pain killers. If you need any other medication or you are prone to suffer other ailments (for example, allergies or stomach problems), add it here.
    - Sunscreen: both in summer and winter, you must protect your skin, which will be exposed for a long time.
    - Flashlight or refectants: especially if you plan to walk at night.
  • Nourishment
    - Canteen
    - Snacks: you can take energetic bars, cookies or nuts. They must be foods that are not voluminous, that have good nutritional value and that do not spoil quickly.
  • Resting
    - Sleeping bag: depending on the season, you will have to carry the appropiate one.
    - Ear plugs: if you are going to spend the night in a public shelter, go on safe and put earplugs in your ears.
BACKPACK TRANSPORTATION
Walk without carrying your backpack

Where to sleep during the Way of Saint James

You have several options to spend the night during the Way of Saint James.

Sleeping in hostels ("albergues") on the Camino de Santiago

The most popular option is usually the hostels, "albergues" in Spanish. This is the most abundant accomodation, they are located in key points of every route and it is the most economical option. They offer the perfect environment to share your experiences with other pilgrims.Hostels can be different, depending on the entity they belong to.

It is the most frequent type of hostel throughout the Way of Saint James, you will find one in each stage for sure. Being the cheapest option (from 5 euros per night), it is possible that they will be filled soon. Do not wait until the last moment to book it.

The parish hostels belong to the Catholic Church. They are also a very economical option, because you can use them by just leaving a donation

They are another kind of albergue, which works as a private business. Basically the concept is the same, because you will sleep in a group with other pilgrims. In some cases, in a private hostel you can enjoy some extra services, such as a washing machine or a pool.

Hostels, pensions,
hotels or motels

If you prefer to do the Camino more comfortably, you can always choose to book your nights in a hotel, a hostel or a pension. The prices are more expensive, but you will also have better beds, a private room and a private bathroom. Do not let the opinion of other pilgrims affect your decision: not everyone is able to sleep with so many people and rest is important. If you need to book a night out of the albegue or if you prefer this option for the entire Camino, it is a valid way to live the experience.

The prices are higher, but they have the great advantage of offering more privacy and better services. You can enjoy a single room (or double or triple), with a better-equipped bathroom.

As in any other kind of trip, here you can choose between different services: Wi-Fi, air conditioning or heating, meals included and much more.

This type of accommodation is not so easy to find on the Way. You may have to deviate a bit from your route.

Rural houses
on the Camino

A rural house or "casa rural" is another good option to spend the night, especially if you are going to walk the Camino as a group.
These houses are typical, charming Galician houses. They are usually characterized by being in very good conditions, without forgetting that rural side that gives them their personal touch. Depending on the number of people and the conditions of the house, it can be an economical option to spend the night throughout the Way.
This type of accommodation is very typical and characteristic of Galicia. If you choose to spend the night here, you can enjoy a more intimate and comfortable experience than in the hostels.
The great advantage of the rural houses is that they are much more comfortable than hostels. Also, you keep that rural touch typical from the Camino. If you travel in a group, they can be an economic option.

Camping throughout
the Way of Saint James

If non of the above options suits you, you can camp and sleep outside. If you like sleeping in a tent, you can always sleep outside.
The great disadvantage of this option is that weather conditions will greatly affect your rest. In addition, the rest level will be worse and you will have to carry the tent with you.
The good thing is that you can stop wherever you want, because you always carry your house with you. You have your own privacy and it's free!

Whatever you prefer, you can contact us to plan your camino.
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