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How to Choose a Camino de Santiago Route
3 Min Read
01 July 2024
How to Choose a Camino de Santiago Route

Choose your path from among the Camino’s seven most popular pilgrimage routes: Camino Francés, del Norte, Primitivo, Portugues, Ingles, Finisterre, and Invierno.

The Camino de Santiago is both a holy pilgrimage and an epic long-distance hike across Spain. It’s a local tradition that traces its roots back to medieval times and a right of passage that travelers have been undertaking for hundreds of years. 

Many hikers familiar with the Camino know that the journey ends at the famous Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. But what many Camino hikers don’t know is that while the end of the hike is fixed, the start is in large part up to you. In other words, there are many ways to hike the Camino de Santiago. 

Woman kneeling next to Camino de Santiago stone sign

How many Camino de Santiago routes are there?   

There are numerous ways to hike the Camino de Santiago, and more than 200 routes are currently recognized. However, there are seven popular routes that the majority of Camino hikers tend to choose from. These are the Camino Francés, Camino del Norte, Camino Primitivo, Camino Ingles, Camino Finisterre, Camino Invierno, and Camino Portugues. These routes criss-cross Spain, starting as far south as Lisbon, Portugal, and as far north as Ferrol. 

The benefit of hiking one of these popular routes is that you’re more likely to meet fellow hikers and local pilgrims. That rich cultural exchange is considered a quintessential Camino experience. Popular routes also tend to have plenty of infrastructure for Camino hikers, including hostels, local restaurants, and places to pick up supplies. 

Camino de Santiago Macs Adventure Trips

The official Camino de Santiago routes   

Here’s a brief overview of the seven most popular Camino de Santiago routes.

Camino Frances

The Camino Frances, or “French Way,” starts at St. Jean Pied de Port on the Spanish-French border. From there, the route travels 492 miles across the mountains of northern Spain. You can also extend your trip by tacking on the Camino de Puy (or “Chemin du Puy” in French), a 461-mile trail that crosses the pastoral landscapes of southern France from Le Puy to St. Jean Pied de Port. 

Camino del Norte

More rugged and less trafficked than the Camino Frances, the Camino del Norte, or “Northern Way,” traces Spain’s northern coast for 487 miles. It passes through tranquil Spanish towns and offers nearly nonstop views of the sea.  

Camino Primitivo

The Camino Primitivo crosses the verdant, mountainous regions of northwestern Spain. It begins in the former medieval capital of Oviedo and ends at Santiago de Compostela 205 miles later.   

Woman touches gold emblem on a stone on the Camino de Santiago

Camino Finisterre

One of the shortest official Camino de Santiago Routes, the Camino Finisterre begins in a cerulean bay on the Atlantic Coast and travels 57 miles across the Galician countryside, tracing ancient paths all the way to the Cathedral of Santiago.

Camino Portugues

The Camino Portugues, or “Portuguese Way,” begins in Lisbon, Portugal’s vibrant seaside capital. As you journey north, you’ll travel 381 miles through vineyards, pastoral valleys, and medieval villages.

Woman stands in front of Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Camino Invierno

Spanish for the “Winter Way,” the Camino Invierno is a popular choice for the colder months, as it avoids the high mountains. Instead, it travels 167 miles through warm lowlands and the lush wine-growing region of Ribeira Sacra. 

Camino Ingles 

The Camino Ingles, or “English Way,” begins at the docks of Spain’s northern coast, tracing the same 78-mile journey that English and Irish pilgrims have followed for hundreds of years. 

Woman walks through an outdoor market on the Camino de Santiago

What are the shortest and longest Camino routes?  

At 492 miles, the Camino Frances is the longest Camino de Santiago route, closely followed by the 487-mile Camino del Norte. 

Don’t have a ton of time off work? The shortest routes are the 57-mile Camino de Finisterre and the 78-mile Camino Ingles, both of which can be hiked in about a week. 

Woman walks between two statues on the Camino de Santiago

What is the best Camino de Santiago route? 

The best Camino de Santiago route for you will depend on your hiking goals, your fitness level, and how much time you have. The Camino Frances is both the most popular and the most well-trafficked route, making it a great choice for folks looking for a more social trail experience. The full Camino Frances takes about 40 days to complete. (However, we provide different sections of the route you can choose from.) The Camino del Norte, which also takes about 40 days, is more remote and challenging, giving hikers a better chance of solitude. 

Each Camino de Santiago route crosses through a different slice of the Spanish countryside, offering its own unique scenery and feel. Your choice will depend on what kind of experience you’re looking for. Need more help deciding? Check out our Camino decision guide, or reach out to the experts at Macs Adventure to talk through your options.

Erik Lambert

Written by

Erik Lambert
Guest Writer
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