The Camino de Santiago is really a collection of old pilgrimage routes, all of which have one thing in common, their destination, Santiago de Compostela.
This unique pilgrimage was named after the Apostle Saint James who was sent by the Romans, in those days to “Finis Terrae”, “end of the world”, to preach and convert people to Christianity.
The way of Saint James has been an important Christian pilgrimage route since medieval times and in use for over 1000 years. Pilgrims believe that by walking the St James Way all sins will be forgiven.
The route was declared a Unesco a World Heritage Site in 1993.
Interesting facts about the Camino de Santiago
» The yellow scallop shell is also used to mark the route along the way.
» The oldest rout is know as the Camino Primitivo ( the primitive lane ) a route started in Oviedo when Spain was under Moorish rule in the 9th century.
» There are various certificates to be gained by walking the Camino. For people walking the route for religious reasons you will need to have walked at least 100 km. Proof comes in the form of the Camino passport (Credencial del Peregrino) and once filled in will allow you to gain your ‘Compostela’ or ‘Certificate’. These passports can be purchased at most paper shops, hostels and churches and should be stamped at least once a day or twice if you start your walk from Galicia.
» If you plan to walk the Camino de Santiago for non religious, sport or cultural reasons you can still apply for a Certificate of Welcome. The same 100 kms rule still applies in this case although for cyclists and horse riders it is increased to 200kms.
The history of the Camino de Santiago
For over 1000 years pilgrims, young, old, religious, fit, unfit or otherwise have been walking along these historic routes.
One of the main routes is the “ Camino Frances” the French Route. The Camino Frances traditionally starts in St Jean Pied de Port and finishes in Santiago de Compostela about 745 km later, after travelling the breadth of Northern Spain.
Pilgrims walking these historic routes come from far and wide with the earliest recorded pilgrims visiting the shrine date back to the mid 10th Century. It was around a century later that pilgrims from abroad where journeying there in larger numbers.
The first recorded pilgrims from England was between 1092 and 1105. By the early 12th century the pilgrimage was well organised using four established routes from starting points in France, converging in the Basque country of the western Pyrenees.
The routes track across Northern Spain linking Burgos, Lugo, Bilbao, Oviedo and other major cities and towns.
Lodging along the route
Many establishments and small businesses have grown up along the routes to furbish the pilgrim trade including specialised lodgings. Hostels and shops selling all kinds of paraphernalia such badges, souvenirs, and a remarkable guide-book which was written in the 12th Century.
An historic symbol of the Camino de Santiago is the scallop edged conch shell which you will see all along the ‘Camino de Santiago‘ roads. It was used to dip water from streams on the way, many pilgrims also carry a walking stick which can be very useful along the way.
Here are some useful links to help you find some of the most popular Albergues and Hostals along the routes.
Book Tours in Advance
» Galicia tours, tickets, excursions and things to do.
» Finesterre day trip from Santiago de Compostela - From £31.29
» Galicia's death coast day from Santiago - From £31.29
» Authentic Evening Tapas and Wine Experience - From £58.10
» Free walking tour in the Old Town of Santiago de Compostela
Where to stay in Santiago de Compostela
After you walk the Camino de Santiago you may want to unwind and spend a few days in the historic and romantic city of Santiago de Compostela, so here are a few of our recommended places to stay.
Try the impressive 5* Hotel Reis Catolicos which is part of the renowned Parador group of hotels in Spain. Located in the heart of the city with easy access to all the main attractions and sites. Another highly popular 5* establishment is the Hotel Araguaney, again located in the city centre this hotel never disappoints.
For budget accommodation try the Hostel Artilleiro highly rated and very good value for money. Located within a typical property the hostel Artilleiro is clean, fresh and includes a delicious breakfast, ideal before going out to explore the city.