Camino de Santiago Routes: How to Choose Your Path

When you first learn about the Camino de Santiago, you might only think of one route. That’s the Camino Francés. That’s the route the more than 60% of pilgrims take, according to the Officina de Peregrinos.

There are actually dozens of routes that all lead to Santiago de Compostela. There’s also one that leads away from Santiago to the coast of Fisterra.

Choosing the route to take will have an impact on your entire Camino experience. Keep reading to find out which Camino route is the right route for you.

The Best Camino de Santiago Route to Take is….

It depends…

There are a lot of factors that go into choosing your route. It’s a very personal choice, and I’m certainly not going to tell you which route to take.

I can help you ask the right questions to help you get to the point where you know what route you need to take. Here’s what you need to take into consideration.

Planning Time

How much time are you giving yourself to plan & train?

If you choose a physically demanding route, you do need to train for it. You could just show up, but by doing so, you can put yourself in a position to have a bad experience.

You want to make sure that you give yourself enough time to plan, pack and train for your route. A route like the Camino Francés is popular, but its incredibly challenging if you plan to do the entire route. If you’re not properly prepared, you could injure yourself and have to quit.

Time of Year

When are you taking your journey? That will influence which of the Camino de Santiago routes you should take. Most routes are going to be fine to take from the Spring through Fall, though you might have to contend with rain. In some mountainous areas in Northern Spain, you might get early snows in October, like this year.

If you plan on walking any of the Camino de Santiago routes in Winter, you need to be prepared and take the right route. The Camino de Invierno was created to avoid the treacherous and snowy mountains of the Camino Francés.

Cycle the Camino de Santiago

What if you want to cycle the Camino de Santiago? A small percentage of pilgrims will take other modes of transportation besides walking. Horseback riding and cycling are other ways to experience The Way of St. James.

If you plan to cycle, consider the Camino Portugués or the Camino del Norte.

What Kind of Experience Do You Want?

The route you take ultimately depends on what kind of experience you want to have. Do you want to have an experience that’s social or tranquil? A tranquil experience is better suited for those who want to be in touch with the divine in nature and want a little more solitude.

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Do you want to experience Spain’s glorious coastal lines or do you prefer an urban experience?

What kind of cultural experience would you prefer? Do you want to experience the rural Spanish way of life? How many towns would you like to go through? What kind of sites would you like to see?

For those who want a little bit of everything, the Camino del Norte would be a great option.

Time and Budget Considerations

How much time and budget for your trip are also considerations. If you have a short amount of time and want to complete an entire route, longer routes like the Camino Francés and Via de la Plata are out.

You’d be better suited for the Camino Inglés or Camino Fisterra. Both are shorter distances and don’t require as much planning, budget, and time to complete. They’re also much easier on the body.

The potential drawbacks are that they’re less traveled so you won’t get the social experience that you would on the Camino Portugués or Camino Francés.

Remember that if you want to get your Compostela, you have to walk a minimum of 100km.

With that in mind, you could always do the last 100km of one of the longer routes. For example, if you wanted to do the Camino Francés in a week to 10 days, you could start in Ponferrada.

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Do You Already Have Experience on the Camino?

Is this your first time taking the Camino de Santiago? Do you plan on taking a pilgrimage every year or two? Some pilgrims pick one long route and do the entire route in stages. The first year, they may walk the first 100km of the Camino Francés, the second year they’ll walk another 100km, and so on.

Maybe you’ve already done the Camino Francés and you want to do another route. If you want to take a different route, loved the social aspect and want a different type of experience, consider taking the Camino Portugués.

Camino de Santiago Routes to Take

The most populated route is by far the Camino Francés. The Camino Portugués is next. The other routes are the routes less traveled. The question is which of the Camino de Santiago routes is right for you.

There is no right or wrong answer to choosing your route. I believe that taking a pilgrimage is a calling and picking a route presents a good time to meditate and listen. Sometimes, the route picks you.

Pick a quiet space, or you may decide to do this before Mass. Take a few moments and get in touch with God (or your chosen Higher Power). When you feel that presence, ask the question and see if an answer appears.

As you pick a route to take, you’re going to want to start packing and planning. Be sure to signup and download the Packing and Planning Guide to the Camino de Santiago.

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About Me

Heather McDaniel believes that we're all pilgrims on a journey to become our best selves. She's the founder of Invincible Women Fitness Academy and a certified Fitness and Nutrition Coach. She helps pilgrims prepare for the rigors of the Camino de Santiago. She lives in Santiago de Compostela, where she enjoys helping pilgrims and living her vision board.

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