The Camino del Norte is another route that traverses through the Northern regions of Spain. While the Camino Francés is a little more inland, the Northern Way travels along the coast and through the mountains for 820 kilometers. This is longer than the Camino Francés, and goes through the provinces of Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, then through Galicia.
This route was first traveled in 9th Century as pilgrims flocked by boat to the former Kingdom of Asturias from Scandinavia, England, and France.
The route starts in Irún, which is in the far northeast corner of Spain, along the Spanish-French border. You’ll start in País Vasco (Basque Country) and travel through San Sebastián, Bilbao, Santander (the city, not the bank), and Gijón en route to Santiago de Compostela.
If you are going on pilgrimage for cultural reasons, you’ll want to spend at least a couple of days in the magnificent city of Bilbao. That’s where the famous Guggenheim Museum is. Designed by Frank Gehry, this marvel of a building is worth visiting.
The summer months are the best time to take the Northern Way. Since the route is along the coast, you’ll be able to jump in the water to cool off after a long day’s hike. You won’t be able to do this every day, since some days you’ll be more inland. It is a wonderful option to have, though.
This is a stunning route that gives you a little bit of everything. It’s a great alternative to the Camino Francés if you’re looking for something a little different.
Advantages of the Camino del Norte
If you’re looking for a quite alternative to the Camino Francés, this is it. While 66% of pilgrims take the Camino Francés, only 17,836, or just under 6% of pilgrims chose the Camino del Norte.
Coastal Views of Northern Spain
The Northern Way has all types of terrain. There are some mountainous regions, but you can’t beat the beautiful coastal views of Northern Spain.
A Nice Mix of Everything
The Camino del Norte Will take you through small villages and major cities. You’ll see everything from big cities, small villages, incredible coastlines to quiet forests.
Villages Are Always Nearby
You won’t have to search for places to get food or supplies. You’re never too far from the next village.
Plenty of Options
Since the entire route covers over 800 kilometers, you can choose to start your pilgrimage from Bilbao or any other city that’s easy to travel to and then make your way to Santiago de Compostela.
Disadvantages of the Camino del Norte
The Length of the Route
This is the second longest route, only behind the 1000 km journey of Via de la Plata. Fortunately, you can choose to start closer in from places like Bilbao, Ribadeo or A Ría de Abres.
In the early sections of this route, the sections aren’t well marked. The marking improves as you get closer to Galicia. Once you get to Galicia, you’ll be able to find your way to Santiago.
Getting to the Camino del Norte
How you get to the Camino del Norte depends on your starting point. If you’re starting in a larger city like Bilbao or Santander, you have a lot of options.
You can fly to Madrid and take the train or short flight there, for example.
Other pilgrims choose to start in Ribadeo or A Ría de Abres.
If you’re starting from Irún, you have a few options.
The closest airport to Irún is San Sebastian. You can fly into Barcelona or Madrid and then fly to San Sebastian. Once in San Sebastian, you can take a bus to Irún.
Another option is to fly to Madrid or Barcelona and then take the train to Irún.
If you’re coming from Murcia or Valencia, Bilman Bus runs a bus line that will take you to Irún.