Routes and Map
The Camino de Santiago consists of hundreds if not thousands of different paths and variations across Europe and beyond. The figure below illustrates some of the most popular and well developed routes today. I hiked the 500 mile route known as the Camino Frances - starting in St. Jean Pied de Port, France and ending in Santiago de Compostela. The Camino Frances is denoted as the solid red line labeled "A" in the figure below.
A) Camino Frances- The Camino Frances, or the “French Way”
stretches 500 miles across Northern Spain, from St. Jean Pied de Port to
Santiago de Compostela. This is the best developed and most popular route today – more than 80% of pilgrims arriving to Santiago travel on some part of this route. The traditional starting points on the Camino Frances are St. Jean Pied de Port (on the French side of the Pyrenees) and Roncevalles (Spanish side of the Pyrenees). Other popular starting points include Pamplona, Leon, Burgos, Astorga, Cebreiro, Ponferrada, and Sarria. I hiked this route in 30 days, starting in St. Jean Pied de Port.
B) Camino Primitivo- The figure above implies a single route; however, the coastal route is actually a combination of at least two routes: the Camino del Norte (aka Ruta del Norta) and the Camino Primitivo. These routes became popular particularly during the period of Muslim domination of Northern Spain – when the Camino Frances became difficult to travel. Also, the Cathedral at Oviedo drew many pilgrims to leave the Camino Frances at the city of Leon and travel north towards the coast. Some popular cities and villages along the way include San Sebastian, Bilbao, Santander, Gijon, and Oviedo. These coastal routes today provide an increasingly popular alternative to the sometimes crowded Camino Frances.
C) Camino Mozarabe (aka Via de la Plata)- This route starts in Seville and continues north to join the Camino Frances at Astorga. In ancient times, this route was used by those coming from the south, including Northern Africa. It is also known as the Via de la Plata because is follows an old Roman road of the same name. Key cities and towns on this route include Merida, Cacerces, Salamanca, and Zamora.
D) Route from Paris- This route is one of the four most important
routes from France in medieval times and was typically used by pilgrims coming from Northern Europe in particular. It starts in Paris and passes through Orleans, then through the Loire Valley and Tours, then through Bordeaux and onto St. Jean Pied de Port.
E) Route from Vezelay- This route is one of the four most important routes from France in medieval times and was typically used by pilgrims coming from Northern and Eastern Europe in particular – it is sometimes called the Polish Route. It begins in the town of Vezelay (Burgundy) and passes through the Limoges, crosses the Dordogne River in St.Foy-la-Grande, and continues
on towards St. Jean Pied de Port.
F) Route from Le Puy- Perhaps the best developed of the four important French routes, this route is also known as the Via Podensis and was historically used by pilgrims coming from Switzerland, Germany, and Austria among other areas. It starts in Le Puy-en-Velay and passes through Conques, Cahors, Aire-sur-l’Ardour (among other places) before arriving to St. Jean Pied de Port.
G) Route from Arles- One of the four most important French routes, this route travels westward from Arles and parallel to the Pyrenees. It passes through Montpellier, Lodeve, Castres, Toulous and Auch before turning southwest and crossing the Pyrenees at Samport Pass. The route rejoins the Camino de Santiago at the town of Puenta la Reina.
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