We feel that no write-up on Spain should be without a mention of El Camino de Santiago de Compostela (The Way of Saint James.)
The Camino is a popular pilgrimage walk – typically starting in the quaint, French town of Saint Jean Pied de Port and finishing in the northwestern, rain-drenched, Galician city of Santiago de Compostela – and leads pilgrims on a spiritual journey across the diversely-rich north of Spain.
Thousands of pilgrims make the (approx.) 500-mile walk each year, and it is a fantastic experience where you will get to tone up your body, tune in your mind and get to meet some absolutely wonderful human beings. People walk El Camino for many reasons, so don’t think that you necessarily need to be religious to take part in this majestic, extended walk. Both young and old make their merry way along its trail – following yellow-painted arrow direction signs and forming strong bonds with fellow pilgrims, be they walking for religious reasons or otherwise. And upon completion, they then hop on a modern form of transport to comfortably teleport themselves back home again.
But in the early times of the Camino – often navigated by the aid of the Campus Stellae – it was considered an act of penance to attempt the walk for the divine purpose of the cleansing of one’s sins, which many pilgrims never returned from, due to robbery or sickness, and the traditional starting point used to be from one’s own front door. If they were lucky to survive the long, arduous walk there – obligated to earn their food and keep through monastery chores along the way – they’d then have had the mandatory necessity of turning their backs to the setting sun and attempting that very same perilous, long-stretch back home again. At one time there were so many incidents of robbery along this and other pilgrim routes that the Knights Templar were established to protect pilgrims. But that’s another story entirely.
There are actually many camino routes throughout Spain but the Camino Francés, being the most popular of modern camino routes, is the fashionable path of today’s smartphone app, spiritual generation on the move and there are in fact many other ancient routes crisscrossing Europe’s continent, like well-trodden, earthen Ley Lines under the map of star formations in the heavens above. Most today stop at Santiago de Compostela, while some continue the 80km route further to the end of the ancient world: Finisterre. We totally recommend the experience and also recommend that you should budget four weeks to complete the full section of the walk.