One of Spain’s biggest attractions is undoubtedly the Way of St. James, or as you would say in Spanish the “Camino de Santiago.” It is a network of ancient pilgrim routes spread across Spain that lead you to the enchanted city of Santiago de Compostela, specifically the cathedral located in the city’s old town.
It’s said to be the final resting place of Saint James. These trails, which can be done across Northern or Western Spain or Portugal draw people from all over the globe who are on a quest for history, culture, spirituality, or adventure. Not only is it a physical challenge as many pilgrims walk one of the routes for weeks, it is a way to connect with people from all over the world and see some incredible places and natural wonders.
All you need to do is get your passport and ETIAS visa ready and start to plan your adventure through one of the “Caminos” that will lead you to Santiago de Compostela.
Most interesting locations on the Camino del Norte
The Camino del Norte, the Northern Way, travels along the breathtaking northern coastline of Spain. Depending on how long you want your journey to last you will pass through the regions of Cantabria, the Basque Country, and Asturias. Here are some cities to check out along the way.
One place everyone should go to in Spain is Bilbao. From the Guggenheim Museum to the quaint streets of the historic old town, there’s something for everyone. This city is a foodie’s dream with numerous cafés and bars offering pintxos, the Basque version of tapas, with unique local ingredients.
The largest city in Asturias is Gijón and you can enjoy the beach, visit bars, or get to know its history. The city hosts several historical sites such as the ancient Roman baths. Asturias is famous for its cider and the local cider houses are an essential visit, offering a chance to try the traditional Spanish cider.
Arguably the most beautiful route is the northern one and that has a lot to do with an amazing coastline. Llanes is a peaceful coastal town in Asturias with picturesque beaches and great seafood. Also, be sure to check out the unique seawater geysers at Bufones de Pria.
Where to stop along the Camino Francés
So if you decide to travel a bit more inland and avoid some of the more rugged landscapes, you’ll still find some great places to go, and as always in Spain, enjoy the stunning food. The French Way offers a mix of historical cities, scenic vineyards, and incredible landscapes.
Everyone knows about the “Running of the Bulls” which takes place in early July, but that doesn’t mean if you visit during another month you should skip Pamplona. It has much more to offer. Its historic old town features impressive city walls and remarkable buildings like Santa Maria la Real. You can also explore the vibrant local food scene, with numerous bars serving local pintxos.
León features architectural gems ranging from the stunning Gothic cathedral to the modernist Casa Botines, designed by Antoni Gaudí. A night out in León is a gastronomic delight; numerous bars serve free tapas with your drink, offering a variety of local dishes to try.
Unforgettable locations on the Camino Portugués
It’s also possible to walk most of the Way of St. James outside of Spain. The Camino Portugués begins in Lisbon and takes you up North to Santiago. It’s a great alternative, and you can visit two countries in one go. Here are some locations you should look forward to.
Coimbra, known for its ancient university, offers a rich blend of history and youthful energy. The city’s hilltop location provides fantastic views of the Mondego River. You can also explore the historic old town, relax in riverside parks, or get lost in the melancholic melodies of fado music.
One of Europe’s most interesting and hippest cities is definitely Porto. In the far north of Portugal, Porto is a city teeming with life and culture. Its steep, narrow streets and grand plazas are home to striking architecture, including colorful tiled buildings and towering churches. Make sure to visit Livraria Lello, a gorgeous bookstore, and taste the city’s namesake Port wine in one of the many riverside cellars.
Best Times of the year to visit each route
Each Camino route has its best time to visit, depending on the weather and the number of fellow walkers. You may face extreme heat or cold depending on where and when you start and end your journey in Galicia.
The Northern Way is ideal from late spring to early fall. The weather is typically warm and dry, perfect for enjoying the coastal views and beach stops. The French Way is walkable all year round, but spring and fall provide milder temperatures and fewer crowds, making for a more comfortable journey.
The Portuguese Way is best experienced in the spring and fall, when the weather is ideal for walking, and the countryside is vibrant and green.
Regardless of when and where you walk the Way of St. James, you’re guaranteed to have a remarkable experience.
Cathy Slater is an experienced content writer. She is associated with many renowned travel blogs as a guest author where she shares her valuable travel tips with the audience.