Everybody's heard of the Camino Francés which starts in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and finishes in Santiago de Compostela. But, did you know that there are lots of other Caminos? That in the middle-ages the network of pilgrim roads to Santiago stretched across the whole of Europe, as far afield as Russia? All across the continent pilgrims set out in the early spring, as soon as the snows had melted, for the long trek to Galicia. Their journey often took months and by the time they arrived home again the leaves were falling from the trees.
The present day Vía follows the route of this Roman Road for part of its length. It is traditionally considered to start in either Seville or Mérida, and it follows the route of the Roman Road as far as Granja de Moreruela, in the province of Zamora, where it splits, the left route goes through the mountains of southern Galicia (see Camino Sanabrés below) to reach Santiago from the south, while the right route continues northwards, joining the Camino Francés in Astorga.
If you're interested in the Vía de la Plata then have a look at our dedicated Vía website and download our free walking guide.
The Camino Sanabrés starts in Granja de Moreruela, where it branches from the Vía de la Plata, passes through southern Galicia and ends in Santiago. When modern pilgrims refer to the Vía de la Plata they're usually referring to a combination of it and the Camino Sanabrés.
It's also covered by our Vía de la Plata guide.
The Camino Aragonés is the name sometimes used for the Spanish section of the Chemin d'Arles (see below). It starts at the Spanish border, at the Col de Somport, passes through Jaca and joins the Camino Francés in Eunate, near Puente la Reina.
We have a free guide to the Camino Aragonés but unfortunately it hasn't been updated in years but if you'd like to have a copy please contact us and we'll be happy to send you one.
The Camino del Baztán, starts in Bayonne in South West France and goes due south, through the beautiful Baztán Valley of northern Navarra, to join the Camino Francés just before Pamplona. In recent years its infrastructure of pilgrim accommodation has improved greatly, and it is now possible to walk this little-known Camino, staying in pilgrim hostels, with no difficulties.
We also do guides to the Camino del Baztán, a free one and non-free with maps. If you'd like a copy of the free one please contact us and we'll be happy to send you one. The non-free one is available from Amazon:
The Winter Way splits from the Camino Francés in Ponferrada and follows a more southerly, less mountainous route, through Galicia, before joining the Camino Sanabrés in Lalín, for the last couple of days into Santiago. There is no guide in English as yet, but a leaflet in Spanish and map, may be available from the tourist office in Ponferrada. It is said to be walkable with relative ease, using a mixture of pilgrim and tourist accommodation.
This is the route traditionally followed by pilgrims who arrived by ship to Ferrol or A Coruña. It arrives in Santiago from the north.
The Camino del Norte starts at the French border, at Irún, in the Basque Country. It follows the north coast closely, before turning south east in Galicia to join the Camino Francés near Arzúa. This was the most commonly used route during the early days of the Camino.
The Camino Primitivo splits from the Camino del Norte about 30km before Oviedo, and follows an inland, mountainous route, passing through Lugo to join the Camino Francés in Palas de Rei. This is considered to be the original Camino because it is the route used by King Alfonso II to travel to Santiago, having heard that St James' remains had been discovered there. It's quite mountainous but very beautiful.
The Camino Portugués begins in the very south of Portugal, but most modern pilgrims start in Oporto. It crosses from Portugal into Galicia to arrive in Santiago from the south.
The Vía Lusitana starts on the south coast of Portugal, at the mouth of the Guardiana River, and follows an inland route north, to join the Camino Sanabrés in Galicia. It is sparsely waymarked and there is little pilgrim accommodation.
The Chemin de Tours (Latin: Via Turonensis) is the main route from northern France, Benelux, northern Germany and points north. Today the traditional starting point is Tours. It connects up with the Camino Francés or the Camino del Norte.
Chemin de Vézelay
Or Voie de Vézelay (Latin: Via Lemosina) was the main route from North-Eastern France and central Germany. It joins the Camino Francés in Ostabat.
The Chemin du Puy (Latin: Via Podiensis) is the main route from southern Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and points east although today the traditional starting point is Le Puy-en-Velay. It is traditionally considered the most difficult route because it passes through the mountainous Massif Central. Today it is the most popular of the French Caminos.
The Chemin d'Arles, in Latin the Via Tolosana, is the main route from southern France, Italy and south east Europe. It connects to the Camino Aragonés at the Col de Somport.
Copyright © Gerald Kelly 2018. All text and photos.