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Overview

Camino de Santiago – the Way of St. James – is the famous medieval pilgrims' route across northern Spain to the great cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, where Spain's patron saint is supposedly buried. Thousands of modern-day pilgrims follow in their footsteps each year, some for religious reasons, others simply for the joy of hiking or cycling along this scenic, historic route. In fact, there are several routes, but the most popular is the French Way (Camino Francés), which begins in the French Pyrenees at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and crosses the border to Roncesvalles on the first day. It continues through Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos ...

Camino de Santiago – the Way of St. James – is the famous medieval pilgrims' route across northern Spain to the great cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, where Spain's patron saint is supposedly buried. Thousands of modern-day pilgrims follow in their footsteps each year, some for religious reasons, others simply for the joy of hiking or cycling along this scenic, historic route. In fact, there are several routes, but the most popular is the French Way (Camino Francés), which begins in the French Pyrenees at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and crosses the border to Roncesvalles on the first day. It continues through Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos and Léon, though most of the route runs through smaller towns and villages. Walkers carry a pilgrim's passport, or credential, which gives access to inexpensive hostels, and collect stamps to prove they've followed the official route. The full route is about 750 km (466 miles) and takes at least a month. Pilgrims must walk at least 100 km (62 miles) – the distance from the town of Sarria – to earn a compostela, or certificate of completion.

Donna Dailey
About the Expert

Donna Dailey is the author of Thomas Cook’s Ireland driving guide, coauthor of DK’s Back Roads Ireland and several other titles, as well as the author of Thomas Cook’s HotSpots Costa Blanca and a contributor to AA Publishing’s Key Guide Spain.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: St. James' Way, El Camino de Santiago, is the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried.
  • Language: Spanish
  • Currency: Euro
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia | Santiago de Compostela
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight
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