Also known as the Way of St James, the Camino De Santiago is one of the world’s classic walking trails. It is first and foremost a pilgrimage route and is steeped in history and tradition. During medieval times, the Camino was a major route for pilgrims along with Jerusalem and Rome. Many people walk the route for spiritual reasons, even today.
There are several starting points for the Camino de Santiago. Traditionally people came from various points in France including Le Puy, Arles and Vezelay. These are known as the Camino Frances routes. The Spanish view the Pyrenees as the start of the Camino and today many people begin the journey in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side and Jaca and Roncesvalles on the Spanish side of the mountains. The pilgrimage route ends at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela where the remains of St James are reputed to be buried.
The scallop is a traditional sign of the Camino and can be seen at various stages along the route. Its origins are believed to have come from the time when the disciples brought St James body to Spain when it was lost in rough seas. It emerged covered in scallops. The scallop is also used as imagery as it depicts the various routes that converge on Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims trekking the route get a special passport where a scallop stamp is placed at various stages of the walk.
The main route on the Camino de Santiago heads from Roncesvalles through Leon to Santiago De Compostela; a journey that covers 800km and is marked by the scallop shells. Along the route are refuges for pilgrims as well as more upmarket hotels. Some hostels have voluntary contributions whilst others are inexpensive. There are also lots of places to get a simple meal en route.
Other towns along the route include Pamplona which is famed for the Running of the Bulls and Burgos- a World Heritage Site famed for El Cid, a Castilian nobleman and military leader in medieval Spain. The route continues to the magnificent town of Leon and then to Ponferrada, renowned for its historic castle. Finally, Santiago de Compostela is the goal for people walking the route. The countryside here is spectacular and contrasts with Northern Spanish towns. On some sections, you can be the only person walking and then on others there are groups of people heading to the next stop. Around 250,000 people walk the route each year which takes several weeks in its entirety.
There are also opportunities to walk short sections or go on an organised tour which includes part of the Camino. Taking equipment including waterproofs, hiking boots, a sleeping bag, and water in a rucksack is vital on this route and people are often amazed at how much they can do without whilst walking the Camino. For many people walking the Camino de Santiago is a spiritual journey and one that changes a perspective of their life.
Go take a walk on the Camino de Santiago.
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