The Camino Francés
Historic pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela
Pretty PicturesHere’s a taste of what you’ll see / experience along the Camino:
The Camino de Santiago (specifically, the Camino Francés plus its extension to Fisterra), is an amazing 790 km walk from Saint Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees, over the mountains, and then across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela and optionally onwards to Fisterra. This ancient trail is a beautiful journey through regularly changing terrain, past communities steeped in history, and supported by an unparalleled infrastructure of hostels (called albergues) tailored to those on the trail. It seems to draw big-hearted, friendly ‘pilgrims’ from all over the world. Designated as a European Cultural Route in 1987, it originally was a spiritual hike that has become an incredibly popular hike for religious and non-religious people alike.
There is lots to see throughout the Camino, including many magnificent cathedrals, churches, monasteries, and castles, plus a seemingly endless number of beautiful vistas.
The Camino Francés can be done by foot, horse, or bicycle. Some parts of the official route are foot-only, but nearby cycling-suitable alternatives are always available. The trail can generally be completed by any reasonably fit person – no experience needed (the overall distance is the main challenge, not any specific technical difficulty of the trail itself). Walkers of all ages do the Camino each year.
The terrain / paths are excellent, with uniformly good footing. The route consists of a mix of mountain / woodland trails, rural roads, and both paved and unpaved walkways. Signposting is excellent (GPS tracks are handy, but definitely not required). There is a steep climb initially (out of Saint Jean) and on a few other sections, but these can generally be avoided using alternatives.
No camping necessary (indeed, camping is rarely done along the Camino). Accommodation is normally in albergues, which are low-cost dorm-style hostels. Can often be crowded, though socializing is a highlight for many.
There is an unparalleled infrastructure available to support walkers — logistically, the Camino is the easiest long-distance walk in the world. There are albergues (as well as traditional pensions / hotels) generally available every few kilometers, restaurants and markets are plentiful, water fountains are widely available, and baggage transport services can be used if desired.
Major Route Options
This map shows some of the major route paths of the Camino de Santiago, including many alternate paths, side trips, and so on. It also shows communities along the way. Zoom in for a better view of any particular section.
Mini-Guide: Ruta Dragonte
We’ve written a mini-guide to the beautiful Ruta Dragonte, one of the three options from Villafranca del Bierzo on the Camino Francés. There isn’t much info available on that option so we’ve prepared this guide to help those interested in exploring the route. It’s a challenging, strenuous route that isn’t for everyone, but it is also a peaceful, very scenic one that offers a wonderful glimpse of rural Spain not always visible on the rest of the Francés.
The guide includes an overview, elevation profile chart, multiple annotated maps (overview plus sections), walking directions, and a few lame jokes (sorry!).
PDF and ePub versions are available:PDF ePub
Of course, you’ll find most of the same content in our free TrailSmart app (along with all of the helpful geo-location functionality that TrailSmart can provide, making the content more ‘intelligent’).
We have a Camino de Santiago dataset within our TrailSmart app, with good coverage of all the major routes. Highly recommended (though we are admittedly biased!).
Have You Done This Trail?
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