Your Ultimate Guide to the Camino: Which Way is Best for You?
When it comes to the fabled Camino de Santiago, I can genuinely talk the talk and walk the walk. My wife and I followed the iconic Camino Frances from Saint Jean Pied de Port, France to Finisterre, Spain in 2018. Takeaway: 920 km is a lot of legwork! And, when presented, eat as many slices of the moist, lemon-kissed tarte de Santiago as you can because it’s endemic to The Way.
Wild Women Expeditions offers three tempting Camino routes. Bonus? You don’t have to carry the weight of the world (AND an Osprey 30L pack) on your shoulders. Our trips are designed to allow you great freedom: your accommodations are reserved. Your luggage can be forwarded. If you’re feeling whipped, there’s a support vehicle to jump in to take a break or call it a day. Breakfast and dinners are pre-arranged but you can choose to have lunch wherever and whenever you want!
If you’ve forgotten something critical or unexpected, you’re travelling with your own built-in support system of Wild Women who will have extra Compeeds, a squirt of sunscreen, protein bars or any sort of pick-me-up that you might need on the trail. You’ll have your own group of cheerleaders which makes covering 20km under the broiling sun a lot more doable and, dare we say, fun as hell.
On all three of these journeys you will collect Camino passport stamps in your credencial (passport stamp book). Several landmarks (churches, hostels, bars, cafes) will happily stamp your credencial and this will entitle you to receive the official Compostela in Santiago. Pilgrims who are awarded the Compostela de Santiago must travel at least 100 km on foot (or in the saddle of a horse, wheelchair or bike) to achieve this. The unique ink stamps will remain in your heart like a tattoo (that you won’t regret!).
Now, which way is the best way for you to go?
The Camino Way
Start: Sarria, Spain
Destination: Santiago, Spain
Legwork: 110km, 9 days
The daily mileage (in km): 18, 17, 16, 17, 19, 17, 11
This one is a hands-down classic. While Camino routes run like spaghetti strands all over Europe, they all feed into Santiago and the Camino Frances (the very famous “Way”) is the most popular pilgrimage route.
You’ll feel the fever pitch as road weary pilgrims funnel into the last 100km stretch, joining forces with the new blood and buoyant spirit of those just starting out.
The unforgettable part: The volume of the bagpiper as pilgrims are piped in through the arches into Praza do Obradoiro, the city’s main square in front of the cherished cathedral. Pilgrims from all over the world, many with patriotic flags sewn onto their packs, embrace in the rawest form of joy and accomplishment. The Camino knows no age, gender, geography, race or skill level and Santiago is testament to that.
What you should know: Expect to walk on pavement and sidewalks for good chunks of this route. There’s a combination of terrain but it’s largely flat with several cafes and bars along the way if you need a sweet fix or cafe con leche. Drink lots of these too–Spanish coffee is the best you’ll ever have.
Camino to the Coast
Starting point: Santiago, Spain
Destination: Finisterre (“the end of the world”), Spain
Legwork: 118km, 8 days
The daily mileage (in km): 17.5, 18, 20, 19, 14, 14, 18
Follow on the heels of resilient 9th century pilgrims who relied on the Milky Way (the world’s first navigation app) to find their way to the westernmost reaches of continental Europe. This is a route of unparalleled scenery, tall stands of eucalyptus forest, turbulent coastline, history and dare we say, magic.
If you watched The Way you may be nodding along. Remember the bit where Martin Sheen decides to carry on to the ‘end of the world’ with his motley crew? If you haven’t watched The Way, that’s your first Camino homework assignment!
The unforgettable part: Midway, the twee fishing village of Muxía pulses with the incoming tide and echoing church bells. At day’s end, everyone gathers on the flat rocks surrounding the historic Cape Muxía lighthouse on the Costa del Morte (Death Coast) to applaud the setting sun. The sunset at the end of the world is just as incredible!
What you should know: While we can’t guarantee such bold statements, this route is not as populated as the last stretch of The Camino Way. It’s designed for dreamers, deep thinkers, poets and artists who like to be immersed in a landscape.
The Camino Portuguese
Starting point: Vigo, a lively port town in southern Galicia, Spain
Destination: Santiago, Spain
Legwork: 114-117.5km (*there is an optional, additional walk on Day 2), 9 days
Daily mileage (in km): 12.5 (with optional 3.5), 18, 17, 23, 18, 19, 7
Foodies will LOVE this route and ask for more. In Vigo, the translation of Calle de Las Ostras is “oyster street.” You’ll also pass through Arcadia (Galicia’s “oyster capital”) and Padrón which is famous for its little green peppers fried whole in olive oil. Walk through the tidy vineyards of Rias Baixas, a region that is world renowned for the Albariño grape (the secret behind the world’s foremost white wines) and drink in the views of Puente Rande over the Ria de Vigo with a Super Bock from the oldest beer company in Portugal.
Click on this delicious link for more things to taste in Portugal!
The unforgettable part: The lively plazas buzzing with music, locals sharing pesticos (tapas) and bouncing soccer balls. In Pontevedra you can walk directly to your hotel after taking in the sights, sounds and perhaps some spider crab croquettes or tempura shrimp.
What you should know: The Camino Portuguese route is a beautiful balance of woodland paths, coastline and rural roads. The local kiwi orchards demonstrate the fertility of the Minho Valley. Kiwi production has doubled since the 1980s–don’t leave the area without trying a yellow-fleshed kiwi!
If you’d like to learn more about the Camino from ground zero, check out this post by Caroline Ray, the smiley solo travel expert behind JourneyWoman who walked with Wild Women in the fall of 2021. You can also tag along with WWE’s content writer, Jules (me!) in Muxia here.
Whatever direction will you choose, be sure to read these three books to set the pace!
Trail Mix: 920km on the Camino de Santiago by Jules Torti (WWE’s in-house content writer!)
What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim: A Midlife Misadventure on the Camino de Santiago by Jane Christmas
Walking the Camino: On Earth As It Is by Maryanna Gabriel
Ready to go? Speak to an Adventure Expert today at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-888-993-1222.