If you’re looking for a chance to disconnect, get out in nature and experience a historic journey, the Camino de Santiago ticks all these boxes. While it is historically a route for Roman Catholic pilgrims to connect with their faith, you can walk it just for fun. It is an inspiring journey for all those who walk in the footsteps of those before them.
The Camino de Santiago translates to the Way of Saint James, dating back to the ninth century when one of the 12 Apostles’ (Saint James) remains were discovered in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. A chapel was erected to commemorate this spot, followed by a larger temple and now a cathedral that marks the end point of the route. In 1993, the Camino route was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Camino is comprised of a network of routes that all interconnect at some point. Many pilgrims consider the official starting point to be Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France. This marks the beginning of the Camino Frances route, which is over 790 kilometres, however you can choose to only do a section of one of the routes. The best months of the year to walk are April – June and October.
Whichever route you choose, the well-signposted tracks are mostly flat. Expect to walk an average of 17 – 20 kilometres each day through spectacular scenery. You’ll walk by shrines, cathedrals, and monasteries; through medieval villages off the beaten path; and past fields, streams and vineyards. Each night you’ll check in to your local accommodation, with evening mass available in most towns. Along the way, your taste buds will be treated to some incredible local specialties – think fresh seafood, stews, tapas and local market produce.
As mentioned earlier, Santiago de Compostela’s cathedral greets you upon finishing the Camino. This ornate building has a mix of Romanesque and Baroque architecture. It became an Asset of Cultural Interest in 1896, and the centre of town is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Once you’ve completed your journey, you will receive your Compostela Certificate (you must walk the last 100 kilometres of the Camino to get this!). You may wish to attend a Pilgrim Mass held at the cathedral. These are held several times a day with an English mass usually included. The names of each pilgrim who finished the Camino in the last 24 hours are read out, including where they have travelled from and where they began the route. It is a truly special way to round off such an inspiring journey.
The Camino is a great challenge – physically and mentally – but it is the way in which you can connect with history and culture in a different way, and the coming together of people from all walks of life that make this a unique trip.
Cosmos offers two tours that include the Camino; one that involves the Portuguese (coastal) way and one that begins in Madrid. Join us for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a walking journey for the soul.