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Guidebook to the Camino del Norte (Northern Caminos) pilgrim route through northern Spain to the sacred city of Santiago de Compostela. Includes stage-by-stage descriptions to the Camino del Norte (800km), Camino Primitivo, Camino Ingles (116km route) and the Camino de Finisterre, and provides advice, information on pilgrim hostels and more.
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This guidebook is a meticulously detailed yet handy companion to walking the pilgrimage routes that lead through northern Spain to the sacred city of Santiago de Compostela, with stage-by-stage descriptions to four routes: the Camino del Norte, the Camino Primitivo, the Camino Inglés and the Camino de Finisterre.
Santiago de Compostela, whose cathedral houses the relics of Saint James, was one of the three major centres of Catholic pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, along with Rome and Jerusalem. There was no single route to Santiago; the trail began at one's doorstep. But as pilgrims approached Spain, many converged on a handful of particularly popular routes, known historically as the Caminos de Santiago, or Way of St James.
The Camino del Norte is an 817km five-week coastal route from the town of Irun, near the French border. This route follows relatively flat terrain through quiet coastal villages. It is the most heavily frequented of the Northern Caminos, attracting two or three times as many pilgrims as the Primitivo.
One alternative is the Camino Primitivo, which splits off from the Norte at Sebrayo, near Oviedo, for the next 355km. This route cuts inland through the Cordillera Cantabrica and includes some significant ascents and descents.
The second alternative is the Camino Ingles, a five-day 116km-route from the city of Ferrol on the north-west coast. A much shorter route, this camino is still long enough to meet the requirements of the Compostela – that the last 100km of your pilgrimage to Santiago is completed on foot.
For many modern pilgrims, the walk does not end in Santiago de Compostela. Instead, they are drawn still father to the west, as far as the land will permit. They walk the Camino Finisterre, a three-day extension route from Santiago to the west coast.
Although the Camino Francés is often referred to as the Camino de Santiago, it is actually, along with these Northern Caminos, part of a network of routes. As the Francés is so popular, however, the Northern Caminos offer ideal conditions. They are popular enough to offer sufficient facilities, clear waymarking and a community of pilgrims, while plentiful cheap accommodation along the way means no need to race for a bed.
Stage 3: Reader Andrew shares that in summer 2017 the route changed in part towards the end of this section. He writes, "the path after Leiro is very different and does not include a stop by Bar Julia. The final stages are probably the same but the route did look new, the way markers were quite pristine. I used an app to log the route and the new one takes you through Leiro on the DP - 0150. It then takes you off the road and onto a wide dirt track uphill for several miles. It takes you past the Encoro de Beche. This is a reservoir. It has toilets and a camping area. You then get back onto the road and route takes you under AP9. You follow the road and then go off onto a path through woods to Vao. You then go across countryside which is mostly heathland and some woods. This takes you eventually to a side road and onto AC542. Here you find the Bar Casa Avelina on Avenida Travesas in Veira.
"You then walk down the AC 542 alongside an electricity plant. You then turn left opposite the road to the Castro das Travesas Hill fort. You go down the track past a chicken farm. This conforms to your instruction "After 400m, near farm buildings, turn right..." etc. This gets you to Brumas."
Stage 4: Reader Andrew also shares news on a route change entering Santiago: "It diverges at the Hotel Castro. The route takes you through some woods at the back of the hotel (the hotel has an honesty bar for pilgrims). It then takes you parallel to the Estrata Porrino Redondela. On the other side of the road is a wood processing factory which is huge. You then walk through the back of an industrial estate, past a large cemetry and into the suburbs of Santiago. The route takes you into Parque de Fermin Bouza Brey and along Avenida de Xoan XX111. We lost the route in terms of way markers but were so close that it did not matter."
Camino del Norte, Stage 25: Vilela's Albergue de Peregrinos is no longer open year-round. Instead, its opening season is less clear, as it operates now primarily as an over-flow space for Ribadeo's small albergue, primarily in the summer. Before leaving Ribadeo, make sure to confirm that Vilela's albergue is operational.
The Authors are putting update for this guide straight onto their own website. They can be found at;
|The story of St James|
|The Northern Caminos: yesterday and today|
|Along the routes: different cultures|
|Choosing your camino|
|When to go|
|Preparation and planning|
|Being a pilgrim|
|Getting there and back|
|Other local facilities|
|Waymarking, route-planning and maps|
|Using this guide|
|The Camino del Norte|
|Stage 1 Irún to San Sebastián|
|Stage 2 San Sebastián to Zarautz|
|Stage 3 Zarautz to Deba|
|Stage 4 Deba to Markina-Xemein|
|Stage 5 Markina-Xemein to Gernika|
|Stage 6 Gernika to Bilbao|
|Stage 7 Bilbao to Pobeña|
|Stage 8 Pobeña to Castro-Urdiales|
|Stage 9 Castro-Urdiales to Laredo|
|Stage 10 Laredo to Guemes|
|Stage 11 Guemes to Santander|
|Stage 12 Santander to Santillana del Mar|
|Stage 13 Santillana del Mar to Comillas|
|Stage 14 Comillas to Colombres|
|Stage 15 Colombres to Llanes|
|Stage 16 Llanes to Ribadesella|
|Stage 17 Ribadesella to Sebrayo|
|Stage 18 Sebrayo to Gijón|
|Stage 19 Gijón to Avilés|
|Stage 20 Avilés to Soto de Luiña|
|Stage 21 Soto de Luiña to Cadavedo|
|Stage 22 Cadavedo to Luarca|
|Stage 23 Luarca to La Caridad|
|Stage 24 La Caridad to Ribadeo|
|Stage 25 Ribadeo to Lourenzá|
|Stage 26 Lourenzá to Gontán|
|Stage 27 Gontán to Baamonde|
|Stage 28 Baamonde to Miraz|
|Stage 29 Miraz to Sobrado dos Monxes|
|Stage 30 Sobrado dos Monxes to Arzúa|
|Stage 31 Arzúa to Santiago de Compostela|
|The Camino Primitivo|
|Stage 1 Sebrayo to Pola de Siero|
|Stage 2 Pola de Siero to Oviedo|
|Stage 3 Oviedo to San Juan de Villapañada|
|Stage 4 San Juan de Villapañada to Bodenaya|
|Stage 5 Bodenaya to Campiello|
|Stage 6 Campiello to Berducedo|
|Stage 7 Berducedo to Grandas de Salime|
|Stage 8 Grandas de Salime to Padrón|
|Stage 9 Padrón to Cádavo Baleira|
|Stage 10 Cádavo Baleira to Lugo|
|Stage 11 Lugo to As Seixas|
|Stage 12 As Seixas to Arzúa|
|Primitivo–Norte link: Oviedo to Avilés|
|The Camino Inglés|
|Stage 1 Ferrol to Pontedeume|
|Stage 2 Pontedeume to Betanzos|
|Stage 3 Betanzos to Hospital de Bruma|
|Stage 4 Hospital de Bruma to Santiago de Compostela|
|Alternative start: A Coruña to Hospital de Bruma|
|The Camino Finisterre|
|Stage 1 Santiago de Compostela to Negreira|
|Stage 2 Negreira to Olveiroa|
|Stage 3 Olveiroa to Finisterre|
|Appendix A Route summary tables|
|Appendix B English–Spanish–Euskera glossary|
|Appendix C Suggestions for further reading|
|Appendix D Useful sources of information|
|Appendix E Index of principal place names|
The stunning diversity of Spain’s Northern Caminos makes them as challenging to classify as they are memorable to walk. While most holidays involve a choice between trekking through mountains, lying in the sun on the beach, or engaging in a more meaningful sort of project, the Northern Caminos allow for all three. Those hungry for mountains may not find a high-level route here, but they will encounter challenging coastal ascents in the Basque Country and rugged rural tracks through Asturias. Beachcombers will find some of Europe’s most popular sandy spots, such as San Sebastián, along with more isolated hideaways, accessible in some cases only to walkers. And, all who make the trek will be joined in the great human tradition of pilgrimage, unified in common cause and shared soreness, as they follow these historic pathways to sacred Santiago de Compostela.
Santiago de Compostela, whose cathedral houses the relics of St James, was one of three major centers of Catholic pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, along with Rome and Jerusalem. Inspired by religious zeal – and particularly the desire to connect more deeply with God through relics, such as the bones of deceased saints – pilgrims from all over the Christian world made the dangerous journey to these celebrated sites. There was no single route to Santiago; the trail began at one’s doorstep. But as pilgrims approached Spain, many converged on a handful of particularly popular routes, known historically as the Caminos de Santiago or ‘Ways of Saint James’.
Today those pilgrim roads have experienced a popular resurgence and are walked not just by traditional pilgrims, but by people from highly varied backgrounds. In particular, the Camino Francés, which passes through Pamplona, Burgos, and León, draws crowds from all over the world – to the point where it is often referred to as ‘the’ Camino de Santiago. However, other pilgrim routes, such as the Northern Caminos, have also been rediscovered, and they have a great deal to offer.
The Northern Caminos – the Camino del Norte, the Camino Primitivo, and the Camino Inglés – are located north of the Camino Francés and pass through the Spanish regions of the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia. While the Camino Francés has in some ways become a victim of its own success, with huge crowds taking to its trails every year, the Northern Caminos enjoy an ideal situation. They are popular enough to offer sufficient facilities, clear routes, and a community of pilgrims, without the race for beds and lack of privacy that sometimes plagues the Francés.
The Camino del Norte spans 817km, following the coast from Irún, on the French border, to Ribadeo, before cutting inland towards Santiago; the full route takes about 5 weeks to complete. The Camino Primitivo splits off from the Camino del Norte near Villaviciosa and passes through Oviedo and Lugo en route to Compostela. Joining the Primitivo from the Norte, the route is 355km, and takes roughly two weeks to walk. Finally, the Camino Inglés offers a shorter pilgrimage option, starting in either Ferrol or A Coruña the 116km route takes only four to six days to complete. In addition, this book includes an overview of the route to Finisterre, for those who wish to continue there from Santiago.