Camino de Santiago focus:  Hiking trails around the world

The Pilgrimage trail Camino De Santiago ( St. James Way ) Spain

Text and watercolors by Frits Ahlefeldt,

One of the world’s most busy pilgrimage and hiking trails are the 780km. / 585 miles long Camino de Santiago, ( The French way route ). The trail runs from Pyrenees at the border of France and south-west to the city Santiago de Compostela in the western Spain, this originally Catholic pilgrimage trail was one of the most important ones for Christians during the middle age. The Camino de Santiago trail continues for another optional 88 km. / 55 miles to Cape finisterre, ” The end of the World, where the sun dies, as it dives into the Atlantic every night. – or so it was believed – the Camino De Santiago is often seen as a very spiritual hike. 


The Shell is the official symbol of the Camino de Santiago

A system of pilgrimage trails

The classic, modern Camino hike is the 780km. / 585 walk through Spain along the French way, but the traditional pilgrim started walking from his house or where he lands in Europe and there are legs of the Camino de Santiago trail all the way up through Norway, ( connecting to the St. Olav way ) But also in Poland, UK, Greece and Portugal among other places that have their shell-marked trails, all pointing towards Spain. And especially France has a whole path network connecting to the Camino.

The path of the Milky way of Stars aboves

Nobody know exactly how old the Camino is, the place Santiago de Compostela goes back to the Roman Empire around 2000 years ago or earlier, known as the city at the end of the stars. The name might reflect that walking the path at night feels a bit like walking along the milky way of the galaxy, as a broad stripe of stars make it look a bit like a path above.

The Camino has been nick-named the Milky way in French (Voie lactée) for centuries, and a bit funny, the other way in Spain – the Milky way is sometimes called the Camino de Santiago in Spanish.

St. James – One of the 12 Diciples in Christianity 

Santiago de Compostela is a very holy place in Christianity, named after St. James the Great (Died 44 AD, More on Wikipedia). One of Jesus 12 Disciples. St. James is buried in the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, according to the legend, and his grave is the end point of all the different Caminos de Santiago.

More than 250.000 hikers and pilgrims a year on the trail

The Camino De Santiago is today Europe’s most crowded and famous hiking trail, with close to 300.000 hikers walking it alone in 2016 ( according to Wikipedia) So expect to share your daily hike with around 300 – 1000 other hikers – on your stretch of the trail, depending of the month you walk. ( if you are on the traditional French way trail, like more than 60 percent of all those who walk the Camino )

The feel of the trail( s) 

The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage trail, where the hikers walk through a lot of ancient places. The whole trail has been dedicated a UNESCO world heritage site and a designated EU “European Cultural Route” actually the Camino was the first of these and sparked the whole European Cultural Route movement now numbering 32 trails or more.

Camino de Santiago is an easy trail to walk, but long. it is way marked all the way and there is no need for packing heavy stuff as the trail has plenty of hotels, refugios, restaurants, super mercados, cafes  and other options for sleeping and eating in all, but the lowest, price-classes along the path. (  The French way )

Jubilee years: 2021 next year to better the odds of being forgiven all your sins

The Camino de Santiago is especially crowed every year around the birthday of St. James on the 25 of July. And in the years this date falls on a Sunday, pilgrims reaching Santiago de Compostela after walking at least 100km. / 44km. has a chance of being forgiven all their sins, getting  plenary indulgence  (click for Wikipedia details)  next time is 2121, 2027 and 2032 and then on in every jubilee year along the trail

The Camino as a EU funded development and tourist project

In 1987 a wast and very, very expensive EU tourism cultural trail project sparked new life into the Camino de Santiago trail by investing what could be more than 100 million Euro ( 120 million USD ) into marketing, wide trails, gigantic, reflective signs and the  whole infra-structure including trails and a lot of other facilities that has been build as a regional development project around the story of the trail. There is good reason to think it paid off, as more and more people walk the trails, turning unknown, forgotten places into tourist centers, attracting almost 300.000 hikers a year, many spending up to a month on the trail, with budgets around 2000 USD or more, supporting local shops, hotels, guides and crafts. The Camino de Santiago is not only a spiritual trail, it is also big business.

Authors who made the Camino famous

A number of popular writers wrote stories from their walks on the Camino De Santiago trail speeding up it’s fame, especially Paulo Coelo  – who wrote “the pilgrimage” (1987) about his walk and the actress  Shirley Maclaine who wrote her: A Journey of the Spirit  (2000) boosted the Camino de Santiago trail to the stars of spiritual walking.

Watercolor of the Camino De Santiago pilgrimage trail, painting by Frits Ahlefeldt
The Camino De Santiago, cultural pilgrimage hike ( most walk around a month) in Spain

Research Links:


Camino de Santiago on Wikipedia

The French Way on Wikipedia

European Cultural Routes


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