What is the Camino? The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage to the cathedral where the relics of St. James reside. I first came across the Camino from the movie ‘The Way’ starring Martin Sheen. If not for the movie, I may have completely missed out on this wonderful hike! The most popular route is the Camino de Frances, which starts at St. Jean Pied de Port in France and ends in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The route is approximately 800 km long and takes you across Northern Spain from the Basque region to Galicia.
The people walking the route are referred to as pilgrims. Pilgrims can choose their own starting point along the route and pick up their credencial/pilgrim’s passport in the municipal albergues. There are many places available for pilgrims to sleep in along the route. Upon booking a bed/room a pilgrim can present their credencial and receive a stamp. They can also partake in a delicious 3 course pilgrim’s meal, which usually includes a bottle of wine, all for the price of 10-12 euros.
The town of Sarria marks the last 100 km of the Camino de Frances. It’s here where the crowds of pilgrims thicken. In order to receive the Compostela or Certificate, you must walk the last 100 km of the Camino, and receive two stamps a day on your credencial. Once you reach Santiago and visit the relics of St. James, you can make your way to the Pilgrims office where they will ask you your reason for walking the Camino. If you say religious or spiritual, you will receive the Compostela written in Latin. It acknowledges that you have completed your pilgrimage to revere the relics of St. James. If you say cultural or health then you will receive a certificate stating the number of kilometers you walked.
The Camino de Santiago has gained popularity in the recent years; there are many routes and reasons for pilgrims taking this journey. On my two Caminos, I have seen the elderly and parents with children walk the way of St. James. I think the welcoming nature of the Camino community is part of its draw. So what is the Camino de Santiago? If you’re curious, I invite you to take the journey to Santiago. What you find out may surprise you.