El Camino de Santiago, or St. James’ Way, is a pilgrimage route traversing northern Spain to the city of Santiago de Compostela. Legend has it that after the death of St. James, the apostle, angels transported his body back to Santiago, where he had preached before his death. Since then, devout Christians have been walking to Santiago, for centuries, as penance, thanksgiving, or seeking blessings, pardon, etc.
There are a few routes to reach Santiago: the French route, the Northern route, the Primitive route, the English route, the Portuguese route, and the Via de la Plata. Among them, the French route is the most popular and has the most amenities for pilgrims along the way. There are pilgrim hostels along the main routes, with beds in dormitory, providing cheap and basic one night accommodation.
All pilgrims doing the Camino carry a pilgrim’s passport, known as credencial. This document gives access to the inexpensive pilgrim hostels, and they are stamped in each place a pilgrim stays. So when the pilgrim presents their credencial at the pilgrim’s office when they arrive in Santiago, they will be given them a certificate, known as the Compostela. (But you need to walk at least 100km)
In recent years, the Camino has gone through a revival; thanks to Paulo Coelho’s book – The Pilgrimage, the Martin Sheen-starred movie – The Way, and many books written about it by people who had done the Camino.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims walk the Camino, in search of God, answers, spiritual breakthrough, inspirations, or just to disconnect. It is a journey where everyone is walking towards the same destination. But what makes it meaningful is the journey itself, much like life.
Wondering if the Camino de Santiago is safe for a woman to walk? Read this: Is it safe to walk the Camino de Santiago as a Woman?