Hiking El Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Hikers in Spain will witness a diverse range of landscapes during their journey, from rugged mountainsides and luscious greenery to quaint villages dotted with whitewashed houses along the Way of St James.
Many people visiting Spain for a trek will opt to go hiking the Way of St James – an ancient pilgrimage with a fascinating history that is once again gaining in popularity. The beauty of this trek is that while all walkers must end up at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in the north west of Spain, there is no set route and therefore hikers can challenge themselves as little or as much as they like, and stop off at locations that suit their tastes.
During medieval times, the Way of St James was once one of the most important Christian pilgrimage routes in the world thanks to the legend that St James’ remains are buried on the site. However, a turbulent few centuries in Europe saw its decline, meaning that by the 1980s only a few pilgrims arrived in Santiago.
But after being named one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, the route grew in popularity again, with more than just Christians wanting to tread the famous path. History buffs are thrilled by the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of 1,000 years of ancient pilgrims, with the walk originally being a Roman trade route.
There is so much to see on the way to Santiago that it really offers a unique opportunity for hikers, with a variety of gorgeous scenery along with awe-inspiring architecture and beautiful monuments – and they even get a certificate at the end as proof of their efforts.
Many hikers start in the other countries in Europe, walking all the way to Santiago, meaning that people on the French Way, which is the one that starts almost immediately in Spain, are likely to meet people who have trekked from many different countries on their travels.
The French Way is the most popular of the routes of the Way of St James, starting near the French/Spanish border in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port before crossing over in the western Pyrenees to Roncesvalles, Spain. One highlight on the journey includes Pamplona – the city famous for the lethal running of the bulls. It runs through Northern Spain, from East to West, crossing the Basque Country, Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla y Leon and Galicia.
Another option is the Northern Way, the biggest attraction of which is undoubtedly its landscape, running along the northern coastline of Spain to Galicia when it begins to turn inland towards Santiago. It also follows the old Roman road for some of its way. This is a choice route for experienced hikers, as it is less populated, not very well known and is more difficult to hike, with shelters being much further apart than on the French Way.
Before setting out on a long hike like The Way of St James, there is a lot to think about – but walkers should ensure they don’t forget about securing a travel insurance Spain policy. No-one wants to think about anything going wrong when on holiday, but getting the right policy provides a safety net should anything happen, and allows hikers to enjoy the route worry-free.