The Camino or “Way of St. James” terminates in Spain’s green northwestern corner, in the rainy city of Santiago de Compostela—the purported burial place of the Apostle St. James. While the most popular route—the French Way—trickles across north-central Spain from the Pyrenees toward the Atlantic coast, there are also around a dozen or so other trails that thread routes across the diverse quilt that is modern Spain.
Some are brief, requiring less than a week on foot—the English Way, for example—while others recall the great overland trips from Roman times—like the Vía de la Plata that starts in Sevilla.
During the three years I spent working in Spain, I managed to pass through every single region in the country except one (Murcia), and in the process I stumbled upon countless segments of the various Caminos (plural) de Santiago that link such far-flung cities as Huesca, Figueres, and Granada with Santiago de Compostela. Read on for a retrospective photo post of nearly every yellow arrow or shell I came across during my travels in Spain.
Camino francés — The French Way
The most popular route by far starts in the Pyrenees on the French side of the border in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and crosses the mountain range, entering into Spain via the region of Navarra. The first major city along the “French Way” is Pamplona, famous for the Running of the
Stupid People Bulls every July.
|Palas de Rei|
|Wooden sign used in Galicia|
|Santiago de Compostela|
Camino catalán — The Catalan Way
Figueres in northeast Spain is famous as the birthplace of Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, and it also sees one trail of the Catalan Way run through it.
There’s so many routes and side-routes of the Camino de Santiago that often you’ll be surprised to come across a Camino shell while exploring a new city, as I was when I visited the city of Huesca south of the Pyrenees.
Camino de Madrid — The Madrid Way
|Alcalá de Henares|
Camino mozárabe — The Mozarabic Way
“Mozarabic” is a historical term used to describe Christians in Moorish Spain who lived under Muslim rule, which lasted longer in the southern region of Andalucía than anywhere else. So it seems fitting that the various threads of the Camino that begin down here in the south bear this name. I found this ceramic waymarker on the side of a building in Granada, which was the last outpost of the Moorish kings and still the home of the most beautiful palace in the country, the Alhambra.
Vía de la Plata — The Paved Route
Camino portugués — The Portuguese Way
The Portuguese Way starts due south of Santiago in the capital of Portugal, Lisbon, and passes through the country’s second-biggest city, Porto.
The Portuguese Way enters Spain via the village of Tui, perched on a hillside that overlooks the Miño River.
Not far away is the provincial capital of Pontevedra, whose old town almost rivals Santiago de Compostela’s in gorgeous granite beauty.
There’s even a branch of the Camino in Combarro, a historic fishing village not far from Pontevedra.
Camino de Fisterra — The Way to Fisterra
|Santiago de Compostela|
Camino inglés — The English Way
Camino del norte — The Northern Way
Hipster pilgrims eschew the popular French Way for the quieter and more challenging Northern Way that runs along Spain’s northern coast. This waymarker in the Basque city of Bilbao announces the Camino in Spanish and in the Basque language.
Camino primitivo — The Original Way
The Camino de Santiago began in the Dark Ages when the King of Asturias, Alfonso II, journeyed from the Asturian capital of Oviedo to honor the tomb of recently-discovered remains of the Apostle St. James. The Camino Primitivo retraces this “Original Way” the king took from Oviedo to Santiago.
The Original Way passes its halfway point a little before reaching Lugo, whose old town is still completely surrounded by its slate stone walls from Roman times.
Chemin de Saint-Jacques — The Way of St. James in France
Jakobsweg — The Way of St. James in Germany
Have you hiked any of these many Ways of St. James before? Do you keep an eye out for shell markers for the Camino while traveling around Spain and Europe like I do? Comment below in the discussion thread!