I chose the Portugues route which begins in the city of Porto in northern Portugal and follows a more or less parallel path to the Atlatic coast for 232km, 139 miles, to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela
. It gives you a nice scenic view of rural Portugal and Spain as you make your way through small farms and villages as well as some very secluded forests and small mountains. The Portugues route is only travelled by a few hundred people every year and I only met two other travellers on the road for the first few days. The route is relatively easy to follow as there are yellow arrows showing the way every 50-100 meters. Before you leave the starting point on the pilgrimage you must obtain a "Credencial" which gives you official status as a pilgrim giving you free accommodation in many places and qualifying you for the Compostela which is given to you in Santiago to prove you completed the trip. You have three options of travel: by foot, bicycle, or horse.
There are two invaluable pieces of advice I would give to anyone considering this pilgrimage. One is pack as lightly as possible! I left about half of my stuff in Porto before I began but after walking about 20 miles the first day my pack sure felt a lot heavier than it did when I left. Also get a really comfortable pair of shoes or hiking boots. I thought mine were fine until I had to walk a long way in them and found a new place on my foot everyday for fresh blisters to form.
When I finally reached Santaigo after 9 long days I walked strait to the Cathedral to touch the "pilgrims stone" there and rest my weary bones in the plaza outside. All in all it was a wonderful experience that allowed me to get back in touch with my Catholic "roots" a little, see some amazing scenery, and get a healthy dose of exercise. I also enjoyed the time I spent in Porto which is a beautiful, friendly city and home to that variety of strong wine that gets its name from here. Adeus Portugal!
El Camino de Santiago, the Way of Saint James, has been one of the most important Christian pilgrimages for over 1,000 years, ever since the supposed remains of James the apostle where found in northern Spain near Santiago de Compostela. The classic route traces itself from the French side of the Pyrenees mountains across northern Spain but it is known as "The Way" because there are many routes lead to Santiago. Although in the past the Camino was strictly a religious undertaking, it experienced a resurgence in the 1980s and is now travelled by people all over the World for many reasons. I must admit that even though I grew up attending Catholic school I had never heard of this pilgrimage until a friend in Paris suggested that I try it since he had walked it twice and really enjoyed it.