Pilgrims travelling to Santiago de Compostela require a credencial or pilgrim ‘passport’ to establish their bona fides to stay in the albergues or refugios on the Camino. That is that they plan to walk, cycle or go by horseback to Santiago. The credencials are stamped at the albergues, hotels, etc. and the stamps or sellos provide proof to the Pilgrim Office, in Santiago de Compostella, that the pilgrim has completed the distance required to qualify for the Compostella issued by that office.
The Pilgrim Office in Santiago issues a Compostela certificate to pilgrims on completion of their Camino provided they have walked or ridden by horseback for at least the last 100k at one time. Cyclists need to complete at least the last 200k to qualify. Pilgrims also need to confirm that they undertook the Camino for religious or spiritual reasons. An alternative certif-
icate is available to those who do not want to claim religious or spiritual reasons. Pilgrims should obtain at least two sellos a day when completing the last 100/200k and must also ensure that they obtain a sello at the start of their Camino as proof of their starting point. A 100-120k journey can be completed in 4 to 6 days.
So, what routes are available to pilgrims who want to obtain a Compostela but for various reason are only able to walk the 100k?
The Camino Francés
Sarria is a popular starting location on the Camino Francés, 118k from Santiago. In the first six months of 2014, 19,561 pilgrims started here approximately 34% of those who arrived in Santiago walking the Camino Francés. So this route can be crowded.
The Camino Inglés
The Camino Inglés, or English Way, traces the route followed by pilgrims who came by ship to the ports of A Coruña and Ferrol on the northwest coast of Spain. You can walk from A Coruña but the distance is less than 100km and does not qualify for a Compostela. From Ferrol the Camino Inglés runs eastwards to skirt the Ria de Ferrol before heading southwards Santiago, a total about 116k.
The Camino Portugués
This Camino starts in Lisbon and heads north through Portugal to Oporto, Valenca and Tui on the border with Spain and Santiago. Valenca on the Portuguese side of the River Minho and Tui on the Spanish side are about 112k from Santiago.
The Camino del Norte
The Camino del Norte, for the most part, follows the north coast of Spain to Ribadeo before turning southwest towards Santiago. Numbers of pilgrims on the Camino del Norte are about one twentieth of those on the Camino Francés. How ever, reports from the albergue at Miraz, staffed by English volunteers, suggest that during summer they have to open the church to provide extra sleeping space. Baamonde is 106k from Santiago by the walking route that joins the Camino Francés at Arzúa. Another alternative starting location could be Vilalba, a comfortable one day’s walk before Baamonde.
The Camino Primitivo
The Camino Primitivo leaves the Norte after Villarviciosa and runs south west to Oviedo and Lugo, joining the CF at Melide. From Lugo the distance is just over 100k. An alternative route from Lugo is to walk via Friol to Sanabres dos Moxes, on the Norte, then either join the CF at Arzúa or take another alternative and cut a corner between Boimorto and Arca, thus avoiding some of the crowding on the CF. This route gives you the option of visiting the 4th century Roman shrine at Santa Eulalia de Bóveda, a Spanish national monument.
The Camino Sanabrés
The Camino Sanabrés turns off the Via de la Plata two days’ north of Zamora. The distance from Ourense to Santiago is about 103k. One of the joys of arriving in Santiago de Compostela on this route is that you can see the Cathedral from some distance.
The Camino Portugués
This Camino starts in Lisbon and heads north through Portugal to Oporto, Valenca and Tui on the border with Spain and Santiago. Valenca on the Portuguese side of the River Minho and Tui on the Spanish side are about 112km from Santiago.
Camino de Muxia y Fisterra
A lot of pilgrims finish their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela by walking to Muxia and Finisterra. However, this Camino can also be reversed and the route from Muxia to Finisterra and then Santiago is recognised by the Pilgrim Office. Some parts of this route have waymarks in both directions but most seem to point away from Santiago, so careful navigation will be required.
The Camino Invierno (also signed occasionally as the Camino Real or Camino de Sur) is most definitely a road less travelled: so much so that it is not even on the common maps of Camino routes, because it has not been conferred official status (yet). Click to read the full article.
Being a pilgrim does not require you to stay at albergues. If you value the privacy of your own room or prefer the comfort of an ensuite bathroom a hotel, hostal or pension room may be the answer. Price varies but is generally less than you would pay in Australia.
To ensure pilgrims cover the last 100k on foot (and do not take the bus or taxi!) the Pilgrim Office asks that pilgrims get two stamps a day for their pilgrimage within Galicia. If you are starting before Galicia ie from somewhere in France or elsewhere in Spain, one stamp a day will suffice.
John Brierley is the author of guides to the Portuguese, Frances and Finisterre Caminos. They are published by Findhorn Press and can be ordered over the internet at www.findhornpress.com/camino-3/
The Confraternity of St James publishes guides to many Camino routes. Some guides including the Inglés (2013), Finisterre (2009) and Portugués (part 2 2014) Caminos are now available online at http://www.csj.org.uk/guides-online.htm the CSJ ask that you send them a donation to help them continue providing this service.
Laura Perazzoli and Dave Whitson are authors of the Cicerone Guide The Northern Caminos. This guide includes the Norte, Primativo, Inglés and Finisterre Caminos. The maps are probably the best of the English language guides.
http://www.jacobeo.net The Jacobeo.net has details of the Spanish caminos with stages, maps, albergues and hotels/hostales/pensions.
http://www.rome2rio.com/ The Rome2Rio website can suggest options for travel between towns. Language can be set to English. It also gives access to timetables and provider websites.
The Asociación Galego de Amigos de Camino de Santiago website at http:// www.amigosdelcamino.com/is written in Gallego and Spanish (to translate to English use Google Translate). Information is available on various Caminos including sketch maps, route descriptions and information on albergues. Guides for some routes can be downloaded as PDF files.
Silvia Nielson’s Amawalker blog at http:// amawalker.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/how-do-i-get-to.html has information on getting to various starting locations on the various Caminos.
The Eroski Consumer website has a section on the Camino de Santiago at http://caminodesantiago.consumer.es/ Unfortunately they do not have an English translation but you can use Google Translate. The website has information on albergues including comments from pilgrims.