Camino de Santiago Routes, how to Choose the BEST for you

Day 3 - Cies - Camino by sea

Click here to download the image right camino De Santiago route

Do you remember the first time you thought about walking the Camino de Santiago? What inspired you? For some people, it was a movie, a book, a friend’s story about their Camino experience or a profound desire to become a pilgrim.

Now that you are determined to walk the Camino, it is time to choose the right Camino de Santiago route for you. As the saying goes, “there are as many Caminos as there are pilgrims”.

The Camino de Santiago begins from many cities in Spain, France, and Portugal. The best-known route is the French Way but there are other popular Camino de Santiago routes like the North and Portuguese Way.

The Primitive Way and Via de la Plata are also very beautiful and not as crowded. Having trouble choosing one? To make your decision easier, we will talk about the length and difficulty of each route as well as the landscapes and facilities you will find along the way. This information will surely make your decision easier.

The French Way: its history and landscape make it the most popular

Catedral De Santiago de compostela

Out of the Camino de Santiago routes, the French Way is the most popular one. In 2013, more than 215,880 pilgrims walked it. This accounts for 70% of all the pilgrims who arrived in Santiago de Compostela.

The French Way is the most historic and picturesque of all the Camino de Santiago routes. It owes its heritage to many religious orders, among which the Templars were the most well-known. Along the route, you will find many monasteries and temples built in the Gothic and Roman style.

Would you like to have a social experience, to learn about new cultures and to enjoy beautiful landscapes?

If your answer is yes, the French Way is the right Camino de Santiago route for you. On this famous route, you will find pilgrims of all over the world. Be prepared to meet people and make very long-lasting friendships.

Is the French way too hard to walk?

It is a long way from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela. You will find easy, medium and difficult stages. Nevertheless, the most important thing is to plan the stages you want to walk based on your physical limitations and the amount of time that you want to spend on your pilgrimage. Always remember that you can customize your journey depending on your wishes and needs.

The starting point of the French way is traditionally Saint Jean Pied de Port. If you are interested in walking the full French way, Marly Camino has our Camino Plus: The French Camino from Roncesvalles option that covers 146 miles.

You won’t find two similar stages. You will walk through French villages, the amazing Pyrenees, Navarra villages, the amazing vineyards of La Rioja, the central plateau in Castilla and, in the end, you will arrive in Galicia. If you are a photography enthusiast, you will enjoy taking pictures of very different landscapes every day.

It is my first time and/or I am concerned with the amount of walking per day

If you want to experience the French Way, but you don’t want to walk for long, you can choose the Buen Camino from Sarria to Santiago or the easiest Camino route: The Buen Camino Lite. Both tours cover the last 100 km (62 miles) of the route, which is enough to get the Compostela.

The Buen Camino Lite, in particular, has shorter stages so you can feel more relaxed. Additionally, if this is a concern for you,  you may want to do Camino with a company that can pick you up with their private vehicle in case you need to stop and be picked up at any point (such as Marly Camino).


The best support and albergues of all routes

Of all the Camino de Santiago routes, the French Way is the best prepared to assist the pilgrim. It is well marked and has a full network of albergues. Some towns, like Sarria, live almost solely from the pilgrims, so they take great pride in their hospitality.

At Marly Camino, we offer you the opportunity to choose from a variety of itineraries that include the most beautiful spots of the French Way. For example: Buen Camino, Buen Camino Lite, Camino Plus  and if you want to truly see the beauty of Galicia, starting at León, please check out The Camino from León to Santiago: The Galician Splendor

Do you like vineyards and charming villages? You will love the Portuguese Way

The beautiful vineyards, the beauty of the route and crossing the border between Portugal and Spain on foot has made the Portuguese Way the second most popular option of the Camino de Santiago routes.

This route has three major starting points: Lisbon, which is about a 600 km (371 miles) walk; Oporto, which is a 240 km (149miles) walk; and Tui, which is a 150 km (93 miles) walk. This lovely route goes through the Pontevedra and La Coruña provinces before heading to Santiago de Compostela.

It is a well-marked route whose yellow arrows will take you through villages, towns and historical cities. For example, legend holds that the Apostle’s disciples docked their ship in Padrón, one of the route’s villages, and brought the remains of the Apostle ashore.

Are you looking for a safe and beautiful walking route?

During your pilgrimage, you will walk through some highly populated areas, which means that you will find assistance and services quite easily.

However, of all the Camino de Santiago routes, the Portuguese Way is perhaps the one with the most detours and options. You can walk north along the coast, the central area or the inner routes. One of the problems of this route is that the network of albergues is not as big as the one on the French Way.

The signs marking the Camino are constantly being updated and improved. Don’t worry, if you plan your Portuguese Way Camino trip with Marly Camino, we will handle everything for you. Our guides will take care of you the whole way.

Fun Fact: the use of the “viera” or Pilgrim’s shell started here

The famous pilgrim’s symbol has its origins on this Camino de Santiago route. It is said that a knight covered in shells emerged from the sea, between the coast of Porto and Vigo, which later started the tradition.

Do you love food? The North Coast Camino is the right Camino de Santiago route  for you.

If you want to try some of the most amazing food in the world, go to the North of Spain. Their famous pinchos are known for being absolutely delicious. The North Way is the third most popular route. This route offers the green and beautiful landscapes of the Basque Country and the possibility of seeing the very cosmopolitan cities of San Sebastian and Bilbao.

This route has very diverse landscapes, but the number of pilgrims that you will find here is substantially lower than in the French way. From Irún to Santiago de Compostela, you will enjoy the Cantabric Sea, the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and the natural beauty of Galicia.

Camino norte discount

North Way Stages

The North Coast Camino  traverses 197 km (122 miles), typically divided into eight stages. The stages range from 18 km (11 miles) to 33 km (20 miles). This route, longer than some options of the Portuguese Way, starts at Irún and takes you along the coast.

You may see the blue ocean and green forests at the same time in many places. You will pass through San Sebastian, Bilbao, Santander and Asturias on your way there.

Once pilgrims arrive to Oviedo, they can choose whether to go to Lugo following the Primitive Way (another Camino de Santiago route), or remain on the coast to reach Vegadeo and Ribadeo, from where they can continue to the town of Arzúa, which connects with the French Way.

Terrain and network of albergues

This route has a medium-low difficulty rating. There are mostly easy, flat stages with a few more challenging stages through the hills, but don’t worry, the route’s beautiful landscape will keep you motivated.

Of all the Camino de Santiago routes, this is the quietest one. The route’s pilgrim support infrastructure is still growing but it does not yet have the same amount of albergues as the French Way., but it does offer some pretty good options. Its route marking is good so you will see yellow arrows leading you all the way to Santiago de Compostela.

The Primitive Way: the first pilgrim´s route

The Primitive Way is the oldest of all the Camino de Santiago routes. This was the route of the first pilgrim, the medieval king Alfonso II. Despite its rich history, this route is not as popular as the French Way. It is a good option for those looking for a physically challenging route, away from big cities and paved roads.

Pilgrims are almost always surrounded by natural beauty and you will see very few paved roads. Oviedo, Lugo and Compostela are the biggest cities on the route. It joins the French Way in Melide.

Rich in history and natural beauty

Its history, landscapes and cultural richness make it the best option for the prepared and adventurous pilgrim. Despite not being one of the most popular routes among pilgrims, it has a very good network of albergues and is as well-marked as any other popular Camino de Santiago route.

Vía de la Plata: 1000 km of Roman history in Spain (Andalusian Camino )

The Vía de la Plata is the number one southern Jacobean route. As it is the longest of all Camino de Santiago routes, not many pilgrims walk it; which makes it perfect for those looking for an almost private experience.

Day in Cordoba Camino andaluzIt goes through the regions of Andalucía, Extremadura, Castilla y León and Galicia. One of its characteristics is its great number of detour options. For example, in Zamora, you can choose whether to go north to meet the French Way at Astorga, or to go northwest through Ourense and head directly to Santiago.

The Andalusian Camino, designed by Marly Camino, includes many of the best stages of the Via de la Plata. Andalucia with its incredible history, heritage, and a mix of different cultures is a rich source of inspiration.

Vineyards and olive groves 

The Vía de la Plata travels along Roman roadways and natural paths, with barely any hills until reaching Galicia. The vineyards and olive groves in Andalucía and Extremadura are a treat for the eyes. You will also find meadows as well as oak and eucalyptus forests.

A well-marked route with long stages

This Camino de Santiago route is very well-marked. In fact, in Extremadura, there are granite cubes with the arc of Caparra next to the yellow arrows.

If the cube has a yellow tile, it means that the road is passable but it does not cross the original Roman roadway. If the tile is green, it means that it is part of the original roadway. And if the tile is green and yellow, the road is passable and belongs to the original roadway. The Via de la Plata is formed by the road that follows the yellow arrows next to the green and yellow, or yellow, tiles.

right camino De Santiago route

This route is known for its long stages, where sometimes there are dozens of kilometers between towns. Usually, albergues are 25 km (15 miles) apart from each other, so it is best to plan each stage carefully.

An ideal option for people walking on their own

Each year, 4000 thousand pilgrims choose Via de la Plata. Nevertheless, it is a bit of a solitary route. If you are looking for a true pilgrimage experience and a remarkable landscape, this is the right Camino de Santiago route for you.

However, during summer, temperatures tend to rise a lot. If you like this route, it is better to avoid July and August.

Time to make a choice

You can always choose the route and the stages that best suit you and define the distance to be walked every day and what to see. If you are traveling with Marly Camino, please contact us and tell us what kind of experience you are you looking for. We will be pleased to help you choose the right Camino de Santiago route for you.

If you have further questions, please contact us and we will be pleased to help you. Which of the Camino de Santiago route caught your attention? What kind of experience do you want to live? How long do you want your adventure to be? What would you like to see? 

36 Comments on “Camino de Santiago Routes, how to Choose the BEST for you”

  1. My husband and I want to take around 10 days and are interested in either the French route or the Northern route. We would like to walk unescorted and would like to stay where we have our own bed and bath with privacy. We are both in our mid 60’s, but consider ourselves in fairly good shape. We’d like to be able to take our time, being able to linger in places we might find charming. We are planning for late May -early June.
    Of these two routes, would you recommend one over the other? What about weather at that time of years. We don’t want to climb mountains, but a few hills are ok. Thank you!

    1. Hi Terri,

      It is a pleasure to greet you and thank you for your interest.
      Both the French and North Routes are beautiful but each one is unique, so your choice will depend a little bit on what is more important for you. The French Way is the most traditional route and the one we would recommend if it is your first time on the Camino. This route starts in St. Jean Pied de Port in France and ends in Santiago, which takes approximately 40 days to complete. If you are looking at a 10-day itinerary we recommend walking the French Way from the town of O´Cebreiro in Galicia, which is about 150 km from Santiago, or from the town of Sarria also in Galicia, which is located about 100 km from Santiago. We invite you to visit our Self Guided Walking tours of the Camino de Santiago for the 10-day or 8-day Adventure Camino or our Camino guided tours: the 10-day and 8-day Buen Camino guided tours webpages where you can see these itineraries and dates available for 2018.

      The Northern Way is also very beautiful as you will enjoy incredible coastal sceneries on the first part of the trip in the Basque Country and Cantabria as well as beautiful forests as make our way inland when we approach Santiago. We offer a wonderful guided tour of the North Coast Camino, which includes amazing gastronomic experiences in some of the best restaurants in Spain as well as the absolute best accommodations.

      Regarding weather, we recommend the spring or fall seasons when the temperatures are mild. The terrain on both the North Way and French way is similar, with the North Way being a bit more hilly.

      All of our Caminos include high quality accommodations were you can enjoy your own private room and bathroom. Our guided Caminos include an expert Camino guide and you come as a group, however you walk unescorted and at your own pace, there is no arrival time at the end of the stage but our guide will always be there waiting for you.

      On our Self-guided caminos, you walk on your own but we book all your accomodations and take care of your luggage transfers so that you can focus on enjoying the Camino.
      Your age is perfect to walk a Camino, most of our pilgrims are in their 50s and 60s and they enjoy both French and Northern Route with absolutely no problems.

      Please do not hesitate to call us or we can call you, we will be happy to answer any questions you may have so you can better decide which Camino route is right for you.

  2. Hello!

    I am 62 years old and I am in fairly good shape. I have never walked the Camino. I cannot take time away from my business for a whole month. I could probably do between 2 and 3 weeks. I am interested in the North Coast Camino, or perhaps the French way. I do not want to be on a tour, but I do enjoy meeting people. If I did the self-guided tour, would the van be available if I had problems? I want to go in either September or October. Is there a better month regarding the weather? Can I see photos of the accommodations? Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Karen, thank so much for writing us this way, soon one of our Camino Specialist will contact you. Have a wonderful day!

  3. Hello,
    My husband and I along with a few friends are planning on coming in mid September. We are all walkers and range in ages 65 to 75. We would like a guided tour also most of the people only want to walk a 100 miles and explore other parts of Spain.
    My concern is what airport would we fly into and fly out of .

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  5. Hi there!
    I’m wanting to do the Camino in September, but not sure which route I should take.
    I’m not a super experienced hiker, but I enjoy and plan to get better over the next few months.
    I’d like to go somewhere with amazing scenery and lots of variety, but I’d like to keep it less than 150 km
    Ending in Santiago is not a priority, especially since the original cathedral is closed; I’d just love a week of amazing views, being outdoors with good food.
    Can you recommend anything?

    1. Hi, Claire, thank you for writing us this way, September is a great month to do the Camino, we have taken note of all the detail and we will be contacting you very soon with some recommendations about your Camino.

  6. Hello,
    I am 55 fairly fit, and looking to cycle from Porto. I would love some advice as to the different routes and possible groups to join vs going alone?
    Thank you !!!

    1. Hi Dawn, thank you for writing, we will be contacting you soon with all the details and recommendations about your dream route.

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  9. Hi there myself and my husband would like
    Some information about walking the Camino. Ideally we will have 4 weeks and I think the French way is for us as we have not done it before we will be 50 yo and would like to meet other people along the way but want our privacy at night. Self guided tour does this mean we have to book our accommodation each night or is this one thing you can help with?

    1. Hi Melissa, thank you for reaching, one of our Camino Planners will let contact you very soon with all the information about this fantastic walk.

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  11. Hello! My mom and I are interested in walking the camino this Fall. We are in our 30s and 60s. It is our first time and will take this as our intro into the camino, so we are thinking maybe 10 miles at most a day, perhaps for about a week? We are looking for beautiful views, quant villages, delicious food and maybe lots of options to stop for a rest, food, hotels. The point for us is to enjoy it more than having to walk a certain amount. Can you suggest something for us? Thank you so much!

    1. Dear Melanie, it is a pleasure to greet you, we have a fantastic Camino adapted to your needs, we will be contacting you very soon.

  12. HI there,
    This will be our first time walking the camino (50 yrs old) and want to do the northern route, over 1.5 months, to avoid the crowds and enjoy the scenery. We have started training and are up to walking around 20 Kms at the moment. Will this route be too difficult for us and what is the weather like in May/June?
    Thanks for your help

    1. Hi Sarah, thank you for writing, we will contact you very soon, with all the information. Have a great day, Buen Camino!

  13. hi!
    my partner and i are 27 years old, and we love to travel. we both have experience with trekking.
    we only have 10 days to travel, including flights- which leaves us at about 8 days to hike.
    our only dates are 15.10-25.10, and we’re wondering what will be the best route for us. we thought about starting the camino frances from Saint Jean Pied de Port and walk to logrono (we don’t mind not going all the way to santiago, due to time limit), or camino portugese, or camino de norte.
    which of these is the best to travel in those date? it’s autumn, and we’re afraid it will rain too much…
    so two main issues: weather and limited time.
    thank you for your help!

    1. Hi Nuphar, thank you so much for writing, our Camino planners will contact you very soon with all the information regarding your Camino. Have a wonderful day and Buen Camino!

  14. Can you tell me if there is a difference between the Camino Ingles and the Camino del Norte? I have seen references to both. I am interested in a short version of the Camino such as these.

    1. Dear Raul,

      It’s a pleasure to greet you, thank you very much for your question. Here are some of the differences between these fantastic routes.

      Our North Coast Camino was carefully designed by our founders to give you an experience filled with breathtaking natural beauty, magnificent accommodations, and exquisite food. It is one of our most exclusive tours! We begin our journey in Europe’s culinary capital, San Sebastián, home of some of the world’s best restaurants. We will then start our Pilgrimage to Santiago traveling through beautiful forests, charming villages and historic towns and cities such as Bilbao, Santillana del Mar, Comillas, Cangas de Onis, and Oviedo. The Northern Route is a 164-kilometer journey is divided into 11 delightful walking stages and includes visits to amazing sites like the Guggenheim Museum, the Beach of the Cathedrals and the Caves of Altamira. Along the Way, we will enjoy Spain’s magnificent Paradores and authentic Galician rural manors, personally selected by us for their great hospitality and service.

      North Camino route

      The English Camino (or Camino Inglés) has two starting points: the cities of A Coruña and Ferrol. It follows the sea route once favored by pilgrims traveling to Galicia from Scandinavia, the Baltics, Northern France, and above all from England and Ireland. Our Camino begins in Ferrol, a traditionally seafaring city and also a significant waypoint for pilgrims in medieval times coming from Northern Europe and the British Isles. Pilgrims would come from across the sea and arrive into the port of Ferrol, from where they would make their way to Santiago de Compostela, covering a total distance of 120kms. At the end of your Camino, you will obtain the Compostelapilgrim certificate!

      English Camino route

      Hope you find our information useful, have a wonderful day.

      Buen Camino!

  15. I have about 4 people who want me to lead them on the 100k version. Im a priest. They are abit more fit. Im completely a novice. I want to do it very much but Im anxious I’m not in shape to do it nor do i think I have lots of time to train. How do I determine if I can make an easy version?

    1. Hi, it’s a pleasure to greet you. Very soon one of Camino Designer will contact you with all the information about the different routes that could adapt to your needs. Have an amazing day, Buen Camino!

  16. Hi Marly,
    I am looking to plan a camino walk for this December 2019. I am unable to do it any other time as have three weeks in between jobs. I am finding it hard to choose which route to take given potential seasonal constraints. I have always wanted to do the Andalusian route but have read a few reviews which suggest this might not be the best option in Winter. I am also tempted by the Portuguese route and aware that there are two – the coastal and inland route. Can you advise on what you think would be best in terms of weather, terrain, albergues and so on? I am physically fit and will not struggle with harder routes.
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Fabiola, it´s a pleasure to greet you, one of our Camino designers will contact you in no time, with all the information and Camino suggestions. HAve a wonderful day, Buen Camino!

  17. Hi
    Looking at doing the Camino next year in October? Is that a good time?
    We want an easy route thinking the camino Frances? Is it fairly flat?
    Can you recommend this

    1. Hi Margaret, thank you for writing us this way, October is a wonderful time to do the Camino, one of our Camino designers will contact you with all the information and recommendations about the French Way. Have a great day, Buen Camino!

  18. Hi,

    We are planning on walking the Portuguese Coastal route, specifically from Oia to Compostela.

    Our dates are from 13 Sept to 20th Sept. We have tickets coming in to Lisbon on the 12th of September and can go to Porto the next day to further go to Oia for starting the walk the next day.

    We will need accommodation for myself and my sister. It would be great if you could have 3 star or above rated accommodations.


  19. Hi, is it possible to incorporate hiking, kayaking and cycling in one trip starting on the French route, combining tours and self guided excursions in September of this year?

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  21. Hi, would love information on an self walking tour for my 60th birthday. Will be traveling with family with varying degrees of fitness and our time frame is approx 5-7 days. we will be traveling in the summer as 2 of my children are teachers. Looking for beautiful scenery,quaint accommodations and good food. Thank you

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